Academic Bullies

The problem with workplace bullies, says Historiann on her blog, is not just that they drive off good employees but also that they turn “those who remain into bullies themselves.”

In Parts I and II of a post about bullies, Historiann advises their targets: “Don’t sue — run for your lives.”

“We don’t encourage people in abusive relationships to believe they can make the abuser change. Why should we expect people in bullying work environments to stick around and try to change the culture, when they have little if any power or influence to force reform?

She quotes Robert Sutton, author of The No A$$hole Rule, who wrote that 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.”

Historiann chronicles her own troubles with a nasty “colleague” at her former university, and writes:

“Bullying academic departments tend not to allow assistant professors to follow their own bliss, either in the classroom or in their research agendas. This is sometimes the very motive for the bullying: Many departments really don’t want anything — or anyone — new or innovative around. And scrutinizing other people’s work to belittle it is one of the pleasures of academic bullying!”

She says the “million-dollar question” is, “How can anyone turn a bad department into a good one?”

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