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Abusive Conduct & Bullying Guidance

Please see below for general guidance for Department Chairs and Administrators regarding their recourse when faculty visit their offices with reports of abusive conduct and/or bullying. 

Department Chairs may also request a detailed Abusive Conduct Toolkit for Administrators by writing to AVC Cynthia Palmer at

How May One Define Abusive Conduct and Bullying?

Assembly Bill 2053 – Description of Bullying


“Conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.

Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use or derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.”

How Can I Best Prevent Bullying in My Department?

The most effective tools against bullying are below:


  • Prevention
  • Early identification and intervention
  • Strategy for fact-based documentation of bad behavior

What are Best Practices for Maintaining a Positive Climate as Chair?

  • Set the tone – clearly communicate expectations to faculty
  • Assess climate regularly
  • Create a culture of safety, respect, and inclusively
  • Be approachable – maintain an “open door,” but also maintain confidentiality
  • Address & respond to repeated reports of unwanted behavior immediately
  • Investigate any charges; interview the parties
  • Report to appropriate offices and contact campus SMEs as appropriate
  • Watch for signs of retaliation

How Can One Distinguish Between Abusive Conduct and Acceptable Interactions?

In general, the following types of interactions would not be defined as bullying (not an exhaustive list):


  • Providing objective, constructive appraisals of performance and work
    performed, such as supervising research staff
  • Coaching, providing informative feedback to students, staff, or other
  • Interacting with staff or other academics in activities such as planning,
    project management, or performing the duties required of a Principal
    Investigator, or other supervisor

Is There a Referral Document for Chairs to Provide Faculty with Concerns?

Yes, please see our Anti-bullying Faculty Resources document here.

What Does Abusive Conduct/Bullying Look Like?

Not all bullying is the same. Abusive conduct may include physical, verbal, or written acts or behaviors, such as:


  • Using abusive or insulting language
  • Making inappropriate threats to block a person’s academic or other advancement, opportunities, or continued employment at the University
  • Behaving or speaking in ways that frighten, humiliate, belittle, or degrade the recipient
  • Intentionally spreading misinformation or malicious rumors
  • Making repeated inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle, family, or culture
  • Circulating inappropriate or embarrassing photos or videos via e-mail or social media
  • Making unwarranted physical contact or inappropriately encroaching on another individual’s personal space
  • Regularly teasing or making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes
  • Interfering with a person’s personal property or work equipment
  • Purposefully excluding, isolating, or nationalizing a person for normal work activities

What are Behavioral Expectations for Employees on this Campus?

UC San Diego is committed to providing a safe, supportive, responsive, and equitable environment for all employees.  All UC San Diego community members are expected to behave in ways that support the UC Principles of Community, meaning all members of the campus community are responsible for:


  • Providing fair treatment for faculty, staff, and students
  • Encouraging a climate of fairness, cooperation, and professionalism
  • Fostering inclusiveness, respect, and a welcoming environment
  • Promoting collaborative attitudes and actions

In addition, members of the UC San Diego community are responsible for being mindful of Regents Policy 1111: Policy on Statement of Ethical Values and Standards of Ethical Conduct, which provides the following standards of behavior to which we should be accountable: 
We will conduct ourselves with integrity in our dealings with and on behalf of the University.

We will conscientiously strive for excellence in our work.

We will be accountable as individuals and as members of this community for our ethical conduct and for compliance with applicable laws and University policies and directives.

We will respect the rights and dignity of others.

What UC San Diego and UC Resources Are Available to Me?


What's the Distinction Between Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Bullying?

Bullying differs from strictly defined harassment and discrimination. If a person is targeted because of certain protected characteristics, consult with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment & Discrimination (OPHD):


  • Race, Color, National origin
  • Religion, sex, gender identity
  • Pregnancy
  • Physical or Mental Disability
  • Medical Condition (cancer related or genetic characteristics)
  • Ancestry
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Citizenship
  • Service in the Uniformed Services