Corrosive Leadership

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Although it is not new, I came across this today.
Corrosive Leadership (Or Bullying by Another Name): A Corollary of the Corporatised Academy?
by Margaret Thornton

The literature reveals that the incidence of bullying is increasing in corporate workplaces everywhere. While the data is scant, it suggests that bullying in universities is also on the increase. Interviews with Australian academics support this finding. It is argued that the trend has to be understood in light of the pathology of corporatisation, which is designed to make academics do more with less. The focus on productivity parallels the harassment to which workers in the private sector may be subjected in the hope that they will work harder and maximise profits. Avenues of redress are considered which show that dignitary harms remain inchoate as legal harms. While common law and anti-discrimination legislation regimes may occasionally offer a remedy to targeted individuals, it is averred that these avenues are incapable of addressing the causative political factors that induce corrosive leadership.

There were a few things that particularly resonated with me – sadly, I have first hand experience. It took them five years, but I finally had to leave a job I LOVED to save myself. From what I hear, if anything, the place I left is getting worse.

(these are all quotes from the paper):

– women especially at risk

Collegiality and peer review, imperfect though they might be in practice, are distinguishing features of working life in the academy, but they have been significantly eroded in recent years in favour of a new style of top-down managerialism that allows little space for the voices of academics to be heard.

The weakening of collegiality is somewhat paradoxical in light of the increasingly vociferous rhetoric lauding ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’.

Authoritarian organisations run on the misuse of power: blame, threats and the fear of being shamed.

Now, the bully cleverly skirts the boundaries of criminality and the focus of workplace bullying tends to be on verbal abuse — shouting, insults, unwarranted criticism and put-downs — often for the purpose of displaying power in front of others

Bullying can also include marginalising behaviour, such as ignoring the targeted person at meetings or declining to respond to messages, as well as material detriment. Bassman suggests that dependency is the common thread in abusive relationships, because the abuser invariably controls resources. Hence, bullies are likely to be of institutionally superior status,

Today, there is a greater understanding of psychological violence and its effects. The individualised pathology suggests that the primary purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Thus, managers who are themselves mediocre scholars may target more successful academics who threaten the image of superiority they seek to project.

the resentment is likely to be most acute in the case of talented and ostensibly successful women.

Those who are subject to bullying often feel that they have no choice but to leave the institution because of the wretchedness induced by such conduct

The new style university managers have little respect for the traditional lines of demarcation between matters academic and matters administrative. They may even take it on themselves to vet course content and determine research priorities, factors that have the potential to circumscribe academic freedom

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