Conflating abuse and incivility in the academic workplace

Teachable moments with the attitude it is business may be excellent use of reframing to maintain ego in that kind of environment.

Minding the Workplace

In an advice piece titled “Coping with Verbal Abuse” in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert J. Sternberg offers advice for those who have experienced this form of mistreatment in the academic workplace.

Sternberg, a former university administrator and past president of the American Psychological Association and now a professor of human development at Cornell University, offers his short list of common types of verbal abuse in academe:

That abuse comes in many different forms: book reviews, referee reports on journal submissions, evaluations of grant proposals, questions and comments during presentations, offhand comments by less-than-collegial colleagues, and on and on.

Rather than simply giving it back and “telling off your abuser” (a potential “career-ender”), Sternberg recommends that one adopt approaches more likely to “pay off in the long run,” such as:

  • “Ignore the abuse and, if possible, the abuser.”
  • “It’s not always personal…

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