Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ADVICE: Workplace Bullying in Astronomy II

                               
In last month’s ADVICE post on Workplace Bullying, I mentioned that there are many ways for a bully to bully. Here is an incomplete list of bullying tactics adapted from Wikipedia and modified for the astronomical community. Your bully may employ one of more of these tactics or he/she may have invented others. Unfortunately, there is no check list for workplace bullying in astronomy. You cannot study this list, check 5 or 10 items, and then link to recipe XYZ to solve the problem. Advice really does need to be tailored to the details of a specific situation.

If you are the victim of workplace bullying, look over the list and identify the tactics of your bully. Then (Please! Please! Please!) talk to someone you trust. You and the people closest to you can begin to develop a strategy to extricate you from the bully’s influence. Don’t be afraid to pull in the professionals, a counselor or an ombudsperson, but always check up front if they can keep your conversations confidential.

  Threat to professional status
  belittling opinions
  public professional humiliation
  accusations regarding lack of effort
  intimidating use of discipline or competence procedures
  Threat to personal standing
  undermining personal integrity
  destructive innuendo and sarcasm
  making inappropriate jokes
  persistent teasing, name calling, insults
  intimidation
  Isolation
  preventing access to opportunities
  physical or social isolation
  withholding necessary information
  keeping the target out of the loop
  ignoring or excluding
  Overwork
  undue pressure
  impossible deadlines
  unnecessary disruptions
  Destabilization
  failure to acknowledge good work
  allocation of meaningless tasks
  removal of responsibility
  repeated reminders of blunders
  setting target up to fail
  shifting goal posts without telling the target 

Here are some specific examples. The bully:

  Falsely accused you of "errors"
  Stared, glared, or nonverbally intimidated you and was clearly showing hostility
  Discounted your thoughts or feelings (“that’s a stupid idea") in meetings
  Used the "silent treatment" to "ice out" and separate you from others in the group
  Exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group
  Made up his/her own rules on the fly that even he/she did not follow
  Disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of your work
  Harshly and constantly criticized you; has a different standard for you
  Started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about you
  Encouraged people to turn against you
  Stole credit for your work (plagiarism)
  Abused the evaluation process by lying about your performance
  Retaliated against you after you filed a complaint
  Created unrealistic demands on you (workload, deadlines, duties)  

For information on this and other topics, please see CSWA's advice page.