Elements of Workplace Mobbing

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Mobbing happens when conflicts in a workplace (1) escalate out of control, (2) begin to involve increasing numbers of people, (3) are left without effective intervention by management, (4) result in the targeting of a victim for blame (otherwise known as scapegoating) who is then held responsible for both starting and stopping the conflict and who, ultimately, is eliminated from the organization.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

October is national bullying prevention month!

Bad Management, Company Culture and Workplace Mobbing

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Unhealthy and toxic organizational culture and leadership combine to create mobbing-prone organizations. Singling out an individual “bully” to blame and purge from the organization is generally a poor and wrong-headed solution to what is an organizational and not an individual problem.

In addition to multiple acts of proactive unethical communication, the ganging up and mobbing process also includes a form of unethical communication characterized by failure to act or silence in the face of worker mistreatment. These kinds of aggressive acts against a victim include acts of omission that involve failure to take action when action is called for. Such aggressive acts of omission are frequently committed by management and administration in their efforts to appear uninvolved in an escalating conflict that results in the mobbing of a victim.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

October is national bullying prevention month!

Devastating Group Dynamics

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For mobbing victims, the huge disappointment is that the choice a bystander is most likely to make is the choice to not get involved and do nothing. From the perspective of the mobbing victim that choice represents betrayal. The mobbing victim is likely to think that coworkers will come to his or her aid and defense. That they usually do not is devastating to the victim, who valued his or her relationships with coworkers and who no longer feels able to trust them. From the perspective of the bystanders, trying to keep their distance is about fear and self-preservation. Bystanders do not want to have happen to them what happened to their mobbed coworker. The fear and avoidance of the social exclusion at the heart of workplace mobbing is deeply ingrained if not primal.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.

Work and the Aftermath of Abuse

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For most people, work is central to their survival—it’s how they make a living for themselves and those they care about and how they pay their way in the world. Work is also about belonging to something larger than oneself, and the relationships that are part of the workplace support that sense of belonging. When work is recognized as central to survival and belonging, it’s a lot less surprising that many victims don’t easily get over workplace mobbing and go on to develop symptoms of PTSD and/or depression.

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying by Maureen Duffy Ph.D., Len Sperry Ph.D.