Bullying at the University of Newcastle (Australia)

We are working to highlight and stop academic workplace bullying at the University of Newcastle, Australia. We are a group of staff and students who have been bullied for speaking out about misconduct.

Help make a difference –

*answer our survey,

*contribute to the blog, or

*contact us.

This will help us gather as much information as possible so that we can put an end to this bullying with its’ decades-long history.

“Systemic bullying, hazing and abuse generally are identified with poor, weak or toxic organizational cultures. Cultures that are toxic have stated ethical values that are espoused but not employed, and other non-ethical values which are operational, dominant, but unstated.

Such cultures thrive when good people are silent, silenced, or pushed out; when bad apples are vocal, retained, promoted, and empowered; and when the neutral majority remain silent in order to survive. Those who are most successful in such a toxic culture are those who have adapted to it, or adopted it as their own”. (McKay, Arnold, Fratzl & Thomas, 2008)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Women bullies.....

The latest straw poll on this website revealed that the bullies at the University of Newcastle are mostly women or both women and men.
Respondents were mostly bullied by
Women     41%
Both          39%
Men          20%
Is this surprising.... shocking.....????
Well, this seems to be reflecting the recent trend in bullying in organisations. 
“Instead of laying the groundwork for the advancement of the sisterhood, women have joined men in the harassment of their own gender.” (Brunner & Costello 2003)
“As the numbers illustrate, women unfortunately are enlisting, or are being drafted, into the bully battalion at a rate similar to that of their male counterparts. And, more frequently than men, the opponents women challenge are other women (Namie & Namie, 2000). This becomes a more painful and confusing dynamic because the existing gender schemas indicate that women should be nurturing caregivers-especially toward the females who are already disadvantaged in the eyes of corporate observers. This is also a damaging dynamic, because women who oppress other women help to maintain the existing social order in which men remain dominant and women are subordinate (Acker, 1990; Brunner & Costello, 2002)”. (Brunner & Costello 2003)
“The woman promoted to the highest levels in the organization may not need to possess great credentials or management skills. In fact, her sole strength may be her ability to puppet upper management's traditional agenda. So in addition to keeping other, more competent women from advancing, the female bully also serves as a poor representative and role model for workingwomen in general.” (Brunner & Costello 2003)
“The employee under attack is often a competent, committed one, singled out for her strengths, not her weaknesses.” (Smith 2010).
“Furthermore, it is claimed that women supervisors and managers keep competent women from being noticed and promoted with ‘underhanded’ or cover behaviours. (Shallcross et al 2009).

The University of Newcastle wants to be a leading university – but does it want to be following this trend?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Many a true word.......

"Systemic bullying, hazing and abuse generally are identified with poor, weak or toxic organizational cultures. Cultures that are toxic have stated ethical values that are espoused but not employed, and other non-ethical values which are operational, dominant, but unstated.

Such cultures thrive when good people are silent, silenced, or pushed out; when bad apples are vocal, retained, promoted, and empowered; and when the neutral majority remain silent in order to survive.

Those who are most successful in such a toxic culture are those who have adapted to it, or adopted it as their own. "  (McKay et al 2008).

This quote seems to encapsulate the findings of our survey and the comments on the website - the University of Newcastle has many policies regarding the issues raised but the organisational culture appears to be founded on bullying and collusion.  Many employees say they are fearful of speaking out and either suffer or leave and  bullies are promoted and rewarded (as in an older post below).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Casual academics and bullying

Research to be published in the new year states that 60% of the academic staff at Australia's universities are casual academics, predominantly women.  (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/casual-numbers-blow-out/story-e6frgcjx-1225967201826 ). The workload for these casual academics is huge and often involves many more hours of work than they are paid for.  

Whilst some of them do come in from their "day jobs" to give a lecture or two, many casuals here at the University of Newcastle are hoping to have an academic career.  However, casuals have no career path and are the most vulnerable members of staff - they can be dismissed almost instantly and have very few rights.  Management openly speak of supporting staff on ongoing contracts rather than casuals, regardless of the actual situation. 

Casuals are often bullied at the University of Newcastle, as reported in our survey.  Is it this shift in the workforce that is contributing to the huge increase in bullying here?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Predatory alliances!

“Predatory alliances” are described as informal co-operative bullying networks within an organisation (Hutchinson et al 2006).  These networks allow bullying to be concealed and hidden within informal organizational networks and bullies can use  organisational systems to protect their bullying behaviour.
Two key features of predatory bullying are
“1. Concealment of bullying, where the loyalty between bullies provided them with considerable protection: and
2. Bullies protected and promoted, where abusive behaviour was both tolerated and rewarded within the organizational context.” (Hutchinson et al 2006, p 239).
Both these features have been reported on this website and in our survey to be happening at the University of Newcastle.  Respondents have described how a number of people are bullied by one person and although reported, no action is taken.  Respondents also spoke of reporting bullying up the chain of command and to Human Resources and no-one takes any steps to stop the bullying, thereby concealing it throughout the organisation.
It has also been pointed out that in a number of cases, bullies who have had formal complaints made against them, go on to be rewarded and promoted at the University (to senior lecturers and professors).  According to Hutchinson et al (2006), when bullying is rewarded by promotion, the chance of the behaviour being accepted as ordinary and acceptable and becoming widespread within the organisation is increased. 
Einarson (1999 cited in Hutchinson et al) described how bullying occurs more frequently in organisations where bullies are supported or have approval from those higher up the chain.  Also the informal networks of bullies provide a situation in which bullying can “proliferate and flourish” (Hutchinson et al 2006, p 244).
Sounds all too familiar......

Ref: Hutchinson, M et al (2006). Like wolves in a pack: Predatory alliances of bullies in nursing.  Journal of Management and Organization. 12, 3, 235-250.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The "Alternative 'Your Voice' Survey": the other side of the story given by the first 100 survey responses

22 staff/students at this university (from the first 100 survey respondents) have considered committing suicide.

Because of bullying.


There may be more - the survey has already been completed by over 130 respondents.

Other findings from the first 100 respondents are:-

§  75% report sleep problems
§  75% report depression
§  40% are planning to leave the university or have already left

·       67% have had their views/opinions ignored
·       63% have been treated unfairly compared to others
·       61% have been excluded, ostracised.
·       53% have felt intimidated or threatened at work.

v 1% were satisfied with the outcome of their complaint to the university
v 10% are not permitted by the university to disclose information
v 57% state that no action was taken by their supervisor or by Human Resources.

As well as being bullied themselves,
Ø 62 respondents have witnessed other employees being bullied.
Ø 86 respondents have been told about bullying at the university.

This is a different image of the university to the one presented by the VC in his summary of the "Your Voice Survey".