Academic mobbing, or how to become campus tormentors

Academic mobbing, or how to become campus tormentors

By EVE SEGUIN | SEP 19 2016

For Professor Caroline Patsias at Université du Québec à Montréal, once a professor at Université de Sherbrooke.

If you’re a university professor, chances are fairly good that you have initiated or participated in mobbing. Why? First, because mobbers are not sadists or sociopaths, but ordinary people; second, because universities are a type of organization that encourages mobbing; and third, as a result, mobbing is endemic at universities.

Unlike bullying, an individual form of harassment in which a typical scenario consists of a boss victimizing an assistant, mobbing is a serious organizational deficiency. Its many consequences are so severe that it is considered a major public health issue. The term itself, mobbing, describes its four essential characteristics: it is a collective, violent and deliberate process in which the individual psychologies of the aggressors and their victim provide no keys to understanding the phenomenon.

Workplace mobbing is a concerted process to get rid of an employee, who is better referred to as a “target” than a “victim” to emphasize the strategic nature of the process. The dynamic is reminiscent of Stalin’s Moscow Trials: the targets are first convicted and evidence is later fabricated to justify the conviction. As sociologist of science Brian Martin put it, everything they say, are, write and do will be systematically used against them.

Successful mobbing leads to any of a number of outcomes: the targets commit suicide, are dismissed (or often at universities, being denied tenure), resign, retire early, take permanent or recurring sick leave (the last three being the most common cases for university professors), or have all their responsibilities withdrawn (as in the case of sidelined senior public servants).

The process begins when a small group of instigators decides to cast someone out on the pretext that he or she is threatening their interests. This concept covers a variety of cases; perhaps the target is not behaving the way they would like, does not share their view of the organization, earns more than they do or challenges questionable practices. Mobbers use negative communication as their powerful weapon of elimination.

At first unbeknownst to the target, negative communication consists of rumours, complaints (often anonymous), conniving looks, mocking, gossip, misrepresenting facts, insinuations, hearsay, defamation, lies, secret meetings to discuss “the case,” disparaging comments, police-like surveillance of the target’s work and private life to gather “evidence” that justifies the aggression, and so on.

The other side of negative communication is directed at the target and includes unjustified accusations, manipulating or withholding information, sending menacing or hateful messages, calling purportedly friendly or disciplinary meetings, psychologically destabilizing the targets by incessantly accusing them of making mistakes, intimidation, tampering with their workstation, offering to “help” with so-called adaptation problems, and public humiliation.

This campaign of negative communication ends up poisoning the entire workplace or faculty. All members of the group are exposed, and the well-known psycho-sociological phenomenon of peer pressure empowers the instigators to recruit a large majority. These recruits either become active mobbers, if they apply these tactics aggressively, or they become passive mobbers, if they look the other way and pretend the violence doesn’t exist.

Negative communication frames the target as someone who is impossible to work with and who threatens the organization. The following characteristics are invariably attributed to the target, made out to be someone who:

  • is a troublemaker,
  • doesn’t listen to advice,
  • is detrimental to the organization,
  • isn’t a team player,
  • is mentally ill,
  • asks too many questions,
  • doesn’t share the group’s culture,
  • has a difficult personality,
  • resists injustice,
  • isn’t social, or
  • is a bully.

This final allegation is especially strategic because it transforms aggression into mock justice, making it possible to involve individuals in the campaign who would otherwise stay on the sidelines. At universities, this can easily be used against mobbed professors. All it takes is to make a faint allusion to, and if necessary, produce alleged student victims. The (self)-infantilization of students that plagues universities nowadays has only made this simpler.

In addition to negative communication techniques that attack the targets on a personal level, mobbing includes a range of oppressive tactics that impact their work: creating obstacles to completing normal tasks, depriving them of the right to have a voice, excluding them from committees and positions of responsibility, systematically downplaying their accomplishments, assigning tasks that are impossible or that far exceed their abilities, withholding invitations to meetings, exaggerating their mistakes, denying promotions, fabricating evidence of illegal or immoral activity, not responding to emails and issuing disciplinary sanctions, and the list goes on.

As these methodical and aggressive activities unfold over months and years, the targets end up becoming completely ostracized. Their reputation, credibility, authority, influence and contribution to the organization are nullified. As in a totalitarian situation, any attempts to defend themselves are perceived as additional proof of their “deviance.” As in the case of rape, the target is deemed responsible for the violence that ensues against him or her. As we have seen in stories of genocide, the target becomes a non-person. If, against all odds, the final stage of mobbing fails and the target is not physically expelled from the organization, he or she will remain excluded for life. Mobbing is social murder and, by definition, people cannot survive their own murder. In other words, mobbing results in an indelible social stigma.

The severity of academic mobbing

Many people think that universities are completely different from private companies or government agencies. They believe that they are unique places of freedom that stimulate intelligence, foster independence, value originality, promote collegiality, encourage pluralism and treat their members with respect, starting with the faculty. Unfortunately, the severity of mobbing in academic settings destroys that fantasy. In truth, universities are breeding grounds for mobbing, where all the aggressive tactics described above are used regularly. In many faculties, mobbing has gained popularity as a work method.

The severity of academic mobbing is due not only to its prevalence, but also its inherent morbidity. The consequences for targets are more damaging in universities than in other work environments. One explanatory factor is that academic institutions are toxic, yet claim to foster employee well-being. Mobbed professors expect their employers to protect and defend them, and experience cognitive dissonance when they are hit with the realization that no such help is forthcoming. In fact, university administrations and human resources departments are involved in most mobbing campaigns, either actively or passively, by failing to take corrective action. An estimated 12 percent of mobbed professors end up committing suicide. An infamous Canadian case is that of Justine Sergent, a McGill University neurologist who committed suicide with her husband in 1994 after a two-year mobbing campaign in which she was accused of violating ethical research procedures.

Although universities now have “psychological harassment” policies, their ability to curb mobbing is dubious:

  1. These policies are designed to address inter-individual harassment. For example, one Canadian university’s HR policy states that “taking appropriate action […] should include […] telling the person who is misbehaving to cease the behaviour” (our italics). Unfortunately, such a recommendation is irrelevant when it comes to mobbing.
  2. The “psychological harassment” prevention procedures and authorities outlined in these policies are not immune to events within the organization, and mobbing campaigns often use them against the targets they are intended to protect. Such is notably the case when mediation procedures are applied between the target and the aggressors.
  3. When they exist, faculty unions are primarily concerned with job retention and tend to fall back on stated prevention procedures, i.e. those set out by the employer.
  4. The organizational culture of universities prohibits anyone from admitting, or even thinking, that an employee could be targeted by a group of other employees. The academic community, including the human resources department, reduces mobbing to a personality clash between professors and believes that both parties share equal responsibility. They also overwhelming tend to blame the target’s personality for allegedly provoking or exacerbating the conflict.

Resistance

As academics, we are due to witness a new mobbing campaign being instigated sooner or later, provided we aren’t the target. A sure sign is when a negative and apparently universal opinion of a colleague takes hold. As an elimination strategy starts to form and initial attempts are made to recruit us, we must ask ourselves: “Did I really choose this career in order to become an academic tormentor?”

Eve Seguin is a professor in the department of political science at Université du Québec à Montréal.

  1. Judith A. Garber / September 19, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    This is heart-wrenching and so true. Mobbing is most effectively exercised against people without job security, obviously. However, versions of excommunication also work to reframe tenured faculty as losers (who may or may not choose to stay on).

    Prof. Seguin makes one observation that is I would amend:

    “The term itself, mobbing, describes its four essential characteristics: it is a collective, violent and deliberate process in which the individual psychologies of the aggressors and their victim provide no keys to understanding the phenomenon.”

    The individual psychologies of the actors is always at play within institutions. What motivates mobbing but self-interest, the exercise of power for power’s sake, peer pressure, projection, asociality, and so forth?

  2. Kris / September 21, 2016 at 5:46 am

    This is the most accurate, condensed description of workplace mobbing I’ve seen. Having experienced it myself and most likely taken part in it without knowing I was skipping along with a lynch mob, I can attest to every item listed here. Sharing with my whole social network.

  3. Stephen Downes / September 21, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    We are given one example from 22 years ago. Is there any evidence that this is happening in this century?

    • Karen Connelly / September 21, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Steven Galloway, UBC. He is the FORMER head of the Creative Writing Department. His life has been completely destroyed by a combination of moral hysteria and other people’s ambition. The judge hauled in to do a ‘confidential’ investigation cleared him of ALL the allegations of misconduct but the one that he admitted to before the investigation began: a long ‘known’ affair with a student in the creative writing program, a woman older than him, with whom he amicably separated. Take a look at this month’s Walrus magazine. https://thewalrus.ca/laffaire-galloway/ . . . And as a sessional, I once experienced this mobbing from a group of unhealthy, unkind students. All it takes is one small group of variously unhealthy and unkind people to destroy your life. If they happen to be your colleagues, you probably need to get a different job.

    • Vicki / June 18, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      My supervisor is currently being mobbed, and this article is very representative of her story. I started digging into academic journals and other publications and have found many current classic examples.

    • Jane Doe / July 9, 2017 at 1:57 am

      I have recently seen the early signs of it in a group. One of the early warning signs is when someone starts sending emails asking about info that was circulated before (fine, we all forget) but cc’ing the line manager every time.

    • Andrew / July 10, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Are you kidding? I had this happen to me from 2004-to approx. 2011 and it was horrible. I know others who have suffered it as well and there are many who are dealing with it in silence. The reason you don’t hear much about it is because it’s not talked about. People need their jobs and fear further backlash if they tell someone.

  4. asdf / September 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Interesting article. I would welcome your thoughts on how to defend yourself (and stay mentally strong) if you find yourself to be a target.

    • Janice Harper / September 22, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      In my book, Mobbed! What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You, I have three chapters on how to protect yourself emotionally, socially and professionally. Many of the suggestions are contrary to our instincts and to advice on combatting bullying (such as not responding to many of the aggressive acts, not filing complaints and avoiding lawsuits), but I regularly hear from targets who tell me that doing so saved their sanity and careers. It’s a cruel but human response to threat, and understanding how and why people are acting so abhorrently can help you get through the gauntlet of mobbing.

      • Canadian university Prof / October 11, 2016 at 11:57 am

        Thank you Janice. I am currently a mobbing target in my department in circumstances that have been ongoing for many months. I will be consulting your book to seek advice on how to protect myself.

    • Jane Doe / July 9, 2017 at 1:58 am

      Leave. It does not get better. Transfer departments if you can, otherwise leave. If you need to defend yourself stage a meeting with a manager who you trust and bate them into revealing what they are doing.
      In my case I was to tempt someone into declaring I was not competent to teach a course, that I had been considered perfectly competent to write (they had forgotten that). It was all I needed to do to demonstrate what was going on. But I still left the department.

  5. Brett Fairbairn / September 21, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    This is an outstanding article. Those of us who have worked with complicated personnel issues have seen these cases, and I believe it is accurate to link them to academic culture. They are very difficult to deal with given the individualistic nature of complaint and investigation policies and procedures, as the article notes – but I am not sure what clear alternatives there are. Individual employees do have rights to privacy and due process; group investigations are hard to do. And until an investigation has occurred, responsible individuals can’t determine whether a situation is mobbing, harassment, or something else. Uncertainty is huge, all the more troubling since consequences may be huge as well. Enormous skill, sensitivity, and care are required from HR departments and administrators. Everyone needs to be aware of the potential issues. This article is a great service in that regard.

  1. wp / September 21, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    I would welcome research related to this phenomenon. In my experience it is a serious problem for a number of reasons. I wonder if increasing corporatization in universities exacerbates the problem. Academia does seem to be a culture more like what I would expect in a corporate environment.

  2. Andrew Park / September 21, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    In the last paragraph the author states “As academics, we are due to witness a new mobbing campaign being instigated sooner or later…” as though this stuff is happening in all institutions all the time. I have to say, I’m not buying it. The article smacks of paranoia, fails to provide data on the frequency of academic mobbing (if indeed such data exist), and as another commenter pointed out, dredges up an example from the late 20th Century. In the one recent example, the supposed victim was, at minimum, guilty of the ethical breach of having an undeclared affair with a student. This raises the question of whether he, at any time, was a supervisor or course professor for this same student. Reading through the Walrus article about this individual, I see that people were divided about his personality and management style as well, and there are hints of other potential abuses up to and including an actual assault.

    I’m not saying that the phenomenon of academic mobbing does not happen. But I want to see some data about how frequent it really is before I believe the inference that mobbing is a general phenomenon.

  3. K.C.T. / September 22, 2016 at 9:44 am

    This is an important and timely article as so many scholars try to better understand what is happening on our modern university campuses. This sounds like yet another troubling way in which freedom of speech and association are challenged in a publically-funded institution where they must be upheld. Sadly, such appalling behaviour is not only practiced by professors. Administrators and students have been known to practice their own special forms of mobbing as well. It is morally reprehensible in any work place and even more so in an educational institution. It must be thoroughly understood, investigated and stopped. This article points us in some useful directions in this regard. But, who will take on the work needed to clean this up in Canadian universities? Boards of Governors? Human Rights Commissions? Faculty Associations? The author’s notions of mock justice and silence (intimidation) on university campuses could be a good place to start. Perhaps decent and clever universities could even “re-brand” themselves by setting themselves apart as places in which healthy and decent working and learning conditions are insisted upon for all professors and staff. Ensuring such a culture would be of great value to parents and students who can choose where to study.

  4. Janice Harper / September 22, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for writing this piece. I lost my career to academic mobbing–which went so far as to subject me to a Homeland Security investigation, write to me that they would ensure I was shunned by my national colleagues, and even reported my then ten-year-old daughter to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for suggesting I bake cookies for my department chair (a diabetic). I have since studied the group psychology and primate behavior of mobbing, and in my book Mobbed! What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You, as well as essays on my website, http://www.janice-harper.com, I show how predictable and patterned this phenomenon is, how and why good people turn cruel and inhumane toward targets, and how to protect yourself once it happens. Professor Seguin’s assessment of the phenomenon is a refreshing shift from the “anti-bullying” focus of workplace aggression toward a more accurate and illuminating understanding of this prevalent form of abuse that pervades all universities.

  5. Adèle Mercier / October 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Merci, merci, Eve Séguin. Outstanding article, none too timely, and perfectly accurate.

    Stephen Downes, Andrew Park: Perhaps what explains why you have not heard much about mobbed professors is the following.

    Mobbing is not something only colleagues engage in. Administrators do too. They side with favoured colleagues (where “favoured” has nothing to do with merit, but with friends, minions, and the mobbing psycho-sociology). They then administer discipline, unjustified discipline which they support by their own bogus “investigations” (or no investigation at all), in an effort to eliminate the target. Unions file grievances which take *dozens* (yes, dozenS) of years to litigate. For example, in my own case, there are now eight grievances for unjust discipline filed against my university, dating back eight years; each of them will take a dozen days to arbitrate; there have so far been *two* days of arbitration, the first day five-and-a-half years after the first grievance was filed, the second day almost two years later. You do the math: I will be dead by the time all grievances are arbitrated and my name is cleared. Alternatively, I will have accumulated so many (grieved-but-not-yet-arbitrated) disciplines that I will be fired “for cause”. This happened ten days ago to our colleague Shirkanzadeh, whom you should read about:http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2016-09-10/features/eleven-years-after-blowing-the-whistle/; http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2016-09-19/news/breaking-whistleblower-morteza-shirkhanzadeh-fired/;
    http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2016-10-14/news/shirkhanzadeh-firing-wont-proceed-to-further-arbitration/

    Being under the gun for dozens of years makes people sick (or commit suicide). Those who kill themselves are thus silenced. Those who don’t kill themselves become too sick or too old to continue, so eventually, they fold and settle, often being pressured by their union to fold and settle. Settlements are strictly confidential and usually come with a “no disparagement” clause, so that telling later that you have been mobbed is a breach of settlement. So those who settle are thusly silenced.

    If they do not fold, but suffer the glacial pace of litigation for the rest of their life, they are cautioned by their unions not to talk about anything “while in the middle of arbitration” lest what they say should annoy the arbitrator who, as a consequence, will not rule in their favour (arbitrators being only human hence they too susceptible to mobbing). Arbitration is never-ending, the University making its best to prolong it by various devious means well-known to lawyers. So those who do not settle are thusly silenced.

    So whether you die, or you settle, or you don’t settle, you are silenced.

    Moreover, if you do speak out, you risk a SLAPP defamation suit by your University, which you might win because you are speaking the truth provided no one finds you malicious for doing so, but not before you have lost your house and your retirement savings. It is all well calculated. And thusly are you silenced.

    Perhaps this explains why you have not heard much about mobbed professors.
    Mort Shirkanzadeh and I (Queen’s), Denis Rancourt (Ottawa), Tony Hall (Lethbridge), are examples of *very recently* mobbed *tenured* professors. I’m certain they are legion.

  6. Ted / November 6, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I have seen episodes of academic mobbing at every institution I have worked for since grad school here in the United States for the past 25 years. So, it is not, as some commenters here suggest, a made up problem. It has been my experience on many campuses that mobbing is an informal part of the curriculum for both undergraduates and graduate students. In practice, it fits the description given here where an organized small group seeks to publicly humiliate either another student, grad student, or professor for offending them in some way, particularly for challenging some position they hold or advocate on an issue in a public forum (including the faculty senate). In several cases I have witnessed, mobbing occurs when a committed group refuses to accept institutional procedures for hearing a complaint, or the institution finds a complaint unjustified, and the mob is organized to exact retribution where the institution has proved inadequate for their purposes.

  7. K. Carly / November 8, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I am a victim of academic mobbing at an international branch campus of a Canadian institution. The impact is extended when you are far from home, in a country with no recognition of human rights or labour laws, there is no union protection and it is an institutional environment of toxicity.

    Luckily, I got out alive. But anyone going international needs to recognize this phenomenon and you need to protect yourself. Be prepared to leave at a moments notice — do not attempt to settle. Do not expect any form of humanity because you work in a Canadian institution — that means nothing.

  8. Kimmy D / November 28, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for this article. I have recently been the victim of academic mobbing at an international branch campus of a Canadian university. The leadership (Dean) got twisted in a knot when I had some very successful initiatives — accomplishments that she was never able to achieve. Next thing I knew, I was bullied to the point of distress and nervous breakdown. Shameful

  9. Annette Leibing / December 20, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Very good contribution, Ève! I also question the UQAM practice of publicly accusing professors of sexual harrassment – even if it is framed as protecting others – and if one of them was not guilty?

  10. Amelia Payette / April 4, 2017 at 5:29 am

    Before I read this article, I did not have a name for mobbing: academics usually refer this phenomenon obliquely, using terms such as “very political environment”, “highly competitive research university”, “cut-throat world” etc. All ways to avoid mentioning mobbing as what it is, since naming the phenomenon involves acknowledging some level of responsibility.

    I agree with the above comment that mobbing has different repercussions for people with different levels of job security: while tenured faculty can afford to take permanent or recurring leave (I do not know of any case of early retirement), non-tenured faculty swallow it in silence, contract faculty are disposed off, sessional faculty do not even have a voice.

    I also agree that academic administrations encourage this practice and systematically take the side of mobbers, by the principle that it is easier to get rid of few individuals than to deal with a larger group of (often tenured, and therefore protected) people.

    I especially liked the point that there is no such as thing as keeping out of mobbing: we also participate in it when we don’t speak up and remain neutral.

  11. anonymous former graduate student / April 4, 2017 at 11:51 am

    It’s important to recognize that professors are not the only academic laborers who may be the targets of mobbing. I was the target of mobbing instigated by another graduate student while completing my PhD. Professors need to be on the lookout for mobbing among their mentees and be sure to be part of the solution, not the problem. That means not only offering support to a student who is being mobbed, but also not participating in mobbing themselves. In my case, a professor joined in and my department offered NO support to me whatsoever.

  12. J Parker / July 7, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Interesting that this is NOW becoming recognized. When people I know well were being mobbed the CAUT would not do anything to help. We asked. Nothing. Nada. Zero. So what’s changed?

  13. DMarie / July 7, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Hmm. I understand that people do get mobbed in academia, but I’m currently on the other side of a situation in which someone in my department is toxic and truly is bullying others. I’m a librarian in an academic library that stills puts librarians on tenure track, so perhaps it’s different in my situation than the more autonomous teaching faculty situation. Nonetheless, I’m a new director in a department in which people used to scream at each other on the regular, and one person is continuing that kind of behavior and it absolute hell to try to improve the culture and morale. This is far beyond them actively blocking every (planned, measured, and transparent) move or change that I make towards current professional standards within our available resources. It goes beyond the varied multiple ethical violations I keep discovering (without digging) that would swiftly get an untenured person fired- and they are long tenured, of course. It has got to the point where they storm out crying when they don’t get their way, accuse me of lying if I have to cancel or change a meeting, and yell at, bully, and threaten those who report to them while being openly hostile to the hierarchical peers or those above them. The fact is, this person is deeply unhappy, is growing more abusive every day, and probably unstable, and their behavior creates a toxic environment that affects several other people every day. If only there were a mobbing mechanism for this problem. Sadly, I’ve also witnessed an untenured person run out, they might think themselves the victim of a mobbing, but this was the second of three professional jobs from which they were fired- that pattern belongs to them, not us.
    I’m sure most mobbing victims don’t deserve it, but the folks I’m thinking of should not be allowed to abuse others, cause a staggering amount of drama and trouble in every meeting they attend, and not get tangible work done. When the negatives so far outweigh the positives and they don’t produce measurable output, it’s not our job to keep them as colleagues.

  14. George Mulloy / July 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    A former coworker forwarded this article to me because she felt this is exactly what happened to me when I was terminated from Arizona State University. Many of the “symptoms” of mobbing stated in the article happened to me. This is real! It happens. I am proof.

  15. Michael D. / July 10, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    I am concerned that this article provides a sympathetic victim narrative to people who may, indeed, be a problem in their place of employment. Through the entire article, I kept thinking about a colleague who would likely agree that he has been subjected to every problem the author describes. Yet since he was hired less than five years ago, he has behaved aggressively toward the university’s support staff, tried to dominate department meetings and agendas, and tried to lay an over-reaching, out-of-proportion claim on various university resources. We have lost some excellent support staff due to the stress and borderline-harassment this faculty member inflicted following his appointment. The result has been that most colleagues have distanced themselves from this individual, refusing to work with him, and some left committees on which he served. There is a regrettable cycle of venting and backroom talk that goes on about his various outrages and indiscretions. It feels ugly, yet I have dealt with him on committees, and I have seen firsthand how difficult and underhanded he can be. In the terms set by this article, is this person being “mobbed?” Probably. But this person is not simply a victim. He is very smart and strategic in a lot of ways, and I expect that he will receive tenure, unless Human Resources has been receiving a critical mass of complaints about him. The last four points the author makes about the procedural and organizational culture of the university are fair enough, but I think it cuts two ways. Those points could be turned around to allow a dysfunctional faculty member like this to defend themselves and perpetuate their behavior.

  16. Andrew / July 10, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Are you kidding? I had this happen to me from 2004-to approx. 2011 and it was horrible. I know others who have suffered it as well and there are many who are dealing with it in silence. The reason you don’t hear much about it is because it’s not talked about. People need their jobs and fear further backlash if they tell someone.

  17. Jane Doe / July 9, 2017 at 1:57 am

    I have recently seen the early signs of it in a group. One of the early warning signs is when someone starts sending emails asking about info that was circulated before (fine, we all forget) but cc’ing the line manager every time.

  18. Vicki / June 18, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    My supervisor is currently being mobbed, and this article is very representative of her story. I started digging into academic journals and other publications and have found many current classic examples.

  19. Karen Connelly / September 21, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Steven Galloway, UBC. He is the FORMER head of the Creative Writing Department. His life has been completely destroyed by a combination of moral hysteria and other people’s ambition. The judge hauled in to do a ‘confidential’ investigation cleared him of ALL the allegations of misconduct but the one that he admitted to before the investigation began: a long ‘known’ affair with a student in the creative writing program, a woman older than him, with whom he amicably separated. Take a look at this month’s Walrus magazine. https://thewalrus.ca/laffaire-galloway/ . . . And as a sessional, I once experienced this mobbing from a group of unhealthy, unkind students. All it takes is one small group of variously unhealthy and unkind people to destroy your life. If they happen to be your colleagues, you probably need to get a different job.

  20. Jane Doe / July 9, 2017 at 1:58 am

    Leave. It does not get better. Transfer departments if you can, otherwise leave. If you need to defend yourself stage a meeting with a manager who you trust and bate them into revealing what they are doing.
    In my case I was to tempt someone into declaring I was not competent to teach a course, that I had been considered perfectly competent to write (they had forgotten that). It was all I needed to do to demonstrate what was going on. But I still left the department.

  21. Janice Harper / September 22, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    In my book, Mobbed! What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You, I have three chapters on how to protect yourself emotionally, socially and professionally. Many of the suggestions are contrary to our instincts and to advice on combatting bullying (such as not responding to many of the aggressive acts, not filing complaints and avoiding lawsuits), but I regularly hear from targets who tell me that doing so saved their sanity and careers. It’s a cruel but human response to threat, and understanding how and why people are acting so abhorrently can help you get through the gauntlet of mobbing.

  22. Canadian university Prof / October 11, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Thank you Janice. I am currently a mobbing target in my department in circumstances that have been ongoing for many months. I will be consulting your book to seek advice on how to protect myself.

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