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Softpanorama Lysenkoism and PseudoScience Bulletin, 2006

Hobson's Choice

Note about "state patronage" is well taken. Still general premise is not true: several countries can get under the same type of ideological leadership and in this case this still will be Lysenkoism...

Unfortunately, the use of "Lysenkoism" as an epithet has been degraded by overuse, especially in absurd situations. I propose to restrict "Lysenkoism" to circumstances where a clear case can be made for coercive enforcement of the belief system from outside the system (e.g., by state patronage).

For example, if a concept spreads concurrently among the scientific communities of several countries, it is almost certainly not Lysenkoism. One might feel like calling it that, but the analogy with Lysenko would fail to apply.

Posted by: James R MacLean at March 2, 2005 06:31 PM

Crusade against the jerk at work - Some companies seek to filter out toxic employees

Sutton, a management science and engineering professor, says he's not trying to offend anyone with the blunt title of his new book, out this week, "The No -- hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't." But he felt he needed to use an "emotionally authentic" term to spur corporate America to stamp out boorish behavior that decreases productivity, drives away talented workers and destroys morale.

"I am disgusted with the norm in business and sports that if you are a really big winner, you can get away with being a creep," Sutton said. "My dream is that leaders of all organizations will eventually treat acting like an -- hole as a sign of bad performance rather than an excuse for good performance."

For getting away with being profane, Sutton owes a debt of gratitude to retired Princeton University philosophy Professor Harry Frankfurt, who penned a best-selling book in 2005 on the Platonic essence of bull manure. " 'On Bull -- ' opened up the market for books with dirty titles for professors from fancy universities," Sutton said. Even Sutton's six-figure advance was based on the sales of "On Bull -- ."

... ... ....

Sutton defines a jerk as one who oppresses, humiliates, de-energizes or belittles a subordinate or a colleague, causing that person to feel worse about him or herself. Tactics include personal insults, sarcasm, teasing, shaming or treating people as if they were invisible.

What is Mobbing? Workplace Mobbing in Academe (2004).

Budget Cuts Are Not the Only Way Workers Are Forced from Jobs: Workplace Abuse

“The mobbing syndrome is a malicious attempt to force a person out of the workplace through unjustified accusations, humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse, and/or terror. “It is a ‘ganging up’ by the leader(s) - organization, superior, co-worker, or subordinate - who rallies others into systematic and frequent ‘mob-like’ behavior.

“Because the organization ignores, condones, or even instigates the behavior, it can be said that the victim, seemingly helpless against the powerful and many, is indeed ‘mobbed.’ The result is always injury - physical or mental distress or illness and social misery and, most often, expulsion from the workplace.”

-Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, by Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 1999.

When a budget crisis hits a large institution, certain workers often seem to be treated as though they are“expendable,” and are often the first forced out. But this is not the only manner in which workers are driven out of the workplace. Mobbing has been recognized for many years in Europe, and it is also beginning to be identified as a serious workplace problem in the United States. The authors above go on to say, “Mobbing is an emotional assault. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace.”

“These actions escalate into abusive and terrorizing behavior. The victim feels increasingly helpless when the organization does not put a stop to the behavior or may even plan or condone it... Frequently productivity is   affected... Resignation, termination, or early retirement, the negotiated voluntary or involuntary expulsion from the workplace, follows. For the victim, death - through illness or suicide - may be the final chapter in the mobbing story.” -ibid

Much of the original research on mobbing was done by Swedish researcher Heinz Leymann in the 1980’s. His findings have been slow in making it to the United States. However a number of local statutes have been enacted, and publications, conferences, and resources have surfaced recently in the U.S. For example, Peralta Community College District in Oakland recently established a regulation outlawing such behavior.

Often mobbing activities are directed at whistleblowers. Brian Martin, in Whistleblowing and Nonviolencen (Peace and Change, Vol. 24, No. 3, January 1999) describes attacks on whistleblowers this way:

Whistleblowing, in casual usage, means speaking out from within an organization to expose a social problem or,   more generally, dissenting from dominant views or practices... The most common experience of whistleblowers is that they are attacked. Instead of their messages being evaluated, the full power of the organization is turned against the whistleblower. This is commonly called the shoot-the-messanger syndrome,... The means of suppression are impressive, nonetheless. They include ostracism by colleagues, petty harassment (including snide remarks, assignment to trivial tasks and invoking of regulations not normally enforced), spreading of rumors, formal reprimands, transfer to positions with no work (or too much work), demotion, referral to psychiatrists, dismissal, and blacklisting.

Whistleblowers often discover that formal channels for complaint or remedy are ineffective or easily blocked. As Martin explains, “Appeal bodies are part of the wider system of power and usually seek or reach accommodation with other powerful groups. Hence such bodies are highly unlikely to support a single individual against elites from a major organization, who usually have links with elites elsewhere.”

Whistleblowers have other resources, according to Martin: “One strategy is based on ‘mobilization,’ namely winning supporters by circulating relevant documents, holding meetings and obtaining media coverage.” Howeve, such attempts at mobilization are often met by more severe mobbing and harassment.

Kenneth Westhues, has identified academic institutions as a primary location for mobbing attacks:

“Ordinarily, colleagues in positions of local power explain the situation in terms of failings of the targeted professor: bad teaching, too few publications or the wrong kind, ethical misconduct, shirking of duties, failure to live up to legitimate expectations of the job... Sometimes, however, the target's failings have little to do with why he or she is in trouble. The evidence may point to a sharply contrasting explanation: that colleagues and/or administrators have ganged up on the targeted professor for no good reason, to the point that collectively shunning, shaming, and tormenting the target bolsters the group's solidarity, its esprit de corps.” - Workplace Mobbing in Academe (2004)

Westhues also tracks the trajectory of mobbing, and its consequences for victims and perpetrators. Here are more of his comments:

Mobbing ... is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate.”

“Not infrequently, mobbing spelled the end of the target’s career, marriage, health, and livelihood. From a study of circumstances surrounding suicides in Sweden, Leymann estimated that about twelve percent of people who take their own lives have recently been mobbed at work.... By Leymann’s and others' estimates, between two and five percent of adults are mobbed sometime during their working lives. The other 95 percent, involved in the process only as observers, bystanders, or perpetrators (though occasionally also as rescuers or guardians of the target), mostly deny, gloss over, and forget the mobbing cases in which they took part. That is one reason it has taken so long for the phenomenon to be identified and researched.

Workplace mobbing is normally carried out politely, without any violence, and with ample written documentation.   Yet even without the blood, the bloodlust is essentially the same: contagion and mimicking of unfriendly, hostile acts toward the target; relentless undermining of the target’s self-confidence; group solidarity against one whom all agree does not belong; and the euphoria of collective attack.

“The worker most vulnerable to being mobbed is an average or high achiever who is personally invested in a formally secure job, but who nonetheless somehow threatens or puts to shame co-workers and/or managers. “Ironically, it is in workplaces where workers’ rights are formally protected that the complex and devious incursions on human dignity that constitute mobbing most commonly occur. Union shops are one example... University faculties are another, on account of the special protections of tenure and academic freedom professors have...Mobbing appears to be more common in the professional service sector, where work is complex, goals ambiguous, best practices debatable, and market discipline far away. Scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. It is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear, specific goal of ruining a disliked co- worker's life. Less time, skill, and energy are required to write off a persistent critic as a "difficult professor" than to rebut the critic's arguments. Chalking up dissent to the dissenter's real or imagined flaws of character relieves overworked administrators of uncertainty and ambiguity. It lets them feel good about themselves.

Westhues (and others) point out that the best way to deal with mobbing is to nip it in the bud. Organizations not able to do this are at least as much at fault as the perpetrators of the attacks. To stop it requires an open atmosphere at the very beginning:   “The basic priority for constructive resolution of workplace conflict, namely to keep the conversation going, to let competing positions be expressed and the evidence for them reviewed, to listen to what opponents say, to respond honestly and respectfully, to try not to silence anyone.”

Westhues lists three points for a strong academic institution which has vaccinated itself against mobbing:

  1. Protect freedom of speech.
  2. Keep academic organization loose. A tight ship cannot be a university. It has to be full of contradiction and brimming with debate in order to fulfill its public purposes.
  3. Focus attention on these purposes, like educating youth, producing useful knowledge, and above all seeking truth.

These quotes on mobbing were collected and prepared by Karl Schaffer(, x8214), as a public service to the De Anza College community. In addition to the sources cited above, google “mobbing” or “workplace abuse” for more info.

[Sep 17, 2006] Inner Circle Taking More of C.D.C. Bonuses - New York Times By GARDINER HARRIS

September 17, 2006 (NYT) Top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received premium bonuses in recent years at the expense of scientists and others who perform much of the agency's scientific work, agency records show.

Those inside the office of the centers' director, Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, have benefited the most, the records show.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times requested records of all cash awards of $2,500 or greater granted to current and former C.D.C. employees from 2000 to mid-2006. The most recent awards are dated July 21.

Dr. Gerberding, whose leadership of the agency is the subject of an inquiry by the Senate Finance Committee, was not immediately available for comment, said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the centers.

From 2002 through mid-2006, William H. Gimson III, the agency's chief operating officer, received bonuses totaling $147,863, which included seven cash awards of more than $2,500. Mr. Gimson's bonuses were about twice the amount granted to any other C.D.C. employee, the agency's records show.

Mr. Skinner said Mr. Gimson was not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Gimson's deputy, Barbara W. Harris, received six premium bonuses of $2,500 or more from 2002 through mid-2006 for a total of $84,894, agency records show.

Mr. Skinner said Ms. Harris was also not available for comment.

Mr. Gimson and Ms. Harris are part of the federal government's Senior Executive Service, a cadre of top civil servants whose salaries are generally among the highest in government. The salaries of Mr. Gimson and Ms. Harris were not included in the records requested by The Times.

The increase in bonuses to these officials was part of a decision by the Bush administration to make transformation of the management of the centers a top priority, said Glen Nowak, chief of media relations at the centers. "If we want to retain people, we need to recognize them," Mr. Nowak said Friday in an interview. "We are operating in a highly competitive environment."

Before Dr. Gerberding's appointment, members of the C.D.C. director's inner circle rarely received premium bonuses of $2,500 or more. After her arrival, in July 2002, such cash awards increased, the records obtained by The Times show.

In 2000, officials in the office of the director, Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, received bonuses totaling $30,000, which included eight premium bonuses of $2,500 or more. The bonuses represented 0.4 percent of all bonuses granted within the centers that year.

In 2005, the records show that officials in Dr. Gerberding's office received 60 premium bonuses totaling $515,075, or about 4 percent of all bonuses granted within the centers.

Because bonus money is limited — about 1.5 percent of the total personnel budget, Mr. Skinner said — the growing share of premium bonuses for Dr. Gerberding's closest advisers has meant less money is available for some scientists and other workers.

In an e-mail message on Friday afternoon, Dr. Gerberding informed workers at the centers that information about the agency's bonus program might soon be made public.

"It is important to remember one thing, though: that those of you who have received a monetary award, or will in the future, received it for your superior performance and special acts, which merit these awards," Dr. Gerberding wrote.

The agency's Executive Leadership Board recently voted to create a committee to review the cash awards process and address "any shortcomings," she wrote.

In addition to those within Dr. Gerberding's inner circle, the increase in large cash awards within the centers has mostly benefited employees in the agency's financial, computer and human resources departments — not its scientists.

"You have the administration signaling that these are the areas that they want to see significant improvements on, and they want that to happen as quickly as possible," Mr. Nowak said.

The administration also made security a priority, Mr. Nowak said. He said that helped to explain $41,485 in premium bonuses given since 2002 to William T. Porter, the agency's head of security.

"I'm sure Bill Porter's peers in the corporate world are being paid at a higher level," Mr. Nowak said.

Members of the Public Health Service are not eligible to receive cash awards, Mr. Nowak said. That is part of the reason so few scientists appear among the top recipients of premium bonuses, he said.

Soon after arriving at the centers, Dr. Gerberding began a comprehensive reorganization of the agency. In its wake, many of the agency's senior scientists and leaders either left or have announced that they are planning to leave.

The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution have reported on the turmoil at the centers in articles quoting disgruntled former senior scientists who said the changes had undermined the agency.

Five of the six former directors who led the agency in the past 40 years recently wrote a letter to Dr. Gerberding expressing concerns over the exodus of crucial administrative and scientific leaders and scientists, The Journal-Constitution reported.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Finance Committee, has announced that the committee is trying to determine whether upheaval at the agency has jeopardized its scientific mission.

In another e-mail message, on Sept. 11, Dr. Gerberding noted the departures of top agency leaders and acknowledged that change was difficult.

"I respect those who don't believe these changes are needed, and I respect even more all those who are actively and constructively engaged in helping us find the best way forward," Dr. Gerberding wrote.

Among the other recipients of large cash awards since 2002 were James D. Seligman, the agency's chief information officer, who received $62,455 in premium bonuses; John C. Tibbs, director of the agency's financial management office, who received $52,880; and Kimberly S. Lane, a senior adviser to the Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases, who received $50,565.

None could immediately be reached for comment



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