14 August 2008

Origins of the Study of Workplace Mobbing

Konrad LorenzNobel LaureatePhysiciology/Medicine1973

In his book entitled On Aggression (1966), Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), the Austrian-German founder of ethology, described mobbing among birds and animals, attributing it to instincts rooted in the Darwinian struggle to survive. In his view, we humans are subject to similar innate impulses but capable of bringing them under rational control.

Dr. Heinz Leymann, PhD, MD1932-1999Professor of Psychologyat UmeƄ University

During the 60s-70s, the Swedish physician Peter-Paul Heinemann applied Lorenz's conceptualization to the collective aggression of children against a targeted child. He detected a special kind of long-term hostile behavior in children at school. He called this, using an English term "mobbing".

In the 1980s, German-Swedish psychologist Professor Heinz Leymann (1932-1999) found the same type of long-term hostile behavior in employees in workplaces and applied the term to ganging up in the workplace. Professor Heinz Leymann became the leading international expert on this topic: mobbing in the workplaces. This is a link to Leymann's own website Encyclopedia on Mobbing.

If you understand the four quotations below, you already have an intuitive grasp of what workplace mobbing means:

'Turning and turning in the widening gyre;
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.'
— William B. Yeats, 1920

'And we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers
as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with
and not experienced in matters of that nature.'
— The jurors of Salem, MA, in 1697, five years after finding 150 men and women guilty of witchcraft

'You read your history and you'll see that from time to time people in every country have seemed
to lose their good sense, got hysterical, and got off the beam. . . . I don't know what gets into people.'
— U.S. President Harry Truman, in M. Miller, Plain Speaking (Berkley Medallion 1974, p. 447).

'There are strange games played,
and careers unmade,
In the quest for wisdom's pearl;
There are tales of power,
In the ivory tower,
That can make your toenails curl.
— pace Robert Service

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