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.

Admiration List: Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky is someone most people would not include on an admiration list because of her connection to President Clinton and the scandal that brought the White House under investigation and significant political fire.

She was 22 when her affair with President Clinton was revealed and exploited by both the Republican party and the news media (read: ratings, revenue, non-stop-sensationalist ‘news’ stories about every possible sexually graphic detail…you get the idea).

I was also in my twenties at the time and, as details about the investigation hit the news media, all I could think about was how this women was a victim. She was seduced by the most powerful man in the world. He was her boss, a career politician and a well known serial-seducer. By all accounts, she was neither his first, nor his last, conquest. This was predatory manipulation of a naive young women and, possibly, harassment.

Unfortunately, the scandal occurred during the 1990s, which was also when the details of the Anita Hill vs Clarence Thomas trial were frequently challenged as ‘not really harassment’ by most of the adults I knew. That trial outlined a situation that could be defined as workplace rape, yet people continued to justify it. As for Monica Lewinsky – presenting her as a potential victim was incomprehensible.

Not surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky faced a level of public humiliation, shame and ostracism that is hard to comprehend. She was publicly cast as a home wrecker, a whore and a litany of other things; while Clinton was…you know….a powerful man. You can’t blame him, it was that woman.

Fast forward many years and Ms. Lewinsky has resurfaced as a strong, confident woman. She is an anti-bullying activist, putting her own experiences with public humiliation to good use as she works to prevent suicide and fight cyber-bullying, face-to-face bullying and mobbing.

I admire all people who have faced incredibly difficult experiences and, somehow, managed to reach the other side. I have great admiration for people who use those experiences to become stronger and more determined to help others who have also been through the proverbial fire. Monica Lewinsky has done that.

Ms. Lewinsky has been added to my admiration list because, frankly, she deserves it.

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.

Fear, Resistance and Risk

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“Take This job and Shove It”: How Targets and Witnesses Fight Back When Faced with Bullying

Seeing what happened to others communicated in no uncertain terms what would happen if witnesses became targets. There was no question that bullying environments were marked by profound fear within entire workgroups.”

Resistance is risky business for workers, and there is always the potential for unintended consequences: they want change but are punished; they report abuse but are stigmatized for reporting; they fight back and are called insubordinate. The inherent risk is why most resistance is covert. Resistance always holds risk for workers, but the risk is even more pronounced in environments where employees are systematically abused.

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

 

Anti-Inspiring

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“Take This job and Shove It”: How Targets and Witnesses Fight Back When Faced with Bullying

When abuse persisted despite working harder, participants reported giving up. Working harder resulted in a brief respite but was inevitably followed by more demands and further demoralization…Thus, abuse engendered noncooperation rather than cooperation and consent.”

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

 

Spotting Bad Management

The following quote suggests that managers who bully subordinates also hire people with the intention of abusing them. It’s a little unnerving to think blatantly (consciously?) predatory behavior is behind some new-hire decisions.

This begs the question – how does a potential employee spot a predatory manager, or an abusive work environment, during the interview process? Are there techniques for identifying and avoiding the problem all together?

Serial Bullying: How Employee Abuse Starts, Ends, and Restarts with New Targets

The most common occurrence coinciding with the onset of abuse is getting a new boss or starting a new job: “A surprising number (19%) are bullied almost immediately on starting their new posts. The recent job change and a change in manager account for 82% of the offered events relating to bullying onset.””

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

Serial Bullying in the Workplace

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Serial Bullying: How Employee Abuse Starts, Ends, and Restarts with New Targets

Serial bullying is a repetitive, targeted, destructive form of bullying directed by direct managers toward their employees…also called merry-go-round bullying, [it] is when a bully picks one person at a time to terrorize and moves on to another person, usually after the initial target is driven from the workgroup.”

Effectively interrupting the cycle requires more than just removing, coaching, or disciplining the abuse. Ending the cycle means encouraging rather than obstructing the expression of employees’ alternative workplace experiences, despite the likelihood that those voices will differ from management’s. Without honestly dealing with aggressors and the climate that spawns and supports aggression, organizations are doomed to repeat the cycle.

“Only when organizational members at all levels can safely and openly question the dominant culture can the cycle of serial bullying be interrupted. This is no small feat.”

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

Bullying in the American Workplace

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Prevalence, Perception, Degree, & Impact of Adult Bullying in the American Workplace by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Sarah J. Tracy, & Jess Alberts

Bullying causes widespread damage. Victims of bullying, called targets in research on the subject, suffer long-term often permanent psychological, physical, and professional harm. The experience is crippling and devastating.”

In any given 6 month period, 1 in 4 (25%) US workers experience aggression at work that is persistent and harmful, whether or not these workers identify as targets.

In any given 6 month period in the US, workplace bullying harms nearly 40% of US working adults.

Witnessing bystanders, even though they do not feel directly bullied, experience more aggression personally targeted at them than do employees working in settings without bullying present. As bullying increases, job satisfaction and overall job rating decrease and job-related stress increases—for targets and for witnessing bystanders.

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.