How is Mobbing different from Workplace Bullying?
Though the two terms are used somewhat interchangeably, mobbing is different from workplace bullying in the level of premeditation and intent. Bullying is usually perpetrated by those who have frequent and prolonged contact with the target. When bullies from a gang, the malice is contained within a small social circle and doesn't spread to others. Mobbing is more dangerous, harder control and is less predictable than bullying. As it will spreads throughout the workplace, it "Infects" both well known and lesser known individuals. The latter accepts the "socially constructed" reality/rethoric instead of examining hard facts. A "follow the crowd" mentality develops, and the target is judged and convicted by this jury of his/her peers before they have had a chance to tell their side of the story. Bystanders condemn, friends abandon and turn on the target. They all share a "Harmonized opinion". The mindlessness possessed by these recruited drones becomes Groupthink. The target becomes demonized and is only deserving of contempt and ridicule.
How is Mobbing similar to workplace Bullying?
Mobbing is similar to workplace bullying as both are instigated to control and eliminate the target. Many of the tactics are the same. Bystanders will not get involved to help the target in either. Both tactics are instigated by the same type of dysfunctional people. Both are very humiliating and emotionally devastating.
Who Suffers from Mobbing?
There is no one set demographic profile for someone who gets mobbed. Mobbing is blind to sex, race, religion, disability, or socioeconomic status.
However, there are different motives that can be attributed to it. It can range from jealousy, to eliminating the threatening coworker who continually raises the standards others must meet, to just plain cruelty directed towards someone who doesn't fit in. For the process to begin the person has to be vulnerable in some way, making it easier for ring leaders to distort the truth and manipulate others into suppressing the target.
Who engages in workplace mobbing?
Most everyone will in one form or another. Have you ever noticed that people will do things in groups they wouldn't do own their own? Have you Ever noticed how some people treat you differently when alone, than with a group of their friends? These weak and impressionable people find "perverse strength" in groups and will do things in the company of others they would never do on their own. However, those with stronger levels of independence will be less likely to join in, or more likely to stop at the point where they see that this process is going to destroy the life of someone. In doing so, coworkers sympathetic to the victim run the risk of being labeled a non-conformist.
It is important to remember that bystanders, like targets choose to resist this kind of behaviour face a conflict of values. Often the goals of dysfuntional groups that engage in mobbing are radically different from not only the organization, but common decency. Targets and their protectors are not being social deviants or difficult, they are people with courage and integrity who are standing up for their values. It is an important distinction that must be taken into account.
As in any movement, there are leaders. These are usually your typical troublemakers with a penchant for deflecting their inadequacies away from themselves and projecting it onto others. Fueled by jealousy, ringleaders seek to disrupt the workplace and create chaos. With people divided and with their emotions distorted the crowd is easier to control and manipulate. The objective for the ringleader is to work others into a trancelike frenzy to help to achieve their own selfish ambitions. By singling out threats to all that are good and decent in the given organization, a witch hunt soon develops, and mobbing is underway. The blood thirsty crowd exhibits an isolationist mentality where you are either for the movement or against it. Denial is everywhere, anyone who dares oppose or speak out against the mob are often times the next ones to become targets themselves. Some people have the attitude that if they don't stick their neck out everything will go away, but are frequently disappointed to find that after previous targets get eliminated their turn will come. Once certain mobbers are in a precarious position themselves, they will feel the wrath of the group. The longer the behaviour goes on the more normal the behaviour seems and the more acceptable it is.
Who should be known about the ringleaders?
Though little information exists on the personality of "ringleaders" or "chief eliminators" in mobbing research, workplace bullying information seems to provide some answers. Many of the mob leader characteristics witnessed by myself resemble that of the "Serial Bully" profile observed by Tim Field in the United Kingdom.
To describe a chief eliminator is to describe someone that is very devious and cannot be trusted. They seem to be superficial people who have a compulsive need to draw negative attention to others. Being skilled at using impassioned rehtoric and deception, the emotions of others are manipulated. Once infected by the "mobbing syndrome", co workers are putty in the hands of the eliminator. It is easy to see how one "rotten apple can spoil it for the whole bunch."
Their goal of the workplace bully is to control the target. The second they realize this is no longer attainable (usually when the target asserts their right not to be treated in such a manner), the bully moves into elimination mode. Fearing they will be exposed for the people they really are, chief eliminators will similtaneously cover their own tracks, feign victimhood and pressure superivisors to swiftly remove the target. Ringleaders often ruse others by wraping themselves in the company flag and purport to be acting in the intrests of the collective. Don't let this fool you. As Sameul Johnson once quoted "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel". Remember, bullies are selfish people acting in the intrests of themselves.
Why is Mobbing so Devastating to the Targets?
Mobbing is the most stressful thing a worker will ever encounter in a workplace, yet is the most misunderstood and underrated. In a Swedish study conducted by Dr. Leymann, the stress the targets of mobbing experience was compared to that of subway drivers who had run over suicidal individuals who threw themselves in front of the train. The subway driver's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reaction was statistically speaking, very much milder than that of his patients.
Mobbing is emotionally devastating to targets for a number of reasons. Depending on where they fit into the 5 phases of mobbing should determine to some degree the severity of their stress and despair. The longer the process goes, the worse it is.
Contrary to the "introvert" label that are placed on targets, they are mostly outgoing people who are simply seeking refuge from the hostilities. Humans are social animals who need the company of others and seek their approval. This daily "rejection" has been recently demonstrated in an American study, to provoke exactly the same brain response as being physically hurt." Ask any Psychologist or Psychiatrist what effect this has on humans and they will tell you that the stress is extreme. It also puts a great deal of pressure on a target to perform perfectly. They just want to do their job and have the hostilities go away, but the harder they try to get out of this trap, the more harsh the treatment becomes. A vicious cycle. With the rug pulled out from beneath targets, they are forced to do more with less.
Having your future and livelihood threatened in this manner, is utterly terrifying. Human beings need to have a certain amount of control and self determination and when their future is placed in the hands of an angry mob, (like a prisoner awaiting the hangman) they know it is just a matter of time until they finished.
When the "Hammer finally does fall" the despair of having an uncertain future makes life unbearable. Targets are left feeling guilty, confused and cannot figure out what they did to deserve this. Most often targets will have a diminished self worth as they begin to believe that they are this "horrible person" that they were made out to be. Targets become distrusting, isolated and lonely.
Signs of post traumatic stress disorder can creep in and make getting out of the predicament very difficult. With so many "personal issues" to overcome and the negative stigma attached nobody wants to hire the target and things get even worse.
With the added stress, your immune system wreaks havoc on your body. Targets get sick more often, for longer periods and for a greater intensity. Without a strong body, one cannot have a strong mind. The two are interconnected.
What Can You do about Mobbing?
I have no real direction with what works in combating mobbing, but rather know what doesn't. Doing nothing about it does little to help your cause, it will not go away. The more one tries to "fly under the radar" the more innovated one's attackers will become in keeping the spotlight on the person. The target is jeopardized either way. If they spend time around their attackers more opportunity exists for them to collect damaging information from them such as a faux pas, and personal information to use against them. If the targets withdraws, it is forgotten that they have always been gregarious by nature. Their isolation is attributed to personality disorders and they are labeled and punished for their refuge.
There is no panacea or magic bullet on how to handle mobbing. Every situation is different. Some suggestions I have are:
-Keep a detailed log of all daily occurrences.
-Think of the potential ramifications of what you say. Document everything you say that has the potential to be misconstrued. All a devious person has to do is add or subtract one word to completely distort the meaning of the original statement.
-When people give you the silent treatment and deny eye contact, ask them what the problem is and document their response.
-If you can pinpoint anyone who is spreading hate towards you, in writing, tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable and their continued malice will result in a harassment complaint. Have this put on your personnel file.
-Take note of any witnesses
-Many targets are chosen, because they don't like to start trouble and will circumvent using the "system" to protect them. However, you can bet your tormentors will use the system to persecute you. Use all that is available to you.
-As painful as it may be, ask to see your personnel file. You can't defend yourself against what you don't know.
-Mobbing is very hurtful and consuming. Be careful not to alienate those around you by talking about it too much. In time they will see what is going on.
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