December 24, 2007

Keys to Spotting a Flawed CEO - Before it's too late

The Warning Signs An overt zeal for prestige, power and wealth. A manager's tendency to put his or her own success ahead of the company's often is evident long before that person is ready to assume the CEO post.

A reputation for shameless self-promotion. Executives who constantly seek publicity, are always looking for a better job or trumpet their successes while quickly distancing themselves from setbacks are sending strong signals that their egotistical ways may eventually cause major problems.

A proclivity for developing grandiose strategies with little thought toward their implementation. These executives may assume that others at lower levels will magically turn strategy into reality.

A fondness for rules and numbers that overshadows or ignores a broader vision. This is the flip side of the preceding problem.

A reputation for implementing major strategic changes unilaterally or for forcing programs down the throats of reluctant managers. CEOs have to be consensus builders.

An impulsive, flippant decision-making style. CEOs who approach decision-making with clever one-liners rather than with balanced, thoughtful and informed analyses can expect to encounter difficulty.

A penchant for inconsiderate acts. Individuals who exhibit rude behavior are apt to alienate the wrong person at the wrong time.

A love of monologues coupled with poor listening skills. Bad listeners rarely profit from the wisdom of their associates.

A tendency to display contempt for the ideas of others. Hypercritical executives often have few stellar accomplishments of their own.

A history of emphasizing activity, like hours worked or meetings attended, over accomplishment. Energy without objective rarely leads to improved organizational performance.

A career marked by numerous misunderstandings. There are two sides to every story, but frequent interpersonal problems shouldn't be overlooked.

A superb ability to compartmentalize and/or rationalize. Some executives have learned to separate, in their own minds, their bad behavior from their better qualities, so that their misdeeds don't diminish their opinions of themselves. An important internal check is missing. Others are always ready to cite a higher purpose to justify their bad decisions.

Dr. Leap is a Professor of management at Clemson University. From: The Wall Street Journal

December 08, 2007

Tribunal rules vice-chancellor is guilty

A tribunal has found the former vice-chancellor of Brunel University, Steven Schwartz, guilty of victimisation after he publicly implied that two former colleagues had behaved dishonestly, writes Melanie Newman. After Brunel staff members Gurdish Webster and Saeed Vaseghi lost claims of race discrimination against the university in 2005, Professor Schwartz sent two circulars around Brunel criticising the pair, whom he did not name.

Bemoaning the expense of defending the cases, he referred to the two as having made "unwarranted demands for money" and described their claims as "unfounded", "unmeritorious" and "futile".

"The cost of the defence exceeded £60,000," wrote Professor Schwartz. "This is money that could have been used for teaching and research." He criticised the then Association of University Teachers for using "members' funds to support futile litigation".

Professor Vaseghi told the tribunal that the message "echoed around the campus" and that as "the high priest of the university", Professor Schwartz's words were accepted without question.

The tribunal concluded that the claimants' sense of grievance was reasonable and justified. "Professor' Schwartz's assertion that the claimants had made unwarranted demands for money was an implicit assertion of dishonesty on their part," it said. The earlier tribunal, while dismissing the cases of discrimination, had accepted that they were made in good faith.

Professor Vaseghi and Ms Webster were awarded £7,500 each as compensation for injury to their feelings. The tribunal said Professor Schwartz and the university were equally responsible, so each should be liable for half of each award.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "The findings of the tribunal are important because members of black and minority ethnic communities often feel intimidated and fearful of making legitimate claims of discrimination against their employer."

A spokesperson for Brunel said: "We are taking time to consider the judgment in detail."

From: by Melanie Newman

December 05, 2007

Appraisals a time waster

Many workers think their annual appraisals are a waste of time, saying they do not trust their boss to be honest or to take much notice of what is discussed, a survey released on Monday said.

The research found a quarter of respondents thought managers simply regarded the reviews as a "tick-box" exercise while one in five accused their bosses of not even thinking about the appraisal until they were in the room.

Almost half (44 percent) did not think their boss was honest during the process, 29 percent thought they were pointless, and a fifth felt they had had an unfair appraisal, according to the YouGov poll of just under 3,000 workers.

Only a fifth believed their manager would always act on what came up during the review and 20 percent said their boss never bothered to follow up any concerns raised.

However four out of 10 thought appraisals were a useful guide to an individual's progress and just under a third thought they were helpful.

Many said they would prefer more regular feedback, which might explain why 40 percent said they had been surprised at what they were told during an appraisal, said Investors in People, the organisation that commissioned the survey.

"It is encouraging that many people now receive an annual review and the research suggests that they find the feedback useful," said Simon Jones, Acting Chief Executive of Investors in People.

"But, it is also a concern that some managers may be letting down their employees by failing to give full and frank feedback.

"It's a great chance for managers to make sure their employees feel challenged and valued for the year ahead, rather than unmotivated and without guidance."

The survey found those working in the public sector were the most negative about appraisals while those employed in accountancy and financial services were more likely to see them as useful.

Unmotivated and without guidance... What about the Dean whose job it was to provide an appraisal but was not interested in doing so. In the end, the staff member demanded one and the Dean took five minutes to tick all boxes... What about the Head of School who used to insert in appraisals targets that were never discussed with the academic staff member? And all of this in a University that is an Investor in People!

December 02, 2007

Constructive Insubordination

This blog was set up out of frustration with certain events at the University of Lethbridge [Canada]. Some of the senior admnistrators seem bent on eliminating criticism and they take harsh action when openly challenged. Student concerns are sometimes dismissed out of hand. It is getting increasingly difficult to understand how the faculty association (ULFA) is offering protection for faculty caught up in this.

Faculty members’ relationship with the administration and university as a whole are governed by the
Faculty Handbook. The handbook also outlines the procedure for promotion and tenure, for filing grievances and so forth. It is this handbook that a number of faculty members accuse ULFA of abandoning or selectively applying, leaving the members to fend for themselves... October 2007, Prof. Robinson was so frustrated by all of this that he posted all of his documentation on the issue on a website he provocatively called “
One Banana Short of a Republic” and wrote an open letter to the University administration in the student newspaper in which he advertised the site. The university administration was outraged and the Dean of A&S gave Prof. Robinson 5 days to remove the site (which is hosted on a private webhosting service) and to have the student newspaper publish a full apology or face unspecified disciplinary action.

At the advice of his lawyer, Robinson refused, and instead scanned and posted the dean’s letter on what is now called by many at the U of L “The Banana”. In turn, the dean wrote to Robinson informing him that he has recommended to President Cade that Robinson be suspended for two months without pay for “Gross Professional Misconduct”. He cited certain portions of the ULFA Handbook (that Robinson alleges do not really apply) and what is called FOIP (the “Freedom of Information and Privacy” laws in Alberta). This letter has also found its way to the Banana


November 30, 2007

Choice quotes by certain University officials...

"I just thought it was rather appropriate for the Music Department orchestration of the collective grievance...." (laughs) - Prof Peter Scott, Vice-Chancellor Kingston University.

Also available in audio format:

National teacher-bullying crisis, Australia

MORE than 90 per cent of teachers say they have been bullied by colleagues.

The teachers also claim they have been exposed to unmanageable workloads and have been ignored, frozen out or excluded from decision making.

The frightening picture of dysfunctional relationships and low morale in schools is exposed in a new national online survey - the first of its kind in Australia.

More than 80 per cent of teachers say they have had their personal integrity undermined, responsibilities removed or added without consultation and have had concerns about unfair treatment, harassment and bullying dismissed.

According to survey responses the bullies - in order - are school executive staff, colleagues, principals and parents.

One in five teachers said they had had personal property attacked, such as their car or their office, and a similar number complain about physical abuse or threats of violence.

Many teachers also claimed they had been subjected to insults about their political or religious convictions at school.

Survey boss Dan Riley of the University of New England described the results as "frightening"

"We didn't expect to find what we did - we have a problem - teachers are not happy and we believe this is very serious," he said.

Dr Riley and Professor Deirdre Duncan from the Australian Catholic University surveyed more than 800 teachers in government, Catholic and independent schools.

The most serious findings were:

 NINETY-one per cent of teachers said their mental or physical health had suffered;

 NINETY per cent said they had been forced to deal with unmanageable workloads;

 NINETY per cent said they had been frozen out, ignored or excluded from decision-making;

 EIGHTY-eight per cent said their integrity had been undermined;

 EIGHTY-seven per cent said they had lost or gained responsibilities without consultation; and

 EIGHTY-three per cent said their concerns about unfair treatment, bullying and harassment had been dismissed.

Ninety-five per cent of teachers said they were not told when their work was unsatisfactory.

They also complained about superiors who frequently questioned their decisions and judgments, set tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets and deadlines and attempted to belittle or undermine their work.

"This is the first national electronic survey to seek the experiences of support staff, teachers, executives and principals in relation to staff bullying in both government and non-government schools," Dr Riley said.

"There's an enormous amount of pressure on schools to do more and more with less and less.

"And parents, with their rising expectations, are quite often prepared to challenge how things are done in schools."

A growing number of experts believe bullying is now more common between staff in schools than it is between students.


Also on the same story worth reading: National survey aims to remedy bullying of teachers

The banana republic strikes back...

Lawyers for the University of Lethbridge Board of Governors, President, Vice-President, Chair and Vice-Chair have approached the host of the website, demanding that the web host remove material from the site. If the site goes down, Robinson will maintain the site on another server and will try to have the site up again within hours.

The University of Lethbridge has ordered Robinson to remove this website. He has refused. Now disciplinary action has been taken to suspend Robinson for two months without pay.

More info at:

November 28, 2007

Birmingham University FOI Request

Between 2003 to December 2006, Birmingham University had:

5 claims for unfair dismissal
4 claims for race discrimination
3 claims for sex discrimination, breach of contract, breach of fixed term regulations
2 claims for disability discrimination
1 claim for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal
1 claim for unfair dismissal breach of fixed term worker relations
1 claim for breach of part time worker regulations, breach of contract
1 claim for deduction of wages, sex discrimination
1 claim for constructive unfair dismissal and harassment

Of these 12 cases were settled and 1 was successfully upheld at an Employment Tribunal. That leaves 6 cases ever lost or withdrawn.

Between August 2002 and December 2006 there have been 20 complains of bullying by managers and THREE were disciplined (17 got off!!!)

During the last five years there has been 48 workshops on bullying at Birmingham University, and 49 on disability discrimination.

Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment should be undertaken as a five-stage process:

i. Identify hazards – is there an excessive workload, etc?;

ii. Decide who may be harmed and how;

iii. Evaluate the risk and take action – how likely is this to cause serious problems for the employee concerned? If so, action needs to be taken.

iv. Record findings and formulate an action plan – plan should include timescales for actions;

v. Monitor and review the plan.

Although this is not a legal requirement, you are strongly recommended to follow these guidelines in order to meet your legal obligations and avoid tribunal claims.

From: Dignity at Work. A good practice guide for Higher Education institutions on dealing with bullying and harassment in the workplace

November 24, 2007

Negative work environment

Studies employing measures of global organisational environment have tended to find an association between a negative work environment and bullying. Bjorkqvist et al (1994) noted that previous studies by Leymann (e.g., 1986, 1992) indicate risk factors for bullying such as a strict hierarchical organisation, an authoritarian atmosphere and poor communication.

In his 1996 paper, Leymann reported that an analysis of around 800 case studies of workplace bullying suggests that ‘extremely poorly organised production and/or working methods and an almost helpless or uninterested management were found’. Hoel and Salin (2003) reported that studies by Keashly and Jagatic (2000) and Vartia (1996) suggest that communication and cooperation problems, low morale and negative social climate are associated with the presence of workplace bullying. Hoel and Cooper (2000), in their large survey of UK workplaces, found that experience of bullying was related to a negative work climate.

Around 83% of the self-referred victims of bullying in O’Moore et al’s (1998) study reported the work environment to be competitive, and 77% said their work environment was strained and stressful. In Einarsen et al’s (1998) study on assistant nurses in Norwegian hospitals, bullied nurses had a negative assessment of various aspects of their daily work.

In their recent study, Coyne et al (2003) found that self and peer nominated victims of bullying perceived the working environment to be characterised by more negative aspects (e.g., strained, stressful, regular change, authoritarian management and competitive) than other groups. However, they also found that other groups of victims (e.g., just self labelled victims) did not differ from the control group in their perceptions of the work environment. This led Coyne and colleagues to hypothesise whether organisational variables interact with personal variables (e.g., personality) to promote bullying.

‘Formal’ and ‘informal’ organisational culture

It has been hypothesised (see Hoel and Salin, 2003) that work cultures that contain close knit groups and with traditional autocratic management and leadership cultures (for example, the military) can be environments where bullying can flourish as social and organisational norms are difficult to challenge. This hypothesis is supported by results from surveys such as that of Rayner et al (2002, cited by Hoel and Salin, 2003) whereby bullies were believed to bully because they ‘could get away with it’.

However, in a paper discussing the concept of ‘incivility’ in the workplace, Andersson and Pearson (1999) hypothesised that ‘climates of informality’ – an informal and casual workplace – could actually encourage disrespectful behaviour. They suggest that in an informal setting, it is more difficult to determine what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, and therefore there is the potential for ‘incivility’, which may foster bullying.

From: Bullying at work: a review of the literature, authors: Johanna Beswick, Joanne Gore, David Palferman (HSE), 2006

November 13, 2007

One banana short of a republic

Why the “one banana short” website?

Over my years as a university professor, I have seen my share of puzzling administrative action. Often my view has been close up and first hand, having served as president of my faculty association, as president of the provincial confederation of faculty associations and as a member of the board of governors at my institution.

The frequent unwillingness (and sometimes almost pathological inability) of some administrators to exercise common sense and to reverse poor judgment can damage our institutions substantially. When the actions of the administration of public institutions evoke images of a Stalinist Keystone Cops episode, or a Monty Python skit, or a journey with Alice through Wonderland—or when such actions cause an institution to be but one banana short of a republic—it is time to examine the matter in a more public spotlight.

In this first issue, I am presenting matters at the University of Lethbridge, where I have taught for over twenty years. Others matters at the University of Lethbridge and other institutions will be discussed in forthcoming issues.

The purpose of this website is to challenge administrations of public institutions to perform in line with accepted standards of fair play, due process and natural justice—and to expose administrations where that does not happen.

Tom Robinson, Professor. The University of Lethbridge


November 12, 2007

Anonymous said

Eighty plus undergraduate students with learning disabilities, who have disabled students' allowances, have no formal provision for additional tuition as awarded under those allowances. Enquiries are being referred to a campus in another city, about one hour away by train. No staff in charge are on the campus.

Kingston University

On 8 November, 2007, Kingston University's barrister succesfully lodged a formal objection to the presentation of key relevant witness testimony during an Employment Tribunal hearing in a case brought by a former staff member alleging victimization.

Like the claimant, this witness also allegedly suffered victimization at the hands of the University, which involved, among others, the now former Personnel Director, Liz Lanchbery, and was prepared to bring forth a formal acknowledgement by the University of improper treatment.

The claimant had NO OTHER WITNESSES to be brought forward during a scheduled eight day hearing, while the University is bringing Prof Peter Scott, Liz Lanchbery, and a number of other staff members to defend against various allegations.

Do YOU think it is fair for the University to be able to parade a large number of witnesses before the Tribunal while denying the right of the claimant to bring in one single witness to read a short one page statement detailing experiences of being victimized after bringing forward a grievance?

WHY is Kingston University afraid of having this witness testify?
Could it be that they KNOW that the witness would help to PROVE that the University engaged in victimization of its staff members on a regular basis?

How many MORE times will the University try to silence this same witness when they are asked to come forward in other cases against the University, and in which their testimony would be extremely compelling?

What do YOU think?


November 11, 2007

Teachers’ helpline sees 400% increase in calls

INCREASING numbers of teachers and lecturers in Wales are seeking help for bullying, charities and unions said yesterday.

New figures also show a 400% rise in calls to national helplines. Teacher Support Network received 338 calls and emails regarding bullying and harassment by colleagues or managers across Wales and England last summer term, compared to just 83 in the summer term of 2006.

Research into the problem has now been launched by the University of Glamorgan and Teacher Support Network.

More than 130 people have taken part in the survey so far, with first results expected early next year.

Professor Duncan Lewis from Glamorgan’s Business School, who is leading the research, said it was unclear whether bullying had actually increased or whether people were more likely to recognise and report it.

He is also doing a second UK-wide study with £70,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council to look at bullying across the workforce in general.

“The Teacher Support Network and Teacher Support Cymru get increasing numbers of calls about bullying and harassment,” Professor Lewis said.

“We want to find out what people consider bullying and whether perceptions have changed. Are people who say they are being bullied really being bullied?

“We are also trying to find out where the source of bullying comes from. Quite often its reported as managers but it is just as likely that someone will be bullied by a colleague of equivalent grade or it could be school governors, parents or even pupils.”

The survey asks teachers and lecturers whether they have experienced 22 different types of “negative behaviour” at work including:

Gossip about themselves; Violence; Being denied access to leave or benefits; Being humiliated or ridiculed; Being ignored or excluded.

“None of the list mentions bullying because we don’t think there is a scientific definition for it,” Professor Lewis said. “It’s a matter of perception. One person’s bullying may be another’s banter.”

Sam, a 28-year-old primary teacher from Swansea, was bullied by two of her classroom assistants. She was so distraught that she considered going on long-term sick leave. She felt unable to talk to anyone about the situation but eventually contacted the Teacher Support Cymru helpline.

The verbal bullying took place in the classroom in front of the children and she said she also worried about the impact it was having on her pupils.

Sam said she felt unable to raise the issue because she was new at the school and “didn’t want to rock the boat”. She was also worried that she would not be believed.

“Bullying is a sensitive and difficult issue for most people. “There is usually a great reluctance among victims of bullying to speak out – they already feel isolated from other colleagues so don’t want to alienate themselves further and many have fears about lengthy disputes and tribunals – and this can often lead to time off due to stress and ill health.”

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, which is launching its own survey into bullying in the new year, believes the problem is on the increase.

Director Dr Philip Dixon said, “Bullying happens across the board. Part of the explanation is increasing pressure on senior managers to improve results.” He said there should be better training for lecturers and teachers becoming heads or principals of colleges.


November 09, 2007

University staff victims of anonymous and defamatory blogs

'We have previously reported on the growing amount of comment that appears in blogs and other postings on the internet about universities and individuals within them, usually members of academic staff or senior officers of the university. Sometimes remarks that are posted are disparaging, inaccurate and seriously defamatory of the university and individuals within it. It can be very hurtful to be on the receiving end of such libellous comments and dealing with it causes even more stress to those involved.

As the web postings are usually anonymous, it can be difficult to know what to do about them if it is not possible to resolve the matter through dialogue with the website operator. Whilst it is often possible to persuade the operator to remove the offending content, in certain circumstances it may also be necessary to pursue the authors themselves, and operators will not be willing to disclose the identity of their members voluntarily.

On 18 October, the High Court gave some guidance on when it might make an order against a website operator requiring them to disclose information about anonymous postings. The Claimants, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and others, wanted subscriber information for a number of contributors to an unofficial supporters club relating to 14 web entries which they considered to be defamatory. The judge refused to order the information sought in relation to 9 of the 14 web entries.

There are 3 requirements for such a disclosure order to be made: 1. a wrong must have been committed or be imminent; 2. the order must be necessary for a defamation action to be brought; and 3. the party against whom the order is sought must have facilitated the wrong and be in possession of the necessary information. Requirements 2 and 3 will usually be satisfied (as they were in this case). Requirement 1 is likely to be trickier. The test is whether the web entry is "arguably defamatory". Even if the postings satisfy the requirement, the Court has discretion to refuse to grant an order and takes into account the seriousness and strength of the case. The judge found that 9 of the postings were unlikely to have been taken seriously or result in quantifiable harm and refused to order the disclosure of information about them.

The Court had to balance the website members' rights to anonymity and freedom of expression against the claimant's right to protect their reputation. The Court regarded the other 5 postings which contained allegations of greed and dishonesty as tipping the balance in favour of the claimants getting an order.

The case illustrates some of the difficulties that will need to be overcome if formal action is to be contemplated. The guidance is really interesting. It's possibly the first case of online defamation we've had in this country where the right to privacy has outweighed the right to protect a reputation simply because defamatory comments were trivial.

The judge said it was relevant "to consider whether the words complained of were, even if strictly defamatory, more than a trivial attack which would not be taken seriously...I do not think it would be right to make an order for the disclosure of the identities of users who have posted messages which are barely defamatory or little more than abusive or likely to be understood as jokes - that, it seems to me, would be disproportionate and unjustifiably intrusive.

From: Pinsent Mason Universities Legal Briefing, October 2007

November 06, 2007

7th November 2007: Anti-bullying day at work, part 2: UCU has spoken...

'I faced public humiliation' - Higher and further education are failing to tackle bullying among staff, a new survey indicates

Roger Kline, Tuesday November 6, 2007 - The Guardian

Tomorrow is Ban Bullying at Work Day; a message that doesn't appear to have got through to all parts of further and higher education.

Academics at a major northern university claim that 42% feel intimidated at work, 37% feel their work is belittled and 24% feel they have been humiliated by bullying incidents.

The University and College Union survey of members at Leeds Metropolitan University (with a 41% response rate) suggests a management culture at odds with the university's goals of challenging received wisdom, encouraging students to think and promoting collaborative inquiry. Some 96% of respondents said they felt inhibited about positively criticising policies of Leeds Met and 63% reported witnessing bullying at work.


As one respondent put it: "There is an atmosphere of fear and a feeling that decisions cannot be challenged constructively - it is tantamount to treason"...

It is clear that some institutions struggle to acknowledge that bullying is a problem. At one institution, HSE findings of bullying in the vice-chancellor's own department led to the report being shelved until the vice-chancellor left. Another university can't be named because the allegations of bullying are themselves a possible source of litigation by the university...

O'Dell, in her original grievance, had the courage to capture the experience of many who have experienced bullying. She wrote: "Several other witnesses who have given statements to me are unwilling to share them with management, for fear of their continuing employment. Unfortunately, my faith in this organisation, and in this profession, is destroyed. The thought of working in this department fills me with dread. It is not just the treatment I have received, but the way management have condoned it through doing nothing."

Read the rest of the article in The Guardian. The University and Colleges Union has spoken... at last... and our pigeon holes are full of anti-bullying posters...

7th November 2007: Anti-bullying day at work

Today we remember... everything we have experienced, the harassment and the bullying... we also remember those who suffer silently, who fear for their jobs and their positions... we remember the silent and the vocal and active collaborators... we also remember the useless and worthless procedures and policies... we remember how inadequate they were and still are... we remember the suffering, the pain and the depression... today we have so much to remember, but we remember it every day anyway... when does closure come? Today we remember...

Ban Bullying at Work Day

November 05, 2007

Make us an offer...

Billington v Michael Hunter and Sons Ltd

- An offer by an employer to allow an employee to resign on
favourable terms thus keeping a "clean" CV can be an important factor
in enabling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal
on the basis that the employer had breached the implied term of trust
and confidence implied into employment contracts

BNP Paribas v Mezzotero

- The fact that a discussion between an employee and an employer is
described by the employer as being "without prejudice" does NOT of
itself automatically mean that evidence of that discussion is barred
from being used as evidence in a subsequent case relating to the same
subject matter.

Quote: Concluding paragraphs:

"In the present case, as Mr Galbraith-Marten points out, the logical result of Mr Davies' submission is that an employer in dispute with a black employee could say during discussions aimed at settlement in a meeting expressed to be being held without prejudice, "we do not want you here because you are black" and could then seek to argue that the discussions should be excluded from consideration by a Tribunal hearing a complaint of race discrimination.

Mr Davies immediately says that such a remark would obviously fall under the umbrella of unambiguous impropriety. I agree. However, Mr Davies is then faced with the unattractive task of attaching different levels of impropriety to fact-sensitive allegations of discrimination, in order to submit that the present remarks do not fall under the same umbrella. I do not regard that as a permissible approach. I would regard the employer's conduct, as alleged in the
circumstances of the present case, as falling within that umbrella and as an exception to the "without prejudice" rule within the abuse principle, rather than it was as previously described, in terms of prejudice in the case of re Daintrey.

I do not regard this case as creating an impermissible extension to the categories of the rule, exceptions which will always fall to be considered within the particular factual context of the case and which, in the present case concerns discriminatory conduct by employers towards one of their employees. For all these reasons this appeal must be dismissed."

November 04, 2007

Innocent bystanders?

Bullying in the workplace can seriously damage staff morale, but should you intervene when you see a colleague being victimised? Karen Higginbottom investigates.

Karen Higginbottom - The Guardian - Saturday November 3 2007

'The only way that bullying would stop in that organisation is if somebody commits suicide," says 28-year-old Chloe*, reflecting on her experience of witnessing bullying in the HR department of a financial services firm in the City of London in 2005. "The woman who was being bullied was very popular and funny and worked in the same department as me. Everybody really liked her ... apart from the team leader," she recalls. "I saw everybody's bonuses and the minimum bonus was always given to this woman."

The bullying came in a subtle form, recalls Chloe. "I didn't see the team leader do anything horrible to her but she wasn't allowed to have a lunchbreak or go to the company gym and had to complete work even if that meant doing overtime."

Chloe commiserated with her beleaguered colleague but didn't intervene on her behalf. "I told her that the other woman's behaviour towards her was totally unfair. I didn't know what to do and I certainly didn't want to be labelled as a troublemaker for saying anything."

Strangely enough the woman, who was bullied over a three-year period, didn't quit the organisation. "She just shrugged it off. There was a bullying culture in the organisation, which had high expectations of performance and staying late."

Why don't people intervene when they see colleagues being bullied at work? Often it's the fear factor, says Mandy Telford, coordinator for Dignity at Work at Unite union. "People are frightened that bullying will happen to them and they will lose their job."

There is scant research on the impact of bullying on witnesses in the workplace. A project by Portsmouth Business School last year found that witnesses to bullying often suffered stress and became frightened and insecure in their job. A survey of more than 5,000 workers from 70 organisations carried out by the authors of Workplace Bullying: What We Know, Who Is to Blame and What Can We Do? (Taylor & Francis) suggests one in five witnesses of bullying leaves the company.

But some of us may not be aware that we're witnessing bullying, which comes in many forms and can be as subtle as deliberately excluding people from meetings or blatantly undermining comments about a person's appearance or performance, says Lynne Witheridge, chief executive of anti-bullying charity The Andrea Adams Trust.

"Bullying is often a brutal form of psychological torture and work is often just like the school playground, where people feel they have to join in with the bullying or they will be picked on," Witheridge says. She believes that the victim of bullying is often hurt by the lack of action by witnesses. "They might meet the target of the bully in the lift or a private place, but they don't stand up for them," she says.

She urges witnesses to intervene directly if they see bullying and to say that it is unacceptable behaviour.

This is what Helen* did when she witnessed the sustained bullying of her manager Mary* by her overall boss Annalise* at one of the departments within the UN Mission in Kosovo in 2001. "Annalise was in her mid-40s and started undermining Mary as soon as she arrived," recalls Helen. "She would speak to her in an undermining way in front of junior staff and talk to other people outside the department about the complete mess that Mary had made. Annalise's remarks had a personal edge to them. Mary came from a prominent political family in the US and Annalise would call her a 'privileged princess'." Helen believes that Annalise's bullying stemmed from a desire to make her mark on the department. "She was power-hungry and crazed."

Helen was initially quite friendly with Annalise, as she had arrived at the same time. "It took three months before the bullying became overt and Annalise lost her temper with Mary in a team meeting in a way that was utterly unprofessional."

The incident prompted Helen to confront Annalise later that day. "I told her I couldn't support her and felt she was victimising Mary, that her behaviour was unacceptable. However, the reason I was able to confront her was because I knew she couldn't fire me, as I had been directly appointed by the Foreign Office. It made a big difference."

Mary stayed on in her job but the atmosphere became very frosty, says Helen. Both Helen and Mary saw a counsellor at work as a result of the bullying and they approached the second-in-command at the UN mission in an attempt to tackle the problem.

"I talked to him and explained that Annalise had lied and undermined Mary, but nothing happened," says Helen. "In the end Mary and I left."

Unfortunately, managers are often inadequately trained to deal with bullying, says Mandy Telford. "Managers aren't given the skills to deal with allegations of bullying. Some employers are starting to take it seriously and others are still sweeping it under the carpet, thinking it's a personality clash or political correctness gone crazy."

John* works in an environmental role for a rural local authority. He has witnessed sustained bullying from a manager to a female colleagues in his department. "The manager was a bully who used to call staff into one-to-one sessions and criticise their work," says John. "There was one particular lady called Melinda* who was singled out. He criticised the way she did her work and made unreasonable requests of her that were beyond her remit." After one of these one-to-ones, Melinda came out of the room crying. I took her aside and asked her why she let him speak to her like that."

John advised Melinda on how to deal with the bully if she felt pressurised by him. "I recommended that she ask a colleague to be present in her one-to-one meetings and make notes of those meetings."

Melinda has stayed in the job and learned to deal with her bullying manager in the best way she can, adds John. "The management style of the council comes directly from the chief executive, who bullies the directors, who in turn bully the management." Management have been ineffectual in dealing with the bullying by this particular manager, says John.

"When it comes to a tribunal, people come forward as witnesses but then back out. Staff have been moved from the team rather than deal with the problem. That is how management deals with it." The bullying manager is still in the post. "The situation has affected staff morale, work efficiency and created a climate of distrust."

*Names have been changed

What to do if you witness bullying

· Let your HR department know right now. Tomorrow may be too late and you could be next.

· Help the bullied by letting them know that they are not the only person in the office to be on the receiving end (which research shows is usually the case).

· Try to encourage others in the office who may also be recipients or witnesses of the bullying to help support the bullied person.

· Don't be afraid to take action because many organisations now know the personal, health and organisational damage that bullying can cause.

· Remember that not only are you helping the individual and the organisation but research suggests that witnesses themselves can be damaged indirectly by a bullying culture ... so you may be preventing your own ill health.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University


November 02, 2007

Lack of management skills main reason for workplace bullying

New research released by the Ban Bullying At Work campaign reveals that two thirds of managers believe that lack of management skills is the major factor contributing to bullying. Unrealistic targets (27%), authoritarian management styles (56%), personality (57%) and failure to address incidents (37%) are also cited as contributory factors.

Lyn Witheridge, CEO of the Ban Bullying At Work campaign, said: “It is clear that managers now acknowledge that bullying behaviour in the workplace takes many forms and creates deep repercussions.

“In fact bullying costs UK businesses £18 billion per year and one in four people has experienced bullying in the workplace. We are challenging businesses to speak out against bullying to create workplaces where employees can see clearly that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated. We want to inspire managers to speak out and instill a culture where business is not frightened to stand-up to the bullies.”

National Ban Bullying At Work Day takes place on 7th November, and more information is available at
How do we achieve inspired academic managers standing-up against workplace bullying, when the offenders are usually among their ranks?

October 31, 2007

Inspirational quote 1

"To know the value of generosity, it is necessary to have suffered from the
cold indifference of others." - Eugene Cloutier

The blind leading the blind...

Anonymous said...

You've heard of the expression "the blind leading the blind". Leeds Met is a case of the "unqualified promoting the inexperienced". The number of senior level academics, deans, associate deans and PLs who have nothing beyond an undergraduate degree has led to an environment of insecure, unqualified managers. And when people are insecure it leads to managers promoting similar types around them. And all of this is a classic environment for bullying to set in on an institutional level.

I worked at Leeds Met. I saw intelligent, PhD qualified individuals alienated, bullied and made to feel that a PhD was a handicap.

The above situation is common (but not restricted to) many ex-polytechnics and ex-colleges now HEIs, such as Wolverhampton, Leeds Met and De Montfort. Such places tend to be strongholds of institutionalised bullying with above average rates of workplace stress. For a reasonable explanation of the phenomenon check: Bullying of Academics in Higher Education: Former polytechnics spread their wings

October 29, 2007

The Institute of Education

Anonymous said...

The Institute of Education, I can assure you is a place where bullying and harrassment takes place and the management do nothing because they are the ones that are doing it.

The internal grievance procedures are a joke, the stress that staff are put through when they make a complaint is unbearable.

All senior staff stick together and do their upmost to push out staff who complain and the silent ones either leave or work in fear.

I heard there was one school which consisted of 4 centres where 16 staff left from the period of August 06 - March 07.

The reason why the IOE do not follow their procedures because the bullies are their friends and most of the staff are dispensible.

There is one serial bully [LF] who is also Geoff Whitty's friend [kept hush, hush of course] who has bullied 6 members of staff and guess what they have all left. This bully then accuses the staff member of not being able to do their work and brings a disciplinary action against that person who has made a complaint. And yes, they do nothing and promote the serial bully.

A special place in our hearts...

University of Arts, London:
  • 36 Employment Tribunal cases launched against the university since August 2001.
  • including 16 for unfair dismissal
  • 4 on sex discrimination
  • 4 on race discrimination
  • 3 on unspecified discrimination
  • 4 for unlawful deduction of wages
  • 13 cases settled out of court (with appropriate confidentiality clauses)
  • 1 case upheld at the tribunal stage for unlawful deduction.
OK, UCU, do you see a problem here? OK, minister in charge, do you see a problem here? OK, HEFCE, do you see a problem here? OK, HEA, do you see a problem here?

Let us guess, you voiceless agencies, you say: Universities are self-governing bodies and they can look after their own affairs! Obviously they can't! The University of Arts in London is a serial offender, there are others too. Where does one go, and what does one have to do to get justice?

Spotlight on: Ban bullying at work

At least 25% of all employees will experience bullying at some time during their working lives, estimates Ban Bullying at Work.

The charity, in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute, recently surveyed more than 500 managers and found that 66% cited lack of management skills as a contributing factor to bullying.

However, employers are being given the opportunity to highlight and challenge bullying in the workplace by getting involved in this year's fourth annual Ban Bullying at Work Day, which takes place on 7 November.

Position of power

Bullies tend to be in a position of power, explains Lyn Witheridge, chief executive of Ban Bullying at Work.

"Bullies are often insecure, weak, ineffectual and often no good at their jobs," she says. "Typically, bullying is based on personal envy, where a person might view a colleague as a potential threat to their position."

Bullying behaviour isn't necessarily in the form of outright aggression it can be much less obvious, even covert. Witheridge says that victims of workplace bullying often experience brutal intimidation, sometimes bordering on psychological torture, which may go unspotted by others.

She warns HR and employers to watch out for signs of bullying, for example managers setting up an employee to fail by not giving that person the right tools or information to do their job setting unrealistic deadlines, or constantly changing the guidelines which will eventually break down the victim's confidence and self-esteem to the point they feel completely useless in their job.

Policies are not enough

Bullying is a serious problem in the UK, and in the workplace it crosses all age, gender and boundaries - anyone can be a target. Even though HR is racing to tighten up its policies and procedures on bullying, Witheridge argues that having a standalone policy is not enough. "Putting such policies in place just creates the illusion that we are doing something about it, but everyone needs to be educated," she adds.

"You can never completely eradicate bullying because it's part of our basic human nature. Every organisation will have workplace bullying, but you can deal with it by providing harassment training to staff."

She believes HR needs to communicate with staff and actually define what bullying means to them. Ask them to think about what behaviour is and is not acceptable in the workplace.

"We all have a duty to look after the welfare of one another at work," says Witheridge. "Our campaign is about saying that enough is enough and bullying does not have to be feared. It's about everyone raising their heads above the parapet and encouraging each other to tackle it together."

Ban Bullying at Work: the facts

  • More than two million people are bullied at work in the UK, and workplace bullying is a major cause of stress-related illness.
  • A lack of recognition and acceptance of this very basic human behaviour is the cause of much corporate dysfunction, resulting in costly damage to both individuals and organisations.
  • The Ban Bullying at Work Day (7 November) campaign is independent and is calling for all organisations to get involved.
  • Participate on the day by taking ownership of the issue and raising awareness of bullying in your workplace.
  • For further information, visit the Ban Bullying at Work website at

October 27, 2007

Tactics against bullying at work

...There's a lot written about bullying, especially about:
  • how common it is (the answer: it's all too common);
  • what happens to targets (the career, psychological and health effects can be devastating);
  • what management should do (adopt policies and actions).

However, management can't be relied on to solve every problem. Furthermore, often management is the problem: favoured managers are the bullies.

From the point of view of an individual being bullied, the alternatives don't look good. If you put up with the abuse, it will probably continue. If you resist, it may get worse. Many advisers say the best option is to leave.

Is it possible to resist effectively? Sometimes it is, but you need skills and psychological toughness. And you need to know what tactics to use. That's what I tell about here: tactics...

Perpetrators typically use five methods to reduce popular outrage.

(1) Cover-up: the action is hidden. Torture is nearly always carried out in secrecy.

(2) Devaluation of the victim. When the victim is perceived as dangerous, inferior or worthless, what's done to them doesn't seem so bad. Protesters are called rabble and rent-a-crowd. Enemies are said to be ruthless and untrustworthy and sometimes labelled terrorists.

(3) Reinterpretation. A different explanation is given for the action, making it seem more acceptable. Or someone else might be blamed. Protesters are said to be provocative. Their injuries are claimed to be slight. Treatment of prisoners is said to be "abuse," not torture.

(4) Official channels. Expert investigators, formal inquiries or courts are used to give a stamp of approval to what happened, leading to an appearance of justice without the substance. An inquiry into police beatings might take years and lead to minor penalties against a few scapegoats. Meanwhile, public anger dies down and the problems remain.

(5) Intimidation and bribery. Victims and witnesses are threatened or given incentives to keep quiet and not oppose what happened. Witnesses to police brutality might be threatened should they speak out...

To increase outrage from bullying, you need to challenge the five methods. Here's the general approach.

(1) Expose the bullying.

(2) Validate the target, by demonstrating good performance, loyalty, honesty and other positive traits.

(3) Interpret the bullying as unfair, and explain why contrary explanations are wrong.

(4) Mobilise support. Avoid official channels or use them as tools in exposing the unfairness.

(5) Refuse to be intimidated or bribed, and expose intimidation and bribery...

People high up in organisations nearly always support the chain of command. A top manager will almost always support subordinates in the face of challenges from lower-level employees.

Grievance procedures have many disadvantages. They are:

  • Slow - it could take months for your matter to be dealt with, while the bullying continues or you are left in limbo.
  • Procedural - the focus is on technicalities, not the unfairness of the behaviour.
  • Time-consuming - you end up spending vast amounts of time and effort preparing submissions and responding to queries.
  • Expensive - if you need legal assistance.
  • Hidden - matters are handled without publicity, and often confidentiality is expected. This serves as a form of cover-up...
Here are some ways to deter bullying.

Collect lots of information about your own good performance. Keep copies in safe places. If you plan to act against corruption or bad practices, collect extensive information to back up your claims.

Develop your skills in speaking and writing. Know how to talk with others. Learn how to write persuasive accounts, how to prepare a leaflet, how to run a publicity campaign and how to set up a website - or have reliable friends willing to assist.

Avoid doing things that can be used against you. If you spend much of your time bad-mouthing others, getting others to do your work, and claiming credit for what you didn't do, you can't expect support when the crunch comes. Have others help you gain insight into being collegial, collaborative, approachable and civil.

Be prepared to survive. You may need financial reserves. You will need psychological strength. You need exercise and good diet to maintain your health. You need supportive relationships. When you come under attack, you may need all your reserves: financial, psychological, physical and interpersonal. If you're living on the edge, you're more vulnerable.

Build alliances. There is great strength in collective action. If you have a decent union, join it and be active.

Develop options. Find out about other potential jobs. Think about a career change. Consider downshifting to a less costly lifestyle. Sometimes it's better to walk away from a stressful job. If you have such options, you're actually in a stronger position to resist, if that's your choice.

Help others. If you assist other workers who are bullied, you develop useful insights and skills - and others are more likely to help you should you need it...


October 25, 2007

University of GlamXXXX is awarded 'Divestors of People' standard

University of GlamXXXX is awarded 'Divestors of People' standard. For more info check the Hall of Shame.

This university meets at least 50% of the criteria, including: cronyism, incompetence, favoritism, or inequality, disguise of management failures, internal grievance procedures are used selectively by managers - against staff, and some academic managers are untouchable despite their failures.

October 24, 2007

Would a so-called Christian university sanction and defend this in the tune of thousands of pounds?

...At a practical level, every professor should be aware of conditions that increase vulnerability to mobbing in academe. Here are five:

• Foreign birth and upbringing, especially as signaled by a foreign accent;

• Being different from most colleagues in an elemental way (by sex, for instance, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, class origin, or credentials);

• Belonging to a discipline with ambiguous standards and objectives, especially those (like music or literature) most affected by postmodern scholarship;

• Working under a dean or other administrator in whom, as Nietzsche put it, “the impulse to punish is powerful”;

• An actual or contrived financial crunch in one’s academic unit (according to an African proverb, when the watering hole gets smaller, the animals get meaner).

Other conditions that heighten the risk of being mobbed are more directly under a prospective target’s control. Five major ones are:

• Having opposed the candidate who ends up winning appointment as one’s dean or chair (thereby looking stupid, wicked, or crazy in the latter’s eyes);

• Being a ratebuster, achieving so much success in teaching or research that colleagues’ envy is aroused;

• Publicly dissenting from politically correct ideas (meaning those held sacred by campus elites);

• Defending a pariah in campus politics or the larger cultural arena;

• Blowing the whistle on or even having knowledge of serious wrongdoing by locally powerful workmates.

From: The Unkindly Art of Mobbing by Kenneth Westhues

Ban Bullying at Work Day 2007 - 7th November 2007

Ban Bullying at Work Day is now only 2 weeks away! Our main aim is to raise awareness of the issue in the UK and to encourage both individuals and organisations to have the strength to stand up and Speak Out against bullying. This year we have a new range of promotional materials, incentives and events to get you and your organisation involved.

The new campaign website is up and running so please take a minute to have a look at:

As part of our Speak Out campaign, we will be releasing 1000 balloons across the London skyline on the 7th November – the official Ban Bullying at Work Day and we want you to get involved!

Each balloon represents an ordeal that an individual has suffered at the hands of a bully, and releasing them will be an act of solidarity. Attached to every balloon will be a personal message relating to workplace bullying. We want as many people to get involved as possible. If you would like to have a personal and confidential message on a balloon then go to the website to find out more information.

This year we hope to get over a million people in the UK involved in the campaign to Speak Out and let everyone know that bullying in the workplace is too costly to ignore!

Please don't hesistate to get in touch if you have any questions at all.

Kind regards

The Andrea Adams Trust

Anonymous said...

Please publicly name and shame Guiliano Premier and Alan Guwy for running a campaign of lies against a research fellow and for denying that research fellow the right to work in a healthy research environment, a punishment made for questioning to their practices.

October 19, 2007

Bullying complaints quadruple

The number of teachers complaining of being bullied by colleagues and managers has increased four-fold in a year, according to the Teacher Support Network (TSN), which provides a helpline and counselling for teachers. It is so concerned that it has commissioned a study on bullying in schools and colleges by Glamorgan University.

Professor Duncan Lewis of Glamorgan said that 5 to 10 per cent of employees in most professions were exposed to bullying, at a social and economic cost to society. In the summer term this year, 338 teachers lodged complaints of bullying with the help­line – a considerable increase on the 83 complaints for the same period last year.

TSN hopes to ascertain whether the rise in complaints was caused by worsening behaviour or greater willingness to report bullying. Patrick Nash, the network’s chief executive, said that workplace bullying troubled increasing numbers of teachers and lecturers

“The effects include stress, anxiety or trauma for the victim, a decline in emotional and physical well-being, sickness absence and, in extreme cases, resignation,” he said.

Denise McKeon, a Bournemouth secondary school teacher, spent long periods off work suffering stress and depression during two years in which she said colleagues shouted at her in front of pupils.

She won a financial settlement in 2005, after months taking the anti-depressant Prozac. She is now supply teaching, but still finds life hard.

“The stress from the way I was treated has changed me,” she said. “I only just function now. I find it difficult to complete simple chores in the home, feel tired and have no energy to focus on my children.

“It’s like breaking a leg. Stress makes you weak and you never really get the strength back.”

Bournemouth Borough Council said that bullying was not the reason for Ms McKeon’s departure. Vicky Hughes, a council manager, said: “Had there been an allegation or complaint of bullying or similar conduct against anyone working in the school, management would have taken this seriously and investigated.”

October 16, 2007

Show solidarity, contribute to this blog, join our online forum

This blog is visited by many every day and from all around the world. In the last few months we had around 15000 visits. Although we receive various contributions, we wish to receive even more.

We would also like to increase the membership of our online forum at: and we invite you to join us.

Show solidarity with this blog and our work by making a small contribution in the form of short stories, brief postings, messages of support or any other info that relates to workplace bullying in academia. It all helps.

October 14, 2007

Access to personal data - UK

A good place to look is at the legislation itself, in this case here:

That way you don't get a filtered version of the facts.

Part II covers rights of access and procedures. If the data is sensitive and its disclosure to you might damage or distress a person, the data controller can refuse to give you documents under the "non disclosure provisions", which appear in several sections.

If you are in the process of establishing and/or proposing to defend your legal rights, considering a tribunal claim, wanting to seek legal advice etc, the data controller is NOT permitted to prevent access to the documents you need to see in connection with that – section 35.

(2): "Personal data are exempt from the non-disclosure provisions where the disclosure is required by or under any enactment, by any rule of law or by the order of a court.

(2) Personal data are exempt from the non-disclosure provisions where the disclosure is necessary—

(a) for the purpose of, or in connection with, any legal proceedings (including prospective legal proceedings) , or

(b) for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, or is otherwise necessary for the purposes of establishing, exercising or defending legal rights."

October 12, 2007

Making the star chamber work

...So that this book may be of maximum practical value, this chapter sets forth in point form some helpful hints for the professors, secretaries, and students who sit on harassment tribunals...

These tips are for the modal situation, where the tribunal needs to bring down a finding of Dr. PITA's guilt and a recommendation for punishment. Cases where Dr. PITA herself appeals to the tribunal are easier to deal with, usually by finding a plausible way to rule her complaint out of jurisdiction...

1. The tribunal should extend its jurisdiction or catchment area however broadly is required to take up the complaint against Dr. PITA - whether the incident occurred on campus or off, in his professional role or outside it.

2. Ideally, Dr. PITA should be found guilty of something before he finds out what it is...

3. To enlist Dr. PITA's cooperation in his own undoing, confound the roles of counsellor, prosecutor, and judge. In conversations with an official he believes is being friendly, he may make incriminating statements that can later be used against him...

5. Reward accusers...

8. Ignore Dr. PITA's lawyer, if he has one, and forbid the lawyer's presence at the hearing. Explain that domestic tribunals of a university proceed by norms of collegiality, and that legalistic, adversarial measures are out of the place.

9. If the faculty association or other bodies attempt to intervene on Dr. PITA's behalf, accuse them of trying to exert undue influence...

10. Ignore claims that the tribunal is biased against him. Respond as one chair did: "I am satisfied that this committee member has no apprehension of bias."

11. Disregard evidence in Dr. PITA's favour on substantive grounds...

12. Disregard evidence in Dr. PITA's favour on procedural grounds...

13. If there is evidence that Dr. PITA has discussed the case outside the tribunal (he may admit, for instance, having talked about it to his wife...), charge him with breach of confidentiality...

16. Ignore the references to context that Dr. PITA is almost sure to make...

18. Try to provoke Dr. PITA into losing his temper or doing something rash, then make appropriate additional charges...

19. In the report at the end, find Dr. PITA guilty of something, even if it is not what he was initially charged with...

23. The report should include innuendo so damaging to Dr. PITA that he will not himself release it publicly, however strong his objections...

24. Do not release the report publicly, lest the tribunal be revealed as a kangaroo court...

From: "Eliminating Professors. A Guide to the Dismissal Process", by Kenneth Westhues, published by Kempner Collegium, 1998.

October 10, 2007

Can we expect the University & College Union to do the same? Why not?

Unite, Britain's biggest union will today launch an 'anti-bullying hot mail' for staff working in the not-for-profit sector.

The union has set up a dedicated e-mail address where victims or witnesses of bullying can contact the union to report instances of bullying in the workplace. The union will investigate the claims and act where necessary.

Bullying has been identified as the major issue facing staff in the voluntary sector, where union representatives report having to deal with bullying related cases more than any other issue.

Unite the union has launched a major campaign today (Wednesday 10th October) to combat bullying in the UK's not-for-profit sector. This week over 2,000 Unite representatives will receive campaign materials and advice on how to challenge the bullying culture.

The campaign is part of Unite's Dignity at Work project that advocates a zero tolerance approach to workplace bullying and promotes positive behaviour.

Unite believes that the reasons that bullying is exacerbated in the not-for-profit sector is due to lack of training for managers, coupled with the increasing pressures that workers are put under in the sector, as more is expected from staff for less.

Rachael Maskell, Unite national secretary for not-for-profit said: "It is unacceptable that people who choose a career helping others should fall prey to bullying. Our representatives in the not-for-profit sector are having to deal with cases of bullying more than any other issue.

We have set up a 'hot mail' to let staff know that they are not alone and that the union will act where necessary. Unite takes a zero tolerance approach to bullying in the work place.

We want to provide advice and support for both management and union representatives on how they can work together to create a climate of respect in the workplace and effectively deal with issues when they arise. Prevention is better than cure."

Unite will be surveying its members in November and attempt to identify the real scale of bullying.

"We hope that our research will show the true extent of bullying and prove to employers that the only way to effectively deal with bullying is to be proactive in raising awareness and promoting dignity at work. A trade union is best placed to help get this message out," added Rachael Maskell.

Union Representatives are being encouraged to organise events around Ban Bullying at Work day on November 7th to raise awareness.
Can we expect the University & College Union (UCU) to do the same? Why not? In fact, is UCU organising anything at all for 7 November 2007 - Ban Bullying at Work Day?

Please contact UCU and ask what activities is our union organising for national anti bullying day on 7 November 2007.

Removal of Support for the Whistleblower

The effect of being falsely charged within an organisation is particularly stressful for the whistleblower for the following reasons:
  • Dependence on the workplace for their own livelihood means potential supporters are much less likely to speak out and put themselves in a vulnerable position.

  • Potential supporters might readily be bribed - their stand influenced by promises of overseas conference trips, promotions they have always wanted etc. Such messages are obvious to the recipient, to the whistleblower, and to those who are watching. Many people can fairly readily accept such bribes since they feel that their promotions and other opportunities are well deserved anyway. Not unexpectedly they take the line of least resistance. Those 'bribes' are a powerful way of influencing waverers - even if they are not recipients of the 'bribe'. They are subtle, since they are clear messages from management to staff, while at the same time being (fairly) readily explained away by management as being a normal part of the business if there is an inquiry.

  • There is potential for the employer to encourage people who might be envious towards the whistleblower for some reason to speak out in particularly harsh terms, fabricate 'evidence', make up or embellish stories, etc.

  • There is a tendency for a significant percentage of the workplace to strongly resent 'destabilisation' of the workplace and they focus their anger against the whistleblower rather than management since the whistleblower is a much easier target.

  • The support mechanisms (human resource services for counselling, etc.) available within the workplace environment are not sufficiently independent of management. While such professionals might be highly trained in addressing workplace situations, much of that training focusses on assisting individuals to regain some kind of productive capacity, rather than confronting an incompetent or malicious management with a case of substantial victimisation or breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In spite of it being their responsibility, the option of supporting a somewhat confused, highly stressed, perhaps fearful, relatively junior individual against a group of calm, lying, coherent, senior managers presiding over an intimidated workplace, can sometimes be just too difficult for human resources staff.

  • Since it clearly 'marks' the whistleblower, and from that point on others in the workplace either avoid them or treat them differently.

  • The whistleblower is often assigned to menial duties to ensure this lowerered status is well recognised by others, and to further stress the whistleblower. They might be asked to photocopy reports, or assigned to menial task of the activity which they questioned.

  • Administrative staff who, by their nature, spend a large part of their life making sure that things run smoothly within an organisation can react strongly against whistleblowers who object to carrying out maliciously motivated instructions. There can also be personal value system differences between whistleblowers adopting a questioning attitude towards management while administrative staff may have a preference for regulation implementation.

  • The whistleblower is likely to have considerable difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the organisation, for whom they have worked long and hard and in which they believe, is now setting out "to get them".
By Professor Brian Martin, from:

Bosses who cause problems are 'too expensive to keep,' expert says

Thanks to the Internet, employees with a difficult boss can vent to a wide audience, not just in undertones to the nearest person.

A Web site called, which launched this summer with the slogan "Nobody should have to work for a jerk," is one example of this phenomenon.

It, like blogged tirades and the AFL-CIO's annual My Bad Boss contest, hit on an important point: Bosses can't afford to be jerks, not when the economy is in a "war for talent" mode.

It might be fun to watch Donald Trump chew out hapless sycophants on The Apprentice, but most people don't want to work for someone like him.

"Bad bosses are too expensive to keep," said Gary Namie, president of Work Doctor Inc., of Bellingham, Wash., which advises businesses on how to prevent bullying. "They cost turnover, absenteeism, lawsuits, workers' comp claims and a tarnished reputation."

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 doing the job.

And most of the training they receive on management – which isn't a lot because training budgets are shrinking everywhere – is futile. "They do not train them to effectively interact with people," Mr. Hochwarter said. "They train them to know who to call if Charlie slips in the warehouse and breaks his ankle."


October 08, 2007

Expired disciplinary actions...

'Expired disciplinary warning cannot be taken into account when considering the sanction for subsequent disciplinary offence.

Thomson was employed in a factory where raw chemicals are processed by way of chemical reactions to produce chemical compounds. The process is highly regulated and there is a constant risk of accidents in the form of explosions or leakage of chemicals. Therefore, all employees are required to follow Diosynth's safety, health and environmental rules of procedure (SHERPS). Thomson accepted that he was well aware of this, had been trained in, and understood the importance of, the process he was required to follow in relation to the role he performed.

In July 2000, Thomson was issued with a written warning and suspended without pay for three days for failing to follow a SHERPS rule which had resulted in a chemical leakage. Thomson assured his manager this was an isolated incident and he would always follow procedure in future. He was told that any failure to do so would result in disciplinary action. The written warning was to last for 12 months.

Fifteen months later, following an explosion in which an operator died, a thorough investigation was carried out into adherence to the SHERPS rules. It was discovered that 18 operators, including Thomson, had failed to follow the same SHERPS procedure that Thomson had previously failed to follow. All 18 operators were disciplined.

Thomson accepted that he had failed to follow the procedure on three specific occasions and had falsified the records to indicate that in fact he had done so. Thomson was dismissed summarily. Diosynth made it clear that without the previous warning, Thomson would not have been dismissed.

The tribunal decided that Diosynth was entitled to take the previous warning into account as part of the relevant history of events and that the dismissal was fair. However, the EAT and the Court of Session (the equivalent level of appeal in Scotland to the Court of Appeal in England & Wales) disagreed. The Court of Session found that Diosynth was not entitled to use the time-expired written warning as the basis for taking more serious disciplinary action than otherwise would have been taken. The dismissal was unfair.

Key points
  • A warning which is allowed to remain on an employee's record indefinitely will not normally be consistent with good industrial relations practice.
  • If an employer expresses a warning to be valid for a specified period of time, it is unfair to take that warning into account as a determining factor after the warning has expired. The Court of Session stated that the employer cannot complain if it is later unable to rely upon the expired warning.
  • The Court of Session reiterated that the Acas Code of Practice should form the basis on which an employer's conduct is judged and should be used by tribunals as a guide to good industrial relations.

What you should do

  • Handle expired disciplinary warnings with care. Do not rely on them as a key factor in tipping the balance between dismissal and a lesser disciplinary sanction.
  • Give thought to the duration of any disciplinary warning at the time it is issued. Bear in mind that it will normally be necessary to fix an expiry date for the warning.'

October 07, 2007

The monster in the mirror

...Although Freud published his study 'On Narcissism' in 1914, NPD wasn’t officially recognised as a personality disorder in the US until the 1980s... In the UK, there has been an ambivalent response to the apparent problem. Partly because, for a number of years, some psychiatrists questioned whether NPD and other personality disorders existed at all, while others believed they were simply untreatable. The change came in the 1990s, spurred by the government’s growing concern for the safety of the public after several attacks by people suffering from “severe and dangerous” personality disorders, and demands that they should be treated...

In Greek mythology, Narcissus, the handsome young Thespian, epitomises the concept of destructive self-love. According to the legend, Echo the nymph falls in love with Narcissus, but since she has been stripped of the ability to form her own words, she can only repeat what she hears. Narcissus, enamoured of his image reflected in a pool, addresses himself and says, “I love you,” repeated longingly by Echo. Narcissus, however, is too self-absorbed to see, hear or react. He eventually dies of languor, neglecting to eat or drink. Echo dies from a broken heart. In the myth, falling in love with one’s own image is seen as punishment for being incapable of loving another. In reality, NPD, at its most extreme, can lead to murder...

NPD appears to affect men more than women. A person with NPD is spectacularly lacking in curiosity or concern for others, but can easily simulate both if it ensures the continuation of what psychiatrists call “the narcissistic supply” of uncritical admiration and adulation.

In Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, first published in 1985, the American psychiatrist Dr Alexander Lowen refers to the case of Erich, brought to him by his girlfriend, Janice. Dr Lowen asks Erich about his feelings. “Feelings!” Erich replies. “I don’t have any feelings… I programme my behaviour so that it is effective in the world.”

...So, how do you know if a person has NPD? Mental-health professionals in Europe and the US draw on two sets of guidelines that are regularly updated by international groups of psychologists and psychiatrists to help make a diagnosis. The ICD-10, the World Health Organization’s classification of mental and behavioural disorders, published in 1992, lists nine categories of personality disorder, but does not include NPD.

In the US, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was first published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952, in part to provide a benchmark for insurance companies handling medical claims. The fourth and current version (DSM-IV), published in 1994, lists 10 categories of personality disorder (see page 27) of which NPD is one. (DSM-V is due to be published in 2010.) DSM-IV also gives a list of nine characteristics, of which a person has to have at least five before NPD is considered.

The nine include a grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupations with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love; a belief that he or she is “special”, only understood by other “special” people; a need for admiration; a sense of entitlement or unreasonable expectations of favourable treatment; exploitative, taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends; unwillingness to recognise or identify with the needs of others; envious of others, or thinks others are envious of him or her, and arrogance.

In its most extreme form, known as malignant narcissism, paranoia and physical aggression may also be displayed: Stalin, Hitler and Saddam Hussein come to mind. In the rich and successful, many of the characteristics of NPD are of course seen as positive attributes. In a 2005 study, the psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at Surrey University found that three personality disorders, including NPD, were more common in managers than in criminals...

How narcissistic are you?

  • If a person displays five or more of the following traits, they are likely to have narcissistic tendencies
  • A grandiose sense of self-importance (eg, exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is ‘special’ and unique, and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement, ie, unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, ie, takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
The question to ask is: How many managers in Higher Education are simply narcissistic bastards?

October 05, 2007

The worst of slaves: Linking collective corruption with stress

...A feature of corruption is that it appears to cause no stress to its perpetrators, even though they are acting against themores of the wider society. One possible explanation is that many people comply with corruption as a mechanism for avoiding stressful conflict within their organisation...

...Sanctioning of corruption is likely to occur when corporate interests dominate three sets of conflicting value systems: that of the self, that of the corporation and that of the public. In situations when an individual’s values, in the context of society as a whole, are likely to be in conflict with the organisational ones, work will be carried out only under orders. These orders may be explicit or implicit, perhaps couched under ‘business necessity’. It can be accepted that in this situation, internal personal conflict could cause stress at an individual level, but it is not known if this would be a group phenomenon.

This form of sanctioning may appear to absolve staff lower down the organisational hierarchy of the responsibility to make personal moral choices, thereby removing a cause of stress. But it also implies a lack of control, which itself can cause stress. However, even with sanctioning, for corruption to take root, compliance is essential.

...Compliance to corruption may happen in unexpected ways. A series of experiments conducted at Yale University showed that normal, ordinary people are capable of inflicting severe pain on other human beings in following orders and doing their duty...

...Of all aspects of institutionalisation of corruption that may be linked with stress, the one that is most disturbing is that of creeping induction: The essence of the process involves causing individuals, under pressure, to take small steps along a continuum that ends with evildoing. Each step is so small as to be essentially continuous with previous ones; after each step, the individual is positioned to take the next one. The individual’s morality follows rather than leads. (Darley, 1992) The implication is that once a new employee becomes a member of a corrupt organisation, there is no going back. They will accept and carry out corrupt orders. The moral conviction and courage needed to go back is so stressful that individuals prefer to comply...
  1. Collective corruption can cause individual stress
  2. Many become compliant to collective corruption and in order to reduce stress
  3. Compliance is associatedwith strong group identification, setting the stage for institutionalisation of corruption
  4. High-identifiers may feel stressed when the group is threatened andmay complywith corrupt practices to cope with the stress
  5. However, newcomers and others who do not identify strongly with the group may still feel stress in complying with corruption and become whistle blowers
First published in Stress News, the Journal of the International Stress Management Association [UK], Volume 17, Number 4 October 2005.