What you need to know about mobbing

The word mobbing has become part of mainstream media culture and many bullying awareness and prevention organizations have included it in the fight against bullying. There are some basic things that everyone, from children to adults, need to know about this phenomena —which contrary to popular belief, is not at all new. Mob mentality has been present during centuries, if not millennia, of human culture. Lynch mobs, associated with racism and sexism, still happen in many countries where mobs engage in stoning of women or punishment of perceived criminals without a fair trial or any assurance that the person actually did what the mob thinks they did. Modern day mobbing in the West is not all that different from more primitive forms of mob punishment. The biggest difference between primitive forms of mobbing and contemporary mobbing is that the latter tends to forgo the easily detectable physical abuse and tends to use methods that are harder to detects such psychological, verbal, and even sexual abuse and harassment.

Mobbing in office environments: basic definition

The word mobbing is most frequently associated to office environment pile-ons. In this specific context, mobbing is piling on –harassing or bullying as a group– to an individual who will feel persecuted and outnumbered, as perpetrators of mobbing do not dare to face their victim face-to-face, but go behind their backs as a group and engage in gossip, defamation, outright lying, trying to bury the victim’s work and make it look as if the person isn’t fulfilling the demands of their job. When a face-to-face encounter does happen, the bullies make sure that they outnumber the victim. For example, at a meeting, the group might engage in publicly shaming the victim, lying about the quality of their work or even engage in verbal sexual harassment towards the person.

One might think that the person suffering from mobbing can recur to their bosses or Human Resources, asking for external review. But the extent of damage that mobbing can cause to a person’s reputation can be so harmful, that even an external review might be biased because of the mob’s intent on destroying the victim’s reputation. Bosses, on the other hand, far from being the best choice to go to, are often the one’s to initiate the mobbing if they feel threatened by the victim’s skills and talent.

Who gets mobbed?

Ironically, the targets for mobbing often tend tend to be the most productive, principled, creative and talented individuals. Targets for office bullying are also employees that don’t fit into the dominant work place culture such as members of religious, ethnic and sexual orientation minorities. If a person is confident and comfortable either with their work ethic and talent or with their status as a minority, the likelihood of being mobbed is greater. Finally, to further the irony, if a target is courageous and stands up to co-workers trying to bully them, the chances of that person becoming a victim of mobbing are even higher.

What are some of the common consequences of being mobbed?

The first and most obvious consequence is losing their jobs, whether it be by getting injustly fired or quitting because they can’t take the harassment anymore. But there are even graver consequences at stake because mobbing can severely affect the victim psychologically. Some of the psychological consequences are somatic symptoms, adjustment disorders, psychological trauma (for example, sudden onsets of selective mutism), and the two most terrible consequences are major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD derived from mobbing in offices has been studied by various psychiatrists and psychologists and their findings have shown that it can be as strong as PTSD caused from war trauma, rape, or forceful loss of liberty (being taken hostage or war prison camps).