The Unkindly Art of Mobbing:  How academics can gang up on unpopular colleagues? — By Ken Westhues.

Academic Matters: the Journal of Higher Education, OCUFA, Fall 2006, pp. 18-19.

“Twenty years ago, Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann gave the name mobbing to this terror, taking the word from Konrad Lorenz’s research on aggression in nonhuman species. Mobbing of alien predators and sometimes of conspecifics occurs among many birds and primates. Something about the target arouses a fierce, contagious impulse to attack and destroy. Mobbers take turns vocalizing hostility and inflicting wounds. The target usually flees. Sometimes it is killed and eaten.

Violent mobbing is endemic to our species. Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has analyzed lynching as a cannibalistic “ritual of blood.” Teenage swarming is similar, as in the murder of Reena Virk in Victoria, BC, in 1997. Her friends set upon her in a frenzy of bloodlust, reviled and tortured her, eventually held her head under water until she was dead.

Leymann studied the nonviolent, polite, sophisticated kind of mobbing that happens in ostensibly rational workplaces. Universities are an archetype. If professors despise a colleague to the point of feeling desperate need to put the colleague down, pummeling the target is a foolish move. The mobbers lose and the target gains credibility.

The more clever and effective strategy is to wear the target down emotionally by shunning, gossip, ridicule, bureaucratic hassles, and withholding of deserved rewards. The German word Todschweigen, death by silence, describes this initial, informal stage of workplace mobbing.”…

Read the full text: http://www.kwesthues.com/unkindlyart.htm

  1 comment for “The Unkindly Art of Mobbing:  How academics can gang up on unpopular colleagues? — By Ken Westhues.

  1. May 28, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Reblogged this on Chaos Theory and Pharmacology and commented:

    Additional information:

    I. Stages of the process
    By Kenneth Westhues

    “1. Avoidance and ostracization of the target.
    2. Petty harassment: making the target’s life difficult.
    3. A critical incident that triggers formal sanctions:
    “something has to be done.
    4. Aftermath of the incident: hearings, appeals, mediation.
    5. Elimination: target quits, retires,, is fired, becomes
    disabled, dies of stress-induced illness, or commits suicide”
    Read more: http://www.kwesthues.com/wami.pdf

    II. Checklist of mobbing indicators

    “1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.

    2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”

    3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.

    4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is.”

    5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson.”

    6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.

    7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.

    8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.

    9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.

    10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for”or defend the target.

    11. The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.

    12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

    13. Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.

    14. Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.

    15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.

    16. Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.”
    Read more: http://www.kwesthues.com/checklist.htm

    III. The Richardson dismissal as an academic boomerang
    By Brian Martin

    …”The dismissal of an academic can be interpreted as an attack on the academic or on academic freedom, and thus can potentially boomerang. The dismissal of Richardson, if it had occurred quietly, would have had few repercussions for St. Michael’s College. But a highly publicised dismissal, even if it gets rid of the academic, can generate negative attitudes towards the employer.

    Determining whether, or to what extent, a dismissal boomerangs, is a fascinating and challenging task. However, my focus here is on something slightly different: boomerang dynamics. Boomerang effects are not just events or consequences: they can be studied as a dynamic process. Attackers often realise, consciously or unconsciously, that their actions can be counterproductive, and thus seek to limit these consequences. At the same time, targets of attacks, and their supporters, may act to stimulate outrage from an attack.

    By examining a range of cases (Jansen and Martin, 2003; Martin and Wright, 2003), it is possible to discover a variety of techniques by which attackers can inhibit a boomerang effect, namely through (1) cover-up, (2) devaluation of the target, (3) reinterpretation of events, (4) use of official channels, and (5) intimidation and bribery. Targets have various means to counter each of these techniques. In each of the following sections – one for each of these five techniques – I give several general examples and then apply the ideas to the Richardson dismissal process.”…

    Read more: http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/04Westhues.html

    IV. My story (cliick the URLs below for additional information)

    Re: Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week 2015: Have you ever experienced discrimination as a doctor?
    Yes, disability discrimination (Cali, Colombia).

    International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) – d950 Political life and citizenship

    “Engaging in the social, political and governmental life of a citizen, having legal status as a citizen and enjoying the rights, protections, privileges and duties associated with that role, such as the right to vote and run for political office, to form political associations; enjoying the rights and freedoms associated with citizenship (e.g. the rights of freedom of speech, association, religion, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to counsel, to a trial and other legal rights and protection against discrimination); having legal standing as a citizen.”
    Originally posted on doc2doc http://bit.ly/1EODVGz

    Re: Dealing with bullying among doctors
    Yes, academic mobbing (group behaviour) and suppression of dissent.

    During the last two years, I have denounced several wrongdoings and widespread corruption involving the drug industry and other health-related organisations (e.g., universities and professional associations in medicine mainly from Colombia).

    References

    1. Social Medicine (www.socialmedicine.info). Volume 6, Number 4, May 2012
    http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/12sm2.pdf

    2. Open Letter to the Rector of the University of Valle (Cali, Colombia) and the Dean of the Health Faculty.
    http://wp.me/p4UVo9-1kG

    3. Second Open Letter to the Department of Psychiatry, Medical School, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia. http://wp.me/p4UVo9-1mq

    Originally posted on doc2doc http://bit.ly/1QISJ0S

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