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Mobbing and Law Enforcement

©2020 Gail Pursell Elliott

On the sidewalk there was a fight between three sparrows. This was a mobbing as two birds ganged up on the third. It was difficult to resist the urge to break it up since bullying, even among other species upsets me, but I managed to control myself.  Two birds flew away and the third tentatively hopped out nursing its wounds and disappeared from view.

An odd noise, similar to the chatter of a flock of geese flying over, lasted longer than it should were it from geese.  The noise came from about twenty juveniles who were yelling and clustered in a group in front of an apartment.  Other kids ran toward the mob, perhaps curious.  One adult emerged from the crowd and pulled a youngster home. Another remarked her kids weren’t there, so she wasn’t going to get involved. A woman emerged from the apartment and tried to say something to the group and was ignored so gave up and watched. Another male adult paced back and forth; arms folded.  Eventually, a police car arrived, and the lone officer approached the group but also was ignored. When a second car showed up, about half of the group disappeared into the apartment. The officers talked with people, took down information, issued warnings. The situation was instigated by two ten-year-old girls that were arguing.

A consultation to review a deposition and legal filing on a workplace mobbing/bullying case involved a police officer in a large metro area police force, who claimed to be set up by her fellow officers and precinct administration. She believed that this was largely a result of her gender and wanted to fight legally but felt physically unsafe. Her attorney asked me if I’d heard of the thin blue line, which I had. The thin blue line is a term that traditionally refers to the police as the line that keeps our society from descending into chaos.  Since the1970’s the term has also been used with the blue wall of silence, an informal code to cover up police misconduct. (source: Wikipedia) One generally does not associate police misconduct with actions inside a department but more with possible misconduct in the community.  In this case, it involved one of their own. As my role was a consultant, I reviewed what the attorney sent me and made some observations and suggestions and we discussed possible courses of action with his client’s lawsuit and that was all.  I did not hear any more about this case, but it still comes to mind and is troubling.

Another case involved a state trooper assigned to patrolling an interstate. He had continuously been undermined by his supervisor.  The supervisor had taken a dislike to him the first day of training over a disagreement about a pair of shoes. She proceeded to pick on him during training and followed up by assigning him to the most difficult sections of highway, constantly reviewing and re-reviewing his reports to look for any error.  Her behavior did not go unnoticed by other officers who were privately supportive but concerned about speaking up.  When he left the force, he was asked if he had a gun and if he planned to return and shoot up the place. The trooper was appalled at the question as well as the behavior. It was clear that others in authority knew what was happening and had done nothing to stop it and now feared retaliation. 

Law enforcement officers like other professionals in high risk jobs involving traumatic situations have no idea what they are going to confront when sent out on a call.  They must be able to trust their team, their equipment, and their skills. When any of these are compromised tragic mistakes can happen. Within any group of people in high stress positions, issues, misunderstandings, and brief confrontations can occur.  Knowing when to step in and when to wait to see if those involved work out the situation for themselves requires insight, awareness, and whether this is a one-time situational issue or an ongoing one that resurfaces again and again.

Knowing when to step in and when to step back is a fine line. Being aware of the climate, personality interactions, and willingness to intervene when necessary in a proactive way is essential to keeping your workplace safe for everyone.  When tensions are high it is essential to be alert to outside situations that can impact staff working together well.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She consults with organizations, presents at conferences, and offers programs on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect.  Gail is founder and proprietor of Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude” located in Eastern Iowa.  Contact Gail through her website innovations-training.com   

Gail has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment since 1998 and has been a guest expert on both television and radio programs.  Gail is the author of several books, including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It, Stop It, Prevent It with Dignity and Respect and is co-author of the 1999 book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the definitive book on this subject based on the original research of Dr. Heinz Leymann. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world. 

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Listen for Trash Talk

©2020 Gail Pursell Elliott

With another presidential election looming, start listening to the language if you’ve not already.  Mobbing behavior is out in full force as candidates and their supporters try to bully, intimidate, ridicule, set up, lie, spread rumors, innuendoes, engage in any tactic that might work to swing votes away from their opponents.  While people look for truth, a haze of conspiracy theory and confusion steer attention away from the focus of the event.

Talking trash was a phrase originating in sports, meaning saying nasty, nonsensical things including name calling to instigate trouble. For some folks this was justification for physical conflict.  Regardless, it was taken as offense and had consequences. When I was in college, the behavior was laughable and called outrageous. Now it is referred to as trolling, not the cute ceramic garden ornament variety but the malevolent creatures from folklore.  Trolls like to start trouble on the internet by posting inflammatory statements. Mobbers do the same thing then back away and watch the show.  They may use a different communication tool but engage in the same type of behavior, also to create disruption, distract from the original purpose and get people worked up.  With the national election, prepare to see lots more of this and if possible, try not to get caught up in the emotional fiasco that will follow. We don’t laugh at the outrageousness of this any longer, people take it seriously, knowing that ridiculously stupid, inaccurate statements may start equally stupid rumors that will damage a person’s life and reputation.

When one of her children would torment the other by saying something ridiculous, my grandmother would punish both of them. The one got it for tormenting their sibling and the other for “believing nonsense.”  The more reactive people become, the more vulnerable they become to rumors. Being able to step back and evaluate with reason is critical, especially when dealing with new day to day issues caused by such things as the Covid-19 virus, and potential disruption by clients and staff having to adhere to new rules. Being upbeat, respectful, tuned in, and caring helps staff keep cool in situations in which they are periodically tormented by coworkers or customers. Between concerns about work, family, healthcare, and other issues, your employees will sometimes be on a raw edge. That is when supervisors should be watchful. One shift leader saw an employee getting close to the edge and not being able to give the person a short break, went over and said softly, “Remember to breathe, breathe through it, breathe through it, it will pass.”  It worked, saving a situation and staff that had reached critical mass.

In addition to all of the other challenges this year has presented, understanding that the ongoing widespread differences of opinion are going to present new challenges close to home and for which we can prepare without triggering spontaneous acts of bullying or nonsensical behavior.  In other words, our victories in creating a stable, respectful workplace are going to come moment to moment – short term rather than long term – even though we are setting the stage for the future. During times of chaos, small acts have a wider reach, so trash talk needs to go into the trash, trolling behavior has to be quelled quickly without a lot of fanfare or discussion:  not here, not now, enough. 

This is where we are in a culture in which reason and self-restraint have dissolved into a reactive environment rather than one based on thoughtful response.  Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves what we do want rather than emotionally stating what we don’t want, and we can all help each other with that.  Whether the culture is national or workplace, the same principles apply.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She consults with organizations, presents at conferences, and offers programs on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect.  Gail is founder and proprietor of Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude” located in Eastern Iowa.  Contact Gail through her website innovations-training.com   

Gail has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment since 1998 and has been a guest expert on both television and radio programs.  Gail is the author of several books, including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It, Stop It, Prevent It with Dignity and Respect and is co-author of the 1999 book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the definitive book on this subject based on the original research of Dr. Heinz Leymann. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world. 

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At the Roots

©2020 Gail Pursell Elliott

The past few months have been such that I don’t know where to begin to talk about Mobbing and Bullying. The news has inundated us with examples of both from many sources, so I will attempt in this short space to share my perceptions.

Mobbing is driven by fear, targeted by innuendo, instigated by rumor.

The target is viewed as a threat.

The target is victimized by scapegoating.

The target is the subject of unsubstantiated or overblown rumors.

The target is someone who is pushed out, isolated, ignored, or attacked.

The target is not seen as a human being.

People want some sort of explanation for things they don’t understand.  They tend to fill in the blanks for themselves to make sense of it all. They then began to draw conclusions based upon little concrete information and they can be easily manipulated by mobbers who will gladly supply fillers for the blanks in understanding. We see this in the aftermath of peaceful demonstration by sudden unexpected looting that has no point other than destruction of property and theft and more importantly, confusion and destabilization.  Mobbers take advantage of fear and uncertainty and whip groups whether large or small into a frenzy, unless level heads prevail.

The level-headed will look past the surface to the substance, from the branches to the roots. Mobbing simmers below the surface and can erupt seemingly without warning although the indicators are there and often ignored or downplayed or blamed on something else. The goal is power, defined as dominance and control, whether it be over people, economies, politics, or businesses.  Whether the circumstances exist within a department or a community, the human dynamics that contribute to the syndrome of mobbing remain the same. And a similar process must be employed to help get it under control, the first step of which is not to react and get sucked into the situation. This is not to say that in certain situations a quick response is necessary to prevent injury, for example let’s extinguish the fire before saying, “oh dear how did this get started?” Too often with mobbing, the underlying cause will still exist and persist regardless of what surface deterrents are employed.  Much of it has to do with attitudes, fears, ongoing resentments, and a desire for power regardless of the cost.

Politics is in warp drive during an election year and campaigning is rife with mobbing behaviors.  Unjustified accusations, questioning credentials, intimidation, all exacerbated by the rumor mill of media is quite a circus to watch. Unlike a circus, however, lives and futures are at stake. Just as in a workplace mobbing, it is difficult to dig deep enough to find the truth or to determine what is fabricated and what is embellished. Factionalism is rampant and there are those who will dismiss facts that are not supportive of their beliefs. It is important to take the time to think, discern, and verify information that grabs at one’s sense of outrage or seems to justify behavior that is inappropriate or unexpected. Taking a step back and looking at situations from an objective point of view is important, although initially it may seem to be more confusing than clarifying. The dust will begin setting and the view will clear so that patterns and processes are more apparent and easier to address.

In these times, treating all people with dignity and respect Is more critical than ever. We can do this by taking the time to look past the first impression, the label, the stereotype, and see each person as a human being with wants, hopes, needs, dreams, desires, people who love them and people they love. Then by acknowledging the person human to human beyond work and societal relationships, realizing that we are all connected by what makes us human at the root of our existence.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She consults with organizations, presents at conferences, and offers programs on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect.  Gail is founder and proprietor of Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude” located in Eastern Iowa.  Contact Gail through her website innovations-training.com

 

Gail has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment since 1998 and has been a guest expert on both television and radio programs.  Gail is the author of several books, including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It, Stop It, Prevent It with Dignity and Respect and is co-author of the 1999 book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the definitive book on this subject based on the original research of Dr. Heinz Leymann. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world.

 

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Mobbing as a Pandemic

©2020 Gail Pursell Elliott

Mob rule takes over when people are in survival mode, just as it does in the animal kingdom with birds attacking others viewed as a threat. Lately we have seen bullies in action as people push others out of the way to grab all the toilet paper possible. You see, most of us have that potential within us.  It is only our self-awareness and self-restraint that keeps us from becoming poor examples of what we believe civilized should be.

You might not think of Mobbing as a pandemic, yet a workplace mobbing in progress, is similar to and often takes on those characteristics both in toxicity and the way it spreads. People do shift into survival mode. They may participate to ensure their own safety as a member of the group or to align themselves with those who seem to have the power, or they may do nothing, watching quietly and feeling helpless.  In the Mobbing book interviews one person reported saying, “this is wrong” while watching supervisors’ treatment of a coworker.  Another employee told them to keep quiet, “if you want to keep your job.” Another person reported a key staff member resigning, saying, “I don’t want to work for an organization that does this to people.”

When people feel threatened, they sometimes revert to deep-seated fears and prejudices. When these begin to surface, an organization that overlooks or ignores the outcroppings, or does not see them as indicators of a deeper issue that must be addressed quickly, is headed for trouble.  Take, for example, the workplace shooting that occurred not long ago involving someone who had had a noose placed on his locker five years prior. The reports stated that HR had let him know this had occurred and it had been removed.  Great. What happened after that we don’t know. Was there an investigation? Were there firings as a result of this? Were there educational programs? Was the person offered a different position? Was there follow-up? Did the person feel safe at work? Did the person feel supported by coworkers after the incident? Did the obvious racism become more subtle? The organization’s position was that this was an old issue and not indicative of what might have led up to the violence. But we all know that something did.

When people feel vulnerable, they are more easily whipped into a frenzy, however low keyed it may appear.  Fear and aggression become part of the standard operating procedure within a work area, sometimes masked by superficial pleasantries. Mobbing works beneath the surface for the most part, showing itself generally in singular but continuous pecks. Often participants will deny their involvement, stating that they might have laughed at a bad joke at the target’s expense, but certainly did not bully or go after the person. However, this behavior multiplied by half or more of a department, along with whispered rumors or rude comments take their toll on an individual.

Remembering that Mobbing is an organizational dynamic, rather than the intensely personal form that it takes, is important. Seeing the potential for similar issues cropping up again and again tells that the underlying cause has not been addressed, whether it is power, prejudice, or just basic survival.  Taking a hard look at your organization, from the vantage point of an objective rather than subjective view, can help.  Prevent the behavioral pandemic or organizational cancer as Mobbing has been called, by establishing behavioral protocols and seeing that these are followed by education, awareness, intercept, consequences, and consistent follow-up. Being proactive beyond your basic policy is good management.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She consults with organizations, presents at conferences, and offers programs on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect.  Gail is founder and proprietor of Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude” located in Eastern Iowa.  Contact Gail through her website innovations-training.com

 

Gail has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment since 1998 and has been a guest expert on both television and radio programs.  Gail is the author of several books, including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It, Stop It, Prevent It with Dignity and Respect and is co-author of the 1999 book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the definitive book on this subject based on the original research of Dr. Heinz Leymann. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world.

 

 

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When the Target is a Mess

©2020 Gail Pursell Elliott

Often it is reported that the target of a mobbing is a talented individual who is resented by less talented coworkers or who is seen as a threat by supervisors. But this is not always the case.  It is not always possible to avoid what is simply a poor hire.  Other times, someone who needs structure and spelled out expectations or someone else who needs lots of freedom and mobility are placed in job situations that do not match those personal needs. We can lose potentially good staff by misplacing them especially when a department is in critical need for employees and people are placed there rather than a department where they will be more successful.

However, a person may know how to play the system pretty well and may be a professional victim who will share personal information that probably is best kept for close friends or counselors. This may be an effort to gain acceptance through sympathy.  Most staff are too busy to be playing social worker with a colleague, but many try to help.  While coworkers may be figuratively tearing their hair out trying to help the person feel comfortable and fit in, much of which is fruitless, morale suffers. This keeps coworkers and supervisors off balance, who may excuse childish or unprofessional conduct or marginal performance. It is important to remember that this person who is supposed to be a contributing member of the team is a user, just as much as a bully is but from the other end of the spectrum of narcissistic behavior.

While supervision attempts to assist the employee while maintaining department standards, the person lobbies for bending the rules using personal problems as justification and continues to push for special treatment. The old expression about turning up the heat so the person will just get out of the kitchen is tempting to some as a strategy for correcting a lapse in judgment or discernment, but it is still abusive and not an option.  It is difficult to keep from getting sucked in to creating a slope on which to slide the person out the door or accentuating the problem differently by putting them in a class by themselves.  The person may quietly share that they feel bullied, or that they “hate it here”, or ask other staff if they “like working here.” This is not to say that the issues the employee has are made up, but the stories may change like the weather, so documenting, as well as having the person document is important.  It is a standard investigative tool. If the person says that they feel bullied, be sure to investigate just in case this is indeed happening and intensifying the other problems. These people may be mobbers and victims simultaneously and can create real chaos if not addressed in some fashion.

What can be done when confronted with this type of dilemma after the usual good intentioned attempts to get the employee on board and functioning appropriately?  I recommend that the Employee Assistance Program be brought in, rather than just giving someone a card with information the person may or may not use.  Explain to the person that personal issues of the extreme nature being widely shared is not appropriate but also suggest that there is a place to share these issues. This shows the employee that the company is supportive. Making an appointment with a counselor and having one on site, even one day a week, is a plus. Having a consultant on call to assess the emotional risk management of the situation within the department is another option. The reason for doing this seemingly for just one person, is that these people generate a lot of negative energy and can impact the work environment and the performance of others. It can migrate. It may be surprising that others will appreciate having an employee assistance counselor on site as well.  Bear in mind that EAP professionals are expected to work confidentially with your employees, so don’t expect feedback.

Understand that this type of serial mobber/target, through happenstance, may leave on their own, usually after plenty of drama. They may point the finger at the organization and its rules, which is why the rules should not be toyed with when working with this person.  One must be careful that the rules are followed while not behaving in too harsh a manner.  The unnerving part of dealing with the victim mentality exhibited by the person is that when it is turned toward the organization, it can result in legal complications or worse, without real wrongdoing on the part of the company. The departmental employees may be left with a sense of sad relief and/or an unsettling sense of security-loss after working with this individual.

Obviously, someone with the victimization issues discussed will be poorly placed in a situation in which public contact and the accompanying stressors are the norm. This can be difficult to foresee especially when the employee gave a very different impression during the interview and orientation.  Sometimes there is a startling difference between the interviewee and who showed up for work.  It happens

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She consults with organizations, presents at conferences, and offers programs on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect.  Gail is founder and proprietor of Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude” located in Eastern Iowa.  Contact Gail through her website innovations-training.com

 

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The Second Degree

©2019 Gail Pursell Elliott

Second Degree Mobbing is like a second degree burn which creates a blister, is painful, and takes some time for recovery. When working on cases with this level of mobbing targets describe similar symptoms to those impacted by Third Degree mobbing, but they are not permanently disabled or unable to return to a work environment. They describe having flashbacks, anxiety, extreme anger, sadness, hyper-vigilance. One person described thinking of getting another job in the same field as feeling like screaming and running from the room.

Second Degree can be extreme and cause major difficulties but can be overcome depending upon the individual as well as the kind of support that is given. In one case, the target left the organization and got a position at another company. Someone at the new company approached HR with information about the target from the previous organization and was immediately shut down with, “we know about that and it makes no difference here. Do not repeat these statements to anyone.” This is the kind of HR department that can make a huge difference to a target who has had the courage to move on with his/her career. It is critical not only for the target, but also for intercepting mobbing before it begins, whether with that person or any other in the company.

This same approach can be used within the very organization in which the mobbing happened. That is, if the company has taken steps to ensure that the behavior is not acceptable and is able to relocate the target to a different environment with supports in place to rehabilitate the person. One target experienced this at a very large organization and was coping but not very well. When I saw her, she was subdued and sad, though still working. This is not rehabilitation but an effort to avoid litigation and is spirit-killing. If something like this is implemented it should emphasize the value of the individual and validate the person’s worth and work, rather than finding a spot away from the offenders who are still doing their dirty work perhaps on others.

Some second-degree targets may solve their dilemma by becoming entrepreneurs. Self-employment is a viable alternative for some.  For others, this option is a desperation move and for still others not feasible.  Just because the target finds other employment or goes on with life by returning to university for an advance degree or some other option does not mean that life has not changed dramatically for the individual. It does not mean that the company is not without responsibility for the lack of consequence or recourse. Employees are human beings, not objects or resources to be used up and discarded.

A recent case of mobbing/bullying based on race, described in the news on January 17th, happened to two supervisors at a GM plant in Ohio. According to the story, after over a year of behavior beyond being unsettling, such as bathrooms scrawled with “whites only” graffiti to nooses hung in work areas to veiled threats involving guns, the supervisors both left. They were well qualified, making excellent money and had grown in their field as a result.  One is now working elsewhere at a significantly lower salary while the other has returned to school to work on a Ph.D.  Two careers derailed by the inability or unwillingness of the company to curtail the behavior of employees who believe they are running the place rather than the company.

In cases of Second-Degree abuse, targets will go through the normal channels to get assistance and find that it is not forthcoming.  It can be through their superior, through HR, through the union if there is one, through upper management and all without action.  Sometimes the target will be told to handle it themselves which is preposterous.  Sometimes the target will be flatly ignored with no response. Some accumulate huge notebooks of documentation which are never addressed. Is it any wonder that some targets take years to recover? Second Degree mobbing leaves permanent scars.

In all cases, policies and laws do not change attitudes.  What they do is limit behavior and in today’s world it seems that limiting behavior to at least basic civility is more necessary than ever.  Plenty of organizations have policies. Following them is essential.  Laws are needed too, so that workers on all levels have recourse when they are mistreated in this way.

 

 

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Power and Control

©2018 Gail Pursell Elliott

Bullies and Mobbers are invested in power and control. This is important to watch for when disciplining someone who has been proven to have perpetrated this behavior or instigated others to do likewise. Maintaining that power and control is of utmost importance and in the extreme, may manifest in both overt and covert ways. How does one rehabilitate a serial Mobber or bully?  When I participated in an international online chat of experts on the topic, most concurred that this is a sociopathic personality style that is difficult, if impossible to rehabilitate. Those who have consistently dealt with life, people, and environments in this way are masters of manipulation and head games.  When thwarted, they may become vicious or potentially violent, the proverbial iron fist encased in a velvet glove. It can be seen either in process or potential in all sorts of situations, as well as in the media. Once you understand the process, it is easier to recognize whether a situation is really the result of mobbing or whether it is something else.

Whenever there is a shooting reported, I pay close attention as many do, looking for motivation. What I do see in all the perpetrators is that investment in power and control, whether the issue is workplace related, domestic, political, ideological, or something else. Regardless of whether the violence seems senseless, it makes sense to the perpetrator. We have also seen situations in which that sense of power takes over the individual, resulting in more victims. Unfortunately, in some of the mass shootings that we have seen recently, innocent victims were simply collateral damage from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, seen as objects rather than as human beings.

Mobbing and bullying involve power and control like any form of violation whether physical or emotional. In fact, this has been described as a rape of the spirit, destroying self-esteem and shattering the person’s sense of identity. It is important to remember that targets feel robbed of control over their lives and destiny. It has been demonstrated numerous times that the aftermath of being violated in this way often lasts for years and influences the target’s perceptions and actions in other environments. Hypersensitivity to interactions with others, reactions to and misinterpretations of innocent comments and other anxiety-based responses may result in new isolation experiences for the target. Anger, fear and paranoia responses are often noted in extreme cases. Over time and with validation of the dignity and respect the target deserves, just as much as any human being, these reactions can be alleviated and even healed. If not, anything is possible from suicide to homicide, to dissociation, to a life of quiet desperation.

Power and control are two of the basic human needs described in the work of William Glasser, M.D. Human beings will fight to regain it if it is threatened or taken away regardless of the circumstances, whether at work or in other environments. In normal amounts, power and control are part of who we all are.  In excess they result in abuse, tragedy, or at the least a loss of balance. A simple example can be seen in the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story. Our hero has had a rough day and is again confronted by the local bully on the way home. Instead of running he explodes in rage and starts punching his nemesis and cannot be stopped until his mother intervenes. His friends look on in horror not understanding that the rage is triggered by finally taking control of a situation when everything else seems out of control.

All that any of us can do is pay attention, watch ourselves and our interactions with others and what is going on around us. In our workplaces, do we sense an air of conditioned helplessness on the part of employees? That no matter what their input, nothing changes? That there is no feedback? Are threats to staff by customers ignored? Do people feel safe coming to and going home from work? Do they feel safe at work? Do they feel safe making mistakes? Do they over react to situations? If some of these questions seem worth asking, please do so, even if it is a blind survey so that staff do not have to identify themselves. It will give you a sense of a dimension of the climate in your workplace that may be valuable. If nothing else, it will let your staff know that you are paying attention and that is of value itself.

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Gail Pursell Elliott, “The Dignity and Respect Lady”, is a Professional Speaker, Consultant, and Author. She is available to assist you with Mobbing, Bullying, and soft skills Human Resources issues. Gail had over 20 years’ experience in middle and upper management before founding Innovations “Training With A Can-Do Attitude” in 1998. She is coauthor of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace and is an expert in this field. Contact through her website:   innovations-training.com

 

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Lost in Translation

©2018 Gail Pursell Elliott

In the metaphorical book Walk the Talk, the CEO of a company was practicing a speech and a custodian was quietly listening in the back. After, the custodian said that he completely agreed with the CEO’s philosophy for the organization. Then asked if he would like to see what was really going on. The two took an anonymous walk through the company and found that the positive teamwork that the CEO promoted just wasn’t happening.  It was breaking down level by level until it was completely lost.

Many policy interpretations go over the edge when it comes to what might be construed as decency and treating employees as human beings. Most of their targets simply disappear, forced out by being placed in untenable or unworkable situations by shift, stress levels, changing work responsibilities, being set up by changing the rules without communication, to name a few.

All these scenarios are examples of an old management style designed to circumvent normal Human Resources procedures for terminating an employee’s services. It is expedient, heartless, and based on business principles that side step some forms of discrimination.  In some cases, it is standard procedure for what is referred to as cleaning house. It also falls within the discretion of management to implement any of these. After all, we’re running a business here.  Treating people equally does not mean treating them equitably. For hourly staff it seems there is no recourse. The finger is pointed at upper management as being the determining factor, and in many cases, this is true. Guidelines and directives may not smack of mobbing but the execution of them winds up being just that.

Over the years I’ve observed:

Reorganizations that eliminated positions held by long term employees just shy of retirement who have had to fight for pensions.

Departmental reorganizations in which current employees had to interview for their own jobs.

Hours reduced so that part timers who lived a distance away could no longer afford to work at the company.

Older employees who were transferred to shifts or work locations within a department that made it impossible for them to either fulfill the job requirements or impacted their health to the point they had to resign.

In some of these cases, employees went to their managers and explained their dilemmas.  Often their concerns and pleas fell on deaf ears or they were told that the manager had no choice. If you think that these employees kept quiet about their situations, think again.  Of course, they didn’t.  Sad, stressed, and scared, they shared their situations with coworkers as well as family and friends. Disgruntled? You bet. Coworkers formed camps of opinion. Some simply didn’t care. Some didn’t understand that elderly employees were working for survival. Some were disgusted with the way their coworkers were treated. In all cases, coworkers agreed that the company didn’t care about staff and was interested in only the bottom line.

If you recognize some of these scenarios occurring in your organization, there are some adjustments that can be made to alleviate situations that fall into the realm of mobbing. First, treating employees as individuals rather than merely part of a collective work group is essential. Sharing some issues with staff can trigger ideas from them for meeting the expectations of policy concerns. Above all, listening to employees’ concerns without brushing them off and working on finding proactive solutions will go a long way to keeping your reputation as one of seeing your work group as a team of individuals with a common focus. Taking care of them sets the tone for them to take care of each other and to care more about what they are doing for your company. And this impacts the bottom line as much as anything else. This is where the science of management becomes an art.

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For Speaking and Consulting contact Gail through her website:    https://innovations-training.com

For videos including the Five Phases of the Mobbing Process visit youtube.com/dignityrespectlady

Gail Pursell Elliott, “The Dignity and Respect Lady”, has over 20 years experience in middle and upper management, founded Innovations “Training With A Can-Do Attitude” in 1998, and is author of several books including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse and co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace.  Her Food for Thought articles are read by people around the world.   Gail has been a guest on such programs as MSNBC’s Deborah Norville Tonight, ABC World News NOW television programs and the Workplace Violence Today program on talk radio.

 

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Belief, Validation, Recourse

©2018 Gail Pursell Elliott

One of the key needs for a target of bullying/mobbing is to be believed. That is not to say that we must not take a hard look at an accusation or report for clarity, patterns of behavior, or in worse cases a perpetrator posing as a target, which I have seen.  A study by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that 75% of workplace harassment victims experienced retaliation after filing a complaint. This fear obviously contributes to underreporting, which is why we see offences reported sometimes years after they are committed. Once it becomes recognized, validated, believed, and reported, others may gain the courage to come forward and we see an apparent avalanche of incidents. Keeping an open mind, when listening to a story that flies in the face of reason, can be a challenge, especially when people who are targeted are subjected to unreasonable and inhuman behavior. Reprisal in an organization can take the form of mobbing.  Reprisal in an organization that has a venomous undercurrent can go way beyond the workplace.  I have worked with individuals who have been followed, stalked, or run off the road on the way home from work. Others have reported tires slashed, homes broken into, garbage appearing in locked cars, and other vandalism.  One wonders why or how others can be enlisted to participate.  There are documented cases of man’s inhumanity to man throughout history. What was once thought of as an aberration is now received with, “here we go again.” When statements once relegated to what was affectionately called the lunatic fringe become regularly reported occurrences we have reached a critical juncture that goes unrecognized or ignored by too many.

The second key need for a target is validation.  That is affirming that the person is not only believed but also is a valuable individual.  The concept of gaslighting is frequently used as part of mobbing and bullying to make it appear that the person is not only at fault but deserves the ill treatment being dispensed.  “Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and ultimately lose her or his own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. The term is derived from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by causing her to question herself and her reality.” – Preston Ni M.S.B.A., Psychology Today, April 30, 2017.  In the film, the wife is saved by a detective validating that the incidents she is supposedly imagining are indeed real.  This tactic is used in relational abuse as well as workplace emotional abuse, and again, validation is one of the key factors in helping the individual regain a sense of identity, personal dignity, and self-respect.  Some statements I have used with targets that have been helpful are, “This is not your fault,” “You don’t deserve to be treated like this,” “You are the same person you always thought you were.”

The third key need is for recourse and this is the most difficult. Most employees simply want the behavior to be addressed, for it to stop, and to be able to continue to work in an emotionally healthy environment, free from threats and abuse. Some want an apology, which is validating that the abuse occurred.  Some want to file a lawsuit, which is a form of validation and recourse that may take the form of a monetary award.   Some want the perpetrator(s) punished or to retaliate in some other way. Those with whom I’ve worked frequently say that they don’t want it to happen to anyone else. The news has been filled with horrible events over the past month in which people in various situations have taken retaliation for perceived offenses into their own hands.  I say perceived because I don’t have enough information to make definitive statements regarding their motivations.  What I do know is that potentially anyone can be targeted, anyone can lose sight of their humanity long enough to treat someone like an object or opportunity, and anyone can be pushed past the point of reason. I also know that we as human beings at work can treat our coworkers as human beings as well, with wants, hopes, needs, dreams, desires, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

 

Gail Pursell Elliott, “The Dignity and Respect Lady”, has over 20 years’ experience in middle and upper management, founded Innovations “Training With A Can-Do Attitude” in 1998, and is author of several books including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse and co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace.  Her Food for Thought articles are read by people around the world.   Gail has been a guest on such programs as MSNBC’s Deborah Norville Tonight, ABC World News NOW television programs and the Workplace Violence Today program on talk radio.  She loves what she does and believes that it matters

Human Relations Consulting – Soft Skills Training – Webinars, Teleconferences, or at Your Location
Mobbing, Bullying, and Harassment Expert, Professional Speaker​

For Consulting, Assistance and Training, contact Gail through her website:

innovations-training.com

For videos including the Five Phases of the Mobbing Process visit youtube.com/dignityrespectlady/videos

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The Third Degree

©2018 Gail Pursell Elliott

 

The impact of Mobbing on the individual is correlated to burns, as in first, second, and third degree.  Third degree mobbing includes the most damaging results of all, where the target is unable or unlikely to be rehabilitated due to the severity of the abuse. This may include the extremes of suicide, homicide, or both.

One of our Mobbing book interview partners shared that after being placed on administrative leave, the Human Resources director called and during the conversation remarked, “You know, someone in your position might consider suicide.”  Fortunately, our partner didn’t pursue that idea but did share that the exchange caused enough anger to fantasize about getting a weapon and blowing the director away. Fantasies are one thing, reality is another.

Several months ago, during a meeting of about 100 employees some of whom were complaining about work conditions, an administrator is alleged to have said, ““If it’s that bad, you can leave. You can leave or go kill yourself.” The news report also quoted the following, “The room erupted in emotion,” said an employee who didn’t want to be identified. “People were crying. People were yelling at him. One, we just lost a deputy because of suicide. Two, I don’t think he understands the gravity of the situation. We’re not here for the money, we’re here because we love what we do.”

Whistle blowers are among those targeted by mobbing and bullying orchestrated by the organization. Sometimes the concern of someone becoming a whistle blower is enough.  This could be someone who has overheard a conversation or asks a question that might expose indiscretions or fraud.  Having worked with individuals targeted for just such reasons, I can tell you that the consequences of being a threat in some way can be both serious and far reaching.

Most of us don’t expect to be thrown into a cloak-and-dagger story when we go to work unless that’s the nature of the business.  Even when dealing with sensitive or confidential information, most of us expect not to be thwarted, coerced, or undermined by our company or peers. Unfortunately, this does happen to some individuals and when it does they are taken by surprise. In fact, initially there is a disbelief that this could really be happening at all, let alone to them.

In a recently reported case involving Workers’ Compensation, the judge in the case found evidence “clear and convincing” that (the target) suffered from “mental derangement” that her employer inflicted on her, leading to her suicide. Medical notes referred to in the judge’s order say: “… was very stressed and felt trapped … could not sleep, waking every hour, and this had been going on for the last six months. M. felt hopeless, overwhelmed and worthless.  Had thoughts about work and how she was not going to be able to get out of this problem.”   The individual had discovered financial fraud perpetrated by her boss and another staff person, tried to report it with no results. Then the individual was placed in a position by her boss to suggest that she was responsible should the situation be discovered. A real set-up and scapegoating. The individual committed suicide the day before returning to work after an extended medical leave.

Sometimes organizations will try to avoid responsibility by asserting that the employee had pre-existing mental health issues.  However, in another recent Workers’ Compensation decision, the court acknowledged the pre-existing condition but went on to state that there was sufficient information to attribute his mental health issues and death to his employment.  “experienced interpersonal incidents that were excessive and unusual in comparison to pressures and tensions experienced in normal employment.” “most recent mental health issues will be considered first as an aggravation of his pre-existing condition and then an acceleration that led to his taking his life.”

Third degree mobbing does not have to result in this extreme outcome, in fact more often it does not. The other extreme is homicide, when someone fulfills the fantasy of our interview partner. It is worth noting that many of these perpetrators shoot themselves as well. Without enough backstory, many of the news reports of workplace shootings that might be attributed to mobbing or bullying go unanswered or are not explored. Regardless, without some sort of recourse, desperate people indeed do desperate things. While legislation lags in enacting healthy workplace bills to include emotionally healthy workplaces, organizations themselves can take the lead in stepping up cultural awareness within their own.

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Gail Pursell Elliott, “The Dignity and Respect Lady”, has over 20 years’ experience in middle and upper management, founded Innovations “Training With A Can-Do Attitude” in 1998, and is author of several books including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse and co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace.  Her Food for Thought articles are read by people around the world.   Gail has been a guest on such programs as MSNBC’s Deborah Norville Tonight, ABC World News NOW television programs and the Workplace Violence Today program on talk radio.  Contact Gail at innovations-training.com

Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace is now available as an E-book.  Download your copy today at http://www.mobbing-usa.com. “Since coauthoring Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace I have continued to write about mobbing and bullying in both workplaces and schools. My coauthors and I were not the first to address mobbing and bullying on an international basis, but we were the first to present the concept of mobbing in the United States. Since our book was published in 1999, many others have jumped on the bandwagon with their own work and that is a good thing. The more people who become aware of this form of mental and emotional abuse and endeavor to educate and intercept it, the better. There is a long way to go but progress in such a worthwhile area is gratifying and I am grateful to be a part of it.”  Gail Pursell Elliott, The Dignity and Respect Lady, website:    innovations-training.com