As this book was going to press, news came that on November 6, 2005, in a village of western France, the author of the first chapter herein, identified by the pseudonym D. L., took his own life. He had sent his corrections of the final page proofs on October 26.

There is no longer need to conceal his identity: David S. Clarke. He was Executive Director of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture in Washington, DC, from 1970 to 1980, then Professor of Management of Technology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, from 1982 to 2000.

His two most recent books are Theory of Technology (edited, 2004) and Technology and Terrorism (edited, 2004), both available from Transaction Publishers.



The editor's introduction to each of the nine chapters shows precisely how the chapter sheds light on workplace mobbing, and how it contributes to a coherent body of knowledge about this pathology.



How Professionals Deal with Workplace Harassment and Mobbing

Edited by Kenneth Westhues

Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press,xii + 198 pp., hardcover, 2005.
ISBN 0-7734-5969-3

Available from the publisher beginning in January 2006, and from the major online retailers by summer 2006.


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.


Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction

1. Leaving Luzerville, D. L.

2. Context, Text, and Matrix: a Full Accounting of the Price of Excellence, Jacob Neusner

3. You Can’t Turn Someone Down for Promotion because You Don’t Like Him, Ross A. Klein

4. When Professors Cheat, Doug Giebel

5. Mary Stone McDowell and Conscience in the Academy, Charles F. Howlett

6. Mobbing Tendencies in Academe: Autobiographical Reflections, Robert F. Fleissner

7. Music and Work, Geary H. Larrick

8. Workplace Death: Case Studies in Medicine and Business, Ursula A. Falk and Gerhard Falk

9. A First-Person Account of Mobbing in the Medical Community of a Canadian City, A Newcomer Surgeon

From Ch. 1 by D. L., p. 27:

  • If you can possibly do so, avoid lawyers, judges, the law, administrations, and administrators.
  • 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:

Above 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:

In 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 to overflow.

Two Years Later: Arbitration Reconvened

Despite 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:

How 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:

On 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 work?

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:

Otherwise 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:

Quantity 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.

From Ch. 8 by Ursula and Gerhard Falk, p. 173:

There 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 groups.

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.