February 09, 2023

Confronting Nontraditional Bullies in Academe

...Sadly, academe is well populated by individuals who behave similarly to my former colleague, seeking opportunity wherever they find it and taking what was never offered. I refer to this manipulative meddler as an “opportunist bully,” characterized by individuals who prey on the generosity, ingenuity and collegiality of other academics.

They may appear to be congenial colleagues who are interested in you and your work. They may seek you out for information, disappearing when they have found the key to their own grant proposal or article. They may even wish to partner with you on a collaborative project or a grant, sometimes even offering necessary expertise. It is only when the collaborative project begins to reap tangible rewards, in the form of funding, accolades or publications, that the opportunist bully’s agenda becomes clear. In maneuvering to steal the idea, claim the spotlight or dominate the funds, their bullying tendencies are revealed—particularly as they work to justify centering themselves at the expense of their collaborators.

In my experience, the opportunist bully can be difficult to spot. Many people who exhibit this type of behavior seem to be collegial and engaged, not necessarily pursuing conversations with colleagues in order to hijack their research projects. In fact, in some regards the opportunist bully may actually be collegial and engaged. But when scarce academic rewards are at stake, these otherwise seemingly congenial individuals become inappropriately territorial and manipulative.

While the opportunist bully may appear to be a less dangerous category of academic bully than other more easily recognizable bullies, the damage they do is significant. When a colleague hoards resources, steals an original idea or otherwise preys upon another colleague’s work—most often that of a junior faculty member—the person whose work has been pilfered is likely to question their own role in allowing their work to be compromised. That can result in a sense of shame, guilt, fear and mistrust—all emotions connected with more traditional bullying behavior.

Ultimately, once the rank of full professor is achieved, certain individuals can become so emboldened by their positions that it is relatively easy to maintain power over those whom they outrank—and sometimes even administrators who try to rein in their unbridled egos. And the segregation and uneven support that various disciplines receive can lead to a more insidious hierarchy that is internalized by the individuals within areas or programs that perceive themselves as ranking “lower” within that hierarchy.

In such an environment, a form of bullying can arise that is described as “victim bullying” by C. K. Gunsalus in The College Administrator’s Survival Guide. As the name suggests, in this instance, the person attempts to turn their own bullying behavior upside down, positioning themselves as the victim. Victim bullying occurs when an individual uses a position of relative power to convince others that they are treated unfairly, work harder or are the target of disrespect. Yet while these individuals insist that their work is unappreciated, they often enjoy the most resources, the least external control over their workloads and the highest academic ranks.

A kinder term for this bully might be “the squeaky wheel.” While we may consider the squeaky wheel to be someone who’s simply persistent in expressing a need, the resolute steward who continues to speak up for the benefit of all differs markedly from the academic who uses manipulation for their own self-interest. Victim bullies may insist that their concern is for students or the greater good, but when this type of bully’s demands are pinpointed, it becomes clear that theirs is largely a narcissistic project.

Perhaps the most disturbing instances of academic bullying involve small groups of empowered faculty members who band together in an attempt to control, punish or even push out any individual whom they see as a threat to their agenda. In their book, Faculty Incivility: The Rise of the Academic Bully Culture and What to Do About It, Darla J. Twale and Barbara M. De Luca describe a relentless and insidious form of bullying known as “mobbing.” Similar to schoolyard bullying, this form of abuse typically involves a small group of people who align in the interest of achieving or maintaining power, often in order to protect the status quo—and sometimes even when their independent agendas don’t align.

For example, I am aware of an academic administrator who was taken to task by a small group of faculty members after that person’s first year in a leadership position. When the administrator failed to comply with the “mob’s” self-interested agenda, through deceit and manipulation they managed to push the administrator out...

From: https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2023/01/20/two-types-bullies-academe-can-go-unrecognized-opinion

January 08, 2023

Addressing instrumental bullying — stopping the Schemer...

 ...To prevent instrumental, indirect, and covert bullying, organizations should ensure transparent, fair, equitable, and legitimate ways to obtain rewards. Promotions, resource allocation, and other crucial decisions should be made based on transparent and accurately measured performance outcomes. “Eyeballing” performance rewards bragging, credit-taking, and possessing external markers of privilege.

Moreover, ensuring justice in organizational decision making requires a mechanism for correcting high-stakes decisions when necessary (such as if the information they were based on was incomplete or false, as in Noor’s case). For example, an independent group (e.g., a committee of ombudspeople) could verify the evidence supporting demotions or progressive discipline. Specific mechanisms
 differ based on the type of organization (state, private, unionized, etc.) and employment, often taking the form of grievance committees serving a specific type of employees (e.g., classified or unclassified, salaried or hourly). In any case, grievance and check-and-balance mechanisms may help disincentivize the reliance on instrumental bullying to get ahead.

Asynchronous work tools like taskboards and shared documents may also help prevent instrumental bullying in the form of credit-taking or unfair evaluations. Beyond their purpose as productivity tools, they serve an additional function of documenting performance and contributions.

Valid and well-designed recruitment,
 selection, and talent-management mechanisms that focus on demonstrated skills, results, and the ability to support others (rather than the ability to talk oneself up) also play a significant role in establishing a positive organizational climate. These can help prevent the hiring and promotion of takers and overconfident but incompetent individuals by identifying early signals of someone’s potential bullying behavior. For example, asking candidates to describe their experiences of failure or of enabling others to succeed will reveal degrees of humility, self-awareness, and orientation toward others...


December 13, 2022

Susanne Täuber - Bullying as a career tool in academia

Amongst recent high-profile bullying and (sexual) harassment scandals in academia, many have involved perpetrators who are ‘star academics’, yet had records  of bullying and multiple complaints over many years1. People often believe that these scientists are bullies despite being star academics. Their misbehaviours are attributed to an unfortunate decoupling between being a good scientist and being a decent person. However, academics who have experienced bullying often describe patterns that suggest a different explanation entirely: bullying is a means for mediocre scientists to rise to the top. Some star academics reached their position because they are bullies, not in spite of it.

(PDF) How bullying becomes a career tool. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358433526_How_bullying_becomes_a_career_tool [accessed Dec 13 2022].


November 25, 2022

Poor management the top cause of workplace bullying, study reveals


If the boss doesn’t care, why should the employees? Poor management is a surefire path toward fiscal failure, but new research also finds a bad manager can lead to a nastier work environment for everyone.

Researchers at the University of South Australia cite poor management as the biggest risk factor for workplace bullying. In collaboration with scientists from the Centre for Workplace Excellence, the University of Queensland, and Auburn University, study authors developed a new evidence-based screening tool that identified the nine major risk areas associated with workplace bullying.

These risk areas are very much embedded in typical day-to-day business practices, leading study authors to conclude the burden falls on organizations and employers to address the issues.

The research team analyzed 342 legitimate, real-life bullying complaints filed in South Australia. Notably, 60 percent of those complaints came from female employees. Meanwhile, the largest portion of complaints originated within health and community services, the property and business sector, or the retail sector. That analysis revealed the most prominent risk areas associated with workplace bullying across organizations, researchers explain.

Workplace bullying predominantly shows up in how people are managed,” lead study author Professor Michelle Tuckey says in a university release. “Managing work performance, coordinating working hours and entitlements, and shaping workplace relationships are key areas that organizations need to focus on.”

“It can be tempting to see bullying as a behavioral problem between individuals, but the evidence suggests that bullying actually reflects structural risks in the organizations themselves.”

From https://studyfinds.org/poor-management-bullying/

October 09, 2022

Report on the National Survey of Staff Experiences of Bullying in Irish Higher Education Institutions

This report presents the findings of an anonymous online survey examining the prevalence and impact of workplace bullying among staff in 20 publicly funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland. This survey study was commissioned by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. The survey included five sections: 

* demographics and work arrangements

* negative acts at work, bullying and cyberbullying

* bystander behaviour

* anti-bullying culture and awareness of anti-bullying policies

* team psychological safety and work demands

A total of 3,835 HEI staff (11.5% of employees working in the HEIs that were invited to participate in this study) aged between 18 and 65+ (65.1% female, 31.7% male, 0.5% non-binary, 2.7% did not disclose their gender identity) engaged with the online survey. Data were collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-point-five-percent (30.5%) of staff engaging with the survey was working remotely at the time of the data collection.

Findings showed that:

* 28% of the sample occasionally (“now and then”) endured work-orientated negative acts (targeting someone’s professional standing)

* 26% were subjected to person-orientated negative acts (targeting someone’s personal standing)

* an average of 32.9% respondents in the whole sample endured cyberbullying at work

* after being prompted to read the bullying definition, about one third of respondents (33.5%) reported having been bullied at work in the past three years, with 70.6% of them having been bullied for several months

* in the majority of cases, the perpetrator of bullying was a senior colleague (55%) or a peer (24.6%) * minority groups, such as LGBTQ+ respondents, ethnic minorities and respondents with a disability were more likely to endure negative acts at work, bullying and cyberbullying compared to majority groups (i.e., heterosexuals, ethnic majority groups and respondents with no disabilities)

* managers were more likely to endure negative acts and cyberbullying at work compared to respondents who did not cover a managerial role

* the rates of negative acts at work were comparable across respondents working in different work areas. *however, academics in the field of Social Sciences and Business and Law and those who did not disclose their work area endured higher levels of negative acts and cyberbullying compared to respondents working in other areas

* those who did not disclose their demographic information (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, work area) were more likely to endure negative acts at work, bullying and cyberbullying compared to those who disclosed their demographic information. These findings suggest that employees who endure bullying at work might be afraid of reporting their negative experiences even when data are collected anonymously

Overall, enduring negative acts at work and cyberbullying had a negative impact on respondents’ mental health and wellbeing, with a slightly higher rate of female respondents and respondents belonging to minority groups reporting negative mood end emotions.

Incidents of negative acts at work were witnessed occasionally (“now and then”) by 34.5% of respondents. Over one third of respondents (35.3%) indicated that they had witnessed bullying at work in the past three years, with 50.5% reporting that they had taken action when witnessing bullying. Witnessing bullying was detrimental for the mental health of respondents, with 36.6% of bystanders reporting that witnessing bullying had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

On a positive note, the majority of survey respondents (64.5%) were aware that their institution had an anti-bullying policy. However, only 20.8% of respondents agreed that the anti-bullying policy and procedures at their HEI contributed to effectively protecting all staff members.


August 05, 2022

Academics make claims of bullying and racism at another UCL school

Academics at one of the UK’s most prestigious universities claim bullying and harassment has destroyed careers and left staff living in a “culture of fear”.

In a leaked letter seen by the Guardian, nine academics from University College London’s (UCL) Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction said they needed to break their “silence”, alleging that complaints of bullying are “simply ignored”.

It comes after UCL apologised for a “culture of bullying” dating back decades at the Bartlett School of Architecture, which is in the same faculty as the school of sustainable construction.

An investigation by intelligence company Howlett Brown into the architecture school found a “boys’ club” setting. It found some people had been left “deeply traumatised” by their experiences in what was described as a “toxic” and “unsafe” learning environment.

The report has prompted a backlash, with 30 architects and academics accusing the university of a “witch-hunt”. They criticised the decision to publish the findings of an investigation into alleged abuses at the school before the conclusion of a disciplinary process.

The letter from the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction nowargues there is nepotism when it comes to high-profile appointments within the academy, as well as harassment and bullying of older and senior staff to “precipitate resignation or early retirement in order to replace them with cheaper junior staff on fixed-term contracts”.

The letter reads: “We are writing to you because you collectively have the fiduciary duty to govern UCL in the interest of its students and staff. This fiduciary duty includes ensuring that all reports of misconduct and fraudulent behaviour within UCL are diligently investigated through a transparent process.”

It alleges: “We have seen our own academic careers and lives and those of our colleagues destroyed through bullying, harassment and other predatory practices and know that any effort to raise the issues of misconduct or fraudulent behaviour would lead to retaliation endangering our own careers and lives.”

The academics call for complaints to be dealt with appropriately and to end the use of confidentiality clauses so people can speak without reprisal. They accused UCL of not looking sufficiently at the staff experience in their investigation of the architecture school.

Academics from the construction school, speaking about their experiences, say they have witnessed worrying levels of “bullying and deep racism”.

They claim this includes firing faculty members with no due process or warning and “extending probation discriminatorily”.

A UCL spokesperson thanked the individuals for coming forward, promising to launch an investigation, adding they were “sorry to hear about their experiences” and “troubled” by their stories.

“While the Howlett Brown investigation looked into the culture, educational practices and environment at the Bartlett School of Architecture, we know that unacceptable behaviour happens elsewhere in UCL and is not isolated to just one department or school,” they said.

“We are committed to tackling inequalities and to ensuring that our university is an environment in which students and staff can thrive in their diversity.”

They added that others with concern should raise it via university support services. “We guarantee that anyone who speaks to us will be treated with sympathy and confidentiality.”


May 12, 2022

Academic bullying is too often ignored. Here are some targets' stories...


I complained to our department chair. An investigation committee was created. Through their investigation they found most of my allegations valid, but they gave me two options: 1) continue working under my supervisor and report if additional bad behavior happened, or 2) leave the institution.

I first spoke up, but this made the situation worse. Then, I reported to higher level people in my department and then to the dean's office. They destroyed my life and my scientific identity as well as my dignity. They crushed my entire career.

I complained to the university. They did not follow their own prescribed guidelines for resolving complaints and allowed my PI to remove me from the lab and take away funding.

I spoke to the dean of the graduate school and she helped me get out of the situation. But she made it really clear that if I formally reported nothing good would happen to me or my co-workers.

I complained after graduation, which was a very painful process, since this PI required 15 (!) papers in order to graduate. The university seemed to take it seriously, but 6 months later nothing has changed.

I went to HR [human resources] of the department and of the institution; I discussed it with [a] disability adviser; I discussed it with the international office adviser; I filed a formal complaint with the dean; I consulted with the ombudsperson. The outcome of all of this was zero.

It took me a long time before I reported; I had to be seriously into depression. The outcome felt that it was seen as a problem in communication between us and a cultural difference—not a genuine issue.

I talked to the ombudsman and the dean who both supported me and [took steps to ensure] my appointment wasn't canceled. It was cut short but not as much as initially threatened. I got therapy hours from the institute to help cope (10 hours) and meetings with the ombudsman to keep contact and let me know they hadn't forgotten about me.

I complained to the HR representative, who raised the issue to the head of the department, who then spoke to the bully without giving my identity. The bully then emailed the entire group about it, asking the person who had complained to come forward. Nothing changed, and I resigned a few months later.

I complained to the head of the department, the head of faculty, and the university legal department. All were only concerned with protecting the university. I told them research is suffering and somebody is going to commit suicide if they don't fix the problem. It was terrible. Nobody cared.

I reported the incidents of mobbing to the wellbeing department at my university. They campaigned on my behalf, but the bullying became more subtle and took the form of gaslighting. I wasn't the only target; another student recently committed suicide due to the bullying.

I complained to the department administration. They basically told me there was nothing that could be done. The behavior is so common amongst PIs in my department that I decided not to switch labs and to just deal with it.

I spoke to the department chair and was told I am the problem. I then spoke with the ombudsperson and was told I am NOT the problem, but because it was not gender-based bullying, there was nothing that could be done.

From: https://www.science.org/content/article/academic-bullying-too-often-ignored-here-are-some-targets-stories

April 11, 2022

Durham University failing on bullying, staff say

 One of Britain’s leading universities is failing to stamp out bullying and harassment, some of its staff have said, after a college principal was allowed to remain in post despite complaints of intimidating behaviour towards colleagues.

Prof Adekunle Adeyeye, the head of Durham University’s Trevelyan college, is alleged to have frequently reduced colleagues to tears and made sexist remarks.

He stepped down from the university’s bullying policy committee after the Guardian approached him last week, but he is understood to remain in post as a college principal.

Previously the Guardian has spoken to five former members of staff who say they experienced intimidating behaviour or misogynistic comments from Adeyeye, who joined the university in January 2020.

Two people had filed formal grievances against him in a matter of 16 months and three have left over concerns about his manner.

The institution’s University and College Union branch said in a statement on Thursday that the case highlighted “extremely important structural issues at Durham”, which has been dogged by complaints about bullying and harassment on campus.

The union, which represents nearly current 1,300 academics and staff at the university, said: “While we can’t comment on this particular case while the proceedings are ongoing, there have been similar cases in the past.

“It appears that the university has in many instances been reluctant to address the structural problems which have allowed bullying to take place and settled for short-term solutions.”

It said that too often “positions of power are abused, and workers and students experience bullying, harassment and other forms of exploitation” and “too often, procedures and policies meant to protect people fail to do so.

“This case highlights how official top down initiatives, even if well intentioned, are often ineffectual and can be easily manipulated.”

The union branch committee called on the university to “state publicly and unequivocally that intimidatory, sexist behaviour and bullying are unacceptable and will not be tolerated”.

The university said in a statement: “We do not accept any form of prejudice or discrimination at Durham University. We condemn any incidents of racism, harassment and bullying in the strongest possible terms and will take action in line with our published policies.”

A spokeswoman said everyone had the right to work and study in a safe and respectful environment, and that all staff and students were expected to follow the university’s regulations on conduct and values on behaviour.

She said colleagues would be supported when they raised concerns of potential misconduct. The complaints against Adeyeye were being “fully and fairly addressed in line with our published policies and procedures”, she said, and that the process had “not yet concluded but we have and will continue to follow appropriate due process”.

A disciplinary investigation last month upheld several complaints against Adeyeye, including some of possible misconduct or gross misconduct...


Damning report reveals details of bullying at helm of Imperial College

Britain’s highest-paid university chief and another senior executive created a culture of favouritism and exclusion at Imperial College, according to damning details of a report released after she had attempted to suppress its publication.

Imperial’s president, Alice Gast, last year apologised after an independent report found that she and the college’s chief financial officer had bullied members of staff. However, they have resisted calls by student and academic representatives to resign, while she attempted to block the report’s release under freedom of information.

But redacted details were published on Thursday after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) rejected Gast’s arguments against the release and disagreed with her attempts to downplay the findings against her as “relatively minor”.

They include accounts of Gast and Muir Sanderson’s behaviour and its impact on victims who were bullied in 2019 and 2020. Jane McNeill QC, who carried out the investigation, said some witnesses had expressed a fear of retaliation.

McNeill found that Gast and Sanderson had “created or contributed to a culture which involves and tolerates favouritism, exclusion, the making of disparaging comments about others and at times a lack of respect for others”.

Referring to Gast and Sanderson by their initials, the report goes on to state: “In relation to both AG and MS, several witnesses described a culture of favouritism: you are ‘in or out’; ‘the favourite child’; ‘a hero or zero’; or in the ‘in gang or out gang’. One witness said that there were a lot of employees at any one time ‘in the rubbish pot’.”

McNeill’s report found that Gast had bullied a colleague, which she has apologised for, but that her treatment of some others did not amount to bullying. Sanderson has apologised for bullying two colleagues. The report found he had bullied one person and said it made no finding that he had bullied others.

Barry Jones, the London regional official for the University College Union, said: “It is shameful that President Alice Gast and CFO Muir Sanderson still remain in post after being found to have bullied staff and treated them with such disrespect. UCU members report an endemic culture of bullying at Imperial, a culture which hits marginalised staff the hardest.”

 is subject to an investigation by the universities watchdog, the Office for Students, over the bullying allegations. It was announced last year that Gast – the highest-paid university chief among the elite Russell Group – is to step down from her £554,000 role when her contract expires this year.

Sanderson’s behaviour to one victim was described as “aggressive and intimidating”. She was undermined and spoken to in a condescending and offensive way, with “stark examples” such as being addresses as “young lady” and being told to “watch her tone”...


September 28, 2021

Students and staff at Durham University complain of ‘apathy’ over bullying...

Students and staff at the University of Durham have accused management of showing a “culture of apathy” towards bullying and harassment. They said the university’s leaders had allowed “abuses of power, bullying or harassment to continue” and that they no longer trust that the executives value their safety.

The open letter came after the Guardian revealed that a college principal had been allowed to remain in post despite complaints of intimidating behaviour towards colleagues.

Prof Adekunle Adeyeye, the head of Trevelyan College, is alleged to have reduced colleagues to tears and made sexist remarks. Two people had filed formal grievances against him in 16 months and three have departed because of concerns about his manner.

He stepped down from the university’s bullying policy committee after the Guardian approached him in August, but he remains in post as college principal.

The letter, signed by 100 staff, alumni and group leaders representing nearly 8,000 students, said the Adeyeye matter was “just one example of a culture that has been seen time and time again among both staff and students”.

Anya Chuykov, president of the university’s Intersectional Feminism Society, accused management of an “unacceptable” complacency in tackling bullying and misogyny.

“The university should be setting an example at an administrative level,” she said. “Instead, it is showing both students and staff that poor behaviour can be excused and that their safety and concerns are not worthy of attention.

“This is not an isolated incident, and the behaviour of Durham University speaks to the toxic atmosphere that so many students and staff must live with at universities and schools up and down the country. Students and staff must join forces to dismantle this culture of permissiveness towards bullying, harassment and misogyny.”

Durham University said it does not accept any form of prejudice or discrimination on campus and said it condemned any incidents of bullying, harassment or misogyny “in the strongest possible terms”.

It added: “We are always open to hearing directly from students or staff regarding concerns or suggestions, and would welcome the opportunity to meet the organisers of the open letter to understand their experiences as well as the evidence.

“We have recently taken measures to promote openness and transparency on student conduct cases through publicly communicating outcomes and we are working with students to rebuild confidence that that we will listen, investigate promptly and take decisive action.”

Adeyeye was contacted for comment.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/sep/28/students-staff-durham-university-apathy-complain-bullying