Post Academic

Bully Alert! How to Tell If You Are Working With a Bully

post academicOne of a bully’s best tricks is to make the victim blame herself. You may get confused as to what is your fault and what is the bully’s. Eventually, you will need to step back from the situation to determine whether or not your boss or a colleague is a bully.

This can be harder in academia because academics aren’t known for having the greatest social skills in the world. But a “creative temperament” is no excuse for acting like an idiot and treating people badly. Yes, creatives are emotional, but part of getting through life is learning how to interact with and compromise with others. If a person with a “creative temperament” also has an anger management problem, he shouldn’t be in charge of anyone, no matter how talented he is.

These cues can help you tell the difference between a bully or a creatively inclined person who is having a trouble managing others:

A bully always has a target. David Yamada of Minding the Workplace says, “In my judgment, the main line in the sand is whether the behavior becomes targeted and malicious. Once it reaches that level, questions of bad social skills, standard-brand incivility, etc., dissolve and what you’re left with is a form of abusive treatment.”

More after the jump! Caricature of Boss Tweed by Thomas Nast from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Bullies and Academia: VQR and the Death of Kevin Morrissey

post academicOur post asking “Can being a lowly grad student kill you?” provoked many comments and responses. When I wrote the post, I hadn’t heard of Kevin Morrissey, the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, who committed suicide several days before the post went up. While the post discussed the relationship between workplace status, power and health, it didn’t cover outright bullying in the ivory tower.

Perhaps it should have. According to news reports, Morrissey may have been pushed to the brink by his former boss, Ted Genoways, the editor of VQR. All charges against Genoways are alleged, and no one can change the circumstances that drove Morrissey to take his own life, but a picture is emerging of what it was like to work at VQR–and it’s ugly.

On the “Today” show, one of Morrissey’s colleagues called the behavior of Genoways “egregious.” If you want more details, by all means dive in at the Hook and the Chronicle of Higher Ed. More than likely, you’ll be grateful for your boss and your workplace.

But what do you do if you are faced with a bully at work? After reading Morrissey’s story, you might think these situations can be hopeless because UVA’s HR department was allegedly unresponsive after Morrissey complained.

So I asked David Yamada, who runs the blog Minding the Workplace. He is a law professor, Director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School, and author of the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. He says, “Right now one does not have a right to sue for severe workplace bullying.”

But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. He advises, “For those who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, union intervention may be a possibility and should be explored early.” If you don’t have a union, Yamada recommends reading The Bully at Work by Gary and Ruth Namie.

A few other suggestions for what to do in a tough work situation after the jump! Image of Boss Tweed from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.