Problem at work: seeking advice

Two faculty meetings ago, I raised my hand while a (large white male Southern) senior full professor was talking.  He immediately turned on me and started yelling at me about interrupting.  I responded that I had only raised my hand and had a clarifying question.  He yelled at me that I talked too much.  After this exchange was over, nobody let me ask my question.

At the last faculty meeting I actually did interrupt him.  One of the (female) professors who was not at the meeting wanted feedback on how to deal with our power hungry IT department (she asked another faculty member to collect feedback).  The senior professor started on a long rant about how she was going about it the wrong way and the first step is to… do essentially what the female professor was planning to do.  Which I pointed out.  Then he turned on me and started screaming about me interrupting.  Since the meeting time was over and it had devolved into complaining, I got up and started to leave.  He then yelled at me that I was not allowed to leave and he had more to say to me.  I told him I did not like being treated this way, let the door close, and went back to my office.

Our previous chair is on an extended sabbatical.  Our current chair was in both of these meetings and did nothing.  I do not feel comfortable discussing this problem with our current chair.  The senior (male) full professor I would normally look to for protection is in a feud with this guy– they both started screaming expletives at each other during a search committee meeting last year that they then both removed themselves from.  (The replacement committee did a great job.)  There are no other full professors in the dept.

This senior professor (the one who yells at me) has become increasingly erratic during the passing years and frequently engages in long angry rants about another group in the department having too many talks, and other bizarre things.  Usually he apologizes after saying something directly awful to me or another faculty member, but as is indicated by his second rant at me, he does not think he was in the wrong and still blames me.  Any time he sees me now, he glares or frowns.  I have not been meeting his gaze, and I go out of my way to avoid him.

I am a small female, though I do talk a lot, especially when a meeting is run poorly.  (I’m the person asking what the action items are.)  I do not feel comfortable talking to this professor directly as he is a big crazy person and I am small.  My chair has done nothing and I suspect that my department may think that as a female I should keep my mouth shut more and let the men take care of things like the majority of my other female colleagues do.  (That is to say, the women do the majority of the service, but the men do the majority of the talking.  Standard fare.)

Assuming that I am tenured, what should I do?  What are my options?

50 Responses to “Problem at work: seeking advice”

  1. Thisbe Says:

    I don’t know about tenure, so that part will have to be for someone else. I do know about people being inappropriately disrespectful when they perceive a hierarchy and perceive themselves to be higher in it than you.

    What’s not clear from the above (which sounds like it sucks; if I could use the work kyriarchy without giggling I would use it here) is what you want to happen. Which, of course, influences your options.

    I might be inclined to approach the problem by saying, when someone started speaking (or yelling) at me disrespectfully, “You’re being very rude. Please be more respectful.” And then if the person doesn’t do that, saying “I will not be spoken to in this manner” and leaving the room, regardless of what else is going on.

    But like I said I don’t really know about academic organization, so it might be worthwhile to go to some authority figure and complain; and in fact it sounds like the senior professor in question might benefit from some aging-specific mental health care. In the immediate time frame though, I whole-heartedly recommend a policy of requiring that people be respectful if they want to talk to you. It’s very freeing.

  2. hush Says:

    “I do not feel comfortable talking to this professor directly as he is a big crazy person and I am small.”

    Yes, that’s your intuition telling you to be physically careful. You sense that something is amiss. Don’t ignore these feelings.

    “I got up and started to leave. He then yelled at me that I was not allowed to leave and he had more to say to me. I told him I did not like being treated this way, let the door close, and went back to my office.”

    You handled that perfectly. Well done! It’s not always easy to think on your feet when being attacked like that. ;)

    Just like you did before, leave the room (or hang up the phone etc) the next time he yells at you. But before you leave, you could also try saying to him in front of the whole room: “I find your behavior unpleasant and childish. I don’t know why you feel the need to try to demean me in public and I don’t really care. But if you do it again, I will take action and report it. This department has integrity.” Then walk out.

    And do report it. Be systematic and keep records of his behavior noting the time, place, and date. List witnesses. Report every event and keep a record of when where and to whom it was reported. Collect evidence of the experiences suffered by others at this person’s hands. Use a recording device to record his nastiness (this is also an excellent deterrent.)

    Ask a coworker to support you. “This is really hard for me to ask, but I need some support. So-and-so appears to be attempting to harass and intimidate me, and I cannot deal with it by myself.” Hang in there!

  3. First Gen American Says:

    This may be the opposite of what you want to do, but how about taking him out to lunch. If he’s really that big, he probably would like a free meal. All joking aside, if you take someone out of the environment that makes them toxic, perhaps you can get to know the person and their motives. I am I sales so I ask people to lunch all the time and they do share a lot more about themselves in a restaurant vs an office.

    Try not to see this guy as a big ogre, but as a human being. It seems like he thinks you don’t respect him or his opinions. Perhaps you need to give him some positive reinforcement before interjecting with your own opinions on a subject. Yes, this guy may be a total nutjob but you need to figure out a way to deal with him. I sense that the more you try to stand your ground, the harder he will fight back. Try to get him to think you are on his side instead.

    Lastly never think of yourself as small. I am not sure if this helps at all, but it is another way to view the situation. Good luck.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve been working here for over 6 years, and his behavior has been becoming increasingly erratic. He used to heap praise on me all the time (once he told me that if he accepted a job offer he’d been given, he’d want to take me with him) and it’s like he switched on a dime. I don’t trust that if he thinks he’s on my side that he will stay on my side. It isn’t normal academic crazy where what you’re suggesting would work (and frankly, is how I deal with the power-hungry IT guy who should have been fired before I ever came on board), but unpredictable crazy. The kind of crazy you want not to know you exist.

      • NoTrustFund Says:

        I am so far from an academic setting I find it hard to offer you sound advice. I only wanted to say that I had a boss like this once, and I am so sorry you are having to interact with this guy. I didn’t see the similarities in the original post but when combined with the above comment it really struck me.

        From what you write- it seems like he is somehow threatened by you. Which makes me sad for him.

        I did always feel better about this boss after interacting with him socially. So if you’re not comfortable taking him to lunch, maybe make an extra effort to talk to him at the department holiday party or any social outing your department may have.

    • Kellen Says:

      I like the idea about taking him to lunch. I think with people like this, if you try to confront them, they just feel more in the right. I think in books and things, people fix these situations with pretty speeches, but when I’ve met people like this in real life they a) feel justified if you try to argue back and b) have material to complain about your behavior. Regardless of how crazy he is, he most likely really does think that you’re interrupting and being disrespectful, inside of his own mind.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Like I said before, this is not predictable crazy. This is unpredictable crazy. I do not feel safe in that situation. He has already made clear that he does not mind screaming at me in a public place. (And, come to think of it, he related a big rant he’d had at his bank the other month in which he yelled at them … in front of a police officer… about the channel they were showing on the tv there. If he turned half as red then when as he did when he was retelling that story…) Additionally, there is no polite way to get to lunch without being in the same car with him (his car, as he would not fit into mine).

      • Kellen Says:

        Well, if he is that crazy, then I’d go with the documenting and reporting incidents. And trying to get other people who witnessed incidents to report it also. I wouldn’t suggest lunch if the situation feels unsafe.

    • chacha1 Says:

      I don’t think the burden should be on the victim here.

    • GMP Says:

      In my experience, whenever I deal with someone who dislikes me or is nasty to me for no good reason (i.e. it’s not something I did to them, it’s just that I irritate them by being me), me trying to make nice never makes things better. On fact, it only makes things worse, in that actions of kindness are perceived as an additional weakness on my part, thereby adding another one to the list of my faults as perceived by the person who dislikes me. So I have completely given up on trying to make nice with such people. I avoid them as best I can and I am on the lookout for them screwing me over.

      I had a boyfriend whom I dated for a long time, about 7 years. His family had a strong presence in his life, and his sister was always very mean to me, always putting me down for my looks, anything I said, nothing was ever good enough. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get into her good graces, and it just made me feel pathetic and made her meaner to me. I will not hide that expunging her from my life was a big added bonus to my breakup with her brother.

      I also have an arch nemesis in my professional circles. The dude is painfully insecure and extremely territorial; only the work of his group and his close allies is of any value, nothing else is worth anything (plus he is a douche who yells at waiters in restaurants, which I consider inexcusable). I tried to make nice a few times, but there is nothing I can do to make it better or to make him regard me higher. Now I just try my best to not have him review anything of mine, and when we are at conferences together I just avoid him.

  4. Ewan Says:

    Talk to the union (assuming that there is one). As noted above, document everything. Send absent-chair a note detailing the issue and lack of action from interim-chair, then go to the dean; then to the provost or whomever, as needed. in parallel, go to HR and file a formal report and complaint (assuming that you have no interest in salvaging a working relationship, which sounds as though it is th case). If that fails, and the union angle is not working, call a lawyer.

  5. newkidonthehallway Says:

    (Answering before reading other comments:) Wow, that’s outrageous. I’ve seen plenty of bad faculty behavior, but it’s generally been of the more passive-aggressive variety – can’t remember seeing people yell at each other. And personally, I think telling someone [a woman] they talk too much [in a professional context] is one of the most demeaning, infuriating things I can think of. So mostly I wanted to comment to say that that’s unacceptable (which I know you know, but thought I would say, for perspective). Also, I applaud your getting up and leaving at the end of the second meeting (it sounds like both a reasonable and a polite response).

    Okay, now I read the other comments: If this is an age-related dementia (which sounds perfectly plausible), talking to someone about it will not get the department in trouble for age discrimination. Age has fewer protections than other immutable characteristics (race, gender, national origin) because sometimes there is a reason to treat people of different ages differently – we don’t let people drive under 16 (or whatever age in your state) or vote under 18 because their age makes them less able to handle those responsibilities; we impose mandatory retirement ages (no longer in academe, of course) because there is a likelihood that after a certain age mental faculties decline. So I agree about going to an authority figure – since your chair isn’t an option, the dean? If someone is unable to do their job effectively because of something age-related, raising that isn’t discrimination. (Besides, you wouldn’t be saying, Prof. X is a problem because he’s 73 [or whatever] – you’d be saying Prof. X is a problem because he’s acting crazy. If age is behind that, well, sometimes that happens, but acting on it is not discrimination.)

    I agree about leaving the room if he yells at you again, and about keeping a record of every instance when it happens. Also, I totally get the not wanting to talk to someone who is big and crazy if you’re small. But are there any instances when you really have to deal with him one on one? And if it’s in a group, I can’t see him actually getting physically violent. Assuming you have tenure, honestly, I’d just refuse to work with him. Are there female full/senior professors outside your department you can talk to about this? Good luck with it!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks!

      I should still remember to be careful about suggesting it is an age-related dementia, even if I suspect that. The department does not like lawsuits, even if they are without merit. I like the reminder below that these behaviors can also be caused by substance abuse, which is something that can happen at any age.

  6. TSS Says:

    My campus has a “Care Line,” which is basically a hotline to call if somebody on campus is exhibiting troubling behavior–the kid who writes the scary essay, the colleague with anger issues, and so on. It’s a joint venture with HR and campus health services, and it’s supposed to help you figure out what to do in situations like this one. If your campus has something like this hotline, it would be a good first step.

    Also, there’s been an epidemic of “Civility Initiatives” on college campuses lately, which I think is the college version of anti-bullying initiatives. If civility talk has hit your campus, you might talk with the office of the person in charge of that initiative. (At my college, the painfully earnest e-mail pleas for civility come from the Chancellor’s office.) Or talk to HR. If it does become an HR matter, they’ll want documentation, and they’ll want to see that you tried to go through official channels. So you might go to your chair *even though* you expect Chair to be useless–just an e-mail about “Professor Crazy’s behavior at meetings is getting more and more out of hand; can you please rein him in if he starts shouting?” Then if (i.e. when) the chair doesn’t do anything, at least you have a cyber-trail showing that you tried to use the chain of command.

    Also, if you have a friend in campus security, you might mention Professor Crazy’s weird behavior to them. (If your campus has things like EMS along with campus security, the person you want is the dispatcher who coordinates all the emergency calls. On my old campus, the dispatcher knew *everything.*) If he’s acting out but can basically control his behavior, the knowledge that he’s been acting weird enough to get on the radar of emergency services might shame him into doing better. OTOH, if he is sliding into dementia some kind of mental health trouble that’s making him *unable* to control his behavior, better to have emergency services folks in the loop from the start.

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this stuff. Good luck!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I will look into this. I know that one of the women’s initiatives on campus is looking at incivility, so I should talk to them about whether or not the campus has any actions I can take.

  7. Cloud Says:

    Ah geez, this is tough. It does sound like something is physically wrong with him. There may be some treatment that would help him, and for some conditions (like Alzheimer’s), the treatments are only effective if given early in the disease progression. But given the power dynamics and the size difference, you are certainly not the one to talk to him directly. But I think someone should, both for his sake and for the sake of everyone else. Is he still teaching classes? If he is, he may be treating students in a similarly inappropriate way, and doesn’t that sort of thing scare university administrators?

    In a company, I’d go to HR. I don’t have enough experience with universities to know what the HR equivalent is, but that is who should handle this problem.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      He’s not teaching classes. He is directing a center instead, which is starting to downsize and have positions eliminated. Rumor has it he was supposed to step down last year but changed his mind at the last minute.

  8. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    Everything TSS said. Document, document, document, chain of command for complaints, chair, dean, HR, ombudsperson. Definitely walk away rather than put up with this. Consider calling security, or announcing to the room that if this behavior does not stop then you will call security. This behavior is not acceptable, and unpredictable crazy from a big guy is frightening.

    And I am sorry you are dealing with this, and I wish I were a senior woman chez toi so I could help more.

  9. graduateliving Says:

    *Having not read other comments*
    Documentation, documentation, documentation. If you filed a formal complaint, would you do that with the current chair or with an administrator? It seems that even just having something on file that notes you feel professionally disrespected may send him the message he needs in that he is out of line. And I think being calm and removing yourself from hostile situations (i.e. the meeting) is the best way to approach his outbursts; after all, if the meeting has devolved into an angry rant, then not much work is getting done anyway, right?

  10. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    Also, don’t worry about what the rest of the department thinks about women. A lot of people are just bad at dealing with conflict and hope that ugly situations will go away, or that someone else will deal with them. Address the main situation, do your work, find support where you can; the day may come when you are hailed for your leadership skills.

  11. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    #2 asks: Can she use this behavior as a reason not to go to faculty meetings?

    • rented life Says:

      I’d worry if you did, then you’d be left out of even more. Faculty meetings, in my experience, are a chance to leave out who ever doesn’t attend (even for legit reasons). I would, as suggested, make it clear that you will leave during the meeting if an outburst happens and I’d go so far as to say you expect more professionalism from your department. (Even though I’m small, I’m likely to say stuff like that…then leave!)

      My bully was a woman at my last school…who ironically thought other women shouldn’t have a voice. Everyone was aware of the situation but no one did anything, so I don’t have any advice that works. But I did document everything, for my own sake, and made sure to bring it up to my chair several times. (The dean knew, but was retiring.)

    • Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

      How I would love to say “any excuse is a good excuse!” because I loathe meetings myself, and at LRU they are at least always civil, if occasionally edged, and mostly just boring, but really, what Rented Life said: you need to show up. And as soon as the shouting starts, then leave, and make it clear why. The situation may wind up being framed as “he drove faculty away from meetings,” which is useful in the documentation.

    • chacha1 Says:

      She probably could but probably shouldn’t. Witnesses are a good thing in situations like this.

  12. bogart Says:

    I’m inclined to think the answer to #2’s question is no (but that leaving in circumstances such as those described is fine, indeed, appropriate).

    The university where I work has a very good counseling service that is freely available to employees (within certain limits, i.e. not weekly sessions forever). If yours has something similar I would schedule an appointment and go talk with them, not because this is a solution but because talking through options can make it clearer what the pros and cons of acting on them would be.

    I’m not sure of the legality, but given the ready availability of recording devices nowadays, I think I would take it upon myself to record the meetings, not necessarily clandestinely, but not necessarily openly (obviously) either. And I absolutely concur with the “document, document, document” sentiment expressed above.

    Other commenters’ assurances about “public places” and so on notwithstanding, I think I’d consider whether I need to be concerned about my safety, not so much in the meetings as outside them. If, for example, you work (particularly at predictable times) in your office after hours, or are known to be coming from a class you teach that ends when the campus is mostly empty, or … ? We think of college campuses and particularly of faculty (as opposed to students) as safe places and harmless people, but I think anyone who’s spent considerable time on them knows that while those stereotypes may be grounded in a partial truth there are key exceptions to them.

    I’m sorry you are dealing with this and hope you can find a solution.

  13. undinenotofgeneralinterest Says:

    So many great suggestions that I’ll just leave it at this: you did exactly right by leaving the meeting, and you shouldn’t have to go through this. Telling him that he cannot speak to you this way is perfect. I’m not so sure about the dementia: people who behave this way, old or young, will keep up the bullying behavior until they’re stopped. I’d say your instinct is right: reading between the lines, having once perceived you as a protegee, he now perceives you as a threat to be bullied into submission, and you are rightly having none of it. Document, document, document, including that email to your chair.

    • undinenotofgeneralinterest Says:

      Another reason to get security or HR involved: there could be issues such as alcohol addiction or medication-related issues that are causing the bizarre behavior. His inability to control himself and later recognition that he’s done something wrong might suggest that scenario.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That is a really good point, and also not age-related, which is a plus.

      • Rumpus Says:

        It is completely ridiculous that such things happen. It’s just plain wrong.
        And I like this suggestion that there could be a non-age-related cause…it strengthens your side of the story, which apparently you need because no one else is backing you up.
        If I saw something like this in my program I would start complaining up the chain of command because this is the sort of thing where the group should be policing their own.

  14. First Gen American Says:

    As a folllow up to my other comment, if you don’t feel comfortable taking him to lunch because you feel uncomfortable, I still think it makes sense to follow protocol when it comes to the escalation process. As others said, document your steps you’ve taken on conflict resolution and you should have proof that you’ve tried resolving with him in person, then go to the next level up, then the next level. Just having your current chair at the meetings and not doing anything about it is not a sign of him/her not taking action. You must ask them for support and if they deny you, then I’d go to the next level up if (s)he sits idle. If you go straight to the top with your grievance without trying to resolve at lower levels, that tactic can hurt you because then everyone else can say “I didn’t know there was an issue..she should have come to me first, blah, blah.”

    Your safety and well being should not be threatened at work. You should not feel like you are powerless against it. However, escalating this can ruin this dude’s career. Make sure you start from the bottom up, so that once it does get to the top, they can’t point their finger back at you and paint you as some oversensitive whiny pants or something similarly bad.

    Can you change universities? I’m not in academia..not sure how difficult that is.

  15. Louise Says:

    document everything objectively with dates and detailed descriptions of the interactions. Definitely don’t try and solve it personally with him or take him to lunch! his behaviour is way beyond that. I assume there is employee assistance services available? contact the EAP and make an appointment to see the psychologist so your difficulties are recorded and you can show that you have taken action to try and deal with his behaviour. Then arrange to meet with the head of your department and make a formal complaint about his behaviour so it is documented. If they don’t deal with it then go higher. his behaviour is totally unacceptable and regardless of the reason for it, the department and the university have an obligation to protect you from harrassment.

    • chacha1 Says:

      Exactly. Universities almost all get at least some of their funding from governments and that means they have to play by the rules when it comes to harrassment and discrimination claims. They may not like it, but tough.

      A guy who’s losing his shit in multiple situations (which for normal people are not shit-losing scenarios) is pretty much obviously not normal. Cause is irrelevant.

  16. sciliz Says:

    Prior to the feud over hiring with other the other full prof, did LargeAngryProf exhibit much anger?

    It strikes me as odd that somebody would suddenly develop such a bullying type of attitude… in some ways a mental disorder could best explain things (in which case you need to talk to a careline or ombudsman or HR person to determine what options for encouraging him to get treatment might be feasible/appropriate).

    Alternatively, if he’s always been kind of a jerk (just not to *you*), then unless he actually has a history of acting on it, what you need most urgently is probably somebody to run a meeting in a way that will prevent him from yelling and turning red (which is unproductive and unprofessional). “Interrupting” is one of those aspects of communication that’s used in speech 101 classes as a hallmark “cultural and context specific” thing- it can be seen as anything from a positive sign of engagement to basically worse than slapping someone in the face. Which isn’t to say that your interruptions aren’t being judged overly harshly (IBTP), or that his judgement isn’t leading to whackadoo behavior that needs to stop, just that I’ve seen some people who interrupting will reliably prod into yelling. Frankly, I would not have a PhD had I not learned to diffuse tension by listening to cranky old men rant (but then, the old men I had to listen to were not physically threatening!).

    You sound very unsettled by this, and I probably would be too, but that makes it a bit difficult to distinguish if the situation needs mediation by a go-between you can both trust (and, ideally, who is professionally trained at mediation), or if you need to go straight to a judge and get a restraining order, or something in between.

  17. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Thanks for all the advice! I had been documenting, but not including everything that you suggested (who was there etc.) I will add that.

    When the next faculty meeting is announced, I will send the email recommended to start the paper trail with my acting chair.

    I will have to think about the rest. I do actually know the laws about recording in this state (long story… but a colleague looked them up because of a student situation) and they’re pretty lax. So I could either secretly or overtly record. Though I would have to buy something to record with…

    One benefit: Instead of stopping by my office today on his way through the hall to say, “Hey kiddo!” and talk at me, he determinedly ignored me and stopped a few doors down at another junior faculty member’s office to call her kiddo instead. Silver lining!

    I just bowed out of a dinner with a job candidate because this guy is going.

  18. gwinne Says:

    You’ve gotten some great advice here. All I can say is…wowza. I had a colleague who, thankfully, retired last year and she was batshit crazy and absolutely mean to me in public settings but really nothing like this… What a toxic working environment; I hope there are many good things that make tenure in your department appealing

  19. Revanche Says:

    Oh hey, this is one of the major reasons I was totally happy to leave the last job! The newly hired male Director w/power delusions (also on the list: liar, power grabber, intriguer, manipulator, bully, among other things) decided that taking over my group was his goal. Only I (and my boss, and maybe the CEO if he could be bothered) stood squarely in his way, and I’d always fought my own battles.

    He would try to manipulate whichever of my staff he was allowed access to whenever I wasn’t around, and he’d get up in my face, belligerently, loudly, rudely and totally unprofessionally. My reaction was only to raise an eyebrow and respond calmly to the first verbal attacks, and refute his claims. I’ll admit here that I pretty much enjoyed refusing to back down like he clearly wanted me to do, he was trying to scare me off, and I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. Plus I could only hope that he’d either burst a blood vessel or lunge at me over the table and get himself fired. *evil? Yes. But the asshat would clearly have deserved it for losing his mind over something so completely trivial.*

    By that time, I had unfortunately transitioned to a Shitty Boss who did absolutely nothing to back me up like she should have and the next thing to do would have been to walk out the next time he couldn’t keep his shit together. The reason I couldn’t walk was because so long as I had a boss in there when I walked out, she would have made stupid-@rsed concessions on my behalf and it would have resulted in even worse business results for me.

    I made a formal report to HR, to his boss, the CEO, to my own boss of each incident to establish a document trail of the incidents, using very specific language about who witnessed the event, what precipitated it, and key words like “unprofessional,” “bullying” and “unprovoked attacks”. I also mentioned all the times I had tried to make peace.

    I privately corroborated the incidents/behaviors for the people who approached me (from other departments) who had begun to be on the receiving end of his machinations. To those people, I encouraged them to do the same thing: these people were at least ten to fifteen years older than me and couldn’t believe that they were on the receiving end of the slyer versions of this abberant behavior, and couldn’t figure out what to do. Report, report and report. Honestly, I didn’t expect much to come of it but without a stack of paperwork against him there was definitely nothing to establish that there was a problem. If nothing else, it allowed me to put the Crazy in perspective for myself and for colleagues, so they’d see what a toxic bastard was working with them – people tend to diminish the psycho in their midst because they get used to it.

    No real solutions here, unfortunately. Just: I’m sorry, the nutter has some kind of screw(s) loose; never be alone with him; report everything because he cannot be trusted and seriously, never let your guard down.

    • jlp Says:

      Yes, exactly. The more people you can get to also report, the stronger the case against him. If you suspect he is also being inappropriate with other colleagues, approach them and encourage them to also document and report.

  20. Sense Says:

    I have been there; academia seems to collect the more pompous nutters rather than shed them. I’m a lowly academic research assistant, so when I was dealing with my bully (the research organization’s deputy director), I dealt with it for as long as I could but documented EVERYTHING; even when he came to my office to confront me, my response to his words and actions were in email form. When it got out of hand–he yelled obscenities at me during a private meeting where our boss, the research director, was present (the director stopped him and told me he’d deal with him, but zero consequences were followed through). I went to my supervisor after that, as I felt it had gotten beyond my control. She did nothing as she wanted to keep the peace no matter what, so I took it into my own hands (which she didn’t discourage me to do, just wouldn’t become involved). This guy had a long history of trying to intimidate women who didn’t bow down to him, so I approached several past employees (current ones were too scared) and we collectively decided to take it to HR. As the time approached, they all dropped out, one by one. I went through with my meeting, but got a very bad feeling from it (long story), so didn’t end up launching a formal investigation, and there was nothing between full-on, his-position-is-suspended-pending-the-formal-investigation, and me just verbalizing an informal complaint, after which they could do nothing about. My position was the first terminated during the budget cuts a month later, very fortuitously for the deputy director. My supervisor found me another position with her, but I still have to deal with this guy occasionally.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’ve been there and you do need to be aware of the fact that this may get much worse rather than better in the short-term. If you have tenure, however, that helps. A lot. Gather as much support as you can, because if things get messy, you will need to have people around you to assure you that you aren’t going crazy and that standing up for yourself is worth it in the long run.

    p.s. I also highly appreciate you and your kind during meetings! Despite my rambles above, I hate, hate, HATE meetings where people just ramble on, off-topic. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  21. belowhermeans Says:

    Faculty/staff services and/or Human Resources, and soon.

  22. Anonymous_1 Says:

    This is exactly the sort of situation your chair is supposed to be mediating – they should immediately be talking to HR and to the Deans, and it is a real problem that they are allowing this behavior to stand. In a similar situation, I had a lot of support from my colleagues who immediately spoke with me and who independently took their concerns to the chair such that I was not the one who had to report the situation, which eliminated most of the typical derails. To me, the most concerning part of this is that your colleagues and your chair are turning a blind eye. I wonder if they may be desensitized to this person’s behavior – are there any of your colleagues that you can discuss this with? When a colleague’s behavior slowly slips into the absolutely unprofessional, sometimes it is hard to draw the line to say it has become unacceptable (and potentially actionable, particularly if he pulls it with staff and students as well!)

  23. RBOC « Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured Says:

    […] the bully dude?  He loudly offered me a cookie from his boxed lunch at the last faculty meeting (mine […]

  24. Thanksgiving weekend recap and links Says:

    […] Nicole and Maggie (or one of them really) is dealing with a bully at work. […]


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