The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

I Was a Victim of Workplace Hazing

I was not paddled. Nor was I thrown in a trunk with a case of beer. This hazing looked a lot different. More subtle, but troubling nonetheless. Also, it was not the whole organization that was initiating members. It was one guy, who seemed intent on breaking in new hires (myself included) by verbally attacking them at meetings, quickly dismissing their ideas, and generally being awful to work with. After some time he would let these newbies off the hook, then start again with a new crop of hires. And, by the way, this individual was a seasoned vice-president.

I imagine this scenario is more common than we’d like to believe. We all just look the other way and accept it once we’re an insider. Perhaps it’s because we’re desensitized by hazing as it almost takes on a positive connotation in other circles, albeit under a different moniker; “tradition” in the military and “initiation” in Greek-letter fraternities and sororities.

But for institutions like ours, besides propagating a toxic culture, it just isn’t good for business. This is a practice that creates a terrible first impression for new employees, inclusive of high-potentials and future leaders. Worse, new employees are being conditioned from day one to not volunteer new ideas nor speak their minds freely.

I was a victim of workplace hazing and did nothing about it … then. Next time I won’t look the other way.