What is mobbing at the workplace?

Written by wendel clark
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What is mobbing at the workplace?
Mobbing victims are frequently attacked by their colleagues. (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Mobbing at the workplace is a significant problem, with some studies indicating that as many as 14 per cent of all workers are the victims of workplace mobbing. Workplace mobbing is a harmful group behaviour capable of causing long-term mental health problems for victims. Managers should understand workplace mobbing so that they can recognise and prevent it.

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Definition

Workplace mobbing is a form of group psychological harassment. It occurs when a group of people targets a co-worker with harmful behaviour, including rumours, accusations and insults. Mobbing is typically led by a person in a position of power who gathers others in a campaign to discredit the targeted individual. Workplace mobbing reduces the target's credibility and isolates her from the group as a whole.

Effects

Workplace mobbing can have significant effects on the victim. Because victims are made to feel marginalised and are constantly under attack, they can develop physical and mental health problems. These include physical problems such as stomachaches and headaches. Workplace mobbing can cause victims to develop insomnia, depression, anxiety disorders and even posttraumatic stress disorder -- a condition more commonly associated with rape victims and soldiers returning from battle. Victims can develop suicidal impulses and can require treatment from a psychologist, psychiatrist or other medical professional.

Degrees

According to Dr. James Randolph Hillard, associate provost for human health affairs at Michigan State University, there are three degrees of workplace mobbing. First-degree mobbing victims are fortunate enough to escape the process early. As a result, these victims do not suffer long-term health issues. They continue working, either at the original employer or with another organisation. Second-degree mobbing victims are unable to escape the assault early. Consequently, they suffer mental and/or physical disabilities that can be long-lasting, and they can have difficulties re-entering the workplace. Third-degree workplace mobbing is the most severe. Victims suffer long-term mental or physical disabilities and are unable to re-enter the workplace.

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of workplace mobbing. If there are discernible differences between an individual and the group, it can make the individual a target for mobbing. These include the individual's cultural or religious background, her personality and even a high level of achievement or intelligence. Mobbing is more likely to occur in a workplace with poor leadership and unclear goals. Finally, there are three fields that are more prone to workplace mobbing: academia, government and religious organisations.

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