Choosing a lab is hard work, and some lab cultures based on stories from our Post docs are extremely toxic. The lab PI (lab boss’s) attitude drives this. Because the way science works is very disfunctional people working for the PI are very dependent on them for advancing their careers. Science is very competitive with too few jobs in academia for the number of phds.
If you PI isn’t good it can be very trying.
Plus its not like a regular job where you can quit on a random Tuesday and have a new job two months later. It’s an annual hiring cycle. This gives more time for people to acclimate to various abuses, and be more likely to stick around.
IMO makes sense to have a discussion, then if it continues a suspension, possibly required trainings.
This honestly sounds pretty mundane in terms of a story, as the standard steps are being followed. Also appears it’s just like an arrogant, abrasive boss, which most of us have unfortunately experienced.
One person's dismissive and rude might be another person's intimidation.
I think this is the tricky part. I think almost everyone has been bullied at some point in their life, but that doesn't mean all bullying is equal.
Of course Cooper was smart enough to not physically strike someone, or physically threaten them, so it's just words.
But I feel like it is easy to normalize bad behavior just because the rest of industry thinks we should put up with brilliant jerks, and it can be hard to figure out where on the spectrum we are with the generic evidence talked about. I'm not sure if that's because legal cases are still pending, or that it wasn't interesting enough to make the article.
Many times, I think this kind of behavior has to be looked at on a case by case basis, with words actually said. Sometimes seeing bullying on video, for example, makes it obvious that someone is being overly aggressive and hostile by showing body language, and having tone of voice, etc.
I think talking about bullying in articles like this without specific quotes always makes it feel rather vague, distant, and hard to put into context.
All that being said, I'm not sure if I believe that any amount of trainings or discussions really change that behavior. I think most people are the way they are. They may learn to hide it better though end up accomplishing the same thing. Which is how we end up in the pernicious cycle we are, where people are following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law.