Mobbing in the workplace has long been studied in Europe. Just look it up on a search engine. Described in "Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace", published by Davenport, Elliott, and Schwartz in 1999, mobbing is about collective assault in the corner office, in cubbies, on the assembly line, or in the board room.
It is an insidious form of psychological abuse conducted through innuendo, intimidation, harassment, badgering, humiliation, degradation and rumor. As a personal and professional coach, I listen to clients all the time who have been through this or seen it happen, and together we struggled for words to describe it. This book gives us the words and is the beginning. "Until evil is named," writes Daniel Maguire,e professor of ethics at Marquette University and author of "Ethics for a Small Planet," it cannot be addressed.
I was pleased to read that it's a tort. It should be. I was also pleased to read that, should the 'mobbed' individual need therapy, it is to be considered an injury, not an illness. This book is a serious call to action to decent human beings -- be they managers, CEOs, or employees; and describes a syndrome coaches, counselors, trainers and therapists need to recognize. If you have been the victim of mobbing, and are still suffering the consequences, please get help.
A mob is one of the most vicious subcultures in any society. Powerfully described in the classic, "The Ox Bow Incident," we understand that a mob behaves in a way no individual human would. "Single-focused, whipped to a frenzy by a puffed-up martinet and unfettered by normal restraints of morality," writes book reviewer Mary Bradley, "the mob is merciless in its assault." In the worst-case scenario we have a lynching or a holocaust.
Did you not know immediately what this term "mobbing" meant as applied to the work world? "People are aware of it, but they never had a name for it," says Elliott. "When we speak to people, they know immediately what we are talking about."
Study after study in psychology proves that people draw a perverse strength from the group and will do in a group what they would never do alone. Normal moral behavior, common decency, if you will, is discarded by the same sort of mentality that produces a gang rape. The new manager whose reports decide to drive him out ... the competent but beautiful new receptionist who's pulled down by jealous co-workers ... the manager who becomes threatened by the talents of a report ... Done by peers, subordinates and/or superiors, the goal is to force someone out using gossip, ostracism, intimidation, discreditation, humiliation, and just plain meanness.
The blame is projected on the victim, who, 'gas lighted,' becomes confused, has trouble perceiving correctly (that people could really do this), and accepts that he or she is incompetent, to blame, etc.
Dr. Heinz Leymann, German industrial psychologist, is credited for identifying the syndrome in Europe, Japan and Australia where he studied it for nearly 20 years. He lived in Sweden and estimated that 15% of the suicides in Sweden were the result of mobbing in the workplace. It is cruelty in the extreme, a group bullying process that can go or weeks, months, even years, until the job is done. When interviewed, mobbers often claim they didn't know they were harming anyone.
Mobbing is a particularly insidious form of emotional abuse, and the impact on the individual can be devastating. The authors cite cases of individuals unable ever to return to work after mobbing. In addition,mobbing is a serious behavioral risk-management issue for organizations. It destroys morale, erodes trust, cripples initiative, and results in dysfunction, absenteeism, resignations, guilt, anxiety, paranoia, negativity, and marginal production. Key players leave and the effects are long-lasting.
Mobbing is a "widespread, vicious, workplace tort [civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit--and in this case an intentional tort]," says Scott H. Peters, Esq. of The Peters Law Firm. P.C., Iowa (quoted in the article "Did You Hear of Mobbing?" by Elliott. It is difficult to stop once it gets going, but managers can learn to recognize the patterns.
In the book the authors even cite cases where HR managers were 'ordered' by superior 'mobbers' to support a mobbing process.
In personal correspondence with Ms. Elliott, she told me that people often come up to her after her talks and say, "This will never happen again on my watch," which is heartening. Emotional intelligence (EI) and awareness in the work place are one of the antidotes to mobbing.
Susan Dunn is a professional coach specializing in emotional intelligence. She is a speaker, writer, educator, and author of many ebooks on personal growth. Visit her on the web at www.susandunn.cc .