THE EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION
The nine chapters herein hold undeniable appeal
as human-interest stories, accounts of trouble in professionals’
working lives and of how they dealt with it. Seven chapters
are autobiographical: six professors and one surgeon describe
how things went sour in their respective workplaces and what
happened then. The remaining two chapters – one about
a pacifist teacher and the other about a surgeon and a businessman
– are third-person descriptions of competent people being
ousted from their jobs. Parts of these stories are funny. Other
parts are chilling, heartwarming, poignant and tragic. Readers
taste the bitterness of defeat, the sweetness of triumph, and
in between, steadfast grappling with the ups and downs of vocation
and life itself. No one can be faulted for reading these chapters
simply for their human interest, with gratitude and respect
for the authors’ sharing of hard experience.
The reason for assembling and publishing these
tales of workplace trouble here, however, is not just that they
are fascinating and interesting to read. Each bears in some
illuminating way on a distinct and terrifying organizational
pathology identified in the 1980s by Swedish psychologist Heinz
Leymann (see 1990, 1993) and researched since then by scholars
around the globe (see my summary article, 2002, the overview
by Zapf, 1999, or the popular paperback by Davenport et al.,
1999). Leymann called the pathology workplace mobbing:
the ganging up of managers and/or co-workers against a target,
subjecting this worker over time to a fury of hostile communications,
humiliations, harassments, tricks and punishments, toward the
end of running the target out of his or her job.
LOSING, MOVING ON
Table of Contents
Leaving Luzerville, D. L.
Context, Text, and Matrix: a Full Accounting of the Price of Excellence,
You Can’t Turn Someone Down for Promotion because You Don’t
Like Him, Ross A. Klein
When Professors Cheat, Doug Giebel
Mary Stone McDowell and Conscience in the Academy, Charles F.
Mobbing Tendencies in Academe: Autobiographical Reflections, Robert
Music and Work, Geary H. Larrick
Workplace Death: Case Studies in Medicine and Business, Ursula
A. Falk and Gerhard Falk
A First-Person Account of Mobbing in the Medical Community of
a Canadian City, A Newcomer Surgeon
From Ch. 1 by D. L.,
you can possibly do so, avoid lawyers, judges, the law, administrations,
If you can’t avoid administrations and administrators,
keep your head low. Stand for truth and justice in your heart
and in undetectable actions but, cliché as it is, don’t
make waves. It will come back as a tsunami and suck you under.
You can’t win. And what would you have if you did win?
You’d still be working for them but now they would be
really pissed off.
From Ch. 2 by Jacob
Neusner, pp. 45f:
all, they emerged with the lesson that everything was personal
and private, so one person’s opinion weighed as much as
the next person’s, with evidence, argument, reason bearing
no compelling weight at all. So, in matters of intellect, nothing
mattered very much. “Well that’s my opinion”
counted heavily in argument, and no one was supposed to try to
persuade or through reason to compel another to change his mind.
In that atmosphere of intellectual decay and academic atrophy,
I set forth a protest, not so much against the students as against
the professors. After all, the students had accepted the easy
deal, but it was the professors who had offered it.
From adolescents no more could be expected. But professors, holding
doctorates, paid to pursue scholarship and teach, owed judgment.
Thinking of a colleague who gave trivial assignments and lots
of As, I issued my warning. The “nice guy” professors,
of whom there are too many, cynically avoid responsibilities of
conscience and commitment. They ask too little, so they teach
all the wrong lessons. My target was professors. My arrow hit
students, too – right on target for both. That message seemed
to me self-evident. To me it was so obvious, so good-hearted,
that when I printed it in the student paper, I made a bet with
a close friend that the paper would receive not a single response.
I thought what I said was commonplace, but amusing. It was neither.
The paper got something on the order of 250 letters in the next
five days, 199 of them declaring me “insane and incompetent,”
“to be fired from Brown” (at least), and “locked
up in an asylum for the criminally insane.” Those were the
nice letters. I got many more. And that is not to count the anonymous
phone calls in the middle of the night from angry Brown students
who couldn’t wait until dawn to tell me so. We had to change
our phone number and delist it. And as I said, the world took
note, for the paradox caught people’s imagination, generating
just the story the generalists needed for graduation season in
place of clichés on the “bright college years”:
Students lynch mean professor. Professor tells graduating
students they have not learned much. Students tell professor he’s
a fraud. It was not one of my everyday exchanges, but it
did capture the world¹s imagination in that graduation season.
From Ch. 3 by Ross
A. Klein, p. 71:
the end, the question is not whether mobbing takes place in the
academic environment. We know it does. The question is can one
survive, or should one pack up at the first indication of being
targeted. The choice is personal and individual, but I believe
my story provides some encouragement to the discouraged and some
hope to those who feel it is hopeless. It also brings into daylight
practices that university administrations and individual faculties
would prefer to remain behind closed doors and within the ivory
tower. The ivory tower can only hold so much before it begins
Years Later: Arbitration Reconvened
the arbiter’s assertion that you can’t turn someone
down because you don’t like them, they did – again.
And again it went to arbitration – to the same arbiter.
This time I was promoted. Although I had a record that was undeniably
worthy of promotion, this was not the focus of the arbitration.
The only concern was procedure. I could have won a Nobel Prize
and still have been turned down by the arbiter if the university
administration had followed the rules. This is an important lesson:
it is never about substance or about “right” or “wrong;”
it is always a question of whether they played by the rules.
From Ch. 4 by Doug
Giebel, pp. 120f:
is it that professors who give lectures on mankind’s greatest
ideas and accomplishments then wreak havoc on targets of their
envy or animosity? Do they leave their lecture notes in the desk
drawer? How can they fail to consider the possible consequences
(including loss of employment and suicide) that may befall those
whom they attack? Do years spent in research in impersonal library
stacks wipe out positive emotions such as compassion and the ability
to act with genuine reciprocity? The behaviors I have described
above are sadly but comically pathological. Policies and laws
designed to deter cheaters and academic mobsters are unlikely
to be effective where those entrusted to enforce the rules are
themselves bullies and cheats.
If harmful cheating, bullying and mobbing conducted by professional
academicians are to be significantly diminished, those who have
been targets must continue to speak out through public appearances
on and off campus and in publications. Timidity resulting in the
High Noon Syndrome, where witnesses to intellectual terrorism
hide behind the curtains and hope danger will somehow pass them
by, must end. Wrongful actions must be exposed; taxpayers must
be enlightened; students must be made aware that their educational
opportunities are diminished when professors and administrators
get their kicks from engaging in harmful campus politics. Protecting
bullies and cheaters emboldens them, feeding their paranoia and
encouraging further acts of cruelty. Bullying must be forced out
of the ivory tower’s closet and cleansed by the sunlight
of human decency.
From Ch. 5 by Charles
F. Howlett, pp. 134f:
July 13, 1923, after five arduous years for McDowell, the Board
reinstated her. The following statement was subsequently issued
to the press: “After full consideration of the case, the
committee has decided that the punishment meted out to Miss McDowell
was too severe. She was tried at a time of great public hysteria.
Since then public feeling has undergone considerable modification.
For thirteen years she had done excellent work as a teacher. At
the time of her dismissal she was a teacher of Latin in the Manual
Training High School on [sic] Brooklyn.” Twenty years later,
1943, she officially retired from the New York City Public School
System. Yet her case still leaves many legal civil libertarians
scratching their heads. Is the issue with respect to academic
freedom and pacifism in wartime still an open book? Just as important,
when the spirit of academic mobbing remains unchecked, what recourse
does the individual educator have? Whether in the courtroom, or
within the institution, can we be sure that academic freedom will
The McDowell case, perhaps the most celebrated one in the First
World War, highlighted the problem of teacher loyalty during wartime.
It also serves notice that academic mobbing remains alive and
well with respect to those who speak out against war in the classroom.
Unfortunately, there is little or no consensus within the judicial
system respecting the rights of those who challenge the existing
beliefs of society at large. It seems that only when unpopular
views are expressed do the Courts entertain the majority-held
opinion that some measure of public regulation of schooling is
inherent in the very provision of public education. It was McDowell’s
misfortune to challenge this philosophy. It was also her sad experience
to witness colleagues and administrators line up against her and
crush her personal beliefs.
From Ch. 6 by
Robert F. Fleissner, pp. 144f:
I have had a few problems in keeping my position at Central State
University because of my having often to discipline students for
coming in very late, talking out of turn, plagiarizing (not always
consciously), and the like. In 1996, I was actually laid off.
I stuck with the AAUP, however, (our campus having a formidable
branch) and after a lapse of a spring quarter not at work, found
out that the governor of Ohio was firing our university’s
new president. After the latter had departed, I regained my Associate
Professorship. The Chair of my Department had told me that students
had numerous complaints about my being too demanding. A few years
later (at the end of the winter 2002 quarter) I was again informed
that there was a major problem because I had been getting the
constant latecomers and overly talkative students upset. So after
numerous meetings in the Dean’s office with my Chair, the
President of the AAUP, and others, I was put on “sick leave”
and told I had to take “anger management” classes.
A friend teaching at another institution advised me to consider
this a kind of mini-sabbatical. So I followed directions. In one
of these classes, I was obliged to report to everyone present
why I was laid off. I stated that a misbehaving student (coming
in at least twenty minutes late, sitting in the front row and
talking out of turn) made my teaching extremely difficult, in
that when he refused to leave when I asked him to, I gently nudged
him toward the door. I have to admit I was a bit absent-minded
at the time, because I knew that in our day and age we are not
supposed even to “touch” students
From Ch. 7 by Geary
H. Larrick, p. 152:
versus quality is a question of paramount importance. One cannot
argue against more people working and staying off the streets,
as opposed to fewer and better people working. But must not quality
count? Further, a school simply must balance its budget. This
if for sure better than going out of business.
If a highly paid professor is replaced with a lower paid instructor,
money will be left over. The year after my department saved about
ten grand on my salary by giving me early retirement, it spent
about that amount on some new timpani, Ludwig model. I doubt one
can argue with the logic. Instruments are necessary. If budgets
are cut in the state capitol, hard decisions must be made.
The payoff for me was producing a baby girl with whom I stayed
home while my wife worked for pay. This was quality time I would
not trade for anything, certainly not working with students of
questionable motivation. At the same time, I started a small business
writing and publishing my own compositions, I concentrated on
playing timpani in the local orchestra, and I began writing. The
result is that books I have authored are now in libraries at Harvard,
Oxford, Yale, and Cambridge. I could not have done this situated
in the classroom counting heads every day and embarrassing myself
with incorrect name pronunciations. Higher education is probably
better off than if I had stayed in the classroom.
8 by Ursula and Gerhard Falk, p. 173:
are many unjustified reasons why employees are dismissed from
jobs – firings without legitimate cause. Many of these are
masked by the term resignation. This has a double meaning: the
person is said to have resigned of his own free will when in fact
he has been discharged and is resigned against his will. When
the upper echelon of the hierarchy of a college or other employer
lets it be known they aim to eliminate a certain employee, other
staff often mob the beleaguered person. The majority turn against
him. Peers are often fearful of dealing with the target, lest
they be besmirched by association with him and meet the same fate.
The target becomes isolated, fearful, sometimes even incapable
of performing his work. Ultimately, the target is prone to believe
what persecutors have labeled him to be. He comes to hate himself
– the same self-hatred often observed in persecuted minority
Jealousy and anger arise in many folks who lack the competence
of the people they are jealous of and angry at. This is sometimes
seen on college campuses, in professors driven out because of
resentment against their achievement. An outstanding scholar published
thirty books on different topics. His departmental colleagues
spread the word that he had written the same book thirty times.
Another professor published a book a year for many years and in
addition won the “excellence in teaching” award. As
a result he was not invited to sit on important committees, given
little voice in major departmental decisions, shunned by some
colleagues, and never voted to be the department chair.
From Ch. 9 by a
Newcomer Surgeon, pp. 191f:
I considered myself a citizen of the world with
complete openness and tolerance for all cultures. I came to Canada
with great expectations. I found the people extremely open and
friendly. My experience with patients has been tremendously rewarding
and satisfying: most are educated, understanding, and very grateful.
I will cherish the many letters of thanks and appreciation I have
received from patients here. I submit that my practice in the
Canadian city compares favorably with any other practice in terms
of results, patient satisfaction, and rate of complications.
I had a tremendously positive view of the Canadian
health system, but less so now. There have been many studies and
much talk, in Canada and elsewhere, on what needs to be done to
improve patient access. But I have seen very few going to the
root of the problem: empowering the client, the patient. As long
as the system is provider-dominated and patients have so little
say, it will be very difficult to change. As long as the medical
community continues to decide how many have access to education,
how many can come and provide services, and how much gossip and
defamation is necessary to get rid of unwanted competitors, I
see little likelihood of change.
I know I am guilty of sins against my colleagues.
I am guilty of providing prompt service to patients when access
to their treating doctor was delayed. I am guilty of solving the
patients’ problems in a prompt and integral manner and not
putting them through an endless process of referrals and appointments.
I am guilty of proving that surgery in my field can be done in
a much less costly manner.