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Overcoming Mobbing

A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying

By Maureen Duffy & Len Sperry
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Overcoming Mobbing by Maureen Duffy & Len Sperry

Overcoming Mobbing (2014) offers a practical guide to the problem of “mobbing” in the workplace. Based on clinical practice and research, it offers valuable insights into the conditions that allow for workplace mobbing, and gives tips on how victims of mobbing can best recover.

Key idea 1 of 7

Mobbing is a form of organizational abuse, designed to remove victims from the workplace.

Despite its implications, “mobbing” is a term seldom heard in corporate culture. It’s not a day-to-day term. It’s usually not mentioned in workplace training. And yet, a recent survey found that 35 percent of American workers have experienced workplace abuse at some point during their working lives.

But how exactly is mobbing different from bullying?

Well, both involve the abuse of an individual. However, whereas bullying involves the targeted abuse of one individual by another (usually the boss), mobbing is an often-covert form of abuse (usually perpetrated by a group) that the organization itself supports. The express purpose of the abuse is the removal of the victim from the workplace.

Bullying works differently. Say you have an awful boss who constantly criticizes your work, hounding and undermining you until you begin to hate your job. In this case, you could go to HR, and disciplinary actions would be taken against your boss.

Now contrast this with mobbing. Imagine that you speak out against a company policy, thereby unwittingly infuriating your boss. Unbeknownst to you, he goes to the department head and brands you a “trouble maker.”

Together, they work to undermine you, and even recruit a coworker who dislikes you. They spread malicious gossip about you and tell people that your work is garbage. Gradually you become a total outsider; your days become intolerable. Because the head of the department is against you too, you have nowhere to turn, and so you leave the company.

Although there isn’t a typical profile for victims of mobbing, it’s likely to be someone who speaks out or seems different.

Whistleblowers, for instance, who draw attention to unethical or inefficient business practices are likely to be the ones who suffer from mobbing. People who are culturally different from the rest of the team, or who seem like outsiders, are also often singled out. This includes people like recent immigrants or people with non-normative sexual identities.

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