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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“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, March 5, 2014

University of Newcastle - an example of Groupthink?

Groupthink is a term coined by Irving Janis regarding decision-making in groups.

He maintained that "strong group cohesion can in fact contribute to defective decision making which, in turn, may lead to a policy disaster. He defined groupthink as a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action".

Paul 't Hart states that the results can be devastating, leading to
“a distorted view of reality, excessive optimism producing hasty and reckless policies, and a neglect of ethical issues”.

“To preserve the clubby atmosphere,” says ’t Hart, “group members suppress personal doubts, silence dissenters, and follow the leader’s suggestions”. Alternative opinions, questions and statements of uncomfortable truth – even silences – are interpreted as personal attacks on the leadership.

Janis has documented eight symptoms of groupthink:

  1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
  2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
  3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
  5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
  6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
  8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions. (emphasis added).
 
Looks like the University of Newcastle would be a perfect case study on Groupthink.

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