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Now There's A Name for It: Mobbing
by Susan Dunn

Mobbing in the workplace has long been studied in Europe (just look it up on a search engine). Now authors Elliott, Davenport, and Schwartz discuss this disturbing phenomenon in America in "Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace." It's about collective assault in the corner office, on the assembly line, or in the cubbies.

This book is a serious call to action to decent human beings -- be they managers, CEOs, or employees; and describes a syndrome coaches, counselors, HR professionals, trainers and therapists need to recognize. Labeling it, and recognizing it as a syndrome with predictable patterns can be the first step toward eliminating it, and treating those who are the victims.

A mob is one of the most vicious subcultures of a society. Described in "The Ox Bow Incident," by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, we understand that a mob behaves in a way most individuals alone would not. "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."

Did you know immediately what this term meant as applied to the workplace? Most readers will. "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--even decent behavior--is abandoned. The manager whose reports decide to get rid of him ... The competent but beautiful new receptionist who's pulled down by jealous co-workers... It's devastating to endure, and sickening to watch.

Done by colleagues, subordinates or superiors, the goal of mobbing is to force someone out, using gossip, ostracism, innuendo, humiliation, ridicule, intimidation, withholding, 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. And no allies are forthcoming, fearing the same treatment.

Dr. Heinz Leymann, German industrial psychologist, identified the syndrome in Europe, Japan and Australia and studied it for nearly 20 years. He estimated that 15% of the suicides in Sweden were the result of mobbing in the workplace.

Mobbing is a serious behavioral risk-management issue for organizations; it results in demoralization, paranoia, anxiety, increased absenteeism and resignations, and a total breakdown of teamwork, positivity and trust.

"It's a widespread, vicious workplace tort [civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit], says Scott H. Peters, Esq. of The Peters Law Firm. P.C., Iowa (quoted in "Did You Hear of Mobbing?" by Elliott).

It's difficult to stop unless it's caught early on, the authors say. Part of the problem is that it can actually be instigated by superiors, and therefore condoned. The authors even cite cases where HR managers were 'ordered' by superior 'mobbers' to support a mobbing process.

Susan Dunn may be contacted at

Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, , Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. Coach Certification Program - fast, affordable, no-residency, training coaches worldwide. Email for free ezine.


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