Initial Publication Date: February 16, 2018


Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others in the professional environment that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. These actions can include abusive criticism, humiliation, the spreading of rumors, physical and verbal attacks, and professional exclusion and isolation of someone.The Workplace Bullying Institute defines Workplace Bullying as "...repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :

  • Threatening,
  • humiliating, or intimidating,
  • or Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done,
  • or Verbal abuse

A more comprehensive definition of Workplace Bullying was submitted to the AGU Ethics Task Force by Mary Anne Holmes: Workplace bullying is defined as a situation in which one or several individuals persistently, and over a period of time, perceive themselves as being on the receiving end of negative actions from superiors or coworkers, and where the target of the bullying finds it difficult to defend him or herself against these actions (Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996; Olweus, 1993). That is, while many instances of interpersonal aggression take the form of individual episodes, workplace bullying is by definition characterized by systematic and prolonged exposure to repeated negative and aggressive behaviour of a primarily psychological nature, including non-behaviour and acts of social exclusion (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, and Cooper, 2011; Leymann, 1996). As opposed to many other concepts describing interpersonal aggression, workplace bullying is not an either/or phenomenon, but rather a gradually evolving process (Einarsen, 2000). Furthermore, as opposed to, for instance, the concept of abusive supervision, workplace bullying captures aggression from superiors, subordinates and coworkers alike (Tepper, 2007; Zapf and Einarsen, 2011). In line with this, the concept of workplace bullying focuses on the target, as opposed to many other concepts that tend to mainly focus on perpetrators who may behave badly towards many different targets (see also Tepper, 2007). In workplace bullying, it is often the case that a target is singled out and victimized by a range of perpetrators (Zapf and Einarsen, 2011). The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has a very useful Fact Sheet on Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior: What Everyone Needs to Know that documents examples of bullying, effects of bullying on people and organizations, and remedies.

Other useful resources on academic bullying include:

  • Bully in the Ivory Tower: How Aggression and Incivility Erode American Higher Education–Leah P.. Hollis, 2012, and the related essay Bullying in Academe by Raymonda Burgman from Inside Higher Education.
  • Mediating in the Academic Bully Culture: The Chair's Responsibility to Faculty and Graduate Students–from Tomorrow's Professor posting #992, by Barbara M. De Luca and Darla J. Twale, authors of Faculty Incivility (Jossey-Bass, 2008). This article appeared in The Department Chair: A Resource for Academic Administrators, Winter 2010, Vol. 20, No. 3. Workplace Bullying Institute--a wealth of supporting information and resources!
  • Twale, D.J. and De Luca, B.M., 2008. Faculty incivility: The rise of the academic bully culture and what to do about it (Vol. 128). Jossey-Bass. Martin, M.M., Goodboy, A.K. and Johnson, Z.D., 2015.
  • When Professors Bully Graduate Students: Effects on Student Interest, Instructional Dissent, and Intentions to Leave Graduate Education. Communication Education, 64(4), pp.438-454.
  • Check out this first-hand account by Rochelle Poole Bullied Out of Research published in Science magazine, October 28, 2016, p. 514.
  • Cassell, M.A., 2011. Bullying in academe: Prevalent, significant, and incessant. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 4(5), p.33. Clark, C.M., Olender, L., Kenski, D. and Cardoni, C., 2013. Exploring and addressing faculty-to- faculty incivility: A national perspective and literature review. Journal of Nursing Education, 52(4), pp.211-218.
  • Frazier, K.N., 2011. Academic Bullying: A Barrier to Tenure and Promotion for African-American Faculty. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 5(1), pp.1-13.
  • Keashly, L. and Neuman, J.H., 2010. Faculty experiences with bullying in higher education: Causes, consequences and management. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 32(1), pp.48-70.
  • Lampman, C., Phelps, A., Bancroft, S. and Beneke, M., 2009. [link 9560-x 'Contrapower harassment in academia: A survey of faculty experience with student incivility, bullying, and sexual attention']. Sex Roles, 60(5-6), pp.331-346.
  • McKay, R., Arnold, D.H., Fratzl, J. and Thomas, R., 2008.Workplace bullying in academia: A Canadian study. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 20(2), pp.77-100. (REFERENCES TO STUDIES IN NON-U.S. COUNTRIES)
  • Nielsen, M. B. and Einarsen, S. 2012. Outcomes of exposure to workplace bullying: A meta-analytic review, Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations, 26:4, 309-332.
  • Piotrowski, C. and King, C., 2016. The Enigma of Adult Bullying in Higher Education: a Research-based Conceptual Framework. Education, 136(3), pp.299-306.
  • Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., and Cooper, C., 2010, Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in the Theory, Research, and Practice, Second Edition, CRC Press, 512 pp. Einarsen, S., & Skogstad, A. (1996). Prevalence and risk groups of bullying and harassment at work. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 185–202.
  • Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2011). The concept of bullying and harassment at work: The European tradition. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and harassment in the workplace (pp. 3–40). London: Taylor & Francis.
  • Leymann, H. (1996). The content and development of mobbing at work. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 165–184. Einarsen, S. (2000). Harassment and bullying at work: A review of the Scandinavian approach. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 5(4), 379–401.
  • Tepper, B. J. (2007). Abusive supervision in work organizations: review, synthesis, and research agenda. Journal of Management 33(3), 261-289. Zapf, D., & Einarsen, S. (2011). Individual antecedents of workplace bullying. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and harassment in the workplace (pp. 177–200). London: Taylor & Francis. D'Cruz, P., 2015, Depersonalized Bullying at Work From Evidence to Conceptualization, Springer Verlag.
  • Keashley, L., 2010, Some Things You Need to Know but may have been Afraid to Ask: A Researcher Speaks to Ombudsmen about Workplace Bullying, Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, vol 3 #2. This is a really nice overview of the patterns of behavior and the impacts!
  • Fogg, P. (2008). Academic Bullies. Chronicle of higher Education, 55(3).
  • Frazier, K. N. (2011). Academic Bullying: A Barrier to Tenure and Promotion for African-American Faculty. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 5(1), 1-13.
  • Bullying of Academics in Higher Education' Bully in the Ivory Tower: How Aggression and Incivility Erode American Higher Education–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Dr. Leah Hollis, (video recording) Addressing Incivility in the Classroom: Effective Strategies for Faculty–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Dr. Chavella Pittman, (video recording) (In)Civility in Academic Spaces–from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Dr. Adeline Koh, (video recording)
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been proactive in addressing bullying on campus: New UW-Madison website to help faculty, staff cope with workplace bullying--Pat Schneider, The Cap times, posted January 29, 2018. Visit the UW-M website on Hostile and Intimidating Behavior--contains information on principles, policies, campus resources, and methods to address and prevent hostile and intimidating behavior.
  • Bullying in Academe--Raymonda Burgman, from Inside Higher Education, posted June 15, 2016. "Bullying behavior at your institution can result in lawsuits, high employee turnover costs, productivity declines, low morale and many other problems...As you begin forming a no-bullying (and healthy) work environment, ask yourself and colleagues these three simple questions: Does your supervisor have a positive attitude? Does the administration respect all employees? Do your colleagues respect you?"
  • Workplace Bullying--a Self Help Guide developed by the University of Louisville.
  • References on Bulllying (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 156kB Feb16 18)--a compilation created by Mary Anne Holmes.

Many of the above references were compiled by Mary Anne Holmes.

Here is what you can do; advice from Workplace Bullying--a Self Help Guide developed by the University of Louisville.

Here is an alternative perspective on Bullying: Let's retire the word "bullying." by Jim Dillon, posted October 4, 2018, Education-the Voice of the Educator. He argues "...the word "bullying" was "getting in the way" of productive discussions on how to help students..."Retire" does not mean eliminate or forget...Retiring the word "bullying" could provide the opportunity for educators to explore a more productive way of framing the issue and responding to it...Read more of Dillon's analysis of this situation!


Examples of cyber-bullying is all too present in the daily news. As a profession, we increasingly use listservs, blogs, posting videos and much more in ways that have the potential of impacting individuals in a universal and irreversible manner. Self-monitoring and self-regulating actions by the community are needed. Here are examples:

  • My Connected Community--Geological Society of America's E-Group Rules and Etiquette.
  • Cyber-Bullying--This posting gives some good insights on dealing with a serious problem affecting both students and professors. It is from Chapter 8 – Digital Safety, Security and Citizenship, in the book, Digital Literacy Skills for FE (Further Education) Teachers, by Jonathan White. Published by Learning Matters, An imprint of SAGE Publications Ltd 1 Oliver's Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP. © 2015 Jonathan White. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. Posted at Tomorrow's Professor, message 1596.
  • What is Cyberbullying--from


From the AGU Harassment webpage: According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer may not fire, demote, harass or otherwise "retaliate" against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability, as well as wage differences between men and women performing substantially equal work, also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding. In addition to the protections against retaliation that are included in all of the laws enforced by EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects individuals from coercion, intimidation, threat, harassment, or interference in their exercise of their own rights or their encouragement of someone else's exercise of rights granted by the ADA.

Study finds 75 percent of workplace harassment victims experienced retaliation when they spoke up.--Tara Golshan, VOX, posted October 15 2017.

Additional Resources on Bullying Substantial resources can be accessed at the Workplace Bullying Institute, Bullying of Academics in Higher Education, and Workplace Bullying (workshops, short courses)