Read reviews here of Harper's perceptive survival guide, published in 2013.

Read Harper's review here of Beverly Peterson's powerful documentary, What Killed Kevin?, a case study of the difference between focusing on alleged workplace bullies and grappling instead with the complexities of group dynamics.










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Janice Harper:

Anti-bullying as a mobbing technique


Kenneth Westhues, 2012

Two approaches to the study of worker maltreatment stand in sharp contrast. The first focuses on individual villains who take pleasure in humiliating others until they are outed and threatened with punishment by workplace authorities armed with an anti-bullying policy. The second focuses on workplace authorities themselves and on workplace cliques, that gang up on and humiliate a co-worker they dislike, sometimes using an anti-bullying policy to discredit the target officially.

What is the problem? Is it one or a few bullies, making life miserable for their prey and enjoying it, so long as the organization does not make them stop? Or is it the organization itself, parading its power and building team spirit by scapegoating somebody cut from a little different cloth.

Is the problem mutineers, or is it a captain and his minions running too tight a ship? If the former, the weight of authority needs to come down hard. If the latter, authority needs to lighten up, loosen up, lay off, stand down.

Big difference!

In the main, Janice Harper takes the second approach to the study of worker maltreatment. She is more concerned with "workplace mobbing" than "workplace bullying." With good reason. From 2004 to 2009. she was a high-achieving anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. The authorities there initially praised her work, but later turned on her, driving her out of her job in one of the more bizarre academic mobbings I've come across (that's saying something -- studying bizarre behaviour in academe is more or less my stock in trade). David Price wrote a lucid report on Harper's troubles in Counterpunch (2009). I linked to it on my website and added a brief note, noting that Harper had sued the university. The university eventually settled with her out of court.

In late 2011 and early 2012, Harper published a series of graceful, fluent, hard-hitting articles in Huffington Post that exposed conflicting outlooks on worker maltreatment with extraordinary crispness, clarity, and insight. Her articles drew spirited reactions, pro and con. Both the articles and the comments deserve close reading by anybody interested in the current state of debate in this field of research (and mobbing targets can glean much sound, practical advice):

"The Bully Label Has to Go," November 1, 2011.

"Bullying in the Schoolyard is Not the Same as Workplace Bullying," November 3, 2011.

"Mobbing in the Workplace: Even the Good Go Bad," November 23, 2011.

"Top Ten Reasons to Rethink Anti-Bully Hysteria," December 15, 2011.

"A Reason (and Season) to Stop Shunning," December 20, 2012.

"Hear the Lonesome Whistle Blow: Workplace Retaliation," January 8, 2012.

"What To Expect If You Sue Your Employer," January 10, 2012.

For a more comprehensive exposition of Janice Harper's analysis of workplace mobbing, read her longer paper:

"Just Us Justice: the Gentle Genocide of Workplace Mobbing," 2010.

And here is Beverly Peterson's lucid report of an interview with Harper:

"Can You Survive the Office Witch Hunt?" November 9. 2011.

Finally, to learn more from and about this enormously talented social analyst, visit Janice Harper's website.