Search Results for "bullying"

29th 2009
‘Good people skills’ probably means not telling your supervisors to ‘kiss my a$$,’ unfortunately!

Posted under Gender & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Susan O’Doherty at Mama Ph.D. has some interesting thoughts about the gendered expectations of women in professional leadership positions.  She writes,

A few years ago, one of my clients, “Ellen,” a brilliant and forceful young woman, informed me that she had received a negative work evaluation. I was surprised to hear this, since her reports of her achievements reflected one success after another. “It’s not my work per se,” she clarified. “My actual work is fine. They told me I don’t have good ‘people skills,’ that I’m too abrasive and impatient. They suggested that I go to a coach, to learn how to communicate in a more tactful way. “We agreed that their stated objections were code for “not ladylike enough.”

This client’s job entailed coordinating the work of a diverse and independent staff, some members of which were oppositional and even hostile. It was hard to imagine the Buddha performing her duties without occasional abrasiveness. It was even harder to imagine Donna Reed, or Betty from “Mad Men,” commanding any respect from this crew. Yet Ellen was expected to be both soft/feminine and effective. “Do any of the men get this kind of feedback?” I asked, but we both knew the answer.

What was the more personal answer, though? We talked a great deal about what it would mean to change her “style” — how, on the one hand, it might be a valuable experience to learn other ways of relating; but on the other, she felt she was being told that her personality was unacceptable, and that it was necessary to paint a new, “feminine” face over her real one.

Make no mistake, when they spend this much time worrying you about your “personality” or your “style,” it’s bullying.  The reason they’re attacking the so-called problems with Ellen’s “communications style” is that they can’t find a way to attack her actual work record.  Continue Reading »


12th 2009
Historiann wonders: jealous, much?

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & wankers & women's history

attack50ftwomanPer Thursday’s post at Tenured Radical about the silly panic at the New York Times that “traditional” history is imperiled because, well, cherchez la femme, here’s another take by Mary L. Dudziak at Legal History Blog (and h/t to Mary for the most excellent graphic, at left!).  She asks, “[w]hy a backward-looking article about the way the pie should be divided, when the more pressing news story is the impact of the economic crisis on the next generation of historians, regardless of field?”

“Anonymous” asks a similar question back in the thread at Tenured Radical, to wit:  “What’s up with the NYT and its shoddy coverage of everything that related to academia? What’s the source of its hostility/ ignorance?”  (Remember this little fracas, friends?)  Historiann would like to propose an answer to that simple question, which I think can be applied to most people working in print journalism these days: Continue Reading »


18th 2009
CU(e) the sideshow clowns

Posted under jobs & local news & unhappy endings

sadclownI’ve never written anything much about Ward Churchill on this blog–some of you may have wondered why, since for me it’s a local news story, and since I have written pretty extensively about the academic workplace and academia in the public sphere.  2008 was a relatively low-profile year for Churchill, and the politicians trying to get him fired have been out of office for a few years, as have the University of Colorado presidents who were involved in his censure and firing.  Churchill’s civil lawsuit against the University of Colorado is being heard now in Denver, so this is really the first timel’affaire Churchill has been a timely topic for this blog, which has only been in existence since January 2008.  (For those of you who just can’t get enough, this law blog is following the trial.)

The major reason I don’t have much to say about Churchill–the “roosting chickens” essay he wrote on September 12, 2001, the allegations of plagiarism against him, or his termination–is that I really don’t see any good guys in this story.  (See this rundown by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate about how a 3-1/2 year old essay on the world wide self-published timewasting web suddenly became national news in the late winter of 2005.)  Rumors had swirled around Churchill for years in the Native American studies community; Continue Reading »


12th 2009
Women bullying women

Posted under class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race

Yesterday the New York Times featured an article on workplace bullying and the (according to the author) “pink elephant. . . lurking in the room” is the fact that female bullies target other women much more often that not.  In the article, “A Sisterhood of Workplace Infighting,” leadership coach Peggy Klaus says that “female bullies aim at other women more than 70 percent of the time,” whereas male bullies are more “equal-opportunity tormentors” (h/t to regular commenter Indyanna for bringing this article to my attention.)  Klaus recites a number of reasons why women may target other women for abuse:

I’ve heard plenty of theories on why women undermine one another at work. Probably the most popular one is the scarcity excuse — the idea that there are too few spots at the top, so women at more senior levels are unwilling to assist female colleagues who could potentially replace them.

Another explanation is what I call the “D.I.Y. Bootstrap Theory,” which goes like this: “If I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps to get ahead with no one to help me, why should I help you? Do it yourself!”

Some people argue that women aren’t intentionally undermining one another; rather, they don’t want to be accused of showing favoritism toward other women.

I agree that these first three reasons, while wrong-headed, are excuses that people offer to explain bad behavior.  I’ve never understood the zero-sum mentality of “scarcity,” especially in the academic workplace.  Unlike people outside of academia, who are vulnerable to layoffs and being replaced by younger and cheaper employees, tenured faculty are safe.  They’re made men and women, so they have nothing to lose when their junior colleagues succeed, and if they have even a glimmer of civic-mindedness about their jobs they’ll be happy that their colleagues are thriving and making the department look good.  (Besides, rational Deans reward departments that are good at hiring and promoting good people, and they tend to look askance at departments who keep asking for lines to search because they keep firing the people they’ve recently hired.  Or so I like to think, in my dreamy dreamworld–those of you with administrative experience, please weigh in here!) 

Here’s where I disagree with Klaus: Continue Reading »


8th 2009
A manifesto against “coverage”

Posted under jobs & students

Historiann nails it to the door to see if it sticks.

I’m working on my syllabi this week, and I have something to say.  I hate “coverage,” that lowest and most common denominator of history education.  Oh, how I hate “coverage.”  Let me count the ways.  (Don’t worry–there aren’t 95 theses here, only eight):

“Coverage” is the most unimaginative goal for a history course, from first-year survey courses to graduate seminars.  I’m not saying that chronology and some broad content are unimportant–just that there are more efficient ways for students to learn it other than from a proffie flicking through PowerPoint slides or standing in front of a chalk board.  (Isn’t that what survey texts and other handy reference books are for?)  I’m also not suggesting that we offer only courses that are in-depth studies of (for example) the social mobility of seventeenth-century cross-dressing fullers’ apprentices in Leiden (although that topic would make a fine article, I’m sure.)  I’m just asking what we are really achieving when we worry about ”coverage” instead of ideas, recurring issues and themes, and above all, analysis?

“Coverage” encourages historians to live up to the cliche that we’re just a bunch of Mr. Gradgrinds–”what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts“–and that we’re mere antiquarians masquerading as intellectuals.  “Coverage” is the historians’ albatross that allows literary scholars, philosophers, and anthropologists to imagine that they’re the only people in the liberal arts who offer ideas, and not just information. 

Continue Reading »


4th 2009
AHA blogging round-up: how will we keep them down on the ranch, now that they’ve seen NYC?

Posted under conferences & jobs

In case you missed it, Hotshot Harry checked in with us last night from the AHA with his second report.  Meanwhile, there are some other folks blogging the conference–some of the most interesting posts are listed below (with thanks to Cliopatria and The Way of Improvement Leads Home for pointing them out to me.  Please note Cliopatria’s pickup on Indyanna’s reminiscences about Nat Hentoff being called a very bad word–repeatedly–at an early 1970s AHA!)

Here’s a hint to the grad-flakes in the audience: the first question you will face in every AHA interview (and I mean every single f#%king one) is some variation on the old standby, “tell us about your $hitty f#&king work and its relationship to the boring-a$$ field.” This is a softball. This is the easiest motherf*!king question you can get. You should have a 45 second answer to this question in your back pocket. And when I say 45 second, I mean 45 f#&king seconds and not a second more. Practice it in the mirror if you have to. Go to an acting coach if you must. But if you cannot state the importance of your work and its relationship to the field in 45 seconds or less, you are not getting the job. Sometimes candidates can get away with a 90 second answer if they have charm, but your goal should be 45 seconds. I mention this because today the self-immolating candidate took up the entire interview trying to answer this question. And I tried to stop him. My colleagues tried to interrupt. But he was having none of it. He spent 40 minutes trying to answer the question. And when we told him his time was up, he said “I guess what I’m trying to say is that my ideas are really complex.”

The first session I attended was The Promise and Pitfalls of Writing for Readers beyond the Academy, at which I was that guy who embarrassingly enters late and bumps into people while finding a seat (in this case, on the floor). It was a relatively informal panel, with none of the typical reading of papers in a monotone voice, and with a lot of back-and-forth with the audience. I found it interesting that for the first part of the session, blogging was never touched upon. Then an audience member brought it up, and the panelists began to fervently speak about it for a fair amount of time. What surprised me was the relatively positive attitude many of the panelists carried towards blogging. This might be a kind of self-selective mechanism, as panelists for a session on popular writing are probably not the stuffy academic types that look down their noses at blogging. On the other hand, I got the sense that blogging as a whole has become much more mainstream and accepted within the academy. The panel also reminded me of the kind of “exercise” aspect of writing on a blog – in that it forces you to write and is a great tool for experimentation and self-improvement.

That’s a little too high-falutin’ for this cowgirl.  I see blogging–even professionally-related blogging–mostly as a tool for entertainment and self-promotion.  At their most serious, academic blogs can be sites for communities of likeminded individuals to meet and share ideas and concerns–my blogging about bullying work environments and urging people in academia to be fair and decent has served that purpose, I hope, as has some of my women’s history blogging.  But I’m not on board with the movement of academic bloggers who want job credit for blogging.  Putting this baby on my annual review would make it feel like work–and although I enjoy my work, I like thinking of this space as a not-work space.

Anyhoo–back to y’all in New York.  Good luck, greenhorns and vaqueras!  Let me know how it goes for you–send in a dispatch before you start that long cattle drive home.


1st 2009
Happy New Year!

Posted under fluff & Gender

Another year down the rabbit hole, and happy birthday to!  Actually, I think my first post went “live” on December 31, 2007–you’ll see some older posts in the archive, but that was when my designer and I were just tinkering around and working out the format and look of the thing.  So perhaps today is Historiann’s un-birthday instead?  (Cake at left courtesy of Cakewrecks, natch.) 

Originally, I envisioned this blog as a way to help publicize the Fourteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women held last June, and to provide a forum for discussion of women’s history and gender issues in contemporary life.  Things got political very quickly when I got swept up in the Democratic primary race last winter and spring and the general election in the fall, and I also dipped my toe into academic politics in various posts on the uses and abuses of tenure and academic bullying

One of the things I’ve noticed especially this year is the almost complete absence of feminist commentary and analysis in the mainstream media.  (Joan Walsh at, and Marie Cocco of the Washington Post Writers Group, are the only two exceptions I can think of.)  I think academic feminist bloggers are doing a real service in providing this analysis, albeit on their own time and their own dime–Feminist Law Profs, Tenured Radical, Echidne of the Snakes, The Global Sociology Blog, Roxie’s World, WOC Ph.D., and Anglachel’s Journal, just to name a few that I read regularly. 

Dr. Crazy had a very interesting post a few weeks ago on the advantages of blogging anonymously.  As many of you know, she is pseudonymous, but her blog is not linked to her real name or professional identity other than her discipline (English.)  I agree with her that anonymous bloggers can write about things that those of us whose blogs are linked to our professional identities can’t.  Sometimes I regret that–but because this blog was originally meant to publicize a conference in which I played a major role, being anonymous wasn’t a comfortable option for me.  I also wanted to write more about my professional research and teaching interests–and since there are only (maybe?) three dozen early American women’s historians in this country, it would not have been difficult to track me down.  In general, it seems like the people who blog under their real names (or whose pseudonyms are linked to their real names, like Historiann) don’t share as much about their personal or family lives or their specific work environments, whereas anonymous academic bloggers share more of those things but don’t reveal as much about their professional lives or research interests.  That’s the main trade-off.  I realize, however, that even having the choice of blogging anonymously or blogging as myself is itself a privilege–most of the “out” bloggers I know are tenured, and most of the anonymous bloggers are junior faculty or adjuncts. 

I don’t know what exactly this blog will look like at this time next year, or how long I can keep up this pace of posting, but it’s still fun for me, and I am grateful to have so many very smart, very insightful commenters.  I’ve really learned a lot from you all.  Thank you.


21st 2008
Bad apples, and how they ruin it for the rest of us

Posted under Bodily modification & book reviews & jobs

This weekend’s This American Life radio program was a bellyfull of Christmas candy (including the accompanying stomach ache) for the writer and readers of this blog.  The program, “Ruining It for the Rest of Us,” opened with an interview with researcher Will Phelps Felps, who conducts research on “bad apples” in the workplace (aka bullies), and how they can take over an office culture.  His conclusions?  The bad news is that bad apples can single-handedly commandeer a workplace culture and drive it into the ditch.  He hired an actor to play one of three “bad apple” types:  the bullying jerk (who attacks and insults people), the slacker, and the depressive pessimist. 

The good news is that leadership by another person can counteract the effect of the bad apple.  This person doesn’t directly confront the bully, but instead asks questions, engages team members, and works to diffuse conflicts.  (This happened in only one group, however; in every other test case Phelps Felps ran, the bad apple dominated the group, and the other group members took on the bad apple’s characteristics.)  This segment is only 5 minutes long, and it’s right at the start of the program, so if you’re interested in workplace bullying issues, click here to listen for free.  By the way, the This American Life website doesn’t list Phelps‘s Felps’s name or his affiliation, and my efforts to try to locate his research with EBSCOhost databases and the google have failed.  I’m not sure I’ve even got his name spelled right (and in fact I didn’t, as you can see from the edits above.  This is bad form, This American Life.  Any time you interview a researcher, you really should at least provide hir name and affiliation on your website, if not also link to hir publications.)

The program’s main feature was an exploration of a recent outbreak of measles in San Diego caused by a family who refused to vaccinate their children.  The story features an interview with an anti-vaxer who is friends with the family that brought the disease to San Diego, which sickened dozens of children, and with a woman whose 11 month old son was a victim of the outbreak.  If this woman’s description of measles doesn’t lead everyone listening to run out and vaccinate their kids, then I don’t know what will.  The ultimate message of the program is that both the anti-vaxer camp and the pro-vaxer camp are utterly entrenched in their rival views of medicine and science.  However, these camps are hardly morally equivalent:  one camp is actively punching holes in herd immunity, which puts at risk infants too young for the vaccine as well as people whose immune systems are compromised.  Moreover, the anti-vaxer camp’s beliefs are utterly evidence-free and based on magical thinking. Continue Reading »


17th 2008
Welcome to, a NASCAR and law enforcement blog by and for menz

Posted under fluff & Gender & local news

Rose at Romantoes and Erica (a.k.a. “Cleanser”) at the good old daysfound some fun little gizmos for blog analysis last week, so I decided to put through the wringer too to see what we’d have left over to hang out on the clothesline.  Here’s what the random and non peer-reviewed internets have to say about chez nous:

  • This blog is probably written by a man, “however it’s quite gender neutral.”  Yes, there’s a 59% chance that I’m a man!  (I guess most blogs that contain the word “feminist” and “feminism” over and over again are written by angry men, and not angry women?  Wev.)  The program must have a grammar-based rather than a content-based algorithm.
  • This blog is worth $47,421.36.  Not bad for a very part-time job.  (Actually, that number is disturbingly close to what I earn at my day job!  When those lines cross, I’m outta Baa Ram U., baby.)  Of course that website doesn’t tell me who precisely would pay me $47K+ for my blog–but I’m sure that once I’ve resigned, I’ll have lots of time to figure that out.
  • The typealyzer analysis was disturbingly accurate in some ways, and comically off-base in others.  Apparently, I am a “mechanic.”  Here goes:
  • “The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.” 
  • That’s me, for the most part, and this blog has become something of an agony column this semester, not to mention all of the posts on academic bullying that have proved so (unfortunately!) popular.  So, what else?

  • “The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.” 
  • Fun?  Sure.  Action and risk–oh my, no.  The most adventure I get is hunting for a parking space Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at Baa Ram U., and the biggest risk I take is the occasional cup of black coffee after 3 p.m.  I live in a happily predictable routine, and actually prefer it this way, after working so hard and spending so many years wondering if I would ever have the kind of professional and family life I enjoy now, at the same time and in the same state.  ”Risk” at this point would mean severe illness or disability for me or the illness, disability, or loss of a friend or family member, and I can live without that kind of drama, thanks very much. 

    Here’s what’s kind of funny:  Erica is an engineer, and Typealyzer says her blog is written by a “Performer,” you know ”[t]he entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don’t like to plan ahead — they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.”  And I’m the “mechanic!”  (Those of you who know me in real life will have a laugh at that one.)  Sorry, Erica–I’m just as baffled as you are, although I think your blog is “especially attuned to pleasure and beauty,” not to mention humor and retro-domesticity, which is why I love it!  Oh, and Rose and Tom:  you’re “Performers” too!

    Run your blogs through the wringer and let me know what you find.  (I’ve already checked some of you out–there are a lot of “Performers” on my blogroll!)


    22nd 2008
    Exasperated Eduardo endeavors to escape the bully-boys

    Posted under jobs

    Run away! Run away!

    Again, from the mailbag, cries of help from someone else stuck in a bullying department:

    I’m writing because I’ve been enjoying your blog (as does my wife, another Ph.D.) and your airing of concerns over academic bullying has struck a cord.  While I’m not directly the victim of such things, I see it at my current department in the most awful ways – seniors “pushing around” juniors to take sides in various departmental debates knowing full well the juniors’ fears of tenure, profs battling with each other in and out of department meetings, the spreading of rumors and gossip about one or another prof, and other stuff I can’t even write about.  (I’m actually quite surprised it didn’t end up in court.)  One of the perpetrators in our department is someone who has admitted to me that he was bullied as a child, and now he’s transitioned into the worse kind of academic bully, and he doesn’t see what he has become.  All this kills department morale, makes it hard to recruit and keep faculty, and turns what should be the best profession in the world into a weekly ordeal.  Every Monday morning I ask myself, “I wonder what disaster will happen this week?”
    Anyhow, I’m taking your advice (advice I’ve heard from others, too) and am trying to run away.  It’s hard, since I am beginning my fifth year and tenure review is coming up next fall.  Other places are sure to ask questions about a fifth year jumping ship, and I don’t want to air dirty laundry.  We’ll see how it works out.

    In solidarity,

    Exasperated Eduardo

    Thanks for writing, Eduardo.  (It’s Monday again–what disaster rains down on you today?  We’ll pray for a reprieve for you until tomorrow, at least.)  Your letter is interesting to me because it confirms something I’ve observed about bullying, namely, that it poisons the whole environment for everyone, and not just for the victims of the bullying.  (It also provides an example of something else I’ve long suspected, which is that bullies very often have a history of having been the victims of bullying, either professionally or perhaps deep in the recesses of childhood memories.)  It sounds like you should try to run away, and fast.  Five years is long enough to have sacrificed to the cause.

    I don’t think it’s at all strange for someone like you to apply for other jobs.  (See Tenured Radical’s sensible post on applying for jobs when you already have one.)  The gist of the advice is, keep your application positive and upbeat, and explain why the job/s you’re applying to would be the next logical step in your career.  You absolutely should not air any dirty laundry, either in your letter of application, or in any of your interviews.  Even if you’re entirely correct and justified in your analysis, you will sound like a kook or a malcontent.  (By the way, a letter from a trusted friend and colleague in your current department will go a long way towards insulating you from those suspicions.  It doesn’t have to be from the department chair, although ideally it will be from someone who’s above you in rank.) 

    You’re at a decent mid-tier regional university, but there are lots of other places that would be a step up for you.  We regularly get applications from assistant professors at regional universities and branch campuses elsewhere, and although Baa Ram U. isn’t exactly Rutgers or UCLA (and by “isn’t exactly,” I mean “not even close!”) we just think, “well with that publication record, of course she doesn’t want to stay there the rest of her life!,” or “Of course he wants to get the hell out of that rathole!”  If your wife is on the job market too, that’s a really good reason for you to hit the market–one or the other of you may even be able to finagle a job for the other one.  You may also prefer to live and work in another region of the country–and almost all institutions like to hear from applicants that they’re located in incredibly attractive and appealing places.  There are all kinds of excellent reasons to apply for other jobs even if you have one–write your letter as a confident expression of your professional achievements and experience, not as an apologia.  Readers, you were so generous in helping out Tenured Tammy–do you have any other advice for Eduardo?  (And Eduardo, please be sure to let us know what happens, okay?)

    Finally–confidential to any administrators out there:  Eduardo sounds like a guy who ordinarily would have been happy to buckle down, get tenure, and become a respected and hardworking faculty member at his institution.  It sounds like the only reason he’s going on the job market again is the climate in his department–and possibly in other places in the institution–that tolerates bullying.  This is the price you pay when you permit bullies to run wild!  Good people with other options wise up and exercise those other options.


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