SIX NATIONS — The problem of bullying in the workplace can vary greatly, but in it’s worst forms group bullying — also known as “mobbing” can have devastating long-term health impacts on targeted victims and organizations.
What is mobbing?
Mobbing is very aggressive form of bullying — where a targeted individual will be bullied by a group of people. Often times the group will have a mobbing ringleader who is the primary aggressor of the bullying mission.
The important thing to know about mobbing is that usually mobbing ringleaders will create a power dynamic where the psychological safety of individuals is at risk — and everyone can feel it. Individuals within a workplace or organization could feel there are only two options: join in the mob and bully the targeted person or become a bullied person as well.
People who have been targeted by mobbing have described it as a campaign of terrorism, or toxic work environment where they feel ganged up on, where groups of people have spread rumours about them, isolated them socially, made threats, complicated or prevented them from doing their jobs and made unjust accusations. Often, when the person who is being targeted stands up for themselves — the rumours and untrue stories have already taken root in the group or workplace dynamic and can give the appearance that the targeted person is the aggressor.
Mobbing tactics can vary but they include a long list of behaviours dehumanize a person to embarrass, diminish, humiliate, mischaracterize, and intimidate the targeted person.
Verbal aggression includes the way a person is spoken to with an aggressive or dismissive tone, subject to insults or sarcastic comments and sexual harassment.
Stonewalling includes being ignored or overlooked by groups of co-workers or superiors.
Exclusion can mean that people are “accidentally” left off group emails, invitations to contribute to projects and refusing to socialize with targets outside of the workplace.
Gossip and slander can occur where ringleaders are initiating malicious rumours or untrue stories and sharing them within the workplace or organization about the individual being targeted. This can go so far as to reveal personal information about the targeted person where they feel their safety is at risk. In the most extreme cases ringleaders can publish the personal information of the targeted person on social media or online — or publish untrue stories about the targeted person and send those details to the person’s family, friends, coworkers and community.
Physical aggression can also arise in group bullying behaviours where ringleaders can escalate a situation to encourage others to physically intimidate or assault a target, or if the situation seems like the aggressor will not suffer consequences.
Why does mobbing happen?
Mobbing has one goal: to remove the targeted person from expressing an opinion or talent outside of what the mob ringleaders will allow. This can occur because of personal jealousy, professional jealousy, personal prejudice or discrimination.
Mob ringleaders will dominate the work environment either by silencing diversity or pushing targeted individuals out of the organization because of maltreatment. This is done by humiliation, exclusion, intimidation and emotional or physical abuse.
Mobbing ringleaders might just have a personality where they tend to bully and get personal gratification from bullying people. When individuals with this tendency are put in positions of authority or seniority in an organization — others inside the group can feel like if they don’t participate in the bullying or if they have similar personality traits to people who are being targeted they will also be bullied so they join in the bullying.
Mob bullying behaviours can especially be impactful to those targeted because a person’s sense of belonging is a central and basic human need. When the people you are surrounded by everyday in the workplace create an environment of constant rejection — it can begin to erode personal wellbeing very quickly.
Businesses and organizations that tolerate mob bullying behaviour and don’t do anything to halt it in its tracks will lose their best employees and talent.
Victims of mobbing have reported devastating health effects including post traumatic stress disorder, bullying, psychosis, suicidal ideation or completion.
How to address and prevent mob bullying
Mobbing is something that needs to be addressed immediately and in order to do that people need to know what they are experiencing and seeing. Mobbing becomes a problem when people join in the bullying activity and don’t identify it as a problem or risk and report it for correction. Organizations need proper training and policies to address mob bullying and consenquences for engaging in ringleader behaviours must be addressed as soon as those behaviours are identified in order to successfully prevent mobbing from taking hold.