Leave a comment

The Drive-by Bully

©2022 Gail Pursell Elliott

While drive-by shooters fire bullets, the drive-by bully fires words.  These people are well versed at intimidation and can leave others feeling hurt, confused, and without real recourse. They may wield a certain amount of power whether by status or influence. They are characterized by a focus on superficiality and a seeming lack of conscience.

Socially and politically savvy, they maneuver themselves into positions of authority by identifying who the decision makers are and befriending those who may be able to benefit them. Anyone who represents a threat to their interests, regardless of their position, or who pulls attention away from them becomes a short-term target. This is part of a mobbing strategy. Like drive-by shooters, their verbal shots are unexpected, occasional, and leave targets feeling wary.

While Mobbers often like to stir the soup and stand back to watch the action, the drive-by bully will befriend the target, paying attention, engaging in pleasant conversation with loaded questions designed to making the person feel off balance, or gleaning information to be used later. The phrase “knowledge is power” describes them well. When they’ve got what they want, the conversation is unexpectedly ended, and the target blown off.

They may act kind and benevolent but only if there is some way to showcase themselves. They may give an inappropriate gift to someone or bring chocolate cupcakes for someone’s birthday after being told privately that the target is allergic to chocolate, then act offended when their kindness is rejected. They will use words like pathetic instead of sad when responding to personal issue. Word choices while not inappropriate are those that belittle rather than empathize.

Drive-by Behaviors:

Choices of words are belittling

Snickering at someone’s misfortune

Veiled put-downs

Off handed remarks

Giving an inappropriate or thoughtless gift

Socially/Politically savvy

Mobber – remarks and behaviors engineered to isolate and exclude beneath surface benevolence.

Narcistic – friendly when they want something

These people also love to gossip, will snicker at someone’s misfortune, or engage in veiled put-downs such as, “some men are attracted to fat girls”, “there they are in all their finery”, and similar remarks. Their rumors are frequently personal in nature and imply more than accuse.  They embarrass the target and leave little room for recourse or correction.

This form of mobbing has the effect of demoralizing targeted individuals and is motivated by jealousy, greed, and a need for recognition and acknowledgement.  There is a reluctance to appear happy for someone else’s success without undercutting it in some way. This is an ingrained personality issue and while ramped up towards a target, will be a habitual communication pattern over time.  The important thing to remember is that staff who recognize the behavior will shy away from interaction unless they must and will be looking for alternative positions whether in the company or somewhere else. This form of bullying is correctable but slow and is dependent upon personal insight and awareness presented by someone who is respected by the perpetrator. It also must be presented in an impersonal manner.

In cases where the organization has recognized this type of bully as a liability, they have quickly removed and walked out the individual while attempting to rehabilitate the targets to try to save valuable staff. This has worked in some cases. In others, the targets have experienced long term, emotional damage. The collateral damage of those who copied the behavior or bought in to the gossip, impacted the teamwork long after the bully was gone. Behavioral damage control often was not implemented but is strongly recommended for team healing.

***********

Gail Pursell Elliott is co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace which introduced the topic of workplace mobbing to the United States in 1999.  Since then, she has written many articles about mobbing, bullying, and emotional abuse whether in workplaces or in schools. She has been a guest on national news, local news, and radio programs as an expert on mobbing, bullying, and violence. Gail has experience working with both for profit and not-for-profit organizations, cities, counties, state and federal government agencies, school districts, universities, and associations.  She would be honored to work with your organization. Contact through her website: innovations-training.com

Leave a comment

Bullied Compliance

©2022 Gail Pursell Elliott

“I don’t care what they told you at Orientation. If you want to get along here, this is how we do things.”

“You over there, slow down. You’re going to up the quota for everyone if you don’t.”

New employees in some workplaces start with enthusiasm, wanting to do their best and to follow the rules. Then they learn if they want to survive, they had better compromise to blend in with the mainstream staff. If not, they are in for a hassle. Some of these employees won’t last long and may start looking for another job soon after they begin.  Others will capitulate and become part of the group. Still others will try to stay true to their values and do their best while being subjected to ridicule, social isolation, or worse.

These departments may operate relatively smoothly. Not because of management but because of a mentality of enforced mediocrity. There are usually a couple of ring leaders who set the tone for what is happening. These employees often believe they are doing the right thing. They are a kind of fraternity or sorority. There is a hazing process for belonging and woe betide anyone who tries to shake it up. This incudes supervisors or managers who may begin looking at improving quality services, introducing a new mandate, or increasing productivity but wind up getting chewed up and spit out by the department which just goes on as before. If you have a department that has turnover in newer staff or managers, take a look at the inner dynamic.

There are options available when confronted with this type of mobbing.  One is to just leave well enough alone, watch carefully who is placed there as a new employee so that they will fit in with the camaraderie mentality or acceptance of mediocrity that exists.  (Good enough is not necessarily good.) If this seems ridiculous, placating the anarchists, it is something actually done by management who believe the current employment market demands tolerance of it. They don’t want to lose the people they have in place.

Another option is to get together with staff and find out what is going on. Exit interviews with people who leave rapidly after hire can be informative if you have the chance to do so. Some may just not show up to work and disappear. A current rumor is that they leave to get back on unemployment, so they don’t have to work. This is ludicrous.  Most people do want to work, but want to be where they are wanted, needed, appreciated, have a chance to do their best, and of course treated with Dignity and Respect. That may sound idealistic, but for most of us it is true.

Rather than establishing goals without consulting current staff for input, consider asking staff what they think and really listening without judging their responses. Be prepared for the standard pushback from perpetrators that this is micro managing. Everything is going fine. What’s the big deal? Try to erase the us and them mentality involved in power struggles beginning with your own. Your response can be open and honest about your concerns and reiterate the importance of input from everyone.

What do we need to improve? Why are people leaving? Can we get past the status quo? What is possible?  Opening communication can be messy but can result in more consistency and a stronger trust base. When people trust you, you will have the information you need to affect the tone in the department. Feedback and ongoing dialogue are essential. The most important unspoken message conveyed is that someone is paying attention. This alone can bring about some of the results needed without going further.

*****

Gail Pursell Elliott is co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace which introduced the topic of workplace mobbing to the United States in 1999.  Since then, she has written many articles about mobbing, bullying, and emotional abuse whether in workplaces or in schools. She has been a guest on national news, local news, and radio programs as an expert on mobbing, bullying, and violence. Gail has experience working with both for profit and not-for-profit organizations, cities, counties, state and federal government agencies, school districts, universities, and associations.  She would be honored to work with your organization. Contact through her website:

 innovations-training.com

Leave a comment

When the Bully is at Home

©2021 Gail Pursell Elliott

When domestic violence spills into the workplace, it puts everyone at risk, just as Mobbing does.

There have been cases of workplace violence when the perpetrator is not a current or former employee but a family member of the target. Sometimes the target’s situation is obvious. Sometimes it is not. It depends upon whether the employee is good at masking what is going on.

If a staff member comes in to work late sporting a black eye, it should clearly be a red flag for most supervisors. There is only so much that an employer can do to help someone without crossing the line but providing options and offering assistance is always appropriate. A couple of things that are not appropriate, even if you know the family personally, are insisting that the employee get help and contacting the alleged abuser.  Resist the temptation of being a counselor. Leave that to people trained to do so.

One case in which an employee did show up to work late, with a black eye and other bruises, was reported to a manager by coworkers who were aware of the situation.  The manager sat down with the employee and let her know that there were options available, asked if time off was needed, and said if the employee chose to take her children to visit family out of state that her job would be waiting for her when she returned. It is important not to pry and not to be judgmental or offer unsolicited advice but to be supportive.

Emotional abuse does not leave visible bruises, but indicators are there. Just as in Mobbing, if there is a change in the quantity or quality of work, if the person seems distracted, becomes acutely aware of the time, or becomes habitually late or increases calling off, these are red flags that should be addressed with concern. The person may spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone or texting. If these are changes to the person’s behavior pay close attention. If the person trusts you, you may get more information but not always. Again, your position is to be supportive and offer options, even if is a change of shift or adjustments to the demands of the job. Safety should take priority over production in these cases.

Covid quarantines and related issues have resulted in a higher number of mental health issues and domestic abuse or violence incidents. Even though many have returned to work, the aftereffects that change relationships both in and out of the workplace have remained. Just as we have policies to address bullying at work, policies addressing domestic violence are becoming increasingly prevalent in companies as well as in several states, such as Missouri, where legislation involving job secure leave mandates have been recently enacted. Having a policy regarding how your company handles and supports employees, complete with procedures and training is something that is becoming critical. Employees being pushed out or disciplined for being victims does occur. They get mobbed or bullied out of the workplace. This can happen when the employer believes that the safety and security of fellow employees and others is compromised by the employee’s abuser or choose to address the changes in work performance and attitude by removing the employee from the mix. This is a poor choice and may have repercussions.

If you do not have a policy or procedure the following links should be helpful:

https://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/academics/experiential-learning/clinical-program/gender-justice-clinic/domestic-violence-and-the-workplace-model-policy-and-toolkit/

Although the contact information in this second link is for the UK, it can be used as a guide to create your own local contact sheet. The succinct training information format is also a good example.

OSHA and your municipal public health departments may have guidelines and more information for you as well.

Keep in mind that the workplace may be the only place the employee feels safe or supported. It is a good idea to provide information and easy access to places and phone numbers where assistance can be found. Giving someone a website for EAP is not enough. It takes little time to walk someone through it but if you don’t have that kind of time or knowledge, provide someone who does. An abuser may stalk the victim at work, harass co-workers, or come to the workplace. This topic falls under the area of Behavioral Risk Management and again it can put more than just the employee at risk.

*****

Gail Pursell Elliott is co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace which introduced the topic of workplace mobbing to the United States in 1999.  Since then, she has written many articles about mobbing, bullying, and emotional abuse whether in workplaces or in schools. She has been a guest on national news, local news, and radio programs as an expert on mobbing, bullying, and violence. Gail has experience working with both for profit and not-for-profit organizations, cities, counties, state and federal government agencies, school districts, universities, and associations.  She would be honored to work with your organization. Contact through her website:

 innovations-training.com

Leave a comment

The Popeye Example

©2021 Gail Pursell Elliott

The cartoon character Popeye would tolerate a great deal until suddenly he would shout, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” Then he pulled out his can of spinach, gulped it down, and with superhuman strength battered the daylights out of his adversaries regardless of the form in which they were.  Several other phrases associated with someone reaching the end of their tolerance are “That’s it!”, “I’m done!”, “That’s all!”, “I have had enough!” 

Some, like Popeye, lash out in a way that would be inappropriate in the workplace. Unlike Popeye, this would not be considered heroic, regardless of the provocation.  Herein lies an underpinning of mobbing and bullying behavior. Pushing the target past the limit of endurance, it sets them up for disciplinary action, dismissal, or walking off the job.  One way this happens is through scheduling staff for an unwelcome shift in a difficult work assignment or giving someone else their long-held spot and putting them in a different one.  In a telephone boiler room, it can be as simple as moving the seating assignment to a different part of the room, e.g., “someone is sitting in my spot!” with no warning or explanation. This can be demoralizing and can affect work performance.  

Like Popeye, most of such outbursts are short lived and defuse or can be deescalated. There are others that are more insidious and simmer below the surface, waiting for another trigger. Some come into an environment and literally pull the trigger on persecutors or at random, whether in their own workplace or someone else’s. Lately, we have seen more shootings that seem senseless, but must make sense to the perpetrators if only we could crawl into their minds and emotions and understand. Unfortunately, this is not possible, but simply fuel speculation and supposition.  

What we can do is to become more sensitive to the fragility of employees who have been through a great deal, especially in the past year. Depression and other mental health issues have been reported to have increased during the isolation times caused by covid.  Many have lost people to the pandemic. There are few who have not been touched by it in some way. They have been confronted by verbally abusive, or otherwise combative customers or coworkers. Short staffing situations have people stretched to the limit as well as pay scales that may be inadequate as costs of day-to-day necessities rise.  Managers and supervisors have been similarly affected, in addition to having to watch what employees are doing not only with their tasks but also with their interactions.

All of these stressors, changes, and more can create bullying and mobbing situations in not only the workplace but elsewhere. People are basically self-centered and take everything personally. That’s just the way we’re made. Those who have been cheerful and mostly positive, begin to make sarcastic remarks or comments instead of giving others the benefit of the doubt. If you see this happening, know that these employees are vulnerable to getting sucked into a mobbing or at the very least, begin hurting each other’s feelings, creating unspoken conflicts that impact teamwork or may mushroom into something else. This is when communication and understanding are imperative. Giving staff the time and privacy to vent and clear their feelings, an unscheduled short break to calm themselves, explanations of unexpected changes and the reasons behind them go a long way in shoring up your trust base.

Trust is fragile but essential in keeping staff, building teamwork, and continuing in a positive direction. Even without a can of spinach, we can be “strong to the finish” when we perceive that our adversaries are not people but situations and circumstances impacting those people. We can be instruments of healing, support, and faith when we remember to look past the appearance, the behavior, the situation, and first acknowledge and honor the human being that is there.

—–

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. 

Leave a comment

Issues – Phase Four

©2021 Gail Pursell Elliott

This has been a stressful year for everyone. Stress and its effects, whether positive or negative, have been studied for years. Positive stressors might be a new job, moving, getting married, and other events. We all are familiar with negative stressors without creating a laundry list. But when the obvious ones encroach too much, although we may think we have ourselves under control, little things begin to be triggers for explosion.  In all cases, escalating stress can cause physical as well as emotional crisis.

What can create ongoing issues is the de-escalation of stress without being able to restabilize before the next trigger starting the escalation to crisis.  When it comes to the workplace, it is why we have so many days of work and so many days off. We refocus our attention during time off which allows us to restabilize ourselves and relieve the pressure created in the workplace. It would be wonderful if we could be refreshed by the time off, but for some that is not the case. Work issues can encroach on personal time and vice versa, creating a stress blend that puts some people on edge.

When a person is being mobbed at work it is a continual state of being in escalation, with anxiety being one result. Rather like being on a rollercoaster that is continually on the climb to its highest point but not reaching the top, a state of continual anticipation with no break. Personal issues and concerns may become exacerbated by workplace mobbing, which is why family members might begin to notice personality changes in the target, who may appear to be obsessed, depressed, anxious, eat too much or too little, and other symptoms. They may recommend going to the doctor or for counseling.

At work, this manifests as Phase Four of the Mobbing Process, as the target becomes labelled as having personal problems, health problems, or even being mentally ill.  One would think at this phase, the target would try to escape the workplace, and many do, actively seeking other employment or going on disability or medical leave. This is right in line with the goal of the mobber(s), which is to force the person out. Some refuse to vacate the workplace. Some may feel trapped, not yet vested in benefits worked years for, or not willing to let the mobbers get away with their actions.

Phase Four is when the target may exhibit some of the signals that are outlined in current Active Shooter Awareness information currently being distributed in many organizations. The increase in shootings, both at workplaces and at schools, has triggered a resurgence in paying closer attention to people who may choose violence as a release from what they believe are untenable situations. A couple of years after the shootings at Columbine High School, I partnered with a colleague who presented active shooter and school lockdown training. My role was to teach Dignity and Respect and Mobbing Awareness to employees and students. The proactive as well as reactive tools complemented each other. It was good that both management, staff, and students were all on board with the value of both attitude awareness and action if needed to circumvent a tragedy.

Indeed, there are warning signals, some more readily apparent than others. Some involve coworkers’ or clients’ behavior. Others concern the environment.  How employees treat each other on a daily basis, supervisor interactions, and the dynamics of the organization are worth watching as the environment in which such actions may occur. Staff may walk around for years feeling overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, and not treated fairly until they have had enough. How “enough” manifests itself may not be violent but there should be some recourse with results rather than retaliation. Employees might feel that when they report issues, nothing is done about them. This breeds apathy. If your employees trust you, they will communicate. You will have information upon which to act positively, which should be a stress reliever for everyone.

– – – – –

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. 

Leave a comment

The Mobbing Zone

©2021 Gail Pursell Elliott

Your first day of work, you sit in the HR Director’s office chatting.  She lowers her voice and starts a litany of who to watch out for, and finishes with “watch your back, document every meeting and phone call.” Then you find out that your assistant had applied for your job. The meeting ends with listening to a recording by the administrator who hired you, explaining that every department head should expect to work sixty hours per week and disquieting information about the politics of the organization. The administrator had made the recording while recovering from a heart attack earlier in the year. All of the directors and managers had listened to the same message. You have just entered a world of innuendo, half-truths, set-ups, paranoia, and rumor. You have entered the Mobbing Zone. 

This may sound like a Rod Serling style work of fiction, but unfortunately it is a true story. The person in question spent the next several years buying rolls of antacids by the ten-pack, sporadically looking for another position, and suffering from anxiety. The workplace was rife with intrigue, people jockeying for position, and character assassination of peers. Not everyone was involved in this, but many were. They appeared to be friendly, even jovial, when interacting with others, but made side-long remarks planting questioning seeds behind their backs.

There were decisions made without input and inflammatory memos from colleagues who suddenly became unavailable for phone calls. There were occasional requests for assistance from colleagues, that seemed legitimate, then were revealed to be past deadline projects which later would be said were delegated to the target. The manager was able to intercept these and deflect the blame back where it belonged.  Continually having to determine what was a real, collaborative effort and what was a set-up was distracting and exhausting. This target was not alone. Mobbing is an organizational dynamic perpetrated by one or more individuals in an organization. This company was an equal opportunity hornets’ nest of targets and abusers. It was just the way this group of people did business. 

Employees had heart attacks, collapsed on the job from bleeding ulcers, and the corporate staff seemed to be oblivious to what was going on in the company’s locations. The target felt that leadership were forward thinking professionals, who provided good management training and seminars on the latest in management skills and development. They were supportive in certain situations when the local human resources department or administration could be bypassed, presenting a very different picture from what was happening on site.

The targeted person had not experienced this kind of behavior before.  Having been used to an open, collaborative, honest, friendly, and ethical association with colleagues, the persistent head games were annoying and counterproductive. Eventually the person left, but the experience left its mark with a loss of innocence and a new cynicism. In this type of environment there was not one specific target, but many, as others worked at coordinating their own survival.  People watched their backs, making it difficult to work together as a team without suspicion and questioning motives. Ethical, highly motivated, creative people generally flourish in an organization which they are proud to represent. This person did not feel positive about the company.

Could this have been avoided?  In retrospect, the person could have checked out the company in advance and asked more questions, investigated the organization’s reputation with people in the field. When an associate described the place as a “toilet bowl” the target thought the friend was kidding. Was the target naïve? Absolutely. But many professionals are.  Having never been subjected to such behaviors, people can be unsuspecting, astonished, and easy fodder for those who engage in mobbing as a way of doing business. Not everyone in the organization was like that and these provided some stability and a refuge when situations became ridiculous. Any organization can have a Mobbing Zone.  It is an undercurrent that undetected, unacknowledged, or unaddressed can be destructive to individuals, teamwork, trust, and impede the forward movement of the company as a whole. When this situation occurred, the word Mobbing was not widely known but the syndrome was. Now we do know about it, what it is, how it happens, what can be done. With insight, awareness, education, and paying attention, a Mobbing Zone can be diminished and even possibly disappear.

– – – – –

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. 

Leave a comment

Mobbers, Narcissism and Psychopaths

©2021 Gail Pursell Elliott

Some twenty years ago, an international group of experts were discussing whether a mobber could be rehabilitated. There was discussion about whether these people are psychopaths. The consensus was that a mobber has a sociopathic personality style that cannot be rehabilitated. Psychiatric terms should not be tossed around willy-nilly to label someone without proper diagnosis, but there are definite tendencies that apply to people who mob others.  The motivations may indicate any number of disorder styles, including narcissistic tendencies or retaliatory behaviors.

The mobber often is what might be described as a soup stirrer. That is, they point out other’s shortcomings and complain, from a position of assumed superiority, then step away. Those who mob take advantage of people with bullying or retaliatory tendencies. They may cozy up to supervisors who do not see that they are being used and may wind up being inconsistent in the treatment of other staff while responding to the mobbers’ statements. Complainers take time to look for anything upon which to manipulate being excused. Some coworkers may join in.  Others who recognize the aberrations may become disgusted and we see turnover as a result, which is one of the indicators of mobbing.

New employees that have mobbing tendencies determine who is in charge and maneuver themselves into positions in which they will be close to the decision makers. These are power oriented individuals with little regard for those with whom they interact unless they can be useful. This is a narcissistic trait. They may look for sympathy but have little empathy, and snub or pay little attention to coworkers, who they may view as just being in their way. A narcissistic type of mobber will be very friendly until they either get the information they want, or until the person is no longer useful. Then they may use the information to subtly undermine the person with whom they were friendly. Supervisors who have been sucked in may wind up being set up and eventually when they have served their purpose will be discarded as well.

One issue that comes up repeatedly is describing mobbers and bullies as psychopaths. Just because a person is mean or selfish does not mean they are psychopaths. Sometimes they are insecure or even fearful. People are very complicated. We are all mixed bags of baggage. All of us, however kind, even tempered, or generous we may be, have our moments of anger, frustration, speaking out of turn, and even nastiness or wanting to get even. We are human and so are mobbers and bullies, though they may act in very inhumane ways. The main concern for many of us having to deal with these behaviors is the lack of awareness on the part of the perpetrators or their lack of interest in doing anything about it if they are aware. The concept of “this is who I am, deal with it” or refusing to see any wrongdoing on their part, is definitely a red flag. Mobbers and bullies generally feel their actions are justified and have little or no remorse, which can be indicators of antisocial personality tendencies and difficult to address.

It is important to try to determine what the motivation may be when we step back to observe issues that occur within our workplaces. Is it a subtle grab for power?  Is it to remove or demote someone seen as a threat? Is it enjoying creating discomfort in others? Is it a warped attempt at acceptance? Is it jealousy? Is it a desire for retaliation after a conflict? Is it a perceived sense of superiority? All of these and more possibilities will lead you to how the dynamics situations are playing out and the potential damage they will cause to staff, teamwork, and above all trust, both short and long term. Awareness is the key to intercept and prevention when the goal is a respectful, supportive work environment where people can do their best and believe their efforts are wanted, needed, and appreciated.

– – – – –

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 Gail 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. 

Leave a comment

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.

– – – – –

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. 

Leave a comment

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.

——-

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. 

Leave a comment

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.

——-

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.