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.

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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)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Imagine this ......

Imagine this scenario
You trip over and graze both your knees badly.  They are raw and bleeding.  You clean them up and hobble on with your day.
Most activities are out - even driving your car opens the grazes – every time you bend your knees, it is very painful.
You realize that the day will be difficult – even getting up for a cup of coffee will involve pain.
BUT you know that the next day will be better and those raw knees will gradually heal.  The memories of the fall will fade away…...
Another similar scenario…
Someone trips you up, you fall over and graze your knees badly.  They are raw and bleeding.  As before, doing your everyday activities will be painful.  How can grazed knees interfere SO MUCH with your activities!!  You know that they will heal and you will gradually get back into your normal routine.
BUT the next day, someone trips you up and you fall over again and open up the wounds on your knees.  Wow it is really really sore to clean them and it is doubly painful as you hobble through your day.  Oh well, they will heal now – just bad luck to graze both knees again!
BUT the next day, the bad luck continues – you are tripped over again, fall over and both knees are raw and bleeding…..
This happens again the next day, and the next, and the next……… 
Everything you do is painful – it affects so many of your activities.  You become hesitant about everything in case it happens again… and it does, the next day and the next….
This is what happens if you are ostracized at work.  Everyday, it feels like the wound is opened up, like when….
·         You walk near the building where you used to work
·         You are shunned when you go to a conference, workshop or meeting
·         Your job applications are “never received”
·         Your emails are not responded to
·         Previous colleagues speed off in the opposite direction
·         You are cut out of the information loop.
·         Etc etc
Ostracism has distressing effects on the individual, even more distressing than bullying.  Bullying means that the person bullied is important enough to merit attention by other people but with ostracism, the person is invisible. 

Ostracized people feel less belonging, less control, lower self-esteem, more depressed, etc (Williams & Nida 2009). Also the “silent treatment” is often trivialized by others so that getting any empathy or help is more difficult.
Ostracism is also better for the ostracizers – the conspiracy of silence empowers them and they may feel less guilty because ignoring is a more socially appropriate response than verbal abuse or physical bullying (Williams & Nida 2009). 
So it is a win-win situation for the ostracizers - those ostracized have to deal with their raw wounds everyday in silence. 
No wonder ostracism is one of the preferred strategies used so often at the University of Newcastle.

3 comments:

  1. bullied out of Newcastle uniDecember 14, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Ostracism is just one of the many forms of bullying, it is also the most debilitating malevolent practice by bullies in their desire to eliminate a person from the workplace.
    To be shunned and treated like an outcast as though you have committed some unforgiveable crime strips away your self esteem, and breaks your heart and soul.
    I can forgive them for the many of the horrendous things that they did to me, but the wound of being ostracised by my colleagues and staff in my discipline, School, Faculty and eventually the University will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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  2. My experience with ostracism at the University of Newcastle has changed my life forever. When I spoke the truth those who could have supported seemed to have immediate amnesia. Some of these people I thought of as friends. Some of these people I knew before they had escalated up the management ladder. Some of these people I considered mentors. Now I view life differently, because if your friends, mentors and even colleagues can watch you be destroyed because of your honesty and ethics, what of the rest of the world? There was one person I had known for many years who often commented to me about how I was treated by certain staff. This person said on numerous occasions, "they really hate you" and "they would do anything to get rid of you". When I asked this person to give a formal statement they said, "sorry my career is too important to jeopardise." So I guess that is the way of the world. MOST people see their career as more important than other people. Sacrificing a few friends, colleagues, mentors along the way to success seems to be the accepted protocol. The end of my career is a scar that will never heal. I bath it everyday in the antiseptic of forgiveness, because I can mostly forgive. But, there are some people I can't forgive, and they are not the people who initially "bullied me", but are the people who were in positions that could have simply made the bullying and harassment stop. It is them who stop my wound from healing. I pray that one day they can know the pain they have caused. They can't stop my pain, but maybe they will not deepen the scars of others they come across in the future.

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  3. This time last year I sent an email to our Chancellor (Prof Waring) and Vice Chancellor (Prof Saunders) as follows:

    "Dear Trevor and Nick,

    How do you feel after such a successful year - only 20% of your staff who responded to the bullying survey indicated they considered suicide as the only escape from the bullying and harrassment that they experienced at Newcastle University under your leadership (http://stop-b-uon.blogspot.com/). But hay Nick, there is no problem with bullying at your University....right?

    I wish you the best for 2011, maybe if you keep working hard your success rate will improve, and someone will commit suicide. Now that will be something to put on your CV.

    Best wishes
    Michelle Adams"

    Twelve months has passed - should I wish these people a Merry Christmas again -

    I think I would write :

    Dear Trevor and Nick,
    Opps Nick you are retired now, sitting back reflecting on your career. I hope you are proud of your successes. As a person who really felt your "successes" let me tell you of what your actions have given me - no family, no friends, no career, and a "safe world" that to me consists of 9 acres of isolation. Thank you.
    I should not forget our leader Trevor. Thank you for your commitment to mental health. I am sure that your contributions to the mental health in the hunter region are appreciated by all those "consumers" that have have once had links to the UoN. Wearing "two hats" is a difficult task that you seem to have mastered. In one "hat" you lead an institution where work place bullying and harassment is destroying so many people's mental health, in the other "hat" you are a leader in the field of mental health. Congratulations"

    Now should I send a Christmas email...well there is no point. WE have continually requested the Chancellor allow us to take our concerns of the treatment staff and students at UoN to Council....but we never get a reply. It seems that destroying our lives is not enough....treating us as if we don't exist is the final stage of our ostracization. For some of us "not existing" would be a relief....but we keep speaking out because we keep hearing of more and more victims from the UoN, and we have nothing left that can be taken from us.

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