The bullying of academics follows a pattern of horrendous, Orwellian elimination rituals, often hidden from the public. Despite the anti-bullying policies (often token), bullying is rife across campuses, and the victims (targets) often pay a heavy price. "Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence." Leonardo da Vinci - "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men [or good women] do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
August 31, 2007
North Harris Montgomery Community College District awarded 'Divestors of People' standard
For more information on workplace bullying at North Harris Montgomery Community College District, please check:
Kingston University awarded 'Divestors of People' standard
For more information on workplace bullying at Kingston University, please check:
Failure to attend a Robby Williams tribute band may result in disciplinary proceedings
This years staff development is more bizzare than previous ones. We have been told that attendance at a Robby Williams Tribute band concert is compulsory. Failure to attend may result in disciplinary proceedings. Torture as well as bullying.
We ask: Can we please have the name of this HEI? They are a prime candidate for the 'Divestors of People' Award.
August 30, 2007
Bullying major factor in suicide
Experts: workplace bullying major factor in suicide
Workplace bullying is said to have been a factor in 100 suicides in Ireland last year. Clinical Psychologist Michael Mullally, who specialises in the area, says the problem is now reaching epidemic proportions.
He has been speaking at the International Association for Suicide Prevention Conference in Kerry this afternoon. Mr Mullally said that bullying in work is affecting [in Ireland] almost 160,000 people.From: http://www.independent.ie
Suicide don under 'huge stress' in job - By Tony Tysome. Published: 15 September 2006, Times Higher Education Supplement
Universities urged to review plans to outsource support services as inquest hears of work pressures leading up to academic's death. Tony Tysome reports.
Universities were urged to bolster staff support services this week after an inquest was told that an academic committed suicide after becoming unable to cope with the pressures of her job.
Kingston University is to conduct a review of its occupational health service for staff after an inquest heard how Diana Winstanley, a professor in the university's School of Human Resource management, hanged herself in her home in July shortly after complaining to her ex-husband about heavy workloads.
The university had received no indication that Professor Winstanley, who was an expert in work-related stress, was suffering as a result of her workload.
The tragic news comes as many universities are considering outsourcing confidential staff counselling services, which are seen as a vital lifeline for a growing number of academics suffering acute levels of stress.
David Berger, who chairs the Association for University and College Counselling and is head of counselling at Hull University where the service for staff is about to be outsourced, warned that outsourcing could in effect leave some staff with no support or outlet for their anxieties. He said: "Although some staff may quite like it, others will find it virtually impossible to find the time to go to offices outside the university within normal working hours."
Mr Berger said there was anecdotal evidence that both work-related stress and mental ill-health were on the rise among academic staff. The AUCC is taking steps to plot the trend.
Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of the University and College Union, commented: "Our stress survey indicated borderline levels of psychological distress among staff. Employers must take action to reduce workloads and tackle the causes of occupational stress in the sector."
David Miles, Kingston's pro vice-chancellor for external affairs, told The Times Higher that the institution was preparing to review its staff support systems in the light of the tragedy.
Professor Miles said that higher education was "an area where people are expected to deliver high standards under pressured circumstances, and this is becoming increasingly so".
"There is a sense of profound shock here over Di's death. In the preceding weeks, to most people who met her she seemed to be her usual positive self," he said. "There was no indication she was suffering a level of stress that might have contributed to her death." Professor Miles said that the university offered confidential counselling to its staff through its occupational health service and that it had recently revised its stress management policy.
Evidence submitted to the recent inquest, held at West Sussex Coroner's Court, suggested that Professor Winstanley was struggling in her job, which involved some overseas travel and grappling with challenges involving computer technology.
Professor Winstanley's former husband, Nicholas Jarrett, told the inquest that work had been the main cause of his ex-wife's anxiety shortly before her death.
Speaking to The Times Higher later, he said: "I have no doubt at all from the things that she said to me that she was under huge stress at work, and that she was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the demands that were placed on her.
"I believe from what she said that she had inadequate administrative and technical support."
Christine Edwards, a colleague at Kingston and a long-standing friend of Professor Winstanley, said: "No one would have been more aware of the support available at the university than Diana. "As far as we are aware, she had not set in motion any of the procedures within the university's human resources policies or accessed any of the support services open to her."
Now draw your own conclusions.
25 Top Workplace Bully Tactics
- Falsely accused someone of "errors" not actually made (71 percent).
- Stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68 percent).
- Discounted the person's thoughts or feelings ("oh, that's silly") in meetings (64 percent).
- Used the "silent treatment" to "ice out" and separate from others (64 percent).
- Exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (61 percent).
- Made up own rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow (61 percent).
- Disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence (58 percent).
- Harshly and constantly criticized having a different standard for the target (57 percent).
- Started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person (56 percent).
- Encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented (55 percent).
- Singled out and isolated one person from coworkers, either socially or physically (54 percent).
- Publicly displayed "gross," undignified, but not illegal, behavior (53 percent).
- Yelled, screamed, threw tantrums in front of others to humiliate a person (53 percent).
- Stole credit for work done by others (47 percent).
- Abused the evaluation process by lying about the person's performance (46 percent).
- Declared target "insubordinate" for failing to follow arbitrary commands (46 percent).
- Used confidential information about a person to humiliate privately or publicly (45 percent).
- Retaliated against the person after a complaint was filed (45 percent).
- Made verbal put-downs/insults based on gender, race, accent or language, disability (44 percent).
- Assigned undesirable work as punishment (44 percent).
- Created unrealistic demands (workload, deadlines, duties) for person singled out (44 percent).
- Launched a baseless campaign to oust the person; effort not stopped by the employer (43 percent).
- Encouraged the person to quit or transfer rather than to face more mistreatment (43 percent).
- Sabotaged the person's contribution to a team goal and reward (41 percent).
- Ensured failure of person's project by not performing required tasks, such as sign-offs, taking calls, working with collaborators (40 percent)
...and the ritual continues... US
North Harris Montgomery CCD
5000 Research Forest Dr.
The Woodlands, TX 77381
Ladies and Gentlemen:
For 3-1/2 years, I served as an employee of the NHMCCD (North Harris Montgomery Community College District). I was among the first Division Operations Managers (DOMs) hired within the District, and during my tenure, I believe I brought much structure and positive change to both Montgomery College and the District in general. I was instrumental in organizing the DOMs throughout the District into a professional and effective business group, developing our own training programs, peer support structures and all-District networking with the District administration. I loved my work, and most of the people I worked with on a regular basis.
I came to NHMCCD as a military retiree, and a retiree from a major Fortune 500 corporation. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in General Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration specializing in Management. In my corporate position, I directed a world-wide program for Corporate Recognition, and worked extensively in training supervisors, managers and Corporate executives in emerging styles of people management and Corporate Quality. I was a certified Senior Examiner, trained under the Malcom Baldridge Award criteria. I am currently an Adjunct Lecturer (Professor of Management) in the University of Houston system.
I only mention my background to emphasize three prime issues: (1) I am considered an expert in my field: Management, (2) I accepted the position as DOM because it was an opportunity to “make a difference” and contribute to my community – not because I needed to work, and (3) I know good management – and bad - when I see it.
I have the utmost respect for John Pickelman and your staff of Vice-Chancellors and other administrators at NHMCCD headquarters – most of whom I worked with closely in my position, and I received exceptional cooperation and support. However, I feel the District has removed itself so far from the individual campuses, that it is not aware of the unethical practices and behavior that may be occurring on a regular basis. My refusing to participate in this type of behavior, and stating so strongly, led to my eventual resignation.
I did not resign because I wanted to leave Montgomery College, but because I was forced to. For the last four months of my employment, I was subjected to continuous harassment, verbal abuse, complete disrespect, removal of my supervisory responsibilities, exclusion from District educational opportunities offered to me, and behavior uncharacteristic of an ethical supervisor. This was instigated and orchestrated by Dean Deborah Ellington, [The link connects to a page which has been removed since this posting - a photo of Dean Deborah Ellington by the Acropolis] in order to force my resignation. There was no attempt to “fire” me because no reason could be found. Dr. Tom Butler displayed a complete lack of leadership by even refusing to meet with me to discuss my situation, and VP of Instruction Julie Leidig tried to intervene but was so concerned for her own position that she was unable to effectively address the issues or the truth about what was occurring. Whatever Dean Ellington said was accepted without question. Most was fabricated or otherwise untrue.
I only stayed the additional 4 months in order to protect my Division employees, who were also being harassed by unfair practices and unfair expectations, false accusations, and pure terror - in fear for their jobs. In fact, as I was able to prove some of the allegations false, Ms. Ellington waited until I resigned before terminating one of those employees using those false accusations as a basis. By the way, that employee was one of the most dedicated, loyal and productive employees any supervisor would want to have. The District lost an exceptional person when she left.
I have spent the past 7 months investigating the supervisory background of Deborah Ellington, and I must admit I have been surprised at what I have found. Where Dean Ellington goes, chaos prevails, especially when dealing with employees and faculty. I will not go into detail, since detail should be readily available in District records. A good question to ask is WHY North Harris College wanted to get rid of her so badly? How many people were affected or lost their jobs because of her “leadership”? How many law suits and/or threats of lawsuits and/or grievances have been initiated against her at North Harris and Montgomery Colleges? Why are her actions acceptable to the Administration? Recently, I discovered that Ms. Ellington has been making false accusations against me in order to protect herself and her very poor fiscal and ethical practices, and the ensuing results. I don’t need to defend my reputation to those that know me, but I will to those that don’t. And strongly.
I have accepted my current situation, although I was just over a year from qualifying for TRS retirement. This was a major financial “hit” to me. More so, I miss my good friends, coworkers and employees at MC, DSTC and the other campuses. Yet, I CANNOT accept what has happened to so many others, and I am refusing to just “drop it” – too many others may suffer. Therefore, I am asking you, as the NHMCCD Board, to investigate this continuing situation and take some action to prevent it from happening in the future. Although you probably were not aware of it before, now you are; and I trust you will ask questions and advise me as to what investigation will be initiated and what the resolution is. You could start by asking Mr. Glen Powell about what occurred during the 4 months I was being pressured to resign, as I kept in constant contact with him until my last day of employment. There was nothing he could do but listen, and he did listen and I appreciate that. Yet, no one seems to want to challenge Ms. Ellington for her management practices.
I am prepared to release further information publicly, if necessary, within the next two weeks. It is not my intention to embarrass the District; rather, to cause some action. But, I do expect to be informed what action the District plans, and how any investigation will be handled. I have nothing to lose by going public with my information; my goal is simply to gain some satisfaction for the many current or former employees whose lives or careers have been damaged by this very unstable person, who the District has placed in such a high position. Her actions violate your own Ethics Policy (see the NHMCCD Staff Handbook), so I would hope that you do support your own written policies. I also urge that you research “workplace mobbing” and the effect is has on employees and organizations.
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing a reply from you very shortly.
Richard E. (Dick) Martin
More info at: http://www.zimbio.com/
August 27, 2007
When Bosses Go Bad -- and Get Rewarded
And we wonder, is it just our company? Just our industry? Well, take heart. It happens everywhere, according to a study on bad bosses presented earlier this month at the Academy of Management's annual meeting in Philadelphia.
Asked what happened to a particularly "bad leader" they've worked for, nearly half (45 percent) of employees surveyed reported that the offending boss was promoted. Another 19 percent said nothing at all happened to the person, and only 13 percent said the bad leader was forced out of the organization.
The three researchers, from Bond University in Australia, who conducted the study said it was "remarkably disturbing" that 64 percent of the bad bosses were either rewarded with promotions or left alone.
The online survey of 240 people in the United States and Australia was part of a larger study, in which one-third of those surveyed also reported that working for these bad bosses caused them serious stress, including fatigue, insomnia and bad dreams.
While the Australian researchers may have been surprised that so many bad bosses get promoted, some who study this particular breed of office animal say the survey was right on target.
"The more incompetent someone is, the faster their career takes off," says John Hoover, author of How to Work for an Idiot: Survive and Thrive Without Killing Your Boss. Hoover notes that, in a typical organization, the path to a higher salary and perks, such as stock options, lies in getting promoted. The problem, he says, is employees and managers often get promoted out of their areas of competency -- and their comfort zones. They become incompetent, insecure, defensive -- in short, bad bosses.
"We institutionalize bad behavior because the only way people can be rewarded is to be taken out of their element," says Hoover, who is also an executive coach with Partners in Human Resources International, a New York-based HR consultancy.
When people are comfortable, they're liked by their co-workers, says Hoover. "It's when they get promoted away from it that they become gargoyles."
And it gets worse, he says. These bad bosses surround themselves with incompetent sycophants who provide camouflage and can serve as convenient "sacrificial lambs" if the boss's own incompetence causes problems, he says. When someone higher in the organizational chart leaves the company, this entire "pod of incompetence," as Hoover calls it, gets bumped up the ladder.
One might think that these bad bosses wouldn't get promoted, that smart executives up the line would see them for what they are and show them the door. But, says Hoover, "When you look down a silo, you only see the cork at the top. You don't see what's bottled up behind it."
"If the metrics are working," he says, the top executives "assume the whole organization is working like a well-oiled machine."
There are a couple of things HR can do about all this, says Hoover. One is to help redesign the organization so that people can get raises and perks without having to get promoted. "This will keep people in their competencies," he says. Another approach, he says, is for HR to try to determine in advance -- through tests and other measures -- whether a person will make a good manager.
Elaine Varelas of Keystone Partners, a career-management firm in Boston, says bad bosses are often promoted because, at many organizations, managing people is not considered as important as making money for the company.
As a manager, you're valued "if you deliver the financials, if you deliver the deals," rather than on how well you deal with people, says Varelas, who writes a regular column on talent-management issues for The Boston Globe.
Top executives might be aware a manager is a bad boss, "but they might not know what to do about it," she says. "They might be worried that if they make a change, the results they want in other areas won't be delivered."
Varelas believes the prevalence of bad bosses will become more of an issue as baby boomers leave the workforce and competition for talent heats up.
"As organizations are more concerned about retaining people, we'll see something done about these bad bosses," she says. Because such bosses generate turnover, "retaining the right people will be seen as just as much a critical success factor as delivering on other, more quantifiable results."
From: Human Resource Executive Online
Power corrupts, says workplace bullying survey
A survey by the Ban Bullying at Work campaign questioned 512 senior managers across the UK in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute ahead of the fifth national Ban Bullying at Work day which takes place on 7th November.
The other main factors, given by managers themselves, which contribute to bullying at work included unrealistic targets (cited by 27%); authoritarian management styles (56%); personality (57%); and failure to address incidents (37%).
The survey also asked managers what they believed was the most prolific type of bullying used. Misuse of power was cited by 71% of managers while 63% cited overbearing supervision and 55% cited exclusion.
The report also looked at the reasons why organisations should tackle bullying at work. Improving low morale was the most cited answer, followed by improving productivity and reducing absenteeism.
Lyn Witheridge, chief executive of the Ban Bullying at Work Campaign, said: "We are challenging businesses to speak out against bullying to create workplaces where employees can see clearly that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated.”
Catherine Barker, an employment lawyer at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that although there is no specific legislation making bullying at work illegal, every employer owes its staff a duty of care to make sure that its workplace is somewhere where they are not subjected to harassment.
She said: "There is also anti-discrimination legislation which will catch many instances of bullying behaviors. If, for example, a person is bullied for reasons connected to their sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, they may be able to bring a discrimination complaint to an Employment Tribunal.
"Bullying can, however, take many other forms and may be as a result of a personality clash or frustration by management regarding an individual's performance. In this situation any employee is entitled to raise a grievance and if management fails to deal with the grievance properly, this could underline trust and confidence in the employment relationship.
"When this trust and confidence is severely undermined, an employee may feel they have no option but to resign and in this situation they may have a valid constructive dismissal complaint in an Employment Tribunal."
Barker added: "The best thing businesses can do is to ensure that the workplace culture is one of respect and equality so that bullying and harassment of any description is simply not tolerated. This can be achieved by having proper anti-bullying policies in place, training managers on these policies, and dealing with any grievances properly as soon as they arise.
"But, if poor performance – by employees or management – is genuinely the issue, then this should also be properly managed, rather than allowing the problem to fester."
Also worth reading along the same lines: LACK OF MANAGEMENT SKILLS CONTRIBUTES TO BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE
Two mathematicians forced to resign at Uppsala University, Sweden
In a press statement and in a letter to the president of the European Mathematical Society, the rector mentions work environment problems at the Department as the reason for his action and then states: After having been formally cautioned, the two professors tendered their resignations. This allegation is not in agreement with reports by the two professors: they ask in vain to be given indications of what they are accused of, they are not given a chance to defend themselves, and they finally sign their resignations only after the rector’s strong demand under conditions which seemingly give them no choice. That is the conclusion from a documentation provided by Oleg Viro which is based on voice recordings taken by the professors during the interviews.
Numerous European and American mathematicians have since protested against the treatment of Professors Viro and Juhl-Jöricke by Uppsala University in letters both to the University and to the European Mathematical Society. In his reply to the rector, EMS-president Ari Laptev expresses his grave concern with respect to the procedure chosen by Uppsala University; he states that the incident has been seen as a danger to the entire mathematical community. Laptev asks the rector to reconsider his decision regarding the expulsion of the two professors.
Comments to: email@example.com
August 24, 2007
www.keele-hauled.com - PART 2
This disgraceful loophole was initially allowed because the politicians drawing up this legislation determined that educational establishments already had the means to resolve disability discrimination issues. It soon became apparent, however, that this was a naive assumption, and a potentially fatal flaw to the legislation that was not amended until, I think, 2001, and even then not fully implemented until 2002.
The discrimination against me persisted after the law was amended but other problems made pursuing this legal route very difficult. The DDA has a time limit of six months. The University in one of its investigations took over twelve months to just look at the case - this is a common trick by Universities, to delay matters long enough for any legal response to be out of time. The University act 'intra vires', and so any legal challenge against them will often be rejected because 'all internal remedies' have not been exhausted. As I mentioned, my application to the European Court was rejected for a similar reason. The University has taken YEARS in which to fail to investigate my case, and I am effectively still in the student complaint process, and have been since 2000, therefore ineligible for legal action with regard to the case until this process is resolved (probably posthumously).
This is why the present and on-going discrimination case is so important. I am still effectively in a student complaint process (by definition, since the Adjudicator and the Visitor are involvevd). I knew that the process that the University was implemenmting was corrupt on a number of counts, but when they virtually ran headlong into a disability discrimination case it gave me the first opportunity to get elements of my case in front of a truly impartial and publicly monitored judge.
It may form the tiny key to open a very large can of worms, which is why the University are defending the case so ferociously.
Andy Terry - www.keele-hauled.com
'Awesome' teaching may be a dead end
Peter Saffrey, a postdoc in computer science at Glasgow University, spoke out to The Times Higher this week after we reported the case of Alan Jenkins, the Oxford Brookes professor who claimed this month that his career-long focus on teaching practice, which had earned him an international reputation, damaged his promotion prospects.
Dr Saffrey said he had been "actively seeking teaching responsibilities" at work.
"When the feedback forms were returned, my performance was very highly rated - the word 'awesome' was used more than once," he said.
"However, my publication record is not so 'awesome' and almost certainly not good enough to secure a permanent post," he said.
"This means that even though I have been officially rated an 'awesome' lecturer, no computing department in the country would give me a job as a lecturer. Isn't that a bit silly?"
Stressing that his grievance was not with his current employer, Glasgow, but with the sector as a whole, Dr Saffrey said: "It will probably mean that I end up working in the IT industry, which is sad because I really enjoy both teaching and research.
"I just can't write papers as fast as the system requires. It seems a shame that not ticking the right boxes will mean that my lecturing ability can't be put to good use."
Glasgow University declined to comment, beyond noting that Dr Saffrey had not applied for a post at the university.
A Glasgow spokesperson said that Dr Saffrey was not speaking specifically about his experience at Glasgow.
Another, more senior, UK academic, who asked not to be named, also told The Times Higher about her frustrations in being repeatedly denied promotion.
"Teachers are looked down on and not promoted or rewarded," she said. "I have been in a teaching position for more than a decade, and none of my faculty teaching colleagues has ever been promoted. We have been told on numerous occasions that a senior teaching position is not appropriate for us but is a means of removing weak researchers from the research assessment exercise to boost the ratings.
"So we have a position in my institution where those in a senior teaching position may or may not care about teaching and certainly do not engage in the scholarship, development or research of education.
"I have been rejected for promotion to senior lecturer on two occasions, and the excuses become flimsier each time. I have lost count of the times that I have been told that it will happen 'some time in the future' and that my participation in cross-institutional projects (worth in excess of £1 million) 'might' put me in a better position for promotion," she said.
"I no longer believe any of these promises. In the meantime, there are constantly moving goalposts, and we work towards a goal to be told after the work has been done that it is inappropriate for promotion. At the same time, we watch research colleagues in their meteoric rise through the ranks to professorhood. Focusing on teaching is a death blow for the career, while institutions slavishly conform to the RAE."
From: Times Higher Education Supplement, Phil Baty, 24 August 2007
August 23, 2007
Dignity: A Universal Right
The U. S. Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal.” Many have struggled with the meaning of that phrase. While people are easily seen as unequal in health, wealth, looks, talent, skill, and other qualities, we obviously exhibit a wide range of differences. Our differences are in fact a source of the delight we take in each other.
The Declaration of Independence tasked the nation not only with protecting life and liberty but also with embodying fairness and justice. While people are equal not in their endowments or attainments, they have intrinsic value as human beings, in their dignity.
1. adj. a condition in which the dignity of all people is honored and protected
2. n. a person who advocates for a dignitarian society, one whose conduct and attitudes are dignitarian
Each of us has an innate sense that we have the same inherent worth as anyone else. Every religion teaches us so. We experience this as a birthright—a cosmic fact that cannot be undone by any person, circumstance, institution, or government.
That is why rankism is experienced on the deepest level as an affront to dignity. Like any animal vulnerable to being preyed upon, we’re supersensitive to threats to our well-being. We’re alert to subtle attempts to determine our relative strength, from “innocent” opening lines such as “Who are you with?” to more probing queries regarding our ancestry or education.
In proclaiming a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the Declaration of Independence touched on making dignity a fundamental right. Liberty means freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control. Therefore, the right to liberty, by militating against rankism, affords a large measure of protection to our dignity. Likewise the right to pursue happiness is meaningless in the absence of the dignity inherent in full and equal citizenship.
Given the remarkable achievements of the identity-based liberation movements, it’s not unrealistic to imagine a day when everyone’s equal dignity will be as self-evident as everyone’s right to own property or to vote.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Predation
Maybe it was only yesterday. If so, you are probably still reeling from the discovery that you weren't imagining things, that something is wrong with a certain person in your life, and that your experience with him or her isn't unique.
Maybe all your life they've made you feel like a tethered bird, never allowed to feel good about yourself. Or maybe you have a sense of foreboding that comes through in bad dreams because it seems that this person, for no known reason, is out to get you.
But who would believe it? You yourself can't believe it. You've had to keep pinching yourself, because Why would anyone do that? Especially this person. And why would he or she do that to you? It defies reason. Which makes it the perfect crime = the one no one believes. Because it goes against nature. And because it has no possible motive.
Yet, when you think twice, it's stupid to doubt that such things happen. The daily news proves that they do. For we could ask the old Why-would-anyone-do-that? question about every rape, every random murder, every child molestation, every random act of vandalism.
They are abundant proof of the FACT that some people need no motive. They act out of pure malice. They do it just to do it. In fact, jurisprudence has long recognized the motive of pure malice.
Some people hurt you because hurting others makes them feel good. It makes them feel good in the same way that eating makes a starving person feel good. It makes them feel good in the same way that a narcotic makes a person in pain feel good.
Just as hungry people like eating and just as pained people like taking narcotics, they like hurting you. They need to hurt you. Just as a hungry person needs food and a person in pain needs a narcotic. That's what you are to them, food, as to a vampire, or a punching bag to transfer their pain to. For, they are predators.
August 22, 2007
Ten laws every employer needs to know
Here, starting with the beginning of employment and finishing with termination, are the key employment laws that businesses need to comply with. Following these basic principles should keep most employers out of serious trouble, most of the time.
Under our anti-discrimination laws, employers cannot pick and choose between job applicants on the basis of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or equivalent belief, or age. Huge amounts of compensation can be awarded against employers where they discriminate in this way and they can find themselves failing to win central or local government contracts because they are marked down in the assessment regimes. Of course, employers can refuse to employ applicants under the minimum school-leaving age (broadly age 16), as it is generally illegal to employ them except for in part-time or holiday work. Employers must also refuse to hire applicants who cannot demonstrate that they have the right to work in the UK under our immigration laws; knowingly employing illegal immigrants could cost you a heavy fine. Once employment is underway, there must be pay equality between men and women, part-time and full-time workers and fixed-term and permanent staff.
2. Employment contracts
Many employers still fail to meet their legal obligation to issue written statements of employment particulars to new employees, even though this law has been around since 1963. There are a number of areas the statement must cover - too numerous to list, but you can read more here - all laid down by law, and it must be provided within eight weeks of employment starting. The Government-sponsored Business Link website has an easy to use software tool that will write a legally compliant statement for you in no more than half an hour. Many problems will be avoided if employers take the time to get this right, as the written statement will avoid later arguments about what the employee’s package and the disciplinary process is. The old adage of a stitch in time saves nine later comes to mind. Any subsequent changes to the statement must be confirmed in writing within four weeks.
3. Family-friendly rights
Using New Labour-speak, this is the collective term for rights such as paid maternity leave. Maternity pay rights have of course just been significantly increased and a form of swapping of unused maternity leave between mothers and fathers is on the cards. In addition, there is also the right to take unpaid time off to care for a child or other dependent in case of emergencies, which many employers do not understand at all. Then there is the right for parents of young or disabled children (and soon for carers of dependent adults) to request so called “flexible working” - which is to say, shorter or different hours. An employer has to give such a request reasonable consideration, but the employee has to submit a reasoned request in writing and the arrangement must be proposed on a permanent (as opposed to temporary) basis. If there is a reduction in working time, the employer is entitled to proportionately adjust salary.
4. Working time
Under the working time laws, employees are subject to a maximum average working week of 48 hours (40 if under age 18), a maximum of 13 hours work in any one day, and are entitled to one whole day off a week on average. Employers should also have a system for monitoring working time to ensure compliance. Employees can of course opt out of the 48-hour limit but this has to be in writing and they can cancel it at any time on three months notice. They are legally protected against victimisation.
While the working time laws entitle employees to four weeks paid leave a year, there is no general right to have paid leave on public holidays, contrary to popular belief. However, changes are being made to the working time laws to increase the amount of annual leave to 28 working days a year, which is intended to allow employees paid time off on public holidays or paid time off in lieu from 2009.
Every employer must take effective measures to ensure his employees are not subject to verbal or physical bullying or harassment (particularly but not exclusively sexual harassment) from their bosses, fellow workers or customers or suppliers. This can even extend to out of work activities. Legal cases in the Employment Tribunal for constructive dismissal, sexual discrimination and workplace “stress” resulting from this are increasing. Criminal prosecutions against the harasser (for example, for assault) are also possible: at least one sexual harasser has been jailed. So employers need to take this very seriously.
7. Business sales and outsourcing
When an employer sells all or part of his business, or outsources a function it has previously conducted in-house, this will probably amount to a transfer of an undertaking. Under the transfer of undertakings law (“TUPE”), the employees working in the business or relevant part or function will transfer to the new owner or outsource provider on their existing contracts, and they have the right to be informed in advance. Any breach of the law will give rise to legal claims, including potentially for unfair dismissal.
8. Changing terms and conditions of employment
Many employers think they can change terms and conditions of employment by giving (say four weeks) prior written notice. But it is a centuries old legal principle that a contract can only be changed by a negotiated agreement. So giving notice of change can only work legally in two cases. First, where the matter in question is outside the contract (such as a discretionary benefit-in-kind) or, second, where the contract expressly allows it to be changed by the employer by this method. If none of these routes is open to the employer, it can always serve the correct notice to terminate the contract, but that then counts as a “dismissal”.
There are three key laws to comply with here. First, there is a legal minimum notice period, which is one week after one month’s employment, rising from the end of the second year at the rate of one week for each completed year up to 12 weeks notice after 12 years employment. Second, employees’ dismissed after 51 weeks employment can claim for “unfair dismissal”, which currently could cost an employer up to around £70,000 compensation. To successfully defend an unfair dismissal claim, the employer must satisfy an Employment Tribunal that it had a legally good reason for dismissing the employee and that it acted reasonably. Third, the employer must follow a mandatory three-step dismissal process or automatically be guilty of unfair dismissal. The 3 steps are: (1) written notice stating why the employer is considering the employee for dismissal; (2) a formal meeting to discuss the matter with the employee (and his/her companion); (3) a right of appeal against dismissal.
Genuine redundancy is a fair reason for dismissal, but employers still need to act legally reasonably and follow the three-step process to avoid being guilty of unfair dismissal. Redundant employees are of course entitled to notice or pay in lieu, and redundant employees with two or more years service will also be entitled to (tax-free) statutory redundancy pay, which rises to a maximum of £9,300 for 20 years service. If the employer is proposing 20 or more redundancies in a 90-day period, there has to be a 30-day period (90 days in which 100 or more redundancies are proposed) of information and consultation before any of this happens. An extra penalty of up to 90 days pay will be payable to the affected employees if the employer defaults.
August 21, 2007
Most of the training they get to become managers is futile
Wayne Hochwarter, a Florida State University business professor who has studied workplace dynamics extensively, has a theory on why there are so many bad managers: A lot of them were promoted because they were competent at their former job - say, selling cars - but don't have a clue how to manage other people selling cars.
Then, most of the training they get to become managers - which isn't a lot, because training budgets are shrinking everywhere - is futile.
"They do not train them to effectively interact with people," Hochwarter said. "They train them to know who to call if Charlie slips in the warehouse and breaks his ankle."
What the study found
Wayne Hochwarter, a professor at Florida State University's business school, oversaw a recent study of more than 700 workers and their opinions on how their bosses treated them.
Among the findings:
- 31 percent said their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment."
- 37 percent said their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
- 39 percent said their supervisor failed to keep promises.
- 27 percent said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
- 24 percent said their supervisor invaded their privacy.
- 23 percent said their supervisor blames others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.
Nobody should have to work with a jerk - USA
Now can we please have the English/British version for universities?
August 20, 2007
After complaining about poor supervision and Departmental support, I was sacked on 4th May 2001. Apart from this having no rational reason behind it - it certainly would have been dismissed by an Employment Tribunal had I been allowed to go to one - the University failed to follow its own regulations by not issuing a four week warning about this. Much more importantly, however, the withdrawal was based upon the non-submission of an upgrade document by the 25th October 2000. I have documentary evidence that clearly shows that this work was not actually due until 20th November 2000 at the earliest.
This spurious date had been invented by Dr. Precilla Choi, together with a number of other equally spurious dates, and was just one of many instances of workplace bullying that I encountered from her. My Supervisor, Dr. Mike Boulton, had been sent copies of the agreement for submission of this work, and must have been well aware of the true date of submission, but continued to pressure me into this series of unsupported dates. Despite submitting drafts of this work to Dr. Boulton, he and Dr. Choi were both aware that my Mother had died only a few months prior to this, but this served only to increase the pressure that they put on me.
Emails show that Dr. Precilla Choi - a primary source of my harassment - was indicating to colleagues as early as 1st November 2000 that I was to be withdrawn from the University on the basis of non-submission of my upgrade document, even though this was some 20 days before its due date, and only a matter of three months after the death of my Mother. Nice person.
The withdrawal was never rescinded, and the University then set about constructing a new withdrawal, based upon the most spurious of evidence, and without anyone being aware that I should not have been sacked the first time - a factor that must have coloured the opinions of those involved in my second sacking. This second sacking was to all intents and purposes, a kangaroo court - something for which the University has failed to give any satisfactory explanation.
More information at: http://www.keele-hauled.com/index.htm
August 11, 2007
Truth is stranger than fiction
Especially in two ways, this novel captures recurrent themes in the real-life mobbing cases I have studied. First, once Gilbert is on the wrong side of the administration, the complaints about him come in one after another; he is always under the gun; defending himself consumes his waking hours. Second, accusations of sexual impropriety are central to the eliminative process (a student named Lisa falsely accuses Gilbert of trying to seduce her).
In two other ways, this novel is distant from the mobbing cases in my research. First, Gilbert's accuser is a manipulative liar who knows exactly what she is doing; in most of the mobbing cases I have studied, truth is threatened less by deliberate falsehood than by hysteria and moral panic, and outcomes hinge on how small events are interpreted. Second, this novel ends in the manner of Lucky Jim, with its protagonist heading off to a better job — in Gilbert's case a distinguished professorship in an American college enamoured of the trappings of English aristocracy. Few real-life mobbing targets escape so handily.
I find none of the characters in this novel easy to admire. In a cruel counterattack, for instance, Gilbert's wife plays a practical joke to humiliate the dean who has persecuted her husband; the dean then has a nervous breakdown. In this novel, academic life comes across as a pompous, petty parasite on society at large, one that only a fool would take seriously.
By Kenneth Westhues, from: Novels About Academic Mobbing
August 09, 2007
RAE reject aims to log views of excluded - UK
Launching an appeal in the letters page of today's Times Higher, Vic Truesdale, a professor of biogeochemistry at Oxford Brookes University, has invited academics "unexpectedly excluded from the RAE" to contact him by e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
"There could be many of us who could do with some mutual support, and in any case somebody should be counting us and logging the insult," he writes.
Next year's RAE is expected to be the most selective ever, with some universities attempting to improve their research ratings by submitting only a small core of researchers, instead of including all their active researchers. There are reports that some universities are excluding even high-quality researchers as they attempt to second-guess the type of research the RAE judging panels will favour.
In the last RAE, in 2001, the work of about 50,000 researchers, out of 116,000 full-time academic staff, had their work submitted. Many claim that exclusion stigmatises academics and damages their careers.
Professor Truesdale said that the RAE "reduces the diversity of intellectual pursuit" and "moulds scientists into automatons".
"I suppose that in the big planning games, as in battle-planning, generals cannot be concerned with the plight of individual soldiers; they are merely cannon fodder," he said. "I want to register the plight of the individual, and to ask the question as to whether you think the cannon-fodder model is appropriate in a 21st-century democracy."
And the letter in Times Higher Education:
May I ask academics who have found themselves unexpectedly excluded from the research assessment exercise to write to me at: email@example.com. It seems to me there could be many of us who could do with some mutual support, and in any case somebody should be counting us and logging the insult. I will report back findings if people could describe their predicament as well as add permission for me to disclose information according to the Data Protection Act. This would be handled sensitively.
Vic Truesdale, Professor of biogeochemistry, Oxford Brookes University
From: Times Higher Education Supplement