What is ‘mobbing’?
Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing has been described as “a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target…. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate.”
This behavior pattern has been recognized in Europe since the 1980s but is not well recognized
in the United States. Davenport et al brought the phenomenon and its consequences to the U.S. public’s attention in 1999 with the publication of Mobbing: emotional abuse in the American
workplace. Otherwise, little professional literature on workplace mobbing has been produced in the United States.
A PubMed search on the term “mobbing” limited to 1982 through October 2008 returned 95 listings, excluding those dealing purely with ethology, but only 1 report from the United States. Studies from outside the United States indicate that mobbing is relatively common (Box).
Mobbing, bullying, and harassment. The term “workplace mobbing” was coined by Leymann, an occupational psychologist who investigated the psychology of workers who had suffered severe trauma. He observed that some of the most severe reactions were among workers who had
been the target of “an impassioned collective campaign by coworkers to exclude, punish, or humiliate” them.
Many researchers use the term mobbing to describe a negative work environment created by several individuals working together. 1-3 However, some researchers such as Namie et al use the term workplace bullying to describe the creation of a hostile work environment by either a single
individual—usually a boss—or a number of individuals.
Mobbing syndrome: 10 factors
- Assaults on dignity, integrity, credibility, and competence
- Negative, humiliating, intimidating, abusive, malevolent, and controlling communication
- Committed directly or indirectly in subtle or obvious ways
- Perpetrated by ≥1 staff members*
- Occurring in a continual, multiple, and systematic fashion over time
- Portraying the victim as being at fault
- Engineered to discredit, confuse, intimidate, isolate, and force the person into submission
- Committed with the intent to force the person out
- Representing the removal as the victim’s choice
- Unrecognized, misinterpreted, ignored,tolerated, encouraged, or even instigated by management
Phases of mobbing
- Conflict, often characterized by a ‘critical incident’
- Aggressive acts, such as those in Table 1, page 47
- Management involvement
- Branding as difficult or mentally ill
- Expulsion or resignation from the workplace
Degrees of mobbing
- First degree: Victim manages to resist, escapes at an early stage, or is fully rehabilitated in the original workplace or elsewhere
- Second degree: Victim cannot resist or escape immediately and suffers temporary or prolonged mental and/or physical disability and has difficulty reentering the workforce
- Third degree: Victim is unable to reenter the workforce and suffers serious, long-lasting mental or physical disability