Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Amy Bishop, Pierre Lebrun and Workplace Bullying

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Remember the case of Pierre Lebrun, the OC Transpo worker who murdered four co-workers and then killed himself in 1999? Pierre had been relentlessly ridiculed by co-workers because he had a stutter. He slapped one of the workers for harassing him, and then was reprimanded by management and forced to apologize. Lebrun was a victim of what is called Workplace Mobbing (or bullying that is perpetrated by a group of people as opposed to one person bullying or harassing another) ( M. Barzyk & E. Edmiston, personal communication, November 5, 2009). A paper presentation by Cassell (2010) about bullying in the academic world states that ":72% of workplace bullying incidences involved a harasser that was ranked higher than his or her victims (Zogby International, 2007 in Cassell, 2010). Bully OnLine reports that 20% of all calls and enquiries to their hotline have come from the education sector including universities. Another survey of employees in the academic workplace found that 40% of respondents acknowledged they were the targets of bullying. Bullying/mobbing behaviours include giving the silent treatment, eye rolling, witholding praise, feedback, or information, interrupting, excluding from conversations, or more overt behaviours including verbal/physical aggression or verbal/physical abuse. Bullying is described as psychological violence, and has been reported to contribute to stress, illness, depression, and thoughts of suicide (Chitale, 2008 in Cassell, 2010).

As the Amy Bishop case moves forward, it will be interesting to learn of how she was treated at the University of Alabama, as well as by other figures who factor into her strange life (brother, and the Harvard professor). I'm not saying that any of the victims are to blame, but I am interested to know if feelings of harassment, being bullied, or a past history of maltreatment or abuse contributed to her choices.


Cassell, M. (2010). Bullying in academe: Prevalent, significant, and incessant. 2010 IABR & ITLC Conference Proceedings. Retrieved February 19, 2010 from

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