top of page
  • Clara Wajngurt

What is academic bullying?

What is academic bullying?

Have you ever experienced a situation where you received an unexpected letter from your academic dean or academic vice-president that says your position and visa have been revoked effective immediately? It doesn't have to be an academic dean or an academic vice-president-it can be from your supervisor on any job.

All of a sudden you are trying to figure out why you received this letter-- and images flash through your mind----how am I going to pay my bills and support my family? This scenario happens more often than we think.

Research shows that more than one in ten scientists have been targeted in academic bullying where the bully can be a more senior faculty colleague or even your supervisor (Hajebi, Saya Ameli; Mahmoudi, Morteza, July 14, 2021). Academic bullying is defined to be 'repeated acts of discrimination, incivility, or harassment against a researcher which can involve verbal abuse, isolation tactics or microaggressions.' It doesn't have to be in the university environment-which presumably is a poised, rational academic place.

Not necessarily so.

Academic bullying, although it is situated in the academic university setting, is significant, because researchers are working in labs or experiments to improve our world. And it just happens that your advisor can be a bully who:

  • threatens and intimidates and can say your visa will be canceled

  • isolates by reducing your funding for a grant

  • omits credit for work that you have done

  • abuses through negative remarks and sarcasm

  • assigns ambiguous tasks and overloads someone

So what happens to the target? The target feels anxiety, and decreased self-confidence--a feeling that the target cannot reach one's goals-so then develops lowered/destroyed self-esteem. In the target's research, there can be errors/medical errors and when the target is overworked there is physical and psychological pain and trauma.

One story from a target would entail-'I got sick before entering the lab-I did not want to see my advisor.'

Another story from a target, 'I never want to work on a grant again. My principal investigator wanted me to lie and cheat about data and steal money from the agency.'

Or another story I have heard is that "my supervisor is into 'power, privilege and racial oppression.'

We need to hear these stories. They must come out. We need to expose these bullies-so such experiences are not repeated! How can bullies behave this way and take advantage of their researchers when the world depends on data to improve our lives?

The targets are faced with two basic choices in this situations-either they withstand this traumatic, horrendous bullying or they are willing to share their experiences with others and talk about their bully advisor so that professional and personal consequences are minimized for others. Which would you choose?


Please consider my services by looking at my website at: or write to me at We offer individual consults as well as workshops for small or large scale groups.

44 views0 comments
bottom of page