Definition of Mobbing: A Story of Mobbing

The word mobbing is preferred to bullying in continental Europe and in those situations where a target is selected and bullied (mobbed) by a group of people rather than by one individual. However, every group has a ringleader. If this ringleader is an extrovert it will be obvious who is coercing group members into mobbing the selected target. If the ringleader is an introvert type, he or she is likely to be in the background coercing and manipulating group members into mobbing the selected target; introvert ringleaders are much more dangerous than extrovert ringleaders.
From: Bully On Line

Behaviour may include: rumours, gossip, exclusion, ignoring, verbally assault, acts of aggression, or passive aggression e.g.:  silence when target enters room, ostracizing. The person may be ganged up on, harmful behaviours may be organized by the perpetrators, and there may be malicious attempts to remove someone or a group from workplace.

See an article by Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo: At the Mercy of the Mob
mobbing checklist is also available.

Mobbing: Experienced by an Alberta Social Worker

Workplace mobbing can be debilitating. I was judged and condemned by my own colleagues for something I did not do.

Even though my experience happened just over 10 years ago, I still feel its effects from time to time.  I accepted a new position in a smaller office outside my city. The unit had five seasoned social workers who had established a clique after working together for many years. This initially made it difficult to form supportive relationships in my unit. My role was unique from the others as I was the only child protection investigator for our area. This added to my sense of isolation and difficulty establishing connections. Due to the tragic loss of my father I found a connection to one of these group members. Her compassion and empathy truly helped me get through some of my grief. I began to be very fond of her and trust her. This new connection apparently motivated the others to be a little friendlier and they became more consistent about inviting me for coffee and lunches. I was now able to enjoy my new place of work. Out of now where something changed overnight. One morning I noticed an unusual silence and many closed office doors. Passing colleagues ignored me and avoided eye contact in the hallway. The group went for coffee and disregarded me as they walked by my desk. After their coffee break I approached the person I felt closest to. When I entered her office and stated her name she clenched her hands together, placed them on her desk, tightened her lips, and stared straight ahead at the wall. Her movements and stance really confused me. Her face remained blank as she stared at the wall regardless of how many times I asked what was wrong. To this day she has never said a word to me. Many questions flashed through my mind for this situation made “no common sense” to me. I wondered if this was real, had she lost her mind, have I lost my mind, what did I do, what is happening? It is a terrible feeling of panic brought on by shock and confusion. Being the only person without knowledge and feeling condemned is haunting and humiliating. After a few days of continually being ostracized, I approached one member of this group and begged him for information. I was told that one of their group members was being investigated for fraud. It appears that the group has held a private trial and decided I was guilty of implicating our colleague. At least one group member was able to show compassion by giving me some information. I shared that I was oblivious to the entire situation and completely innocent. He then expressed his own confusion, uncertainty, and regret about the groups behaviours. He also admitted his fear of being ‘shunned’ by the group. He then avoided being seen with me. I could see that he was struggling but I remained confused about what was happening. I was grateful to have information for any information is better than being left in the dark. The information allowed me to see how foolish these people were. I felt betrayed and a deep loss of respect for them. Even though I would remain alone and isolated in this unit, I choose to maintain my dignity by not succumbing to their judgement, assumptions, and unprofessional actions. I was truly disappointed and disillusioned by their actions. In order to find peace with this I came to a conclusion that seemed logical to me. I believe the person accused of fraud blamed me (possibly her scapegoat), and that her followers were manipulated. This is no excuse for the choices they made but it may be one explanation. Targets of mobbing will seek explanations and this one explanation helped me to find peace and even some forgiveness. I shared this conflict with my supervisor and learned that this group had also assumed I was her pet employee. I feared more conflicts and requested that my supervisor would not become involved. I was ostracized for several months and eventually my supervisor moved to a new office area out of town. Soon afterwards I accepted a new position which was located down the hall from this mobbing group. Unfortunately their poisonous influence spread and affected my new team. I became an easy scapegoat for our new manager who had an agenda of her own. The damage to me was done and I was devastated. It is hard to recover when you have no idea how such a situation could have occurred and are given no opportunity to defend yourself. Had I indeed been guilty of implicating a colleague for fraud (regardless if she were guilty or innocent), these behaviours towards me were abusive and unprofessional. I do regret not filing a formal complaint against each one of these people, including the new manager. My recovery process has helped me to realize that targets of bullying need to be compassionate with ourselves. I was grieving the loss of my father. I was ostracized by my colleagues. I became a scapegoat for a manager who was unskilled and focused on her own agenda. And I was working in a complex, demanding, crisis orientated job. It is hard to feel strong and safe when there are so many difficult factors involved. This is the reality that many helping professionals face. Today I am aware I can contact the Alberta College of Social Workers and file a complaint against another registered social worker. Seek support, we now have resources available to us. You are not alone. Support will help you to find the strength you need to take action.

Each of our professional code of ethics applies to working with our colleagues. These are excellent guidelines for measuring ‘how we need to treat each other, and what we can expect from our colleagues’. Maybe this is forgotten now and then.

Too many people endure mobbing and other forms of bullying in silence. The subject needs to be shared to create the changes needed.