Mobbing, as Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry explain in their new book, is a “destructive social process in which individuals, groups, or organizations target a person for ridicule, humiliation, and removal from the workplace.” It is different than bullying, Duffy and Sperry argue, but like bullying, it is ugly.
In Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying Duffy and Sperry, both clinicians with experience in the subfield, explain the details of different scenarios and what people can do to seek help.
As the word implies, mobbing is often on a larger scale than bullying. It might involve not just an immediate boss but higher management, long-term scheming, and a teaming of efforts to unravel an employee. Not surprisingly, this concerted effort to demoralize someone harms that person in both mind and body. Small aggressions over time, the authors write, whether overt or covert, erode an employee’s confidence in themselves and in their work. They become confused about their own contributions in the office, and begin to lose motivation to come to work at all. And that is often the plan that aggressors have in mind.
People targeted also feel betrayed by coworkers who no longer hang around or support them. At home, they distance themselves from their loved ones and no longer feel a sense of trust. They do not believe that the world is as just and as fair as they used to believe. And because someone at work has damaged their reputation through lies and false information, they worry about their future, as they know they’ll have a hard time getting good references.
ll of this can lead to sleep difficulty, headaches, coronary heart disease, and anxiety — even suicide. The most common psychological conditions associated with mobbing are depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Moreover, the authors write, people< who view work as a way to increase personal value and worth, which the authors term “work orientation,” are hit hardest. They “experience more distress and disability” than those with a “job orientation” — the view that work is primarily for financial need — or a “calling orientation,” when one sees work as a way to gain meaning in life. Zooming out, not only can mobbing have extremely negative effects on an individual level, but it also chips away at a company overall, jeopardizing perceptions and increasing the turnover rate.
In the midst of all these crises, it can be hard for victims to see the bright side, but that does not mean it is impossible. There are ways to heal and grieve and carry on, the authors explain. And one way is to retell their story, even though it may be painful to recount — or may fall on deaf ears.
Indeed, workplaces may fall into the “see no evil,” “hear no evil,” or “speak no evil” category, Duffy and Sperry write. The “see no evil” company views mobbing as employees being weak or being troublemakers; the “hear no evil” hears the story as just a dispute among employees. Meanwhile, the “speak no evil” organization does see mobbing as a problem and tries to prevent it, but does so ineffectively. Many organizations prevent the truth from being heard; perpetrators twist the situation around and put the blame on victims.
The authors suggest that a victim can seek professional help from an expert trained in mobbing, try to get reparation from their workplace or the aggressor, or attend activities outside of work. But although these suggestions are helpful, the book seems to lack detail about the potential pros and cons or outcome of each method.
Still, the book contains a lot of helpful information about mobbing as well as sources to help victims, regardless of their ethnicity, age, or religion.
And when you’ve been through a calculated attack from coworkers or higher-ups, reading that you’re not alone can be a big help.
Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying
Oxford University Press, January, 2014
Hardcover, 256 pages