Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace

Home / Books / Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace

mobbingI decided to read this book because I was looking for a different way to discuss bullying in the workplace. The connotation of bullying challenges adults because it is most often associated with children and physical violence. I was looking for a concept to describe what professional men and women experience when they are abused at work. MOBBING provides language for trainers, human resources professionals, and employees to discuss destructive workplace experiences in a manner that more easily resonates with adults, particularly victims, as they address experiences that often make them feel dehumanized and stripped of their power.

1.  Mobbing is about a group attack on an individual who has become a target. It is a “ganging up” by the leader(s), organization, superior, co-worker or subordinate(s) who rallies others into systematic and frequent mob-like behavior. The objective of mobbing is usually to force the person out of the organization (through emotional abuse) or to compel them to fall in line with a group norm. As mobbing escalates, the mobbers’ behaviors serve to isolate the target and usually fall into one of the following categories:
A) Impact on Self-Expression and the Way Communication Happens;
B) Attacks on One’s Social Relations;
C) Attacks on One’s Reputation;
D) Attacks on the Quality of One’s Professional and Life Situation; and
E) Attacks on a Person’s Health (via chronic stress and anxiety).
Finally, the individuals who spearhead the mobbing are thought to be abusers and scapegoaters who are acting out on the job – in their new family – because of how they have internalized and dealt with feelings of shame and fear in their childhood.

2.  There is usually a triggering event that makes the mobbers feel comfortable actively targeting someone although there are usually underlying events that led up to the triggering event. Unless mobbing is stopped early, the triggering event does not matter because the objective of the mobbing becomes forcing the person out of the organization or group rather than resolving the initial problem. Evenso, the triggering event is often described as the target’s failure to honor the basic psychological needs of the group or powerful individuals in the group, such as recognition, appreciation, participation, respect, autonomy, etc.

3.  Organization culture feeds mobbing in three ways:
A) The prevalence of mobbing direction, whether it’s more pronounced vertically or horizontally, correlates with the  nature of the organization’s culture. The flatter the organization, the more horizontal the mobbing. Conversely, the more hierarchical, the more vertical the mobbing;
B) The organization does not take an affirmative stance on acceptable employee behavior and does not provide substantive options for employees to voice and work through problems; and
C) Complicit leadership.

4. The implication for organizations has to do with fostering an unproductive culture, loss of quality talent, and financial liability (mobbing increases costs through increased turnover and increased use of sick time and can become the subject of litigation as protected class harassment, wrongful termination, workers’ compensation claims, tortuous claims (intentional infliction of emotional distress), which all have an impact on an organization’s ability to innovate, maintain and increase market share, and consistently turn a profit.

5.  Suggestions for the target: to some extent, disengage! Reduce the importance of work in your life to make room for activities that support your self-image and reduce anxiety. Make active decisions so that you don’t feel increasingly victimized. Remember that the world is bigger than your job, consider quitting, don’t give in to being silent about the abuse (if you’re truly being mobbed, silence won’t help), consider all of your options (including legal redress), and remember that people generally do not harass an individual based on who s/he is, but rather based upon what that individual represents to them.

Leave a Comment