June 29, 2008

Bullying at Cambridge University

The University of Cambridge does have a written policy against bullying, but this policy is not implemented in practice. There is a widespread problem of bullying at Cambridge University that is hidden from public view. Any attempt to bring this issue into public awareness is met with stone-walling/silence.

A Cambridge PhD student

June 26, 2008

Hallelujah, hallelujah... hallelujah!!!

Lecturers at North East Wales Institute to ballot on strike action after management fails to act on bullying

26 June 2008

Lecturers at North East Wales Institute of Higher Education (NEWI) yesterday (25 June) agreed to ballot on possible strike action after the Institute's failure to tackle the bullying of staff. Members of the UCU branch in NEWI voted unanimously to ballot branch members on strike action and action short of a strike in connection with the Institute's failure to agree a resolution to a collective grievance over complaints about bullying.

The branch also unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the professionalism of the Institute's Human Resource managers.

Eight complaints have been made in the past few months about bullying within a particular School at the Institute, but the Institute's authorities have failed to take action.

UCU lodged a collective grievance in January that was rejected by NEWI managers. UCU presented the findings of a health and safety survey in March that showed urgent action was needed in one School, where 5 out of 13 academics had been bullied.

Over the past five months, the union has repeatedly asked for an independent investigation into the allegations and has written to the Head of Human Resources, the chair of the Academic Common Interest Group, the Principal and the Chair of the Board of Governors.

UCU's head of employment rights, Roger Kline, is writing to the Institute to remind employers of their duty of care to staff including a duty to prevent bullying and harassment.

If UCU members vote for industrial action, it is likely to take place in September.

Wales UCU regional official Margaret Phelan said:

'Bullying is a major concern amongst staff in colleges and universities, and a cause of stress and illness. It is all too common and UCU is taking bullying very seriously, wherever it happens.'

Trevor Phillips
Tel:020 7520 1032
Mobile: 07773 796 882
Fax:020 7278 9383
Well, you are a bit late UCU, but you are more than welcome. Now move on and deal with workplace bullying not just in the above HEI, but in all the others too. You will find that the above is not an isolated case.

Comments contributed to blog: The Chronicle of Higher Education

Faculty and staff who are bullied need to confront the bully and file the appropriate charges and grievances. I know of such bullies. Their tenure is seldom broken but they are often compelled to report directly to the dean’s office and their departmental relationships (as necessary) are suspended. Relocation to other buildings is a useful strategy. Stand up. Bullies are generally cowards who have not been confronted successfully. There is no reason to tolerate their behavior.

BeenThereDoneThat Jun 25, 02:58 PM #

Yeah, sure. I confronted the male bullies at my employment (Kentucky small community college), and my contract wasn’t renewed, and the dean broke into my office, and I was put on Administrative Leave, and blacklisted (I’m still unemployed after three years) – no, people need to just leave the bullies alone. They’ll destroy your life. The school administration and courts don’t give a crap about defending the rights of women in the workplace. It’s all about the insurance lawyers destroying your career to protect the institution.

Muap Conners Jun 25, 07:22 PM

The dean broke into your office? (Must have been a slow day when s/he had a lot of time to kill.) You’re blacklisted (where—throughout the cosmos?) The school administration and courts don’t give a crap about defending the rights of women in the workplace? Not where I live.

BeenThereDoneThat Jun 25, 08:19 PM

C’mon don’t attack someone’s experience just because you are lucky to have never experienced bullying. Conners isn’t blacklisted everywhere, but not everyone can pack their bags and leave town.

— jenny Jun 26, 07:37 AM #

I confronted a bully who was made Chair after our beloved Chair passed away. This was a faculty member with scores to settle. And she used the position to do just that. Teachers were given early morning or late evening classes (her adjunct friends secured the day classes), we were spied on and reported to the Dean (her partner in crime) for letting classes out 5 minutes early, our reviews were mean spirited & ultimately, because I had enough, I filed a grievance, only to lose my position. It was such a great department until the bully arrived!

— Barb Jun 26, 08:49 AM

Workplace bullying takes many forms and exists at all levels in every type of organization. At my university, one senior administrator consistently diminishes the contributions of her targets, whispering into the ears of administrators and regents about the incompetence of this or that person, excluding her targets from key meetings or withholding important information, etc. This is tolerated, and we are advised by HR that grievances will only make matters worse. When there is truly no recourse except to leave, there’s something very wrong with the organization that will ultimately bring grief to the university. I agree about confronting bullies, though, if for no other reason than the satisfaction brought by letting someone know that you’re onto them.

UnderHerThumb Jun 26, 09:30 AM

Confronted by a senior female colleague known for her rash, often verbally abusive treatment of junior faculty, I went first to my chair. He laughed at my concerns, even though the woman was taking every opportunity, including faculty meetings, to humiliate me. Examples? She complained that my record of faculty meetings were too detailed and that I was always talking about African history (my field—well, duh). I received no help from the chair, nor did he ever take steps to at least check her mean spiritedness. As chair of the Department PRC, she saw to it that any request I made to be on a committee was denied and criticized to my face and behind my back any outreach efforts I headed up. I received more support from other departments and programs across the University than I did in my own department. I finally committeed myself to two years of talk therapy with a psychologist experienced in the academic workplace in order to try to turn around a situation that was increasingly threatening my career and always undermining my work. The upshot? She became chair inspite of serious objections on the part of other department members, put her best friend in place as chair of the PRC the year I came up for tenure and saw to it that my tenure bid was denied. My teaching evaluations were stellar, my service—inspite of her constant undermining—strong and my book was in press with a major publisher in my field. What was the problem? PRC Chair/thug called my editor and reported that the book was in press, but not yet actually published—and that was not enough for my department. My union would do nothing to help me. The university did not allow faculty to go up for tenure a second time, even when the book was out. The result of bullying? She ruined my career.

— Mary Bivins Jun 26, 10:37 AM

There is no universal rule — sometimes fighting back is the right choice, sometimes avoiding it or even fleeing is better. You have to decide in each case individually. But one thing is for sure — always fleeing is bad for the society, always fighting back is bad for yourself.

— Mark de Goz Jun 26, 11:42 AM

There’s a bully in our department that constantly pitches temper tantrums and is rude and obnoxious to everyone who works in our group — except the boss. We all walk on eggshells around this person, and it does affect morale and productivity because we dread having to deal with this person on a daily basis. In this case, fighting back is out of the question. You either learn to deal with it or move on.

— Callie Jun 26, 11:53 AM

Academic bullying, or “mobbing,” is common at Columbia University — especially in the “pink collar” departments (e.g. social work, education). It’s impossible to fight because it’s completely a part of the culture here. The sad thing is that we lose the best doctoral students as a result because they see this nonsense for what it is. If they fight it, we get rid of them. Or, if they’re tired, they just leave.

It’s a crime of epic proportions and very few people are talking about it.

— Columbia Prof Jun 26, 11:55 AM

As someone who was a subject of a previous Chronicle of Higher Ed article that was related to bullying in the workplace, I know something about it. But the article understates the true costs. Bullies only try to hire, and they only tolerate, their own kind. When the unfit are hired and retained, there are direct costs with the damages they do and the costs of removing them, but there are also lost opportunity costs in terms of all the good that could have been done not being done because the non-bullies and competent were not hired.

As Plato put it: “Those who seek power are invariably the least fit to hold and wield it.” Indeed it seems that personality disorders such as narcisism, megalomania, bullying and others are requisite for management positions in academia, business, government and even non-profits.

— James Craven Jun 26, 11:58 AM

I experienced bullying from a collegue in the form of him screaming profanities at me in the hallway, with several other collegues and the chair there. The most unforunate part, is that this bully has “the ear of the chair,” so much so, that my evaluation was negatively impacted, and full of language almost identical to the bully’s. I agree that there may not be much a person can do to change the culture of a department, but a person can take steps to protect him/herself both personally and professionally. For me, I confronted the bully calmly and professionally, and was able to walk away feeling like the bigger person. I dealt with the chair by documenting everything and addressing what I felt was unjustified or unfair in writing. Knowing that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, keeps me focused on producing what I need to produce to get the next job, so that I’m not powerless to leave an unpleasant situation.

ForwardFocus Jun 26, 12:06 PM

Okay, I never blog but had to. I was a postdoc at a R1 research institute and saw and was the victim of bullying first hand. And you feel completely helpless. Since it was a post-doc at the bully’s own research institute my only choice seemed to be to leave (no other faculty members to work with there) which was not an option. I was humiliated, yelled at (publicly and privately), things picked up off my desk and thrown back, told i was a disaster repeatedly, almost prevented from using the bathroom on one occasion (i am not kidding or exaggerating), and was questioned about my eating habits (seriously.). Yes, the person was off her rocker. At first, friends and colleagues would encourage me to speak up or suggest that maybe she was being tough on me in order to help me improve my work. But everyone soon realized that this wasn’t a mentor who is light on the praise, but a crazy person with a little bit of power. Since she was out of her mind and as the head of a research center where there was no one witnessing what was going on except postdocs and graduate students in similar situations. I almost had to be medicated by the end of it. I have had a person or two say – well, aren’t you proud of your self for sticking it out? The fact that I had to stay because I would have been homeless otherwise and allowed someone to treat in a way that I would not have allowed in any other area of my life was not an accomplishment. And like any good serial abuser, after a bad episode – I was was told how smart and pretty I was and promised trips to conferences literally all over the world. Sick. I actually get chills thinking about it. Worst year and a half of my life. Have even taken it off my c.v.

— post-abilify Jun 26, 12:27 PM

A recent publication in the Academy of Management Journal (2007) addresses this topic directly. The researchers find that in the long-term, directly confronting abusive supervisors buffers the effect of exposure on depression and anxiety. The use of avoidance strategies has the opposite effect. The authors acknowledge that confrontation may produce unfavorable outcomes such as termination and escalation of hostility (on the part of the perpetrator), but that for the long-term sake of the victim’s mental health, confrontation may be appropriate.

— William Jun 26, 01:29 PM

Remarkable how the on-line bullies emerge to ridicule individual’s experiences. Sad we have to share air with them, so ignore them. Bullies can literally destroy a Department, I have seen it happen.

— Jon Jun 26, 01:47 PM

Academic bullying is yet another example of what happens when you combine massive egos with puny salaries. I’d be bitter and want to take it out on subordinates too.

gollum Jun 26, 03:07 PM

Eventually the bully or bully club does something totally outrageous and enough people are incensed. That is the precise time to rally the troops who have been abused and others who are horrified at the abuse, ban together and stick it to the bully at every corner – faculty meetings, elections, dean’s reports, private meetings, etc. Propose some good-hearted committee, or one that wants to collaborate or cooperate and you will see that the bullies do not want to play anymore. Creating enough situations where they are on display for their lack of cooperation and their outrageous behavior is public to others with good nature and balance and eventually their power dissipates. They will retreat to their caves, licking their wounds.

Do not be deceived, however, they are only plotting their return. They are quietly trying to get to new faculty members and others who express a negative POV at a meeting. They wil try to become their best friends. They will prey on those with low self-esteem or those who are prone to flattery. Therefore, the “new majority” of cooperative people must be steadfast in welcoming the new faculty member, mentoring the junior professor and quickly coming to the side of one who expresses something negative so that they can express their reservations to those who will hear them, but not suck them into an even larger whirlwind of negativity.

DrFunZ Jun 26, 03:26 PM

Academic bullying must never be tolerated in higher education.

William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
From: http://chronicle.com/jobs/blogs/onhiring/603/academic-bullies

From the Playground to the Boardroom: Workplace Bullies

Apprehensive about going to work? Filled with anxiety once you're there? You may simply be stressed out from your workload. Or these signs could be indicative of something far more insidious. Bullying in the workplace is a lot more common than many people realize.

In what's considered the largest scientific study conducted in the United States on the topic, 37 percent of American workers said they have experienced workplace bullying. That's nearly 54 million people who have been bullied on the job. Yet bullying in the workplace is a global epidemic, albeit a "silent" one. Unlike the playground bully who often resorts to physical threats, the work bully's tactics are often subtle.

Workplace bullying is generally defined as "repeated, malicious, health-endangering mistreatment" of one or more employees or employers directed towards another employee or employees, which is intended to intimidate and create a risk to the health and safety of the employee. It can take the form of verbal abuse; offensive conduct/behavior that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating; and/or work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done.

In March, University of Manitoba researchers reported that the emotional toll of workplace bullying is more severe than that of sexual harassment.

Many such situations involve employees bullying their peers, rather than a supervisor bullying an employee. However, very often this type of harassment stems from an abuse or misuse of power. According to the massive survey mentioned above, from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) and research firm Zogby Interactive, the stereotype is real: most bullies are bosses. While 55 percent of those bullied are rank-and-file workers, 72 percent of bullies are bosses.

In today's corporate culture, supervisors may condone bullying as part of a tough management style. To help determine if you are a target of workplace bullying, Dr. Gary Namie, cofounder of the WBI and author of the book Bully at Work, offers the following telltale signs:
  • Agenda-less meetings where you're humiliated;
  • Unwarranted or invalid criticism;
  • False accusations of incompetence (blame without factual justification);
  • Never being left alone to do your job;
  • Exclusion or social isolation;
  • Excessive monitoring;
  • People feeling justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you're punished if you scream back; and
  • Everything done to you is arbitrary and capricious, based on a personal agenda that undermines the employer's legitimate business interests.

Forty-five percent of bully targets suffer stress-related health problems, psychological-emotional injuries and other financial effects, according to last fall's WBI-Zogby survey and other research.

Problems can include cardiovascular problems (hypertension to strokes and heart attacks), immunological impairment (more frequent infections of greater severity), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, panic attacks, clinical depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims of bullying can also experience reduced self-esteem and increased self-blame, musculoskeletal problems, sleep disturbances, digestive problems and, due to absence, financial problems. (Source: Washington State, Department of Labor and Industries)

At the same time, companies should be concerned about bullying, "if for no other reason than its potential to damage the bottom line," notes Monster.com.

Bullying can lead to such heavy tangible costs as those brought by downtime and workers' comp awards, as well as turnover (Who wants to work in a toxic and hostile workplace?) and resultant new-recruitment time and fees.

Yet there are also those intangible costs: tainted reputation, staff resistance and even sabotage by fearful employees who know no alternatives when management fails to punish or purge the bully.

What can companies do to prevent this kind of abuse in the workplace? "As with any form of harassment, management's vigilance is key," with the employer close enough to day-to-day operations that such harassment is recognizable, says Monster.com. Yet even this will not necessarily end abuse.

Several states in the U.S. have introduced anti-bullying bills and similar measures — so far without any real success. In fact, America lags far behind the rest of the Western industrialized countries both in acknowledging bullying at work and in legislative measures that address it on a societal level. Currently, there is no anti-bullying law in any U.S. state.

Business groups often argue that existing laws are adequate to protect workers. But bullying generally transcends sex, age or race, which have protected status in the courts. Instead, many hostilities in the workplace occur simply because one person doesn't like another.

Fortunately, increasingly more employees and employers are acknowledging this epidemic and trying to understand and fight it. As recent as May 2008, a paper titled "Nightmares, Demons and Slaves: Exploring the Painful Metaphors of Workplace Bullying" was the most downloaded article for the journal Management Communication Quarterly.

From: ThomasNet Industrial News Room

Nightmares, Demons, and Slaves - Exploring the Painful Metaphors of Workplace Bullying

By Sarah J. Tracy, Arizona State University, Tempe, Sarah.Tracy@asu.edu,
Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque,
Jess K. Alberts, Arizona State University, Tempe

Although considerable research has linked workplace bullying with psychosocial and physical costs, the stories and conceptualizations of mistreatment by those targeted are largely untold. This study uses metaphor analysis to articulate and explore the emotional pain of workplace bullying and, in doing so, helps to translate its devastation and encourage change. Based on qualitative data gathered from focus groups, narrative interviews, and target drawings, the analysis describes how bullying can feel like a battle, water torture, nightmare, or noxious substance. Abused workers frame bullies as narcissistic dictators, two-faced actors, and devil figures. Employees targeted with workplace bullying liken themselves to vulnerable children, slaves, prisoners, animals, and heartbroken lovers. These metaphors highlight and delimit possibilities for agency and action. Furthermore, they may serve as diagnostic cues, providing shorthand necessary for early intervention.

Evaluate department chairs

How about if we legislate the systemic evaluation of bosses by employees? In other words, for a department chair to get a raise or even to stay in that post, annual evaluations done by each employee will have to demonstrate that the boss has:

--been fair to all employees
--made reasonable demands, clearly and consistently articulated
--acted respectfully towards faculty and staff
--accomplished workplace goals in ways that does not compromise employee health and safety
--acted with integrity and honesty

If every employee had to evaluate (anonymously of course) each chair and dean in order for them to stay in the post or get a raise, we might get a very different kind of behavior from the bosses!

What a great idea. One of the problems is that most academic staff are likely to conclude that their department heads are incompetent, ignorant and got there through nepotism... Do managers really want this to become obvious and public?

June 25, 2008

Bullies from Kingston University tried to bully an External Examiner

An external examiner who judged that a university course had not reached the necessary standard was later contacted and persuaded to change her mind.

An internal e-mail, forwarded by readers of the BBC News website, shows efforts at Kingston University to avoid "bad publicity". "We must avoid externals with these attitudes in future," says an e-mail. The university says there was no pressure applied to the external examiner.

The external examiner told the BBC that "the kind of pressure that was applied was that it would have dire consequences for the music school if I didn't change the report".


The e-mails surrounding a report into Kingston University's music degree were forwarded in the wake of academic whistleblowers claiming that degree standards were being lowered.

The external examiner system, which brings in academics from other universities to provide an independent perspective, is under scrutiny from the higher education watchdog. A report from the Quality Assurance Agency warns that there can be "gaps between institutional ambitions... and the practices of staff in departments".

E-mails submitted to the BBC raise questions about the selection of external examiners and what happens to unflattering reports. An external examiner's report on a music degree course at Kingston University in 2004 identified weaknesses.

The report observed that students "producing not just barely acceptable but sometimes unacceptable work are attaining passes at Honours level". The examiner warned that some work had been "overmarked" and that "it is surely important not to over-reward this work and thereby devalue the Degree".


On a crucial "yes" or "no" question about whether the standards were comparable with similar programmes in other UK institutions, the examiner answered "no".

An e-mail to department staff highlights the response: "Can we ask her to amend that so it is less damning... We must avoid externals with these attitudes in future - we cannot afford this type of bad publicity."

A member of the university staff then contacted the external examiner - and following this conversation, the examiner changed their view.

At issue was whether standards should be judged against other similar types of university - such as new universities trying to recruit a wider range of students? Or should there be an absolute level of standards, taking a benchmark from older universities with a more academic student intake?

On the basis of comparing the course to similar types of universities, it was decided that standards were also similar, which allowed a positive answer. Subsequent e-mails, accepted as authentic by the university, then set out a process of finding a replacement external examiner.

'Constructive feedback'

These indicate the type of examiner that was needed. "I think that it is important that the Examiner is sympathetic to and familiar with the challenges we face... and would be constructive in their feedback."

The rules on external examiners have not been broken in any way in this process - and Kingston University says that it is entirely appropriate to look for external examiners who will have "a good understanding of the teaching environment and associated issues such as widening participation".

But it raises some substantial questions about how such self-regulating systems operate in a competitive, globalised higher education system. When universities are selling courses and depend on a good reputation, should they still be allowed to choose their own external examiners?

If universities want to be judged against similar peers rather than the upper reaches of higher education, does that mean there should be a public recognition that degrees represent such different ability levels?

When students are paying fees for courses, should the reports of external examiners be published and made available to the public?

Peter Williams, chief executive of the QAA, says that the role of external examiners should not be mistaken for an "inspectorate". Their reports can help universities to improve - and he says that it was decided against making full reports public because that would make it less likely that examiners would be "candid".

But the QAA repeats the central role of external examiners as a "key feature of the UK's approach to maintaining the academic standards of higher education awards".

June 22, 2008

e-petition: legislate against workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is common. However anyone bullied in their workplace has no remit in law, therefore they are powerless to complain and have no legal rights. We have legislation to cover discrimination for religious, sexual or cultural reasons but not for bullying. The effects of bullying are far reaching and debilitating, bullying costs this country hundreds of working hours in sickness each year, not to mention the effect on individuals and families. The government needs to make workplace bullying an illegal activity which can be punished in law in much the same way as racism or sexism is.

Sign the petition
And something to think about: Dangers of Taking Legal Action Against Assholes

The New York Post ran a story earlier in the week called Despot Measures: Should Workplace Bullying Be Outlawed?. I found it to be an interesting and balanced story, as it described how a number of states -– including New York and New Jersey -- are currently considering anti-bullying legislation. Essentially, the idea of these bills is to punish employers that allow “equal opportunity assholes” to get away with doing their dirty work, thus going beyond current laws against race and gender-based workplace abuse. To quote the Post article by Brian Moore:

Professor David Yamada of Suffolk University Law School has studied workplace bullying for years. In response to the problem, he’s written legislation that’s serving as a model for most antibullying bills across the country, including New York and New Jersey.

Essentially the laws would lower the bar for those who want to bring suit against a tormentor. While one can sue now, such bids hardly ever win - these laws would improve plaintiffs’ odds by creating a set of criteria for what’s actionable. Under Yamada’s template, that would include “repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets; verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.”

Yamada says the law has sufficient hurdles to prevent silly, vengeful lawsuits. The target must demonstrate “malice” on the part of the bully, for example, and “there has to be a tangible showing of physical or psychological damages.”

I confess that I've been ambivalent about such legislation. On the one hand, I do think that equal opportunity assholes and the employers that lack the courage to stop them do deserve to be punished. I also recognize that the threat of litigation may encourage companies to take a more aggressive stand against asshole behavior. On the other hand, I worry about the legalization of everything and that those with biggest incentive for such legislation to pass are employment lawyers. After all, anti-bullying legislation means more work for lawyers who defend both assholes and their victims. I am still trying to develop a firmer opinion on this matter, and invite advice and arguments, but for the moment, I think that the threat of the legislation is a good thing because it raises awareness about the problem and might help some of the worst assholes and their firms to reform –- but I am not sure I actually want any of this legislation to pass.

There is, however, another angle to legal action that I have more well-developed opinions about. In the article, I am quoted as saying, if you are in an abusive workplace, the best thing you can do is “Get out as quickly as possible.” I realize that this isn’t always possible, and indeed, that is why I assembled a list of tips for victims of assholes – which include the suggestion to people who can’t or won’t escape that they ought to carefully document abuse, as that will help make case to HR, or if that fails, for legal action. BUT I think it is important to explain why I am so vehement in my opinion that, if you are in an asshole filled workplace, getting out is the best solution. These opinions were clarified for me after having an enlightened dinner with two world-class attorneys after my speech last Monday at the Commonwealth Club. My three main arguments against staying around, taking sustained abuse, documenting the case, and fighting back – especially through legal action are as follows:

1. First and foremost, as the two attorneys emphasized, to win a case against an employer, an employee needs to demonstrate that he or she has suffered damages. This means that THE MORE DAMAGE THAT YOU SUFFER, THE MORE MONEY YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE AWARDED. This means that the worse the abuse you take, and the longer you take it and the more harm you suffer, the more money you have a shot at winning. Indeed, recall Professor Yamada’s point:

The target must demonstrate “malice” on the part of the bully, for example, and “there has to be a tangible showing of physical or psychological damages.”

So, the more you lose – - the deeper your depression, your anxiety, and your financial losses, and the more physical ailments you suffer –- the better your case. The implication for me is WHY NOT GET OUT BEFORE YOU SUFFER TANGIBLE DAMAGES IN THE FIRST PLACE? Or at least why not get out with as little damage as possible, and get one with your life?

2. Remember, psychological abuse isn’t just something that “good people” heap on “bad people.” As I show in The No Asshole Rule, research on emotional contagion, and on abusive supervision in particular, finds that if you work with or around a bunch of nasty and demeaning people, odds are you will become one of them. This not only has ethical implications, it means – ironically – that you might just find yourself in the odd position of suing others – and being sued yourself – to recover the costs of workplace abuse.

3. Finally, as those lawyers reminded me, the litigation process means re-living the damage that you have suffered over and over again. You will have to tell your story over and over again, and rather than getting past the incident, your “financial incentive” is not only to emphasize all the damage you have suffered in the past, but to continually uncover evidence of the damage that you continue to suffer. In addition, if you have never been through deposition or trial with opposing legal counsel, remember, it is their job to discredit your testimony – so you not only have to relive past distress, painful new ones will be heaped on you during the litigation process. Again, even if you win your case against the assholes, you are likely to suffer a lot of damage in the process. This drain on your time and energy as well as the stigmatizing impact of being a plaintiff against a former employer may also have an adverse impact on your prospects for future employment and promotion.

In closing, I want to emphasize that I encourage and applaud people who fight back against workplace assholes in any way that they can, including through legal means. I encourage people who have already suffered damages to fight back. And I am also painfully aware that many people are trapped with assholes with no immediate prospect of escape, and that taking legal action of some kind may be the only option left in some cases. At the same time, I believe that people who choose to take legal actions against their employers should understand the risks they face… and that is why I continue to believe that, if you work with a bunch of assholes, the best thing to do FOR YOURSELF is to get out as fast as you can.

P.S. One of the lawyers did point out an interesting benefit of bullying legislation for victims. She noted that legislation that makes it easier to state a claim against an employer for an abusive work place may encourage employers to settle such cases much earlier. This means that a benefit of the legislation may be that abused employees will have greater leverage to pursue a settlement before filing litigation, and that settlement, in turn, might give victims the financial cushion they need to recover and find another job. But I still have mixed feelings about whether I want such legislation to become law.

By Robert I. Sutton
Professor - Management Science and Engineering - Stanford

June 21, 2008

About Individuals Targeted by Bullies

Respondents' Gender: Women: 80% Men: 20%

Age: average (the mean): 43

Education: 84% college educated

Work experience: mean = 21.4 years in the workplace, mean = 6.7 years for employer where bullying occurred.

Type of employer: 36% corporate; 31% government; 12% nonprofit orgs; 11% small business

What it could mean
: Targets are predominantly 40-ish, educated and veteran employees, specifically people who have experience with the employer before the bullying interfered with their careers.

Duration of the bullying: mean = 23 months (men targets endured an average of 25.6 months and men bullies sustained 25.3 months of aggression)

What it could mean
: Targets cannot be called thin-skinned. They stay for a long time working under conditions rational people would consider intolerable.

Gender of targets and who does the bullying. Most of the bullying is same-sex harassment (thus eligibility for claims of discrimination is elusive in most cases). Women targets are bullied 63% of the time by women bullies; men targets are bullied by men in 62% of cases.

How does the bullying end? The majority of WBI survey respondents (61%) reported that bullying was current and ongoing.

The survey respondents for whom the bullying has ended reported what made it stop:
  • 37% of the Targets were fired or involuntarily terminated
  • 33% of Targets quit (typically taking some form of constructive discharge)
  • 17% of Targets transfer to another position with the same employer
What it could mean: Once targeted, bullied individuals face a 70% chance of losing their jobs.
  • 4% of Bullies stopped bullying after punishment or sanctions
  • 9% of Bullies were transferred or terminated
What it could mean: Bullying is done with impunity. Perpetrators face a low risk of being held accountable. Targeted individuals pay by losing their once-cherished positions.

From: Workplace Bullying Institute

Want to get rid of an annoying academic?

Review of Kenneth Westhues, Eliminating Professors: A Guide to the Dismissal Process (Edwin Mellen Press, 1998), published in Campus Review, Vol. 9, No. 38, 6-12 October 1999, p. 12.

Reviewed by Brian Martin

University administrators are familiar with academics who are uncomfortably outspoken, disruptive or different. If these problem staff would just leave the campus, life would be much easier. But how can this desirable outcome be achieved?

The answers are in a recent book by Kenneth Westhues, Eliminating Professors: A Guide to the Dismissal Process (Edwin Mellen Press, 1998). Westhues, a sociologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, gives a step-by-step account of how administrators can get rid of troublesome academics.

There are five stages. First is ostracism, to cut the victim off from influence and support. Second is administrative harassment, often in petty ways. Then comes the incident, an action by the victim that can trigger formal retribution. The fourth stage covers the various appeal procedures and the final stage is elimination.

Within this framework, there are many specific points of value. For example, the matter of truth can sometimes be an obstacle, but by following Westhues’ practical principles for administrators it can be reduced to manageable dimensions. Principle one, for example, is that charges should be formulated sufficiently vaguely that hard facts are not relevant.

From this description, you might imagine that Westhues is some sort of academic Machiavelli, giving advice to university rulers on maintaining power. Actually, Westhues is on the side of those targeted by administrators. Indeed, he has been a target himself. His book is an extended satire.

After immersing himself in the details of some 25 cases of academics targeted for elimination, Westhues extracted common features and developed his guide for administrators. To personalise his advice, he dubs the hypothetical target for elimination "Dr Pita," an acronym for Pain In The Arse. He also recounts a number of the cases to illustrate his recommendations.

It would require a thick hide to be oblivious to Westhues’ satire. For example, he describes how to use ethics committees or sexual harassment committees in the elimination process, commenting that "The ethics tribunal is sometimes decried as a star chamber, as if this were something to be ashamed of. In fact, the Court of Star Chamber dispensed a great deal of justice in England in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries."

Westhues recommends to administrators the virtues of "unit-think", a shared belief system and culture that is conducive to expelling those who are disloyal. The idea of unit-think is based on the concept of groupthink that was used by Irving Janis to explain several disastrous U.S. foreign policy decisions. Westhues tells managers that Janis did not sufficiently emphasise the positive aspects of groupthink, perhaps because he was too oriented to the value of individual rights.

Although intended as a bitter satire, Westhues gives a remarkably perceptive account of the techniques useful for getting rid of unwelcome academics. Of course, it can also be read by those who are targeted, and their supporters, as a primer on what is likely to happen and how best to oppose it.

For example, in many cases, supporters of an academic under attack write letters to university officials. Westhues describes ten typical points made in such letters, such as testimonials to the academic’s teaching and pleas for due process, so that managers can be forewarned, "lest you be caught off guard and be tempted to write an equally passionate, aggressive reply." These ten points can equally be used as a guide for those writing letters.

Stances that can help those targeted for elimination include building support (to avoid ostracism), demanding that charges be precise, pushing for open procedures and using the media.

While his book is most readable and free of ponderous scholarship, Westhues underpins his account with references to relevant research. He uses to good effect the sociological study of moral panics and Heinz Leymann’s investigations of mobbing, which is collective bullying in the workplace. Another body of literature, not mentioned by Westhues, is that on whistleblowing, from which quite similar conclusions can be reached.

Interspersed with his advice for academic managers, Westhues tells about waiting for the report of the outside judge in his own case. He says he wrote the book as a method of psychological sustenance while this report was pending. Readers are treated with his increasingly frustrated correspondence to the outside judge as successive promised delivery dates come and go. This personal saga makes the entire book very approachable.

Eliminating Professors can make for uncomfortable reading, at least for anyone open to self-questioning. For who has not joined in damaging gossip about a quirky colleague or sat on the sidelines while a talented academic was drummed out of the university for minor transgressions? As Westhues notes, "it is not something we like to think about, least of all in cases close to home. Like the fabled monkeys, we shield our eyes and ears from the event."

Of course, the best justification for eliminating an academic is that the person actually deserves it, and undoubtedly there are plenty of cases where this is true. By learning from Westhues’ guide, administrators can help everyone by dispatching such individuals swiftly and deftly. The trouble is that the same techniques can be used against others: "In truth, the way you whack a good guy is identical to the way you whack a bad guy."

From: http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/99BRcr.html

June 17, 2008

Workplace Bullying - Researchers

There is a growing community of academics with an active interest in the problem of bullying / harassment in the workplace. It is hoped that this section detailing current researchers in the field together with their particular area of interest, will eventually provide a comprehensive and valuable resource. All the researchers shown here have requested a listing on this site. Please contact us if you would like us to add your details.

Prof. Mogens Agervold
Institute of Psychology, University of Aarhus, Jens Chr.Skous Vej 4, 481, DK 8000 Århus C, Denmark
Interests: Incidence, Definitions, Organizational context

Sara Branch
Griffith University, Queensland, Australia. Sara is an Organisational Psychologist and is currently undertaking a doctoral study into Upwards Bullying.
Interests: Workplace conflict, Organisational development, Change management, Transitions to university and work, Career development

Nick Djurkovic
Ph.D., Donald Whitehead Building Room 324, School of Business, LaTrobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia
Interests: Causes and consequences of workplace bullying, Reactions of victims, Coping, Organisational support, Cross-cultural research

Odd Lindberg
Pd.D. Inst. för beteende,-social och rättsvetenskap, Örebro universitet, 701 82 Örebro, Sverige.
Interests: Bullying among children in school, Workplace bullying, Bullying in prison

Darcy McCormack
Ph.D. Donald Whitehead Building Room 326, School of Business, LaTrobe University, Victoria 3086, Australia.
Interests: Eactions of victims, Coping, Impacts of bullying, Cross-cultural research

Inge Neyens
Research Group for Stress, Health and Well-Being, Onderzoeksgr. stress, gezondh.en welzijn, Tiensestraat 102, BE-3000 Leuven, Belgium

Inge investigates task-, team- and organizational risk factors for bullying in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The goal of her research project is to develop a tool to prevent bullying in SMEs.

Adriana Ortega
National Institute of Occupational Health (AMI), Copenhagen
Interests: Bullying and harassment, Organizational culture, Diversity at work

Professor Lyn Quine

Unversity of Kent at Canterbury. Professor Quine has written a number of articles and chapters on bullying of health professionals.
Interests: Stress, illness and coping, Psychosocial moderators of stress, Coping with chronic illness and disability, Adherence to treatment in medical conditions, Child health and behaviour, Occupational stress in health professionals, Health protective and health compromising behaviours

Professor Charlotte Rayner
University of Portsmouth. Professor Rayner is a leading UK researcher working with organisations regarding interventions to tackle bullying and harassment.
Interests: Incidence, Interventions, Management action, Strategic approach in organizations, Silence and voice, Effective complaints systems

Denise Salin
Ph.D. (Econ.), Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Helsinki, Finland. Denise's current research project is focused on organisational measures against bullying and HR professionals and attitudes towards and experiences of handling bullying.
Interests: Workplace bullying among business professionals, Role of power, gender and organisational politics in bullying

Professor Michael Sheehan
Head, Department of Management, Business School, University of Glamorgan, Treforest, Pontypridd CF37 1DL, Wales. He has acted as a consultant to a number of Australian public and private sector organisations. Michael's interests are in researching and teaching in human resource management and organizational behaviour.
Interests: Impact of organisational change on individuals, Workplace bullying, Individuals' experience of learning, Implementing new skills such as those of group process facilitation

Dana Yagil
Ph.D, Department of Human Services, University of Haifa, Israel
Interests: Ethical climate in the organization and its relationship to bullying, Coping with customers' aggression

June 08, 2008

Bushwhacked at work: a comparative analysis of mobbing & bullying at work

Mobbing is a system built on the interaction of key elements which all play measurable roles, relating to and reinforcing each other. The elements include: the psychology, personality and circumstances of the mobbers and victims, the organizational culture and structure, the triggering event, the underlying conflict and even factors outside the organization (Davenport et al.,1999).

Kenneth Westhues (2007) is a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo who has written a five-volume series about mobbing in academe and frequently visits university campuses to collect data and lecture on episodes of mobbing. With his research centering on the college environment, he concludes that mobbing occurs most in organizations where the workers are secure in their jobs, there are subjective measures of performance, and where there is frequent tension between the loyalty to the institution and its goals and loyalty to higher purposes or individual goals (Gravois, 2006). Hundreds of Leymann’s case studies show mobbing and bullying are usually found in work environments that allow poorly organized production and working methods and are with inattentive or uninterested management (Vandekerckhove, 2003).

Mobbing and bullying occur in all kinds of organizations. However, research shows that in the non-profit sector, as well as in the education and health care industry, mobbing is more prevalent than in private companies. According to Westhues (2006-3), college and university campuses are perfect breeding grounds for the culture of mobbing. This is further supported by Leymann’s (1996) study that found a disproportionate percentage (14.1%) of mobbing victims in schools, universities and other educational settings. The high job security, subjective performance evaluations and frequent tension meet the criteria for an atmosphere of mobbing. In his classes at Waterloo, Westhues tries hard to foster an atmosphere safe from mobbing. He explains to his students that he is to engage them in professional discussion in the pursuit of truth, not to lord over them, nor be their friend (Gravois, 2006). This level of mobbing awareness is not always the case though, and often organizations where rights are formally protected are where mobbing most commonly occurs.

There are lessons to be learned from the messy background of professors mobbed at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale that culminated in a collective, well-prepared and factual presentation from four senior professors to the Board of Trustees. The group summarizing their collective attacks in their respective academic colleges included Dr. Jerry Becker and Dr. Joan Friedenberg. Becker is a successful professor of mathematics education at Carbondale.

In late 2003, 15 of Becker’s colleagues issued a formal complaint accusing him of bullying, buttonholing, and several other offenses. They concluded that he was toxic to the working environment of the university and wanted him removed. The complaint consumed Becker for two months as he spent nearly every evening preparing a rebuttal that led the administration to clear him of all charges. Becker’s colleagues then submitted a second complaint, this time for sexual harassment. The complaint was again successfully rebutted by Becker and the charges were dismissed. As a result of the mobbing, Becker’s office was moved to an isolated part of campus (Gravois, 2006)...

Friedenberg’s experiences were the second development of mobbing at Carbondale. It is rare that mobbing victims get redress, but with tenacity and courage she took the university to court. After five years of delay and legal wrestling, the case was settled outside of the courtroom. Friedenberg won a public apology, 50,000 dollars, and her final year’s salary free of duties up to her retirement (Westhues, 2006-2).

Friedenberg played a key role in the awareness of mobbing at Carbondale. She helped many other professors, including Becker, access the knowledge they needed to learn what was happening to them. She also gave the story of her own and colleagues mobbings to the Daily Egyptian newspaper, which published a detailed account on the front page in January 2006 (Friedenberg, 2006). It was this news that prompted The Chronicle, a favored resource for news and advice for college and university faculty members and administrators, to publish a story on mobbing in academe...

The critical incident in the first phase of workplace mobbing always varies from case to case. The victim is accused of anything from racially or sexually insensitive remarks to being careless with paperwork such as expense reports. The critical incident, in the eyes of the victim’s colleagues, confirms what they have always thought of the victim. Mobbers often feel that swift steps need to be taken to remedy the situation, usually involving administrative action (Gravois, 2006).

This first phase of workplace mobbing may be very short and hypothetically speaking, is not yet mobbing (Leymann, 1996). The second phase reveals the stigmatizing actions by colleagues with increasing isolation and petty harassment. Workplace mobbing activities may contain quite a varying number of behaviors and activities. For example, the victim begins to be left off certain lists to attend meetings or be in committees. Requests and paperwork get delayed in the works or lost entirely and the victim is assigned to meaningless tasks or undesirable work times. Work instructions are confusing and constantly change and information critical to success is withheld. These activities do not necessarily indicate aggression, but being subjected to behaviors such as the ones above on an almost daily basis over a long period of time is used to stigmatize the victim.

Aggressive manipulation used to get at a person is the main characteristic of the behaviors associated with this stage (Gravois, 2006). Management gets involved to the detriment of the victim in the third stage. At this stage, adjudication at the administrative level is initiated, most often with the desire to get rid of the problem, i.e. the victim. At this point the problem officially becomes a case.

Due to the previous stigmatization it is very easy for management to misjudge the situation and place blame on the victim. Management tends to accept and take over the ideas produced by the majority in the earlier stages, often resulting in violations of rights guaranteed by work legislation. The victim is often branded as difficult or even mentally unstable. Psychiatrists or psychologists will sometimes even misinterpret the situation as they have little training in social situations at the workplace. The victim is often judged on incorrect personality characteristics rather than environmental factors resulting in an incorrect diagnosis of the underlying problem.

This problem in identification is only cemented when management is responsible for the environment at work and refuses to take responsibility (Leymann, 1996). Finally, chances are the victim is forced to leave the organization. Whether the victim wins or loses the adjudication, whether dismissed or reinstated, the victim ultimately leaves. Expulsion from employment may easily turn into a much grimmer situation for the victim. The victim may find that they are unable to find another job due to the expulsion essentially leaving the victim completely expelled from the labor market...

Bultena, Charles, D. Midwestern State University - Proceedings of ASBBS - Volume 15 Number 1, February 2008

I've seen it happen to others...

I've seen it happen to others, it also happened to me. No place to run or hide, or nobody who supports me. Thought of suicide, but then the anger creeps upon me. Why do I stay in this environment, only until I get my PhD. But then what, I think. Do I want to stay in this ugliness forever? By ending up in humanities, my life is confined to what can only be described as a living hell. Pathetic losers who call themselves professors. Go get a life, I say, or will I end up like them. The fear just eats me up, and again, the bullying starts all over again...


June 02, 2008

HEA - a bureaucratic superstructure

Controversy continues as HEA director leaves post

Lee Harvey was on his way to a conference in Amsterdam when he got the call informing him that he had been suspended from his post as director of research and evaluation at the Higher Education Academy. The date was 6 March, the day that a letter he had written describing the National Student Survey as a "hopelessly inadequate improvement tool" was published in Times Higher Education.

Although Professor Harvey signed the letter in a personal capacity, the HEA told him that he may have contravened a clause in his contract barring him from writing to the press without the permission of chief executive Paul Ramsden. Muddying the waters, however, was a previous clash between the two men. After less than a year in post, Professor Harvey had lodged a formal grievance against the HEA chief, which had yet to be resolved at the time of his suspension.

This week, the HEA confirmed that Professor Harvey had left. In a statement, the academy said that it had lifted the suspension and that Professor Harvey had taken the decision to leave "in the best interests of the academy". It added: "As the priority of both the academy and Professor Harvey is to focus all attention on enhancing the student learning experience, neither party will be making any further comment relating to Professor Harvey's employment with, or decision to leave, the HEA."

It is understood that Professor Harvey has signed an agreement barring him from revealing details of the dispute or his subsequent suspension.

The case has raised fundamental questions about both the NSS and the governance and role of the HEA. Professor Harvey's letter was written in response to a Times Higher Education article that reported accusations that London Metropolitan University attempted to manipulate the NSS by instructing staff to tell students that their survey responses would "impact on the reputation of your university ... and your award".

Professor Harvey, who is an internationally renowned expert on student surveys, wrote that it was no surprise that a university was encouraging students to give good ratings, suggesting that it was "just a rather unsubtle form of a widespread practice".

In the two months since his suspension, further reports have lent credence to his assertion. A lecturer at Kingston University was recorded telling students: "If Kingston comes bottom (in the NSS), the bottom line is that no one is going to want to employ you because they'll think your degree is shit."

The story prompted a number of students to recount, via the BBC's website, how they too had been encouraged to boost their universities' results. Universities Secretary John Denham assured Parliament he "utterly condemned" any manipulation of the NSS, and promised to take action if the breaches were proved.

Mr Denham's statement was followed by an announcement from the Higher Education Funding Council for England that tougher guidelines would be issued to universities before the next survey. Whatever academics' views about the merits of the NSS, the case has also raised questions about the role and governance of the HEA.

News of Professor Harvey's suspension provoked an angry response from the academic community, both within the UK and across the world. Times Higher Education received a flood of e-mails, online posts and letters, decrying what many characterised as an attack on academic freedom. Among those expressing their dismay were scholars from as far away as South America, Australia and Africa, while dozens of UK academics also registered their protest via Times Higher Education's website.

Much was made of the personalities involved. A senior academic said the treatment of Professor Harvey, for the offence of saying something that was at worst "not particularly diplomatic", appeared to be entirely disproportionate. "Instead of calling him in and just giving him a telling-off, have they seen this as a way of getting rid of the guy because there's been a relationship breakdown?" he asked.

One HEA insider leaked a document to Times Higher Education that outlined the chief executive's target to "provide effective and empowering leadership". Alongside this, the member of staff wrote: "Not much sign of this, it would seem."

The matter has also prompted questions about HEA's independence and its understanding of the sector it serves. The academy has a remit to be an "authoritative and independent voice on policies that affect the student learning experience" and to "foster robust debate and challenge received wisdom". [Ha!]

Among dozens of comments posted on Times Higher Education's website, the HEA was accused of being a "puppet" and "a tool for Government in pushing through the latest fads", "a bureaucratic superstructure ... unable to understand even basic academic values", as well as a "laughing stock". One academic said the debacle had put the HEA's "reputation and effectiveness" at risk.

One professor of higher education told Times Higher Education: "If he'd been my colleague I would have said, 'Hey Lee, what the hell are you doing? Don't write that'. "But the fact is that he did write it. He wrote it as Lee Harvey from his home address, not from the HEA. Why shouldn't he as an academic be free to express his views? "The HEA is not responsible for the NSS, the Higher Education Funding Council for England is. And my question is, is the HEA independent - or at the very least arm's length - from Hefce? If it isn't, that would really worry me."

As Chris Rust, a senior fellow of the HEA, wrote in a posting to Times Higher Education's website: "This reflects very badly on the HEA and its image as an organisation, and I would suggest that both the academy and Paul Ramsden need all the friends they can get."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

June 01, 2008

Organisational sociopaths: rarely challenged, often promoted. Why?

Author(s): Richard J. Pech, Bret W. Slade
Journal: Society and Business Review
Year: 2007 Volume: 2 Issue:3 Page: 254-269

Purpose – Organisations sometimes select and promote the wrong individuals for managerial positions. These individuals may be incompetent, they may be manipulators and bullies. They are not the best people for the job and yet not only are they selected for positions of authority and responsibility, they are sometimes promoted repeatedly until their kind populate the highest levels of the organisational hierarchy. The purpose of this paper is to address this phenomenon by attempting to explain why it occurs and why organisational members tolerate such destructive practices. It concludes by proposing a cultural strategy to protect the organisation and its stakeholders from the ambitious machinations of the organisational sociopath.

...Research has identified numerous causes and explanations for managerial bullying, deceit, manipulation, and greed. This includes the existence of psychological traits such as narcissism, where managers misuse the organisation as a vehicle for furthering their own goals at the organisation's expense, using tactics such as manipulation and exploitation (Lasch, 1979). When such bullying behaviours occur without remorse, or goals of self gratification are pursued without consideration for the well-being of others, they can be termed as sociopathic behaviours. Surprisingly, and in apparent contradiction to every rational management principle, Kets de Vries (2003) points out that sociopathic managers often rise rapidly through the organisational ranks into positions of increasingly greater power.

Poor managerial performance has been explained with concepts such as the Peter Principle, where people are promoted one or more levels beyond their optimum level of competence (Peter and Hull, 1969). Performance shortfalls may be hidden by using bullying tactics. McGregor's (1960) Theory X and Y suggests that a manager's views of others may influence the manner in which people are managed. A negative view (Theory X) could mould a managerial style focusing on lower-order behaviours and thereby result in an overly authoritarian and task-centred management style. The job may still be accomplished but the method may unnecessarily antagonise intelligent, experienced, and qualified staff...

...These only represent a few explanations for poor performance and managerial shortcomings. Unnecessary and preventable poor managerial decisions continue to be made every day, and this may be because the wrong people are promoted into positions of authority and responsibility. Employees and stakeholders suffer because of the twisted machinations or greed of a few (Pech and Durden, 2004). Rather than filtering out such individuals and their destructive tendencies, Giblin (1981) suggests that the culture in the modern organisation actually rewards and reinforces such behaviours...

Davison and Neale (1998) define such behaviour as anti social, demonstrated through superficial displays of charm, habitual lying, no regard for others, no remorse, no shame, taking no responsibility for mistakes and no evidence of learning from either making mistakes or from punishment meted out for making mistakes (except to become more cunning in future, to avoid getting caught). The real dangers for the organisation reside at two levels. The first is the nature of the damage done to well-intended and performing individuals by sociopathic managers, and the second is the reinforcement and replication of these behaviours throughout the organisation by way of memetic contagion...

Unfortunately, the narcissists, the greedy, the pretenders, and those with a high need for power do covet higher managerial positions, largely to satisfy their power needs. They will either attempt to acquire power by conforming to the demands of the organisation's rituals and routines or they will attempt to gain power through illegitimate means. Both approaches provide pathways for achieving the individual's nefarious ambitions. Criteria for selecting a particular pathway will be dependent on the ambitious individual's values, determination, personality, and ability. The nature of the rituals and routines will also influence or impact on the decision criteria. The ambitious individual may not be prepared to leave promotion or career decisions in the hands of others, perhaps he or she is not capable of meeting expected performance standards, perhaps they fear the competition, or they may be driven to acquire power by any means. Such individuals may be driven to monopolise the organisational machinery and its rituals and routines to achieve need fulfilment and power ambitions. Employees who are not similarly motivated will have little chance or will find fewer opportunities for promotion when competing against the ambitious narcissists, the greedy, the pretenders, and those with a high need for power...

Can the sociopath be identified and stopped before it is too late? Probably not. According to Cleckley (1976) there are some overt signs that separate the sociopath from the rest. These include poverty of emotions, both positive and negative. They have no sense of shame and any emotions for others are often an act. They can be superficially charming but will manipulate for personal gain. They may not be motivated by money but rather through impulsive thoughts that fulfil their excessive need for thrills. Hare et al. (1990) devised a dual checklist that identifies clusters headed under “emotional detachment” and “impulsivity and irresponsibility”. The former can often be recognised through their inflated self-esteem and exploitation of others, while the latter may be marked by alcohol or drug abuse. Unfortunately, such symptoms may not become evident until the sociopath is already rising up the corporate ladder, and to some extent, almost everyone can be accused of displaying some of these symptoms some of the time. The organisational sociopath may also not display the extremes of pathological behaviours that are normally associated with the criminal psychopath and sociopath.

Short of forcing every managerial aspirant to take a battery of psychological assessments, pathological, predatory, or anti-social personalities may be difficult to identify and eliminate from the list of managerial contenders. Displaying behaviours oozing with wit, charm, audacity, and enthusiasm, they may stand out in the interview more for their attractive personal qualities than for their underlying destructive behaviours, which remain carefully concealed. While organisations must continue to employ a variety of sophisticated recruitment, selection, and promotion criteria and filters to ensure that the best people are selected and promoted, protection against exploitation by sociopaths requires much more. Giblin (1981) suggests that organisations be simplified, in other words, accountability must be increased, transparency must be improved, and performance must be quantifiable and appropriately rewarded. Even these measures may not deter the motivated sociopath...

...The organisation must examine its culture to identify the messages that are being transmitted. It must examine the complexity of its structure and procedures, and it must examine its recruitment, reward, and promotion policies to protect itself and its stakeholders against the destructive ambitions of the corporate sociopath

Reforming further education: the changing labour process for college lecturers

Purpose – The purpose of this article is to examine how the labour process of further education lecturers has changed as a result of legislative reforms introduced in the early 1990s.

The authors: Kim Mather, University of Wolverhampton Business School, Wolverhampton, UK
Les Worrall, University of Wolverhampton Business School, Wolverhampton, UK
Roger Seifert, Keele University, Keele, UK

Personnel Review, 36, 1, 2007

...The application of market-based reforms in the FE sector, as in other parts of the public sector, has resulted in the intensification and extensification of work effort for lecturers on the front line. There are fewer lecturers who are working harder, working for longer and teaching more students: we have shown that they are struggling to cope with these increased workload demands. Our view is that this is a direct consequence of the particular nature of and, particularly, the ideological underpinning to the reform process that has sought to stimulate a state proxy for the capital accumulation imperative, through the introduction of competitive and market pressures in FE provision. Applying Braverman's logic in a highly labour intensive sector such as FE, we might expect to see labour management strategies designed to secure more for less from lecturing staff. Evidence of work intensification is clearly apparent in the three colleges we have examined and this echoes the findings drawn from research undertaken elsewhere in the FE sector and the public sector more generally.

Workers' responses suggest that there is resistance both at individual and collective level to these downward pressures though resistance does not seem to have been sufficiently strong to prevent the reported changes from occurring. Braverman (1974) was clear that under capitalism, work intensification increases the rate of exploitation of workers. He was also explicit about the long-term tendential nature of deskilling and the degradation of labour suggesting that short-term acts of resistance will be ineffective over the longer term. Lecturers in these colleges have been dispossessed of key job controls, which, when allied to trends in work intensification reported here, points to a degree of transformation in aspects of their labour process that may be directly linked to broader developments in the political economy of the Further Education sector specifically and the public sector more generally.

The research has revealed a number of key points all of which are consistent with Braverman's thesis. There is clear evidence that the public sector in the UK has changed dramatically with managerialist and consumerist notions having assumed ascendancy over those of the professions. The rise of a new managerial class in the public sector with its own rhetoric of performance management, targets, indicators, value for money, quality, productivity and flexibility has also been shown to have a world-view that has little in common with workers at the chalk face. We have provided clear evidence of deskilling in the form of the replacement of less flexible and more expensive full-time staff with more flexible and less expensive “things” (as one senior manager called them) and the increasing casualisation of working conditions.

We have also provided clear evidence of the redesign of work practices that have moved the lecturing profession away from a craft system of production where lecturers, as subject specialists, had more autonomy over what was taught, towards a factory system of production where standardisation in the form of modularisation has taken place and subject specialists are expected to teach outside their specialism simply to fill up their timetables in order to keep costs down. This we see as evidence that cost reduction criteria assume ascendancy over quality criteria despite the rhetoric of quality that currently pervades academic institutions in the UK. We argue that labour process theory has provided a powerful framework for the analysis of recent changes in the public sector as characterised by the growth of managerialism and the rise of the “new public management”. Despite the rhetoric of much contemporary management practice (“our employees are our greatest asset”), Taylorism and Fordism would seem to be “alive and well” in the UK public sector. It is unfortunate that many of the workers in the sector are not in a similar state of “good physical and psychological health”.

The mistreated teacher: a national study

Purpose – This study seeks to identify 172 American elementary, middle, and high school teachers' perceptions of the major sources and intensity of the experience of mistreatment by a principal, the effects of such mistreatment, how these perceptions varied by demographic variables, teachers' coping skills, and teachers' perceptions of contributing factors.

The authors: Joseph Blase, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
Jo Blase, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
Fengning Du, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California, USA

...With respect to teachers, several large-scale international studies of workplace mistreatment/abuse across occupations in Great Britain (Hoel and Cooper, 2000), Sweden (Leymann, 1992b), Norway (Matthiesen et al., 1989), Ireland (Irish Taskforce on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, 2001), and Australia (Queensland Government Workplace Bullying Taskforce, 2002) indicate that public school teachers are among the high- risk occupations for mistreatment/abuse. In fact, one of the most prominent web sites in the world devoted to workplace mistreatment (www.bullybusters.org) has reported that teachers were among the largest group of abused workers, and another high-profile web site (www.bullyonline.org) reported that teachers were the largest group of enquirers and callers. Recently, the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse (NAPTA) launched a web site (www.endteacherabuse.org) devoted to addressing the specific problem of teacher abuse...

Effects of abuse

A great deal of research has emphasized the deleterious effects of abusive workplace conduct on a victim's psychological-emotional health, physical-physiological health, work performance and relationships with coworkers, and personal life. Examples of negative effects on psychological-emotional health that appear in the research literature include the following: reduced job satisfaction, negative feelings (e.g., desperation, incompetence, inadequacy, embarrassment, guilt, shame, self-doubt, loneliness, powerlessness), loss of concentration, obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts, distrust, cynicism, anxiety, emotional exhaustion, compulsivity, burnout, disorientation, shock, chronic fear, sociophobia, panic attacks, hypervigilance, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, suicidal thoughts, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Negative effects of mistreatment/abuse on physical-physiological health include hair loss, back and neck pain, headaches and migraines, skin disorders, racing heart rate, loss of strength, significant weight changes (loss or gain), ulcers, chest pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, high blood pressure, angina, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ, heart arrhythmia, and heart attacks. Negative effects on work performance and relationships with coworkers revealed by research include work impairment (i.e. decreases in initiative, creativity, risk taking, commitment, concentration, effort, work time, ability to do job), distrust, tardiness, absenteeism, voluntary attrition, stress and strain, job mistakes, sabotage, social withdrawal, isolation from colleagues, deterioration of relationships, impaired individual and group decision making, thoughts of quitting, change of career goals, withdrawal from extra-role and social involvements, and deterioration of quality of relationships with clients. Effects on family and personal life include increases in family conflict and deterioration of relationships among family members, and loss of friendships...

Stress is considered an interactional phenomenon; it is a function of perceived situational demands and an individual's perceived ability to cope with such demands. Stress and strain result from a perceived imbalance between situational demands and perceived coping abilities. When individual coping proves to be ineffective and exposure to stressors prolonged, structural and functional damage to an individual can be expected (Cox, 1978). Keashly (1998, 2001) argued that because of relative power differences, mistreatment/abuse by a superior will tend to significantly undermine a victim's coping abilities. To wit, a limited number of studies have investigated victims' coping responses to abusive superiors. In general, such studies indicate that direct action by a victim (e.g., reporting an abuser to a superior or a union) resulted in no response, efforts to protect the abuser, or reprisals against the victim...

Effects of principal mistreatment

The ten most frequently reported effects on teachers participating in our survey were (in rank order) as follows: stress (90.7 percent of participants), resentment (80.8 percent), anger (75 percent), insecurity (70.3 percent), a sense of injustice and moral outrage (70.3 percent), self-doubt (68 percent), anxiety (65.7 percent), sense of powerlessness (64.5 percent), maintenance of silence (64 percent), and bitterness (64 percent) (see Table II). The least frequently reported effects of principal mistreatment were use of alcohol (14.5 percent of the participants), worsened allergies or asthma (14 percent), smoking (12.2 percent), ulcers (3.5 percent), use of illegal drugs (1.7 percent), and PTSD (0 percent).

With regard to teaching, participants were asked, “Overall, how much did your principal's mistreatment undermine your effectiveness as a teacher”: 4.1 percent of the teachers responded not at all, 18.6 percent responded minimally, and 27.3 percent, 28.5 percent, and 21.5 percent responded moderately, significantly, and severely, respectively. In short, 77.3 percent indicated that principal mistreatment markedly undermined teaching...

Losing one's career

Zapf and Gross (2001) found that victims of long-term bullying advised others to leave their place of employment more often (22 percent) than they advised any other coping strategy. The Irish Taskforce on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying (2001) reported that 11 percent of those who recently had been bullied quit their jobs, and 14 percent indicated that they had considered withdrawing from the labor force completely. Furthermore, The External Advisory Committee on the Defence Forces (2002) found that 51 percent of mistreated victims had applied for a transfer or thought about leaving their jobs. Similarly, in our current study of teachers, slightly over half of the participants indicated that principal mistreatment was so harmful that they were unable to cope, and over three-quarters (76.7 percent) reported that they would leave their teaching positions because of the harm caused by their principal's mistreatment. Even more alarming, we found that half (49.4 percent) of the teachers we studied “wanted to leave teaching altogether” because of their mistreatment. This astounding percentage of teachers willing to relinquish their chosen careers, clearly a “last resort” coping strategy, underscores the overwhelming deleterious effects of principal mistreatment on teachers and teaching; this is particularly ominous in light of current and predicted teacher shortages