On Thursday I’m presenting on workplace bullying in higher education at the annual continuing legal education conference of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, being held this year in Boston. I’ll be sharing a lot of the knowledge and insights I’ve gained about bullying and mobbing behaviors in academe, and then examining the legal issues they raise for institutions of higher education.
I thought this would be a good occasion for me to update my primary (and very popular) post on bullying & mobbing behaviors in academe, as well as summarize several other relevant posts. Here goes:
Revised “Foundational” Post
I just revised my very first post (2009) on bullying in academe, Workplace bullying and mobbing in academe: The hell of heaven?, to include updated information and sources:
Academic life can be a great thing, providing one with the opportunity to engage in teaching and educational activities, scholarly research and writing, and myriad forms of public service.
However, the culture of academe can be petty, mean, exclusionary, competitive, and hierarchical. Bullying and mobbing behaviors occur with surprising frequency, and sometimes with stunning brutality. They can transcend the type of institution, academic disciplines, and political beliefs.
Other Relevant Posts
Yesterday the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the flagship entity of a major public university system, publicly launched a workplace anti-bullying initiative with a campus symposium that attracted over 500 UMass employees. This remarkable turnout, which included staff, faculty, and administrators, was over triple the number of RSVPs for the event.
…I had the privilege of presenting the keynote address, and one of the lasting memories I’ll have is that of standing at the podium and seeing the large auditorium fill with people, with some having to stand even after dozens of extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the overflow.
First, the value placed on compliance empowers some to bully others who won’t go along. A minor “rebellion” such as declining to follow a suggestion for revising a paper or dissertation, or a major one such as refusing to vote a certain way at a meeting, can trigger retaliatory responses. Graduate students and junior faculty are especially at risk in this regard.
Second, the embrace of authority explains the frequency of “puppet master” bullying and genuine mobbing in academic workplaces. Especially in academic workplaces that cannot tolerate dissent or diversity of opinion, individuals seen as not being with the program may face an onslaught of hostility or isolation. These behaviors may be inflicted on anyone, ranging from a graduate student to a senior tenured professor.
During the past decade, we have learned a lot about incivility, bullying, and other negative behaviors in the workplace. However, we don’t know much about similar forms of mistreatment in academic settings.
That void is what led Susan Stewart (Western Illinois U. — Quad Cities), Nathan Bowling (Wright State U.), and Melissa Gruys (Wright State U.) to develop a study that asked graduate student members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) about their experiences with anti-social behaviors by faculty members and fellow students.