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Checklist of Mobbing Indicators


By Prof. Kenneth Westhues, University of Waterloo

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As workplace mobbing becomes more widely known and deplored, it is to be expected that many workers in academe, as in other fields, will claim to be mobbed as a way of warding off criticism and strengthening their positions in office politics. Indeed, many workers will genuinely feel that they are being mobbed and will attribute lack of sympathy from others as proof that the others are part of the mob. It is therefore essential that any claimed or apparent case of mobbing be subjected to hard-nosed scrutiny in light of empirical mobbing indicators, measurable criteria by which to conclude that yes, this is a case of mobbing, or no, it is not.

Below is a checklist of 16 mobbing indicators or measures that I have used in my research, and offered on workshop handouts entitled, "WAMI, The Waterloo Anti-Mobbing Instruments" (PDF). In the introduction to my 2006 book, The Prevention and Remedy of Mobbing in Higher Education, I apply these 16 indicators systematically to two different mobbing cases, to illustrate variations on common themes.

There is nothing sacred about this list of mobbing indicators. In my book, The Envy of Excellence, the 16 indicators are boiled down to ten. Perhaps the most important indicator is shown here as No. 12, the enlargement of some real or imagined misdeed or fault in order to smear the target's whole identity, so that he or she is seen as personally abhorrent — a totally alien other, a dangerous, repugnant entity that turns the stomachs of good and decent people.

Mobbing Indicators

By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.
Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”
The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.
Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is.”
Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson.”
Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.
Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.
Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.
High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.
Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for” or defend the target.
The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.
The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.
Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.
Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.
Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.
Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.




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