As effective as vice-chancellors and their advisers are at imposing their will unchallenged on governing bodies, when it comes to middle managers, such as professors and heads of department, they are often weak as kittens ("Who is pulling your strings?", THES , April 12).
While many academic middle managers treat their staff with respect, a small hard core are bullies. The Association of University Teachers' decision to appoint local officers with an anti-bullying brief is testimony to this problem.
Senior managers themselves are rarely the perpetrators. They are too aware of its negative effects on their institution and its performance. But even when bullying is clearly perpetrated, they (vice-chancellors) often do not have the bottle to bring their own people into line. Why not? Is it lack of management skills or something as banal as a distaste for unpleasantness? By overlooking and acquiescing in this kind of misbehaviour, they encourage professors to act as overlords with fiefs. The inevitable outcome is stress, sickness, disputes and grievances, which can end up in court - the very antithesis of good management.