Faculty Experiences with Bullying in Higher Education - Causes, Consequences, and Management


...While academics have paid little systematic empirical research attention to bullying in academic settings, this has not been the case in several popular online outlets and more traditional trade publications. For example, http://bulliedacademics.blogspot.com and www.mobbingportal. com/index.html represent some online destinations. In terms of a respected “industry” publication, the Chronicle of Higher Education has published numerous articles recently on the hostility and mistreatment that occurs on campuses (e.g., Fogg, 2008; Gravois, 2006). This suggests that academic settings are worthy and in need of concerted attention by researchers in workplace aggression and bullying...

...When bullying/mobbing occurs, it tends to be long-standing. McKay et al. (2008) found that 21% of their sample reported bullying that had persisted for more than five years in duration. In our 2008 study, 32% of the overall sample (faculty, staff, administrators, etc.) reported bullying lasting for more than three years. This percentage increased to 49% when we focused on faculty. It may be that academia is a particularly vulnerable setting for such persistent aggression as a result of tenure, which has faculty and some staff in very long-term relationships with one another. Both conflict (Holton, 1998) and aggression (Jawahar, 2002) research note that the longer and more interactive the relationship, the greater the opportunity for conflict and potential for aggression. Further, while ensuring a “job for life,” tenure may also restrict mobility so that once a situation goes bad, there are few options for leaving. Zapf and Gross (2001) observed that the number of actors was linked to the duration of bullying. They found that the more people who joined in the situation, the longer it went on, concluding that it may become increasingly difficult for witnesses/bystanders to remain neutral as bullying proceeds and intensifies...

...While injustice perceptions are common in all work settings, institutions of higher education may present numerous (sometimes unique) opportunities for such perceptions by faculty. For example, student evaluations of instruction are used in many important faculty personnel decisions such as discretionary salary increases, promotions, and reappointment and tenure decisions. Research clearly demonstrates that the content of the course, and “tough” grading, can adversely impact student ratings of teacher performance—leading to stress and frustration (which we discuss below), especially among junior (untenured) faculty. To combat this problem, some faculty may resort to grade inflation as a way of improving their own student evaluations—which, by the way, is often resented by other faculty members. This problem may differ according to academic disciplines and across academic departments. Faculty members are also evaluated using subjective, often ambiguous, criteria, as evident in reviews of scholarly/ intellectual contributions, department- and college-wide service, continuing growth, and community service. Few institutions have clear standards for judging such contributions and, instead, rely on general guidelines or descriptive criteria for making such evaluations. Such judgments often lead to perceptions of distributive injustice, unfair treatment associated with outcomes and procedural injustice, and unfair treatment associated with the decision-making process used to determine those outcomes (Greenberg & Colquitt, 2005)...

...Finally, the mechanisms available in higher education institutions may not be appropriately suited for helping faculty deal with these tensions due to their highly formalized structure and limited mandate (Leal, 1995). For example, in the United States and Canada, unions are designed to handle issues between faculty and the administration. They are not set up to handle member-on-member issues. Also, faculty members are less inclined to utilize these formal mechanisms because they take control of the situation out of faculty hands and into those of administration, impinging on the sacred value of autonomy...

Keashly, Loraleigh; Neuman, Joel H.(2010). Faculty Experiences with Bullying in Higher Education - Causes, Consequences, and Management. Administrative Theory & Praxis, Vol. 32 Issue 1, p48-70