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Dealing with social bullies (school, workplace)

SacriliciousSacrilicious Registered User regular
I've got this professor who I feel disrespected by almost every time I ask a question, and I'm pretty sure he disrespects a lot of students by basically deflecting any actual help by saying, "figure it out yourself," in combination with a cutting remark. He's obviously got a lot of practical knowledge, and I need various classes he's teaching to develop work and also I need the relationship with the teacher because I'm going to be reliant on him for recommendations.

Also, there's two TA's, and one is buddies with professor and one is not and is generally unpopular, despite being good at the programs and being a helpful TA. The professor and his buddy TA give this other dude shit all the time, openly disrespecting him and making inappropriate jokes while he's there and when he's not. The guy can see it but he needs the job and his career is on the line so it's like he's trapped. Anyway, this really bothers me because I do not want this to ever happen to me and I really don't like hostility and confrontation. I've got pretty thin skin that way.

I know how these people operate, it's the path of least resistance and they have to be put in their place, I'm just wondering how to navigate this environment in a professional setting (school, but moreso in a future career).

Basically, I'm thinking the next time I hear a cutting remark, I raise my hand and say, "I think it's unprofessional to talk about a colleague like that," and leave it at that. The thing is he attempts to be buddies with me sometimes, I think because I actually did a pretty good job in one of his classes, he even said I made him proud. But I don't like him, and I don't like feeling at the mercy of whether he wants to be an ass or if he wants to be buddies, yet I also don't want to sabotage myself with my anger because that's a tendency I have.

I don't want to be a beta dog that gets shit on, or feel trapped by the leverage other people might have job-prospect wise. In the past, I've stopped disrespect by open confrontation but out-yelling another person is just going to get me in big trouble, so that's no longer an option. But I've got a hard time with passive aggressive bullshit. Ugh, I don't get why people think it's cool to be an ass, I can retaliate but it makes me feel miserable.


  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    File a complaint with the department. Or, better yet, convince several people to file a complaint.
    It's not your place to confront a professor in the middle of class. That's a sure fire way of making the rest of your schooling miserable. Same with the workplace. Just file a complaint with HR and let them deal with it. Very little good comes from direct confrontation with people in power, especially when they have no problems acting like an ass with zero provocation. Imagine how they'll act towards you with slight provocation.

    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • SacriliciousSacrilicious Registered User regular
    The problem I have with that is that it's sidestepping the issue - that some people are vulnerable to this sort of behavior and others don't get messed with. I just don't like the idea that this isn't something I can't deal with myself. And I also can't help but think that a complaint with my name on it wouldn't come back to bite me, too.

  • k-mapsk-maps I wish I could find the Karnaugh map for love. 2^<3Registered User regular
    I've been in your exact situation. Sometimes professors are tools and there is nothing you can do about it. I would tough it out until you're finished with your interaction with this professor. Don't ask questions in class, as it's obviously just baiting him to ridicule you in some grandstanding fashion. If you really need to know something, I would approach him or the TAs after class, as people who act like that tend to prefer being assholes in front of the audience. There is no ego boost if no one is there to observe it.

    It's hard for me to see how you can confront him in any way without significantly endangering your relationship or even jeopardizing your grade in the class. It blows, but sometimes the best thing to do is to suck it up. When you're done, you can file complaints, confront the guy, etc. Antagonizing your superiors is the surest way of making your life miserable, unless you're truly okay with facing the consequences. As they say, don't be a hero.

    Also, usually at the end of these courses you get the opportunity to fill out an anonymous course evaluation. In there, there is also usually a section where you can leave any general comments/complaints about the class. I would write everything you said here, while making sure it is indeed anonymous. If these things are standardized across schools, I thinks they even have a specific question that's like: "Does the professor respect students' question in the class?" Depending on your program, these reviews can be taken very seriously or completely dismissed. If he's tenured though, it's completely hopeless. The damage has been done, get what you can from the courses, and just be happy when you're finally out of there.

  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu PIGEON Registered User regular
    File a complaint with the department. If that doesn't clear anything up you can move up the chain, but until then, universities have mechanisms in place to deal with this sort of thing, but those mechanisms can't function if people like you don't set them into motion. It takes complaints on the ground level to have something move up through the ranks and make changes happen.

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited February 2013
    Sometimes its not enough to fill out those remarks (even though it feels SO GOOD to say all the things you've wanted to towards your douche professor)

    Genuinely the best thing to do if find someone you can voice your complaint with. At my school, I would tell you start with the Dean of Students, but I go to very small school and that might not be possible if you're at a larger institution. Maybe start with your advisor or faculty member you trust who can point you in the right direction. If possible you could create a petition to (I dunno) fire him or have him reviewed, find other people who also find this behavior unprofessional and unacceptable.

    I understand what you're feeling, but you aren't in a position of authority here, your professor is. What is speaking up in class like that going to achieve? Probably very little. And it potentially jeopardizes your grade and mental well-being in the class. Its not worth it!

    Going about this a different way isn't side stepping the issue and its not letting him bully you into silence. You aren't ignoring anything, you're tackling it head-on but in a way that allows you as an individual to remain anonymous. Calling people out works fine when the playing field is more equal, but this is not that situation.

    flowerhoney on
  • SacriliciousSacrilicious Registered User regular
    Yeah I left a comment last semester basically saying, "This guy has a lot of useful knowledge and I learned a lot from his class, but he openly disrespects students and even the TA in front of the class and ridicules people for asking questions." Somewhere, I'm sure a monocle dropped.

  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    Well then don't just leave a comment, actively seek out someone on campus who can hear what you have to say if you're so intent on having your voice heard. I guarantee there is someone who's job it is to deal with student-faculty relations

  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    Yeah, no offense dude but you're being crazy. I know you think the solution with "bullies" is to confront them, but there is a huge difference between a school yard bully and what you're describing. Either go through the proper channels or just let it go. Or give one example of how you think this could possibly work out doing what you think you should do.

    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • ToxTox I kill threads he/himRegistered User regular
    The school has an office where you can file grievances like this. That department is funded by your tuition dollars. You shouldn't waste your money, you should use the resource the school is providing.

    File a complaint. Don't just wait until the end of the semester and give him bad remarks (but do that too). If you feel a teacher is disrespecting you, you need to go through the proper channels and address the issue.

    A head-on confrontation is asking for trouble. It's not your place to stick up for his TA. It's your place to file a complaint when you see or are affected by unprofessional conduct.

    Twitter! | Dilige, et quod vis fac
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Also keep in mind that it's probably better not to talk about this sort of thing in the hallways or whatever. People will know what you're talking about, especially other staff walking by, and especially if you are associated with the professor in any way. Someone I was friends with used to chatter about her awful professor (under whom she was doing independent research at the time) with her friends in the hallway, and man that prof was a jerk and I had had her and hated her too so I knew, but the faculty walking by also knew because they knew who she worked for and it would get back to her. It did not improve matters, but it DID give the prof the opportunity to "forget" to sign her paperwork enough to screw her over academically and financially, and also pre-emptively record her as a problem student.

    She was treated absolutely unprofessionally in every way to begin with, but by not going directly to the appropriate person, waiting a bit too long, and being really kind of loud about it publicly, she did her academic career a lot of harm. Try not to make that mistake.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Place at the tableRegistered User regular
    If you're an undergrad, this is not your watch. File what complaints you can file anonymously and help the rest of the faculty (who most likely know he's a jerk) build a track record on him.

  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    This is definitely a "choose your battles" situation. Unfortunately, this type of problem is pretty much never going to go away (regardless of whether you stay in academia), and you will continue to encounter it in varying degrees.

    If you really are dependent upon a personal relationship with this particular professor (a.k.a. "The Mountain That Rides") and his band of toxic followers, than I would recommend one of two choices:

    1) Suck it up, keep your thoughts to yourself, and move on with your life as quickly as possible.

    2) Find another path of advancement (different program, different professor, etc.) that does not primarily require the implicit support of a group of douchebags.

    Either way, feel free to leave as much proper and protected ("anonymous" is a difficult word to use in any official channels) feedback as possible to help "build the case" (as others have mentioned). I wouldn't bother trying to start any sort of public fight against the situation. You don't have the leverage or respect for it to do any good in this case, and I doubt you would be the first to bring it up.

  • ClearlyNotAGoombaClearlyNotAGoomba Registered User regular
    Proper course of action, as others have said, is to file a complaint with the Dean (of your department, or of students). Also, negative course evaluations have more influence than people realize, especially if there are common threads in evaluations from many students. Be aware, though, that if he has tenure, nothing at all will ever happen and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

    So, do what you can and trust in karma to finish the job.

  • FantasmaFantasma Registered User regular
    It is my personal opinion that you need to develop a thicker skin. What you describe is nothing, and this will not be the first or last time you experience rude behavior from people, and specially from those in position of power and leadership.

    The Corporate World, Politics, Academia, are full of this. Keep in mind that it is not good idea to fight otherss battles, if the guy you mentioned is being treated badly, it is not your duty to jump and defend him, that could get you in big trouble.

    Hear my warnings, unbelievers. We have raised altars in this land so that we may sacrifice you to our gods. There is no hope in opposing the inevitable. Put down your arms, unbelievers, and bow before the forces of Chaos!
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