When They Come For You — And They Will! A Survival Guide.

An edgy essay by A.S. Urvivor

  • Most academic philosophers will be utter cowards when they see a colleague being victimized, even (I’m tempted to say especially) if they work on issues like “virtue” or “justice.”
  • The true enemy of the highly talented woman in academia is not the high-flying male power-broker. It is the mediocre man. This man might have gone to a very “good” school, worked on all the “right” (safe) topics, and yet his work is boring as shit and at some point it becomes clear his career has ‘failed to launch’. If our profession ever starts appointing more on merit, this man is going to be the first to drop off the twig, you will take his job, and he knows it.
  • The rule of law in the employment arena may be weak to a degree that truly shocks you.
  • Yet at the same time the rule of law in the employment arena does exist, and impose some constraints. It is extremely important to learn exactly what these are. Details vary considerably in different jurisdictions and yet they are vital to what will happen to you on the ground. Hire a good lawyer, and hire early, if only for advice. The fees will make your eyes water.
  • Never ever ever (ever) resign, if you have no other job to go to. Once you take that step it will be seized on instantly and there is no reversing it. Why do the bullies’ dirty work for them?
  • Part of how this game is often played is to create a situation where the target feels they have no option but to resign, for their mental health. (This is called “constructive dismissal,” which amuses me somewhat: surely this is one of the least “constructive” things one can do to a person).
  • Mental health is not to be trifled with, and everyone has a point where they must get out of a situation for psychological safety. But consider very carefully where exactly your breaking point is. Could it be further than you think? What if…you came in to work despite everything that is happening, and laughed at how everyone is running around, hating you, filled with drama? Because this behavior really is quite stupid and ridiculous. Meanwhile you kept drawing a salary and using it to do great philosophy? On my good days I managed to do that, and I survived to get another academic job (eventually). YMMV.
  • If you choose to challenge bullying behaviors, even behind the scenes and confidentially, there will be a significant counter-reaction. Retaliation towards you is, sadly, just something you should expect. This was my largest area of naivety. It turns out no-one likes being described as a bully! The irony is that people who are not bullies will probably be horribly upset, and try and sit with you and resolve the matter, but people who are will go ballistic. (You’d think they’d be embarrassed or afraid to, because it would make it so obvious that your allegation was true. Trust me, that’s not how they think.)
  • Don’t go into mediation with the bully unless and until there have been some sanctions, or ownership of the problem on their part. Otherwise you will be put at a significant disadvantage, as mediation settlements are voluntary.
  • Practice self-care in every possible way you can conceive of (physical, emotional, spiritual…) This will be a long game, if you decide to dig in and survive.
  • Finally and most importantly: your moral high ground must be maintained at all costs — it’s one of your only weapons in this situation. So don’t do anything back to the bully, or they will cry wolf and the situation will quickly descend into murk. Don’t even speak to them unless you absolutely have to. Keep right away until you know you are safe.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.