Mobbing in Academia?
This article [registration required] in the Chronicle claims that academia is rife with mobbing, or:
‘an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker.’
To flesh out the concept, [an academic] drew up a list of 45 mobbing indicators. It amounted to an impressive catalog of bureaucratic nastiness: ‘You are interrupted constantly’; ‘you are isolated in a room far from others’; ‘management gives you no possibility to communicate’; ‘you are given meaningless work tasks’; ‘you are given dangerous work tasks’; ‘you are treated as if you are mentally ill.’
Notably, this work bears many similarities to Prof. Livingston’s post on law professor happiness, discussed here not so long ago. The article explains that mobbing is (allegedly) quite prevalent in universities:
[I]nstitutions where workers have high job security, where there are few objective measures of performance, and where there is frequent tension between loyalty to the institution and loyalty to some higher purpose.
To be honest, I just don’t see the problem here. Even if “mobbing” were a real phenomena, and even if it occurred at relatively higher rates in institutions, so what? Most faculties have a few marginalized folks. Most for-profit enterprises do not. Because the for-profit enterprises fire people who don’t fit in. Bearing with irritating colleagues is the trade-off that academics have made to retain tenure. Since tenure isn’t wildly unpopular among professors, I imagine that people think it is worth it.
Thus, I doubt the article’s claim that “mobbing” could be reduced by changing governance structures or training better administrators. If you can’t fire people who offend, and setting up positive incentive structures is similarly difficult, managing behavior will be left to informal social sanctions. Like shunning, and shaming, and, I suppose, mobbing.