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Author Topic: When the crazy kicks in  (Read 22679 times)
ursula
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« on: April 22, 2012, 9:51:47 AM »

A colleague in another department here, whom I encounter regularly through the admin side of my position, has always been very arrogant and rather brusque -- one of those who knows he's a star having to work in a pigpen, and makes sure everyone else is aware of it, too.

He did good work, published a lot and got good grants, so we left him alone about it.  

Then, this year, he got tenure, and the crazy exploded.  The guy has been having very public tantrums, including chastising people by e-mail and copying to their supervisors, for very minor things.  He has done this with two associate deans, two deans and the vice-provost.

His main problem seems to be with women:  he has come after me a couple of times, chewing me out for not being as prompt with something as he would like, and sending e-mails to the dean about my incompetence,  and the need to remove me from my semi-admin position and send me back to teach first year "for the sake of the division's reputation".  He has also yelled at the dean's secretary and the provost's receptionist, and then sent long e-mails to the dean and provost about the women in question.

And we gave him tenure last year -- it's going to be a long forty years.

There's really no question here -- more that I felt like ranting.  But feel free wo weigh in if you like.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2012, 9:52:56 AM by ursula » Logged

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glowdart
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2012, 9:58:41 AM »

Save everything.  At some point, he's going to explode at the wrong person with the wrong language, and you might well be subpoenaed to testify in the ensuing chaos if anyone knows he's blown up at you or if he did it over email on the school's system. 
 

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mended_drum
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2012, 1:40:12 PM »

Someone is probably waiting for him to make the fatal error, the "if this continues, I'm going to resign!" threat which they can construe as a resignation.

At my place, anyway.
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prof52
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2012, 2:15:27 PM »

A colleague in another department here, whom I encounter regularly through the admin side of my position, has always been very arrogant and rather brusque -- one of those who knows he's a star having to work in a pigpen, and makes sure everyone else is aware of it, too.

He did good work, published a lot and got good grants, so we left him alone about it.  

Then, this year, he got tenure, and the crazy exploded.  The guy has been having very public tantrums, including chastising people by e-mail and copying to their supervisors, for very minor things.  He has done this with two associate deans, two deans and the vice-provost.

His main problem seems to be with women:  he has come after me a couple of times, chewing me out for not being as prompt with something as he would like, and sending e-mails to the dean about my incompetence,  and the need to remove me from my semi-admin position and send me back to teach first year "for the sake of the division's reputation".  He has also yelled at the dean's secretary and the provost's receptionist, and then sent long e-mails to the dean and provost about the women in question.

And we gave him tenure last year -- it's going to be a long forty years.

There's really no question here -- more that I felt like ranting.  But feel free wo weigh in if you like.

You have my sympathies and some empathy.  We made what was, in retrospect, a foreseeably bad hire due to the individual's personality issues.  I was on the committee and am guilty of overlooking the warning signs out of a misbegotten belief that we'd landed a really top class researcher.  While he hasn't turned out to be top class, he clears all the tenure hurdles quite easily, and his behavior at least up to the present isn't the sort that could be used as grounds not to tenure him in our department or institution.  Dealing with this colleague is difficult for many of us.  My best advice is to stay away, document, and be firm but very civil when disagreements or discussion cannot be avoided.  Ultimately, this kind of individual alienates everyone with whom he comes into contact, and in the end they tend to marginalize themselves.  Hopefully he'll just become a waste of tenure line and in the end no more than that, pity enough though it is to waste a tenure line.
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lizzy
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2012, 3:23:15 PM »


His main problem seems to be with women:  he has come after me a couple of times, chewing me out for not being as prompt with something as he would like, and sending e-mails to the dean about my incompetence,  and the need to remove me from my semi-admin position and send me back to teach first year "for the sake of the division's reputation".  He has also yelled at the dean's secretary and the provost's receptionist, and then sent long e-mails to the dean and provost about the women in question.

You have my sympathies and some empathy.  We made what was, in retrospect, a foreseeably bad hire due to the individual's personality issues.  I was on the committee and am guilty of overlooking the warning signs out of a misbegotten belief that we'd landed a really top class researcher.  While he hasn't turned out to be top class, he clears all the tenure hurdles quite easily, and his behavior at least up to the present isn't the sort that could be used as grounds not to tenure him in our department or institution.  Dealing with this colleague is difficult for many of us.  My best advice is to stay away, document, and be firm but very civil when disagreements or discussion cannot be avoided.  Ultimately, this kind of individual alienates everyone with whom he comes into contact, and in the end they tend to marginalize themselves.  Hopefully he'll just become a waste of tenure line and in the end no more than that, pity enough though it is to waste a tenure line.


This.

Also--if you document that he's been singling out women you might be able to mute him a bit with a warning shot across the nondiscrimination bow:

For example: "Crazy Bob, based on your recent emails about W, X, Y, and Z, it might appear that you are singling out women for public accusations and abusive characterizations of their work. As you know, our university has a firm and clear policy against discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality, etc."

Something along these lines might get him to pipe down a little, in the interests of self-preservation. And, since you're tenured, you have more power to stand up for yourself and for others.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2012, 3:51:44 PM »

He was able to hold his tongue and just be generally annoying for 7 years, which would suggest he's perfectly capable of doing it for 7 more.

Such a fellow would probably die inside if he didn't get full prof at the earliest possible moment, and someone of authority should hang that over his head.

Also, I've seen this happen on my campus, often with men of relative authority trying to push around women. What I saw one woman do was awesome. She said "When you are ready to speak to me in a calm tone, please return. Otherwise, I am calling the dean immediately to report this. Don't make it worse by making me call security as well"

So, a combination of having people hang delayed promotion over his head, and responding to him firmly should quite him a little. He won't
change his basic nature, but he'll probably be somewhat more polite in how he expresses his jerkiness.

Oh, yeah, and yes, of course, document all of this.
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marigolds
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2012, 5:27:10 PM »

Take this with a grain of salt, because it may not be relevant in academia, but it is a pattern of human behavior that seems to hold true.

People who step outside the bounds of social courtesy in this way are counting on others to remain within those bounds (respond politely to outbursts, ignoring tantrum-like behavior, etc.)  This is what bullies depend upon for their power plays to work.

You have NO obligation to maintain social courtesy with someone who is not doing so with you. All bets are off. It's perfectly OK to bluntly tell him that he's being an a**hole. (This is why the "get them alone and tell them quietly that you'll cut out their tongues if they treat you like that again" technique works, though I don't advocate that; it tells the person that you are not willing to be bound by the social contract if they aren't.)
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larryc
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2012, 6:15:41 PM »

This sounds like a pretty clear pattern of sexual harassment, and tenure won't save him form that. Document, talk to the other female targets and make sure they are documenting, keep your powder dry and wait for the best opportunity to complain.
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field_mouse
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2012, 7:27:02 PM »

Just playing Devil's advocate here:

Is it possible that, rather than having taken tenure as license to behave poorly, your colleague has another problem that arose roughly coincident with tenure?  Wife left him?  Child diagnosed with horrific disease?  Self diagnosed with horrific disease?  Psychiatric med stopped working?  Or maybe just a lot of added responsibility?  What I notice about the incident you describe -- something not being done quickly -- is that it's the kind of thing that comes out of people when they themselves feel that they are not meeting all their commitments.

Top-notch researchers tend to be at work too much to develop good support networks.  If something is really wrong, this hard-to-accept person may need something harder to deliver than a rebuke.
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spork
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2012, 3:50:55 PM »

If there's a pattern of targeting women, that's sexual harassment, and if multiple women file complaints with the appropriate people, he's toast.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2012, 3:56:59 PM »

was it really true that the guy evinced none of this sort of behaviour prior to getting tenure?  If so, I agree with the notion that something else is occurring with him...
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msparticularity
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2012, 5:34:23 PM »

If there's a pattern of targeting women, that's sexual harassment, and if multiple women file complaints with the appropriate people, he's toast.

Maybe...and maybe not. Preferentially targeting women for rude behavior is not sexual harassment in the absence of a sexual element to the harassment itself. Sexual harassment must, according to the EEOC, include "verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." To the degree that an individual actually discriminates unlawfully against women for pay, job responsibilities, or other opportunities, they may be engaging in sexual discrimination, which is illegal. It doesn't sound as if that's what's going on here, though.

We had a case like this at my uni a few years ago. The individual in question was (I am told) being a real jerk--to women. What is documented is this: an ill-informed administrator started the kind of systematic campaign you suggest, Spork, and treated it as a case of sexual harassment, invoking the penalties in the university handbook for it. The individual fought it administratively and in court. (There was no argument over whether the behaviors described had occurred.) The administrative appeal was successful internally, and the university lost in court as well; several administrators were forced out, and it is rumored that damages were paid.

It's not illegal to be jerk, even if you are a jerk to one particular category of individual. I understand why it happens, but we have really got to be more careful here when terms like "harassment" get thrown around. Not to be too snarky, but there sometimes is a bit of a parallel between this kind of labeling and the behavior of the  recent poster who is labeling as "unethical" all SC procedures s/he doesn't like.

And Kay and field_mouse, the OP said that the individual was always difficult and somewhat rude and dismissive to others; it just exploded with tenure.
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latinwords
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2012, 10:32:23 PM »

Hmm... I would first check if there is something weird in his life and if he needs help; if that does not work, check the faculty handbook - most list a variety of things that can get one one in trouble, tenure or not. Things like repeated poor treatment of staff should fit into some category or other under which a tenured person can be disciplined and, if that does not work, dismissed.
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macadamia
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« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2012, 9:01:44 AM »

"Hi Bob, I have read an interesting study that men who are irrationally angry at women have impotence trouble. I am sorry to see that your temper still hasn't improved. I wish you all the best for your recovery."

(No, I don't recommend this, but still...)
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writingprof
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« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2012, 1:26:50 PM »

Tenure wouldn't save this guy at any of the fine(ish) institutions at which I've worked.  What's he thinking?
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