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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

 

 

 

 

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Name Your Price

©2017 Gail Pursell Elliott

We’ve examined the relative costs of bullying and mobbing in the workplace in terms of the cost to the individual, the costs to the organization in turnover, morale, workers compensation, reputation, and other areas. Yet environments continue to allow it to exist and persist. Perhaps the inconvenience of addressing the issue when it comes to individuals is part of this. Sometimes the perpetrator is someone who would be difficult to replace or someone who contributes to the success of the organization, such as the top sales performer.
These individuals can have an inflated sense of self-importance that can result in them treating others like underlings rather than as colleagues. Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall to witness what is really happening in your workplace? Many managers do and may either keep their office doors open or have their work area out in the open. It all depends on the industry and the type of work being accomplished. One Human Resources director told me she had spies everywhere to keep her informed of what was happening. I don’t know if that was true or not. This same person told me that if there was a dispute between an employee and a supervisor, guess who’s going to win?
With or without spies or flies on the wall, organizations can look at patterns of behavior and history when determining whether the arrogance of a top performer has crossed the line. At the same time, we can determine where that line is in each work area. They are indeed different from department to department based on individuals. Targets of bullying and mobbing become beaten down when they are not believed, helped, or when it becomes clear that there is no recourse. Interviews with employees have revealed some of the results of these factors.
1. Increased turnover in the department. New people don’t stay very long. They can’t handle it.

2. Undercurrent of fear. Lots of us have had run-ins with this person. We try to stay clear.

3. Reduced morale. This place sucks.

4. Unclear expectations. One day the procedure is this, the next day it changes, and I get in trouble. I never know if I’m doing it right.

5. Reduction in quantity or quality of work. I used to care about the company. I was proud to work here. Now it’s just a job.
These are just a few indicators that mobbing and bullying behaviors are poisoning the good efforts of employees. Lack of teamwork and trust are another result, as people who once enjoyed their employment become suspicious of management that is now viewed as hypocritical.
When mobbing takes hold in a department, a sense of group arrogance and anarchy is created, and the dynamics take on a life of their own. When a bully is not reigned in, whether a top performer or a difficult to replace professional or not, that same arrogance and sense of being untouchable, can result in worse behavior over time. It also can give rise to either an uninspired, beaten down work group, factionalism, full-blown mobbing, or worst-case scenario – retaliatory violence.
Some organizations either don’t recognize these factors or simply don’t care. Alternatively, others may feel trapped in an untenable situation, the cost of extrication being too high. It all depends on what is valued and whether sacrificing people, morale, trust, etc., is worth the cost of keeping or not restraining the antics of this type of individual. It has been said that everyone has his or her price.

Another interviewee had worked in Human Resources for years and finally transferred out saying, I just couldn’t do it anymore. For years he had participated in the undermining of individuals at the behest of upper management, and watched mobbing as a method of getting rid of employees who had become too old, too expensive, or who had ruffled the feathers of the wrong individual. Finally, the cost to him ethically became too high.

There are some who believe that this is just business. There are others who are unable to compartmentalize their actions toward others in such a way. Where are the lines in your organization? At what point will the cost become too high?
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For consultation or assistance with workplace Mobbing and Bullying, contact author Gail Pursell Elliott, known as The Dignity and Respect Lady. Gail 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. Dr. Leymann was consulted while writing the book and wrote the forward to it. The book is now available in e-book format from mobbing-usa.com. Gail consults with organizations of all kinds, presents at conferences, and provides training on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect. She has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment 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. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world. Gail is proprietor of Innovations ͞Training With a Can-Do Attitude͟ located in Eastern Iowa. Her website

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Fake News, Fallacies, and Mobbing

©2017 Gail Pursell Elliott

Ever have a series of confirming coincidences?  After writing last issue’s article about The Rumor Mill, a subsequent article inspired by the flurry of concerns about fake news in the media seemed like a good idea.  These mirror such goings on in a work environment on a smaller scale but are no less confusing. This morning I received a marketing email from the NY Times.  It said:  “Truth. It comes at a cost.”  Shortly after that, a friend shared a website on logic fallacies.  I will share some with you, simple definitions of terms, many of which have everything to do with mobbing tactics that are regularly used.  It begins with ad hominem.  Perfect.

Ad hominem – Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hominem attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it.”

We see a lot of this type of attack in a mobbing situation.  Discrediting through disparaging innuendoes is a regular tool of mobbers. Side comments such as “he’s really dull” or “no wonder she’s single” that have nothing to do with the workplace, or passing remarks about a person’s appearance or clothing feed into this subtle attack strategy.

Tu quoque – Pronounced too-kwo-kwee. Literally translating as ‘you too’ this fallacy is also known as the appeal to hypocrisy. It is commonly employed as an effective red herring because it takes the heat off someone having to defend their argument, and instead shifts the focus back on to the person making the criticism.”

Not only do we see this in mobbing, we see it among arguing children.  “He did this,” “Well, yesterday you did that,” which has nothing to do with the issue at hand. People taking issue wind up being manipulated into defending something completely off topic which may be erroneous as well, unless, of course, a third party intercedes. This tactic also is part of the blame-the-victim strategy known as DARVO: deny, accuse, reverse, victim, offender.

Loaded question – asked a question that had a presumption built into it so that it couldn’t be answered without appearing guilty. Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational debates because of their inflammatory nature – the recipient of the loaded question is compelled to defend themselves and may appear flustered or on the back foot.”

A prime example of this fallacy is the classic Groucho Marx, “Have you stopped beating your wife? Answer yes or no.”

Burden of proof –   The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not upon anyone else to disprove. The inability, or disinclination, to disprove a claim does not render that claim valid, nor give it any credence whatsoever. However it is important to note that we can never be certain of anything, and so we must assign value to any claim based on the available evidence, and to dismiss something on the basis that it hasn’t been proven beyond all doubt is also fallacious reasoning.”

Defending oneself against a lie is a difficult task, as it begins with a falsehood. Addressing it with the truth should work but sometimes does not. It depends on the perception of others and what they choose to believe. Unfortunately, many are too willing to believe a negative inference before investigating further. Perception is as powerful as reality, for perception determines what is real to each person.

Ambiguity – a double meaning or language used to mislead or misrepresent the truth. Politicians are often guilty of using ambiguity to mislead and will later point to how they were technically not outright lying if they come under scrutiny.

The reason that it qualifies as a fallacy is that it is intrinsically misleading.”

Ambiguity can be used to make a person look indecisive or inconsistent. Being forced to make decisions without necessary or complete information is an example. Undercutting a person’s decisions arbitrarily is another.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem

Becoming aware of some of these fallacies and how they are used can be helpful in getting to the truth of situations that come about as the result of mobbing in an organization.  To quote the Times email “Truth. It comes at a cost.”  The cost to organizations may be in time, manpower, outside consultants, sometimes legal fees and more to get to it.  The truth to targeted individuals is life itself in some cases and careers in others. The truth to coworkers and other staff members becomes freedom from fear, and the power to get back to business to the benefit of everyone, except, of course, to the mobbers.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She 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. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world.  She 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. She consults with organizations of all kinds, presents at conferences, and provides training 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.  Her website is www.innovations-training.com

 

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The Rumor Mill

from the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report –

©2016 Gail Pursell Elliott

Does your organization have a rumor mill?  If you think not, then you are either in the minority or out of the loop. People love gossip.  “What’s the latest dirt?” There are websites, periodicals, and programs devoted to rumor and hearsay. Even some news media outlets report hearsay, which is rumor repeated as fact.  The issue is not the rumor as much as the willingness of many to take this misinformation to heart, repeat it, believe it, and wish to act upon it. Those who do feel justified in their actions, even believing they are acting on behalf of others or of the organization.  Unfortunately, this is how Mobbing takes hold, spreads, and destroys.

The problem with rumor mills is that the initial rumor may be based on a kernel of fact that is spun in a negative way, taken out of context, or expanded with inaccuracies as a “what if” scenario.  While fact checking has become more popular, it pales next to the plethora of inaccurate information that is circulated.  When it comes to the workplace, fact checking that is comprehensive is important. When Mobbing is in play, looking for patterns and origins can appear daunting.  Yet if not explored, the risk of further abusing a target and propagating a destructive organizational dynamic which will continue after the current situation is past is real.

The other issue is the impact upon the target.  Just how does someone defend oneself against a lie?  If someone is accused of some action which is later proved false, do people ever forget that the person was accused?  “Well, he was exonerated but …”  The psychological impact on someone subjected to mobbing can last for years as well as take physical form.

One case involved a target who worked for a large health care organization and was mobbed within her department.  Following an extensive investigation by Human Resources, it was determined that the person had indeed been targeted.  It also identified a larger dynamic in the department that made it impossible for the target to be able to be rehabilitated in that department.  The target had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the mobbing activity and received therapy and other supports from the employer as well as a transfer to another location.  However, even though it has been several years since the mobbing, the employee continues to have anxiety issues, tremors, and other physical issues as a result of the extreme psychological harassment. This also makes it difficult for the employee to seek work elsewhere.  Sometimes even when help comes from the organization, it is too late.  Whether faster intervention would have prevented the extent of the damage is unknown.

When first presenting informational programs on Mobbing, Human Resources professionals asked me for suggestions of things to say and things to do, which were added.  Like many suggestions of this type, some of them might be used to brush off serious concerns employees wish to reveal rather than using them to intercept a situation before it gets out of hand or becomes destructive.  So using these suggestions does not take the place of investigating, establishing patterns of behaviors and determining what conflict may have triggered the process.  Following are some things to say and do that may be of assistance.

“That doesn’t make sense. Is this a rumor?”

“This sounds like slander.”

“I wouldn’t repeat that to anyone else.”

“Did you actually see/hear this first-hand? What were the circumstances?”

“I think I should write down what you said.”
“Spreading malicious gossip might be construed as harassment.”

“How do you know that?  Do you have proof?”

“Sounds like you’re trying to gang up on him/her.”

When dealing with a negative rumor mill that seems to be targeting individuals, it is important to keep a diary or objective documentation so that patterns can be tracked.  Writing down such things as date, place, time, what was said or what happened, who was involved is helpful.  Memory is a poor record keeper and can be influenced by other factors. Staying objective, becoming an observer rather than an involved participant, can be difficult but is necessary.  Keeping a simple list like this can help with investigations, intercepts, or can provide useful information to a consultant,  if one is contacted for assistance with an escalating situation or to address morale or employee relations issues.  In addition, keep lines of communication open. Establish clear rules of conduct. Be consistent with enforcement. Use some type of counseling or mediation.  Be sure to follow up when addressing issues.

An article in Mental Floss, 50 Words That Sound Rude But Actually Aren’t 1, includes the word clatterfart.   According to a Tudor dictionary published in 1552, a clatterfart is someone who “wyl disclose anye light secreate”—in other words, it’s a gossip or blabbermouth.  Even though gossips have been around for centuries, we can still keep their rude noises to a minimum if we pay attention, track, and encourage others not to repeat them.  It is pointless to try to start rumors that don’t spread or are stopped before they get very far. If this becomes more of the norm, rumors won’t necessarily stop but they certainly will slow down and perhaps be more subject to verification before being repeated.  After all, a reputation for being open, honest, and fair is the type of rumor most of us would prefer.

1http://mentalfloss.com/article/58036/50-words-sound-rude-actually-arent

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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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A Can of Worms

©2016 Gail Pursell Elliott

When Mobbing and Bullying are already part of the organizational culture, an unsuspecting staff member can open a can of worms by questioning actions that seem unfair or unethical.  To open a can of worms is an idiom meaning to examine or attempt to solve some problem, only to inadvertently complicate it and create even more trouble.  A professional inquiry or suggestion of impropriety on the part of one person can expose a whole network of favors, deals, and promotions that were made behind the scenes to benefit individual agendas.  Those involved may feel that it is better to silence the person questioning the action by pushing them out of the workplace.  I have dealt with a number of cases in which the target inadvertently uncovered corruption within the organization and paid dearly for it.

One of these cases involved a talented individual working for an organization dealing with highly classified, sensitive information.  Over a number of years, this person researched, monitored and reported on important data.  The series was well done, accurate, and useful.  The credit for this person’s work went to someone unfamiliar with the process and the data, who then was promoted.  Upon discovering this, the individual wondered how this could happen and went to the appropriate people to resolve the situation.  The can was opened.  What ensued was a smear campaign that reads like a work of suspense fiction.  During the ordeal, a family member said to the target, “Why didn’t you just keep your mouth shut?” The fact is that many people do keep quiet when something like this happens out of fear of reprisal, even though they know that ethics have been breached and they have been treated unfairly.  Or they may watch and do nothing for the same reasons. People who keep their heads down and do their work suffer from the same anxiety that targets do for they know they might be next.

The problem with this type of situation is that the credibility of the organization as a whole comes into jeopardy and the rights of an individual staff member however talented and productive, become expendable. Settling a lawsuit out of court can be construed as an admission of guilt and the ramifications of what happens after the fact can be huge.  Remembering that Mobbing Is an organizational dynamic and generally more than one person may be targeted as part of the status quo, others may see a successful settlement as an opportunity to seek restitution as well.  While whistleblowers are supposedly protected by law, the laws are not always followed by the perpetrators or transgressions are hidden by seemingly coincidental events or others difficult to prove.  These targets, like many other mobbing targets, are under attack both in and out of the workplace to discredit them and event to attempt to compromise their very sanity.  The aftermath of mobbing often involves further harassment engineered to justify the actions taken against the target while in the workplace.

In this case, the individual approached me while still working at the organization, but the harassment was well under way.  Finding an attorney for her was difficult in itself and she had to go out of state to find one who would even take the case.  She was evaluated by psychiatrists, given lie detector tests, stopped by security for suspected firearms, followed everywhere she went, and other types of bizarre situations.  This is not new to me.  When someone works with sensitive information or even may be suspected of overhearing or discovering something they weren’t supposed to know, they become a potential threat.  When someone is viewed in this way, they can become targeted.  The original issue, in this case, getting credit for one’s own work, becomes lost in the discrediting campaign and it gains force all on its own as others are sucked in to a process in which they believe they are doing the right thing or have been paid or promised some sort of reward for participation.

While this type of situation is extreme, it happens frequently to a lesser degree in organizations of all kinds, not just those dealing with confidential information.  Some organizations have things going on behind the scenes that they would like to keep from employees and willfully distort the truth when sharing information.  Rumor mills are everywhere and pick up snippets of information from various sources that are then embellished. Has a can of worms been opened at your organization?  Here are some indicators:

Mobbing Indicators – Organizational Checklist *

  1. Sudden losses of key individuals.
  2. Unusually high staff turnover rate in one or more areas, or company-wide.
  3. Increased occurrences of sick leave
  4. Unexplainable low morale.
  5. Reduction in quality or quantity of work.
  6. Unpleasant employee relations.
  7. A breakdown of communications and teamwork.
  8. Factionalism
  9. Increased use of outside consultants.
  10. Increased unemployment insurance claims
  11. Increased workers’ compensation/disability/occupational stress claims
  12. A person now accused of substandard performance or some other unacceptable behavior is someone who’s work and behavior was previously above average.

 

*Mobbing:  Emotional Abuse In The American Workplace , 1999 Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott    ISBN 0-9671803-0-9

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She 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. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world.  She 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. She consults with organizations of all kinds, presents at conferences, and provides training 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.  Her website is innovations-training.com     She would love to work with you to help heal your organization with both insight and awareness.

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Fear Mongering

©2016 Gail Pursell Elliott

(Gail writes The Bully at Work Column for the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report)

Each Spring I watch some classic mobbing on the front lawn as birds drive predators away from nesting areas.  They will attack other birds as well, ganging up on one bird even one of their own.  In the Midwest, this behavior can be seen in the barnyard as well as one chicken is targeted by the others who peck at it until it dies.  It is not one bully continuously pecking, but all the chickens isolate and peck once or twice and the pecks accumulate to kill the targeted bird. It is frightening to watch and the results are horrific.

In an election year we see a great deal of this type of behavior as candidates peck at each other with innuendoes, question work or credentials, dig up and spread rumors, speculate on myriad negative suppositions which detract from the business at hand.  All of this is done in an effort to drive the opponent out of the race or out of grace with voters.  Meanwhile some members of the media join in the rumors and speculation, sometimes coming up with possibilities of their own.  People who are watching either become confused or grab on to whatever resonates with their own prejudices or beliefs.  It is interesting to watch how pieces of information become blown out of proportion and others are downplayed.  Remembering that the candidates are competing for a job puts this into the arena of workplace mobbing and bullying.

On the smaller scale of the immediate workplace we see similar behaviors.  Again each person grabs onto whatever resonates with their own prejudices, beliefs, or how what is happening may potentially impact them.  When the behavior is emanating from a change in the overall approach to business by upper management and impacts services to customers or clients, I have seen gradual but continuous exits by quality staff that care about those services.  It is important to pay attention not only to turnover, but where the turnover is happening and who is leaving.  Regardless of the focus of an organization, whether it is service, product, or entertainment, the end user is the consumer.  When an organization begins to cut costs and quality in an effort to improve the bottom line, there are those who will look for other opportunities as a result of personal integrity.  When these changes impact an individual’s sense of safety in terms of their job, it becomes worse.  When the changes impact job security, the organization begins to operate on fear rather than forward thinking in the opinion of its employees.

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it is a negative one.  When an individual is being mobbed the anxiety and confusion take a tremendous toll not only physically and emotionally but also on the person’s ability to work efficiently and well.  Coworkers who are watching may become just as anxious that they may be next.  If this can happen to one person it can happen to them as well.  Or because of their integrity, they may feel uncomfortable working for an organization that allows this to happen to anyone.

One organization with which I worked had an exodus of many individuals in supervision and middle management for this very reason.  They watched their boss become targeted and though they did not understand the process, their exit interviews stated that they did not want to work for an organization that allowed this to happen.  Quite a few of them had been with the organization for many years and were committed not as much to the individual as to the organization itself.  This became compromised by the behavior of those in authority and once lost was impossible to regain.   This is how targeting individuals or making changes without regard to the impact on individual lives or what motivates employees can impact the organization as a whole for years to come.  These ripple effects are well worth considering when looking at individual cases of mobbing or bullying within your organization.  Whatever your bottom line happens to be, whatever drama happens to be occurring in one or more areas eventually will not be lost on others and will impact the whole either positively or negatively. It is well worth considering that the health of your company is reflected in the wellbeing of employees in these complicated times.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She 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. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world.  She 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. She consults with organizations of all kinds, presents at conferences, and provides training 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.  Her website is www.tashidelay.innovations-training.com     She would love to work with you to help heal your organization with both insight and awareness.