The Role of Passive Evil in Perpetuating Downward Academic Mobbing

The Role of Passive Evil in Perpetuating Downward Academic Mobbing

Theodore W. McDonald (Boise State University, USA), Sandina Begic (Boise State University, USA) and R. Eric Landrum (Boise State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9485-7.ch003

Abstract

Downward academic mobbing occurs when unethical administrators initiate a pattern of bullying, intimidation, and the commission of personal and career damage on undeserving faculty members (most often principled, tenured professors who question their decisions or call attention to unethical behavior such as policy violations and lack of academic due process). Once these unethical administrators succeed in framing a faculty victim as a target (often through innuendo, factual distortions, or outright lies), the victim's colleagues—many of whom have known and benefited from the victim for years—either fail to support the victim (a problem known as passive evil) or begin actively participating in the persecution themselves (often in pursuit of personal gain). The purpose of this chapter is to focus on the first instance (i.e., passive evil), and to discuss how passive evildoers' failure to stand up for victims of downward academic mobbing effectively encourages future acts of persecution—including against the passive evildoers themselves.
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Workplace Bullying And Academic Mobbing

Research on workplace bullying has been accumulating for over 50 years, dating back at least to Brodsky’s (1976) book on workplace harassment (Duffy, 2009). The term ‘harassment’ did not survive long in the context that researchers currently describe workplace bullying, perhaps due to its longtime association with status-based offenses such as racial and sexual harassment (Duffy, 2009). What is now known either as workplace bullying or mobbing (or even as psychoterror, as Leymann [1993] once described it) is sometimes discussed with both of these terms interchangeably, as some researchers recommend (e.g., Namie & Namie, 2003). As described by Duffy (2009), the eminent sociologist Westhues (Westhues, 2005; 2006), spending much of his career studying academic mobbing, argued that the two terms should not be confounded, as he believed that the term bullying evoked an image of a stereotyped two-person conflict (such as a playground fight) whereas mobbing involves more than one perpetrator, and because mobbing is a more nuanced problem that requires a more nuanced solution than simply punishing the perpetrator (as mobbing involves multiple perpetrators and is often facilitated by a toxic organizational climate). In any case, as Pheko (2018a) observed, “bullying and mobbing can lead to similar consequences, such as a loss of dignity, lowered self-confidence and productivity, and an excessive amount of non-work-related stress and other related health issues” (p. 2). With apologies to those who prefer to differentiate between bullying and mobbing, for the sake of consistency with many authors who research these topics (as well as for simplicity), in this chapter the authors use the terms fairly synonymously, with the caveat that workplace bullying is considered a problem that occurs in all employment sectors, and downward academic mobbing refers to the similar processes occurring specifically in the higher education environment.

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