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Workplace Mobbing and Bullying

What's the Difference Between Workplace Mobbing and Bullying?

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The word "bullying" is often used in the context of children abusing other children in a manner that often has a physical aspect. Due to laws, social constraints and company policies, etc. adult bullies in the workplace are forced to use more subtle tactics.

Mobbing usually does not involve actual physical violence, although threats of violence are used to intimidate and create mental distress in the target and is usually more of a psychological or emotional terrorization occurring in the workplace.

As such mobbing is also referred to as adult bullying, workplace bullying, psychological harassment or status-blind harassment. These various phrases allude to these characteristics: usually mental rather than physical abuse, the "bullying" is perpetrated by an adult against another adult, that this occurs in the workplace, and that there is group involvement. The word "mobbing" says all of this concisely.

When someone is being harassed at work by a bully they are indeed being bullied. If a bully harasses you for the first, the second or the hundredth time you are certainly being bullied, but you are not, necessarily, the target of a mobbing.

Mobbing occurs in environments conducive to its development. Like viruses they need the right conditions to thrive. This usually involves workplaces with poor management lacking in conflict resolution skills and lacking in awareness about mobbing and its consequences. Worse still are workplaces where management knowingly utilizes mobbing tactics as a means to eliminate staff in spite of the, sometimes fatal, devastation it causes.

The bullies will systematically discredit their target to erode any support the target may seek out later. Bullies slander their target's reputation to anyone who will listen: co-workers, management, union representatives, human resources, etc.

A mobbing is this larger involvement of the group in the bullying. Management and unions withdraw support and eventually participate in attacking the target with as much enthusiasm as the (original) bully. Co-workers are afraid for themselves and either look the other way or actively participate. The group is set against the individual.

It is a dysfunctional group response to the abuse of one of its members. Rather than address the abuse, the group instead seeks to silence and destroy the messenger. It is like a disease that causes the body's immune system to destroy healthy parts of itself.

Responsible managers will want to protect their employees, their company and their bottom line from the ravages of bullies, but how can you tell if your workplace has become infected with the mobbing virus?



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