August 23, 2010

Update: University of Virginia Ombuds Provides More Details About Campus Bullying

Following the suicide of a UVA employee last month, university administrator have been criticized by some for failing to respond adequately to the victims complaints of workplace bullying.  The University Ombuds was one of the offices the victim contacted shortly before his death.  Brad Holland, the UVA Ombuds, has remained quiet about the case, but is opening up about bullying on the campus.

According to the local newsweekly:
Holland laments the fact that UVA has no formal anti-bullying policies in place and hopes Sullivan’s probe might lead to enacting some. It was Holland who, a little over a year ago, led the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs into inviting Canada-based workplace bullying expert Valerie Cade to Grounds for what’s been described as UVA’s first-ever anti-bullying workshops. [...]

Indeed, Ombudsman Holland asserts that most bullied UVA employees decline his offers to intervene or to contact the bully, for fear of jeopardizing jobs in a town that lacks other major employers. In academia especially, adds Holland, recommendations from superiors are crucial to advancement.

“I spend a lot of time with bullying victims,” says Holland, “trying to assess their mental strength, because it’s tough to help someone who is immersed in this if they’re not prepared to deal with it.”

Holland says he’s seen bullying victims experience severe exhaustion— even physical illness.

“It really destroys you, really beats you down,” says Holland. “Bullies pick vulnerable targets. But if you stand up to them, they often move on to someone else, or change tactics.”


  1. Next time he should bring in a real workplace bullying expert-one with research, experience, and credentials.

    Of course targets don't want anyone to confront their bully. Without a company plan of action to retrain bullies, all you do is tell them to stop or tell them they're being bullies. These are hardly helpful interventions. How about hiring those who know how to work with bullies. Many bullies are just terrified and overwhelmed and have lost all perspective. You don't change perspective by telling someone 'be different' nor do you protect targets by assessing their emotional state. Real problems require Real solutions.

  2. It's easy but probably unfair to critique Holland, especially when he's barred from talking about the particulars of the case. As armchair quarterbacks, we can't know what he heard or what efforts were rejected by others. Moreover, the allegations of bullying remain unsubstantiated. The Duke lacrosse case should make us wary of rushing to judgment.

  3. “Bullies pick vulnerable targets. But if you stand up to them, they often move on to someone else, or change tactics.”
    Sometimes they don't chance tactics. Brad knows that. Maybe that's why he left. UVa has a number of very bad people in leadership positions. I could write a book about it.