Bullying at Work: Workplace Mobbing is on the RiseMobbing is “bullying on steroids,” a horrifying new trend whereby a bully enlists co-workers to collude in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a hapless target.

Targets are usually anyone who is “different” from the organizational norm. Usually victims are competent, educated, resilient, outspoken, challenge the status quo, are more empathic or attractive and tend to be women, aged 32 to 55. Targets also can be racially different or part of a minority group.

The target receives ridicule, humiliation, and eventually, removal from the workplace. It leaves the victim reeling with no idea what happened or why. It takes away a person’s safety in the world, dignity, identity and belonging and damages his or her mental and physical health. The effects also radiate outward toward the target’s partner, family, friends and even community.

25 Comments to
Bullying at Work: Workplace Mobbing is on the Rise

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  1. In 2007 I was informed that I could no longer test, inject my insulin, or eat/read at my desk at a NY State agency. I believe that this was in retaliation for my using the Family Care Leave Act of 1993. I used my own time to care for my aged mother when she needed me. I went to the union, who didn’t do much of anything. A human resources employee valiantly went to bat for me, to no avail. The three people responsible for this stuck together and refused to reconsider. This is a long story, with much more involved, but I’ll cut it short here. I’ve experienced this horror first hand, it exists. I was old enough to retire (probably another factor) and I did so quickly. The only regret I have is that they got their way. I am so much happier now, I was not happy there for a long while before this happened. I am grateful that I was able to retire in 2008, and able to live on my retirement. Until I retired those three made my work life hell.

    • wow, I am very sorry that happened to you. People can be so mean. Glad to hear you are doing good now.
      I am 23 year old female and have only worked at Walmart. I was not bullied like this but the other employees were rude and would just silently stare at me when I passed, plus the customers were sometimes really mean. It was too much for me. I was fired for giving incorrect change at the register and accused of stealing but I know I just made mistakes because I was nervous. It’s still upsetting to me now and it has been like 3 years since.

  2. This is probably one of the most important issues in our world today and thank you for addressing it so well. This article is fantastic and all true.

    Jobs are no longer lost because employees cannot do them but they are lost because sooner or later someone arrives at the door who decides that they will take your job from you and you must leave. They will lie about you, undermine you, isolate you and most of all they will turn others against you and you will NEVER be aware of what they have said behind your back so you cannot defend yourself.

    This means that you need to get out as soon as possible if you need a job in the future. And the best part (for them) is that you can’t speak of it or you will look like the bitter, crazy one. They are unbelievably well organized. It is truly surreal.

    We need more articles like this that tell organizations that they must be on the watch and be vigilant against it. This will and has destroyed many people. I know because I am one.
    In the long run, it will eat at the fabric of all good workplaces and mobbing is what has sent many young people to their deaths by suicide not to mention adults. They call it cyber bullying but it is actually mobbing. We must ban together to stop it, if not for ourselves but for future generations.

    Keep up the good work Dr.Sophie Henshaw and thank you.

    • Hi Ruthann

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I am indeed in the process of writing a series of articles about this subject and there is a lot more information available to you on my website in the form of a free report. Watch this space for an upcoming article on dealing with energy vampires in January!

      • Dr. Sophie, this article is SPOT ON. I will definitely read future articles you write on this subject, even though I’m now retired (thank God). Workplace politics suck, especially among women. At least a man will (usually) stab you in the FRONT. Mobbing is a good term!

  3. There should be legal consequences for these psychopaths who consciously inflict pain in the life of their victims. One standard method that I personally have observed being used by the bullies in one academic setting is to make bogus claims about the victim. The goal of bogus claims is to discredit the victim, so that the victim’s words do not carry any weight. The accusations are not communicated with the victim,so the victim is completely unaware of the contents of the accusation, but the smear campaigns are shared with the professional settings, members of the communities that the victim belongs (especially if the victim belongs to a minority group), and future employments. The goal of smear campaign is to isolate the victim. So imagine a victim who is overwhelmed with high level of unfair level of bullying, and find himself/herself completely isolated from his/her community, and can not find a employment. I really think these actions goes beyond bullying and harassment,these are criminal acts. Acts of consciously planning to humiliate, isolate and actively prevent future employment is a conscious plan to push the individual to the verge of suicide. These are criminal acts and should be considered legally as premeditated homicide, regardless of the titles and status of the perpetrators.

    • The pain felt by those who have experienced workplace bullying is clear from the comments posted in reply to the article. I am a professional, good at what I do, likeable, hard working and respectful of my work colleagues. I was bullied and mobbed at work and am now unable to work and struggling to get through each day. The toll is psychological, emotional, and financial. Friends and family and relationships suffer too. I am left with symptoms of PTSD from going to work and doing a good job. I predict that vicious psychological workplace bullying will, eventually, be accepted in more jurisdictions as criminal assault. The intention to do harm is there, as is the action to ensure harm is done to the target of the bullying. The present scenario is that all too often the head bully (who may meet most or all of the psychopath criteria) is rewarded and not held accountable. This further legitimises the behaviour of the head bully and the conduct of the mob in the eyes of both the head bully and the mob. If workplace bullies are not rewarded, but are held to account, then the bullying and mobbing will lose some of its traction. That may prevent mobs from rising up and destroying good and innocent people (this may sound dramatic, but those who have been bullied and mobbed know that this is truly what happens). Education is also needed so people have an understanding of the toxicity and evil of, not just bullying, but of mobbing in the workplace. Workplaces may then become safer places to be.

  4. I want to share this article that really helped me!
    http://solescorner.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/154/

  5. A new supervisor came in from ohio and was very critical of me from the start. I was wearing company color clothes and he pointed out that it doesn’t have company logo even though half the employees were also wearing same thing. I purchased company logo shirts then he said to me tuck in your shirt even though most employees did not. I wanted a day off to take care of a emergency as home was damaged by a big tree from my neighbors house. He said i cannot give you it off. I asked to get off early and he said I cannot let you off early. I said to him so if this happened to you then you would not want off either? He got very upset and then colluded with another supervisor and had me in a private room four hours later to try to bully me out of the job. It worked as I resigned in anger because they were double teaming me and falsely accusing me for doing things I did not do. I worked there five years and had a good work record and was known as a hard worker. They gave me a five year pin one month earlier and was set to get a big pay raise. I feel stunned and angry I no longer work there even though I loved working there.

  6. I had this kind of bullying and mobbing happen at my former job and it was awful. I had been accused of sleeping with a coworker, being a lesbian, called names, and accused of all kinds of other of unprofessional behavior. The president of the company also disclosed my bankruptcy to other co-workers and blatantly made fun of my religious beliefs and compared my beliefs to those of his ex-wife. There was total disregard for sexual equality and the president made jokes and sexual innuendos daily to the female crew. When I would call him on the jokes, he would make openly make fun of me to the mostly male crew. I also pointed out numerous times the pay inequalities and was told I was imagining things, yet I had more education and better attendance than my male peers. It was a horrible place to work and had I known about all the stories being told about me, I would have sued. I did keep logs concerning the verbal abuse, sexual jokes and other happenings. When the company could no longer pay my salary I resigned. Best thing I ever did.

    • Pretty much the same has happened to me where I work and it’s just been awful. I really struggle to accept the fact that people can be so nasty as the bullying that was happening to me was from a group of so called friends who took sides with the ringleader. Everything that has been described in the article has happened to me and I have no idea what to do to prevent it from happening to be again

      • I too have gone through this, to the point of me and the person having an outright blow up arguement and the person even threatened me, I took it to HR and they did NOTHING. What’s crazy is, I’m the bad person for fighting back. People are so silly and immature that I was told that because I don’t usually interact, and say anything for the most part, that they’ve become afraid of me because I fought back. How stupid is that? This article is DEAD ON, ESPECIALLY the part about the person is usually immature and this one is and very jealous and envious. I have actually asked to be moved away from the entire group, so I now sit over in an area away from them, by myself. I know the isolation isn’t good but I just wanted to be away from that atmosphere. I’ve put in transfers to be moved to other areas, but unfortunately, my attendance has become HORRIBLE due to the migraines I have, so now, I’m overlooked for any transfers. I do indeed have a hard time coming here, as I’ve been dealing with it since 2007 and it doesn’t help that the group just moved over by me, to where I can hear and see them. My supervisor does nothing, regardless to the countless emails I’ve sent him of the things she has done. And to make matters worse my son is dealing with bullying at school….. This article was very helpful to me because I never knew it was something people cared about.

  7. I disagree with the term “splitting” as it is used here. It means to see things in black-and-white, all-or-nothing, good-or-bad terms. As someone in recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, we are often the victims of bullying, not the perpetrators. Other than that, I really enjoyed this article.

  8. Excellent article. I’ve seen workplace bullying in action and have been a victim myself. Workplace mobbing doesn’t happen in a vacuum – management from the top down is always complicit.

    The co-workers who turn on each other or on a specific individual are usually not bad people individually but in a group and with management encouragement become a collective nightmare.

    I’ve seen a manager advise two employees that only one of them can be promoted and that they will need to compete against each other for the promotion. How does that encourage a cooperative work environment ensuring customer satisfaction and ultimately maximum profits ?

    Managers offered bounties for employees to report on other employees coming in late or leaving early or taking too long in the bathroom – building distrust within work units. The only person who should be monitoring an employee’s work hours is the manager.

    I’ve had managers “pop in” on a meeting with customers to review project plan and had that manager undermine by asking confrontational questions. Questions better suited to a one-one meeting to discuss concerns about the project and not in front of co-workers and customers.

    Take heart as I have also witnessed such managers get back what they are dishing out. Live by the sword – die by the sword. Sometimes they take the entire company down with them.

  9. I think ‘mobbing’ is a great word for ‘bullying’, like that done by young people. It becomes a mob atmosphere.

    I too was a victim at one job and it was sheer hell. I had been in my job for 7 years at the time. However, I stood my ground, didn’t back down, and got transferred to a better job within the organization with more pay. This was also a government job. It was all done by women, even my own supervisor at the time. My pseudo supervisor (who was new) disclosed a bonus I had received for doing a stellar performance at a department meeting! She made fun of me in front of everyone and I had to bite my tongue in half. It’s a long, long story. And it was a living nightmare.

    In the end, though, I held my ground, kept my head up and didn’t give up. Sure wasn’t easy, though. The mob even dragged my husband into it. He had never, ever interfered into my work before, as I never did his. We did vent and offer advice about this and that. He interfered this time and blistered those involved. I wish I would have recorded it! No cursing, calmness, but firmness.

    That prior office wanted me to help train my replacement, lol! My new supervisor gave me half a day to do it, then she and I were both done. Needless to say, I kind of slacked. Then there were the calls asking me how do I do this or that? I pretty much would say (politely) that I was busy, didn’t have time and to figure it out.

  10. The pain from workplace bullying is evident from comments posted in reply to the article. I was a hard-working, honest, popular professional, who respected my work colleagues and consciously tried to make the workplace a good place to be. To my horror I was targetted and viciously psychologically bullied and mobbed at a workplace in Australia. I was not the first, nor the last to be bullied in that workplace, and all incidents have involved the same head bully.

    It has been more than 18 months since I worked, and I am still unable to work. I struggle every day, and live with the symptoms of PTSD. There was nothing I could do to protect myself once the head bully had deceived and manipulated the mob. The mob was on a mission to destroy and remove me. I had become less than human to them. Some of those people had been my friends! They lost all sense of decency and fairness. The impact on me has been psychological, emotional, and financial. My career is up in the air. There has also been an impact on my family and friends. Relationships can also be casualities.

    Literature on the topic often reminds us that workplace bullies are not generally held to account, rather, they are often rewarded and/or promoted. This is especially so for the head bully (who may be someone meeting most or all of the checklist criteria for a psychopath). The adoring mob then see this as further legitimizing the behaviour of the head bully. During and after the bullying the mob repeatedly justify their conduct to the head bully and to the other members of the mob. It is vile behaviour, akin to gang mentality, which does not belong in a civilised workplace. The reality is that the mob will have participated in destroying a good and completely innocent person. This may sound dramatic, but it is really what happens.

    I predict that, in time, workplace bullying and mobbing of the kind to which I was subjected will be a criminal offence in most jurisdictions. The intentional aspect is there, as is the actual action that causes harm. Bullies need to be held to account. Penalities that are enforced may help to deter some bullies and mobs.

    Education may also help – not just about bullying in general, but about the cruelty and inhumanity of mobbing. Maybe then, just maybe,some individuals will not end up part of a mob on a witch hunt, and then more people may be safe at work.

    • I wish I had someone to talk to like you who could relate to my experience. Mine will still be different to another’s, but I conitue to suffer thirteen years later. The effect of bullying in my very first year of working life has had a devastating effect. I had a university degree which is useless now. But the subsequent development of social anxiety disorder and depression meant that I could not ork for years. Now I exerience being picked very last if at all for any job I apply to. I also suffer further discrimination now because of mental health effects.
      My manager was not only involved in sexual harassment but was also the sexual harassment officer to whom I then had to complain to, and I was belittled fir caring about something that “wasn’t physical”. I had no body and when a coworher decided he though I was ‘uppity’ and not feminine or submissve enough, he sexually harassed me every day, including a subtle suggestion that I could get raped.

      My life has been dwnhill. My welfare was sacrificed because this manager in his 30s was no more iimmature than a young adult. No mercy was shwn to me. I was prey, and punished for having an immature attitude, and given no dignity or rights whatsoever. And this is how this allegedly mature older man in a senior position treated the only young fmale (first year in any job) – and for years now, one of my last.

  11. Thank you for addressing a very real problem, I to survived being bullied and mobbed at work. I was fired when I realized the truth of who was working hard to ruin my image and stood up for myself. Sad because I loved what I did and did it well, well enough that one of the bullies, wanted my reputation, lied to herself and upper management to try to get my recognition. However, as much as she wanted to be recognized for my good work, she’s proven to the company, she can’t do the work with the same competency. For myself, I have moved on. I now work for a worldwide company with wonderful benefits, professional and classy employees. So for anyone reading this, if you are in the position of being bullied at work and nobody will stand up and stop it, run! There are great companies out there waiting for you. Stay strong! ;)

  12. I worked for division of drivers license as an office manager just shy of 20 years. In 2008 I was notified that my office was being closed and the county tax collector was taken over services. In August 2008 I went to work for the county tax collectors office as an office manager and trained all tax collector employees with the issuance of drivers licenses and ID cards. I helped with the opening of two driver license offices in 2 cities. As time went by I realize that the branch manager was trying her best for me not to go to any of the training classes or meetings that had to do with drivers license. I would catch her in lies. She would lie all the time on me and tried to make me look like I did not know my job. To make a long story short she called a meeting with me and the tax collector. she asked me why I thought she had something against me. I had all my notes that I had taken over the years and I proceeded to tell her about all the times that she lied about me. I did not realize she was going to be running for tax collector. She was running against another person they decided to make a deal she dropped out of the election and became his assistant. When All the employees found out that she was going to be the assistant tax collector every body was worried because of how vindictive this girl is. When she was running for tax collector she was telling every body that I was first on the list to go. She named certain people that was going to be let go The new tax collector knew all this and went to talk to all the employees promising them that she would not be allowed to reprimand or hire or fire. Since January 2013 I was wrote up four times, suspended seven days with no pay, sent to a psychiatrist, put on performance and improvement planning where I was to be monitored and a weekly report be sent in on my progress. After being wrote up several times for things I did not do I ended up quitting August 2013 after 24 1/2 years of issuing drivers licenses and I really really miss it. When I could not even drive in the parking lot without crying and wondering what was going to happen next it was time to quit. The sad thing about all of this is the tax collector could have legally let me go from the beginning he did not have to allow her to write me up and try to destroy my career. Also, in the 24 years I was never wrote up one time prior to them coming in office!!!

  13. I am impressed with the accuracy of this article and am relieved that the topic of mobbing is being identified and exposed by more and more people. I have been dealing with this for a while now. I work for a very large employer and the accepted practice, from the top down, is to pretend not to see it or call it something else (ie. lack of communication). Some appear to find it humorous, some clearly are protecting favored workers, some I suspect are afraid to be the next target if they intervene, some don’t care, and some are directly benefiting from it. I’ve witnessed those in authority, on multiple occasions, simply rewrite and relabel offensive or inappropriate conduct as “lack of communication” or “personality clash” when clearly that was not the case. Clearly there was intent to cause grief. The repetitiveness of the conduct, the obviousness of it, all ignored. Where I work there are mainly two gangs of ego-driven females that are machines that churn out slander, suggestion, disrespect, deception, sabotage, and triangulation. On the employer’s clock. It’s a circus. The workplace is stressful for anyone who just wants to work and not make a top priority of harassing or demeaning others. Its like the patients took over the psyche ward. I have learned the hard way that one does not open their mouth against it unless she wants more harassment and grief. Turning to management or hr just resulted in another tier of grief when I opened my mouth. What I find really disheartening is that our employer does not reliably practice what it preaches it in writing. Enforcement of policies appears to be contingent on who the victim of broken conduct policies are rather than on the principle of the disregarded policy itself. Enforcement is a selective, biased decision basically. Even if a bullying/mobbing law is ever passed, I am sure, based on what I’ve seen (over and over) that bullying conduct will continue to be renamed something less offensive so that addressing it can continue to be avoided. As a result of watching bullying and clearly wrong behavior get relabeled again and again, I have been wondering for years now how much sexual harassment and hostile work environment conduct that gets reported goes under the radar as a result of being relabeled. It seems that there should be an ethics oversight board for governing the conduct of those in hr or management. An ethics board that is held to account and is transparent. There is a lot of pervasive ill intent that goes on behind closed doors that would not withstand public scrutiny were it revealed.

  14. This kind of bullying needs to STOP! I don’t tolerate this kind of behavior at work. I was harassed by a supervisor and I wrote a factual diary and dates when insidents happend. Furthermore, I reported to the administration and things got resolved right away. The supervisor doesn’t harras me anymore, but she still works where I work. Finaly, if some makes a remark about me or spreading vicious rumors, I would confromt that person and them know that I am not going to tolarate that kind of behavior. If continues, I will let the administrator know about this kind of behavior. Some co-workers that I work with try to isolate me, but I don’t pay no mind, because what I do is, I get to their conversations and that anoys them for a while, and eventually they start talkingto me and things got little better. I tell them that I ddon’t care what people think of me. Iam just here to work.

  15. This article has helped me realize that I was not crazy in thinking I was being singled out in the workplace and forced to leave. I worked in retail for 3 years and now I am 21. At first, everything was good. I communicated well with my managers and co-workers and really enjoyed working there. I received decent evaluations and good comments from supervisors. Then during my final year working there, a whole new group of people came in and replaced the old ones. The integrity of the store plummeted. Managers became lazy and rude. I started to notice that I was being treated differently. Certain employees made belittling and disparaging remarks to me. One woman in particular psychologically harassed me until I suffered from an emotional breakdown, and developed a severe social anxiety disorder. I should have taken it up with the managers, but they admired this woman and I feared it would only make my problems worse.

    I started getting written up reports for “mistakes” I had made at the register. One of these slips said I had failed to give a customer $50.00. Another one said $100.00. I couldn’t believe this-as I have always been a hard worker and very honest and careful at the registers. I was then told that I could only work the minimum amount of hours required during nights, and only at the back of the building where few customers were. They had me scheduled for one day out of the entire week to work. When I took it up with the manager to ask for more work, he said they didn’t have enough money to pay for extra hours for some employees. Although when I looked at the hours sheet, everyone appeared to have full schedules. I felt like I was being punished for a crime I didn’t commit.

    I also overheard employees talking bad about a girl who I had become friends with and she confessed to me that she and another man had been bullied relentlessly since the day they started. She quit two weeks later. I stayed for a good 6 months after that, but it was miserable. Sometimes the managers would purposely make me look bad in front of a bunch of customers saying I was too quiet and shy to handle the job. I was completely isolated and had to work part time at another job to compensate for the lack of pay at that one. When I tried to get on good terms with some of the employees I had talked to earlier, I was rewarded with blank stares and the silent treatment. They pretended like I had never existed. I didn’t understand why they had all turned on me. I felt like I was losing my mind. I now realize that I should have documented these incidents as proof that nasty rumors had been spread about me which destroyed my self image, caused health problems and forced me to leave the store.

    Turns out though, that leaving was the best thing I could have done and I am much happier for it. Now when I experience this type of behavior I don’t let it get to me. It’s important to stay strong within yourself and not let mean-spirited people disgrace you. They are not worth your time or your consideration. If you can, find a place that respects you and and rewards you for your efforts.

  16. I just wrote about a boss bully on my blog about emotional abuse. Would love your feedback on it. Thanks for your work on this. I also suffered frm bully bosses at work: dearjohnnarron.wordpress.com

  17. My co-worker commited suicide from bullying in the workplace. He was under alot of pressure with many tasks and on top of it, was screamed at by the new guy that was sent over by the head office. I feel for his wife and daughter who had to come across the seas to pick him up. The daughter who is in collage doesn’t even know the truth since the wife didn’t want people to think it was a suicide.

  18. Dr. Sophie this is one of the most important issues in our world today, thank you for handling it so well. This article is fantastic and all true.
    It’s not only school children who get bullied. People of all ages find bullies in all walks of life, including the workplace. Being bullied at a job by co-workers is not normal. How can you tell if you are being bullied at work?
    i found that link http://nobullying.com/workplace-bullying/ have signs of Workplace Bullying to look out for

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