Leave a comment

If You Can’t Stand the Heat

©2014 Gail Pursell Elliott

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” This form of management was once a recommended way to get employees to quit rather than go through the process of counseling, warnings and the rest of a disciplinary process. While the phrase may be outdated, it is interesting that people still know and understand what it means. Actually, the process is still used although it is considered to be less than ethical and definitely falls into the category of bullying and mobbing.

A recent case in Canada that went to litigation, involved an employee who refused to falsify some information. Her supervisor retaliated by turning up the heat on her, using tactics such as demeaning language and humiliation, often in front of her coworkers. Following company policy, the employee filed a complaint which subsequently was leaked to her supervisor by management. She was then threatened by her supervisor and subjected to increased abusive behavior, some of which was described by her coworkers as “horrific” and “ferocious”. A supposed internal investigation determined that her complaint was unsubstantiated and no action was taken. Finally, after an especially demeaning event, the employee resigned. The courts ruled in favor of the employee, finding not only the supervisor’s actions reprehensible but also the company’s lack of action in addressing the complaint, despite evidence and personal statements on the part of coworkers. The company violated its own policies when it did not intervene on behalf of the employee.

Too often, I hear of this happening within organizations that supposedly have policies and procedures in place to address harassment and other forms of mistreatment of staff, although perhaps not as dramatically as this example. The key point is that when organizations establish policies and procedures they are just as bound by them as their employees are. One of the factors in mobbing is that if the organization does not act, it is construed as approval.

Meaghan McWhinnie of the Canadian law firm McCarthy Tétrault LLP, who wrote a detailed article about this case, suggests the following to employers. These are wise words for any organization regardless of location.
• “Employers must adhere to their own workplace violence and harassment policies. As the Court of Appeal noted, it is not enough to simply pay “lip service” to such policies.
• Employers are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees and therefore it is important that employees, and in particular managers and supervisors, are fully trained with respect to the company’s workplace violence and harassment policies.
• Employers must take all complaints of workplace harassment and violence seriously and an investigation will almost always be required. The key to ensuring that a workplace investigation is conducted properly is to ensure that it is organized, complete and fair. This includes adhering to any pre-determined policy, having impartial investigators, collecting adequate information and making a decision that is supported by the results of the investigation.
• Employers should not threaten reprisal or impose sanctions against employees who make complaints about harassment or violence in the workplace except for in clear cases of bad-faith complaints.
• Courts will not hesitate to punish “bad behaviour.” Therefore, a proactive human resources and investigation strategy is key to prevent management overstepping the line.”
This occurred in Canada where legislation was passed in the fall of 2013 to address workplace violence and harassment through their Occupational Health and Safety Act. Although great strides have been made regarding awareness of bullying and mobbing in the U.S., including action on the part of companies to address these issues through policies and procedures, without the clarification of a law addressing workplace bullying and mobbing, all sorts of issues have recently surfaced which have astonished even some attorneys. For example, some of the policies enacted by organizations when challenged by employees under certain circumstances have been described by the NLRB as “too vague”.

Perhaps we are addressing this topic in the U.S. in the wrong venue. After all, the impact of mobbing and bullying can certainly be construed as a work injury and has been. Early statutes prohibiting this type of victimization in the workplace enacted in Sweden in the early 1990’s emanated from their Occupational Safety and Health agency. Organizations may consider not only policy but also training addressing mobbing, bullying and general harassment as part of their safety program. Mobbing is a serious risk management issue in the areas of both workers compensation and violence prevention.

* * * * *
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.
Contact Gail through her website: http://www.innovations-training.com

Leave a comment

Transformation

TRANSFORMATION
©2003 Gail Pursell Elliott

The Biblical story of Joseph is a story about mobbing and bullying. It fits the profile well. The importance of the story to me and ultimately to those that have been affected by this type of behavior in their own lives is not what was done, however cruel and reprehensible, but how Joseph ultimately allowed evil to be transformed into something positive.

Simply put, Joseph’s brothers were jealous and secretly resentful of him. They wanted to get rid of him without consequences to them. They ganged up on him, took his beautiful coat that was a gift from their father, abused him, and sold him into slavery. They took the coat, put blood on it, and took it back to their father with a story that a wild beast had killed Joseph. The father was devastated and the brothers kept their secret. No one but Joseph and his brothers knew what had really happened.

Joseph went through a horrible experience and went through more as a slave. Eventually he was elevated to a position of power because who he truly was within himself could not be destroyed regardless of what circumstances were thrust upon him by others.

Joseph could have become bitter and resentful and used the experience as justification to hurt others.
He might have retaliated against his brothers years later when they came asking to buy grain and didn’t recognize him.
He could have allowed what happened to him to destroy his life.
Any number of scenarios are possibilities all based upon personal choice determining personal destiny.

But he did not do any of these destructive things that would have ultimately been self-destructive. He was aware of his personal dignity and self-respect, of his true identity and acted in accordance with that regardless of what had happened to him. He even forgave and helped his brothers and family.

Being true to our inner identity in the face of the challenges and inequities of life can be incredibly difficult. It is especially hard to return evil with goodness. But what we must do is not focus on what to return, but how to transform it and that transformation can only be accomplished by holding on to our personal power and inner truth.

What happened to Joseph was terrible and undeserved. Similarly, the treatment we may receive through the lack of insight, awareness, and the personal choices that others make may be more or less terrible, equally undeserved, and can affect us for a lifetime. We cannot control much of what comes to us in life, or the actions of others, but like Joseph we do control what we do with it.

We may initially feel angry, hurt, betrayed, depressed, anxious, and more. We may blame others or ourselves.
We may become self-righteous and intimidating.
We may retreat within ourselves, lose faith, become hyper vigilant.
We may wish to expose or crush those who have perpetrated evil against us.

It is possible, in fact probable, that Joseph felt all of these things. This is, after all, the story of a human being with wants, hopes, needs, dreams, and desires that were shattered by people he trusted. But eventually he was able to reconnect with something greater within himself that ultimately resulted in him using the experience for good rather than perpetuating the evil that had been done to him.

We have the same choices in situations, whether large or small, that affect either us or those we love in a negative way. We may feel powerless and frustrated but we always have opportunities for transformation. The first step is to not allow ourselves to be consumed by the experience but to move forward in whatever way we can.

We may never have the opportunity to confront those who have changed our lives in this way, as Joseph did. We may never have the closure of apology and reconciliation that he had at the end of the story. We may go on for years never knowing or understanding the purpose of situations that occur, as Joseph did, but we may be assured that opportunities for growth and purpose are present in all situations whether positive or negative.

Joseph lost much but he was not a loser. That was not due to the circumstances of his life but in how he met them. Most of us will never attain the degree of power and influence externally that he did. But whatever we do attain we can choose to wield ultimately with insight, awareness, empathy, compassion, dignity and respect. Then, no matter what we may lose we are never losers either. The power of transformation is always ours.

Anticipate a great day. It’s Yours!

Gail

©2000-2014 Gail Pursell Elliott All rights reserved. Food for Thought is part of the Dignity and Respect mission of Innovations and the intellectual property of Gail Pursell Elliott.

3 Comments

Quiet Intimidation

 (Previously published in the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report)

©2014 Gail Pursell Elliott

“No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed.” – William James

Of course when people are noticed in ways that are less than flattering or when only their shortcomings are noticed or taken into account, it is another form of intimidation that often crosses the line to abuse. People have a tendency, especially evident in the media, to jump on some information and begin to expand the possibilities for negativity.  I call this being ready, willing, and able to be offended and to spread that idea far and wide.  Actually, this is a form of mobbing and one which I find deeply disturbing, not only because of the correlations that I see but also the willingness of others to believe, participate and expand the possibilities in a destructive way.

The case being made for new laws addressing workplace bullying and mobbing is becoming stronger and more noticeable. While having laws with which to work, to define what mobbing and bullying look like, sound like and feel like are important, as well as the opportunities for legal recourse that they will  provide, they will have limited impact without training and reporting systems that work, in place.  Many workplaces have a serious disconnect between what should be happening in terms of law and policy and what is really happening on a day to day basis between coworkers and the attitudes which support inappropriate conduct.

A case in point is the recent situation at a cotton factory in Memphis, TN where a supervisor actually told an employee not to drink from a water fountain because the employee was black, among other racially motivated offenses.  The supervisor was quoted as saying that he should put up a whites-only sign, reminiscent of circumstances occurring over half a century ago, and made verbal threats as to what would happen if the employee used the fountain.  This supervisor was an equal opportunity abuser, as this was not the only employee to receive such treatment. Although the supervisor was terminated when this came to light, to the horror of the factory owner and the management company for whom the supervisor worked, it had been happening for quite awhile before anyone reported it or anything was done.  The employees reporting the situation along with all of the other staff were intimidated into silence.  In times when decent paying jobs are scarce and people have family responsibilities, they can be reticent about reporting abusive situations that are clearly against the law.  Let alone other situations that are extremely inappropriate but which no law addresses. 

People who may be bullied or harassed within your own organization may feel intimidated to the point of silence and for the same fear of making the situation worse or losing their livelihood.  I recall one person with whom I consulted, telling me that when seeing management staff mistreating an employee, she whispered to a co-worker, “This is wrong.”  The remark was overheard by a supervisor who said, ‘You’ll keep your mouth shut if you want to keep your job.”

 However bizarre this may seem, such things do happen and may be happening under the noses of professionals who mean well but do not have their “fingers on the pulse” of the organizational climate. The difficult part for many organizations to realize is that ethical studies have shown that the reluctance of staff to report inappropriate conduct has a direct correlation to the ethical climate perceived or otherwise, within the organizational culture itself.  The employee in the case described did not report the abuse to EEOC until after he was no longer employed.  This is not a rarity.  It is wise for organizations to periodically review the interactions of people and the organizational climate even when there seems to be no pressing reason to do so.  After all, most of us do not wait until the oil light goes on in our vehicles before having the oil changed.  It is simply an accepted, periodic maintenance task for taking care of our vehicles.  So it can be with a periodic behavioral risk management assessment combined with other basic safety checks that are customary. 

This type of preventive maintenance is not only positive for employee morale and productivity it also impacts the bottom line in terms of reduced turnover, increased motivation, and enhanced company reputation.  When the organization is paying attention, people notice and respond. 

*  *  *  *  *

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 is 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. 

For Civility, Communication, Respect and Dignity programs, Consulting, Assessments, and Training contact Gail through her website:

 http://www.innovations-training.com

1 Comment

Working the Gray Area

©2014 Gail Pursell Elliott

“The only real moral crime that one man can commit against another is the attempt to create, by his words or actions, an impression of the contradictory, the impossible, the irrational, and thus shake the concept of rationality in his victim.” — Ayn Rand

Whether or not you agree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy, the above quote describes clearly a type of abuse perpetrated by mobbers and bullies in the workplace. Even if you have a bullying or general harassment policy in place, these enterprising people will work in the gray areas of those policies. This can happen on any level of the organization, whether supervisors, coworkers, or subordinates. It is important to be specific when writing such a policy that these more subtle behaviors are included and also to pay attention to concerns from employees which may seem trivial at the time but are indicative of patterns of behavior that undermine an individual’s ability to perform. As my colleague, the late Tim Field wrote, “By the time HR get to hear of the bullying they are faced with an articulate, plausible, convincing, charming “bully” and a gibbering wreck of a “target” who is traumatized and thus unconvincing, inarticulate, incoherent, obsessed, apparently paranoid, tearful, distressed and highly emotional. By this time the bully has already convinced HR that the target has a “mental health problem”, is a liability to the organization, and needs to be got rid of.”

Examples of these types of behaviors are taken from actual cases with which I have experience. Often what happens is that one individual will be held to a different standard than others, micromanaged, or is the recipient of off handed remarks that are ambiguous. If the employee questions these the response may be simply a look of incredulity. For example, in a retail environment, a supervisor or manager, under the guise of supervisory discretion, consistently assigns work that is unpleasant, meaningless, or impossible to complete within expected time frames to one individual. The person is assigned to working every Saturday while others work that day on a rotating basis. Adjusting a schedule and posting it without notifying one of the impacted employees while others are told about it, is another subtle way this is done. The supervisor can simply say it is the employee’s responsibility to check the schedule regularly.

Another way people work the gray area is to treat a coworker as if he or she is invisible, interacting with the person only when absolutely necessary and to a minimal degree. Being left out is a strong memory for many adults and is difficult especially in a work environment where people regularly socialize. It sounds adolescent and of course it is. When a person is described as a loner who keeps to himself perhaps it is because that individual has been excluded in subtle ways. Most people appreciate having the option of being included whether they participate or not as well as being treated with courtesy and kept informed of social opportunities without feeling that they are being singled out for jokes that on the surface may appear harmless but are intended to create discomfort. Isolation and exclusion are among the recognized mobbing behaviors. We are all familiar with the concept of isolation in health care; someone is placed in isolation when they have a contagious disease. In corrections, inmates are placed in solitary confinement as a punishment. Treating an employee or coworker as if they have the plague or deserve punishment for some nebulous offense is inappropriate. Specifically address avoidance or shunning as a behavior in your policies if not already included.

This type of subtle behavior has been used to eliminate people from the workplace by making the conditions so uncomfortable that the person decides to resign and go elsewhere. In past years it was called turning up the heat on the employee. When this does not work, especially when the person has been with the organization for many years or when other opportunities for employment are scarce, supervisors or others begin a process of demoralizing and setting the stage for the person to appear to be substandard in performance or otherwise undesirable. If the person does leave the behavior continues afterward, as people try to justify their actions toward the worker. These are some of the reasons why a person who has been subjected to this type of abuse and believes that his reputation, employability, self respect and even safety have been compromised by the organization, may plot revenge or return to commit an act of workplace violence.

In the majority of cases, the bullying you see is the tip of an iceberg of subtle and pervasive wrongdoing. Bullies and mobbers are adept at exploiting the policies of organizations and playing political games for personal gain. They also are adept at deception, especially the manipulation of HR and management perceptions of the target. Creating a safe and respectful environment for everyone is not just the job of HR, Security, or management in general. It is the responsibility of everyone who works for the organization. Policies can specify both expectations and prohibitions when it comes to behavior but ultimately, setting the example is something that each person can take very personally.

* * * * *

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.
For Human Relations Consulting, Assessments and Training, contact Gail through her website:
http://www.innovations-training.com

Leave a comment

When Connecting Perspectives Dissolve

When Connecting Perspectives Dissolve
©2010 Gail Pursell Elliott

According to legend, Marie Antoinette asked why the people were so angry and was told it was because they had no bread. Her reply supposedly was, “then let them eat cake.” Actually, there is no historical evidence that Marie ever said that. The people in France at the time of the revolution were pretty angry at their circumstances and more than willing to believe something like this just as disgruntled employees, coworkers, or citizens may be more than willing to believe rumors and hearsay in today’s world.

When someone is targeted by mobbing behavior in a workplace or elsewhere, it often is the result of impersonal issues or factors that become personal vendettas and can have very personal consequences. As in the case of Marie Antoinette, it was not who she was but what she represented that eventually caused her demise. The importance of this “let them eat cake” phrase today is its reference to a time when the distance between the haves and the have-nots became so great that connecting perspectives were lost.

As Winston Churchill observed, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” What we are willing to believe without verification and what we check for authenticity says much about our own perspective and our willingness to readily accept anything that will reinforce or confirm that perspective. Perspective is more important than reality because perspective is what defines reality for each of us. Taking incomplete information, even when obtained first hand, and making absolute statements based on that information can become the basis for many disagreements.

Verifying what we are willing to believe can help us avoid getting sucked into a mobbing process. Being true to ourselves does not mean that we cannot be open to the perspectives of others. Whether or not we agree, we learn by attempting to see what they see, hear what they hear, and know what they know. It is an exercise in expanding our own awareness and enriching our world view.

Anticipate a great day. It’s Yours!
Gail

©2010 -2014 Gail Pursell Elliott All rights reserved. Food For Thought is part of the Dignity and Respect mission of Innovations and is the intellectual property of Gail Pursell Elliott. Use of material from Food For Thought, re-distribution in any form or for commercial use including reproducing or displaying on your website, requires permission from the author.
————
Gail Pursell Elliott, The Dignity and Respect Lady
Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment Expert
Human Relations Consultant
Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude”
PO Box 1971, Waterloo, IA 50704

http://www.innovations-training.com
http://www.tashidelay.com

“We have come to a point in history where treating each other as unique human beings, worthy and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect, is no longer optional. ” – Gail Pursell Elliott

Leave a comment

Bullies/Mobbers and Job Performance

This article origimally appeared in the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report, June 2013 issue. I write the Bully at Work column for them.

Bullies/Mobbers and Job Performance
©2013 Gail Pursell Elliott

A recent study by a group at the University at Buffalo School of Management and published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology showed that many workplace bullies are successful in business, winning at the expense of others. The study found that some workplace bullies have high social and political skills that they use to strategically abuse their co-workers while still receiving positive evaluations from their supervisors. The study abstract recommends, “Companies and researchers should consider how organizational interventions could serve to balance bullying behavior in a manner that limits deviant behavior while rewarding high performers.”

When the ability to manipulate and intimidate is rewarded there is little reason for change. It is difficult for employers to identify and address bullying and mobbing behavior when the perpetrator may be a high performer bringing in revenue for the organization, has a group of admirers and colleagues with whom he or she seems to relate well, while others are targeted. Unfortunately this also echoes middle and high school cliques and inner circles that rebuff those they arbitrarily deem unworthy.

A number of years ago an international group of experts on mobbing and bullying in the workplace had an online discussion about whether a mobber could be rehabilitated. The consensus at that time was that a mobber/bully had a psychopathic/sociopathic personality style and could not be rehabilitated. As a member of this group, I was not in complete agreement with the conclusion.

While there are indeed people who have antisocial personality disorders, I do not agree that all perpetrators of mobbing/bullying fall into this category. To paint any group of people with such a wide brush is dangerous as well as what is known as stereotyping. A 2012 book by Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Ronald Schouten and coauthor James Silver, Almost a Psychopath (www.thealmosteffect.com) discusses the gray area between normalcy and full blown psychopathy. In a recent article in Psychology Today, Dr. Schouten offers some warnings and indicators for leadership. “Almost psychopaths are able to fly under the radar and operate close to the ethical edge, in part because some of their psychopathic traits can help them succeed in the business world and allow them to deceive their superiors and coworkers.”

“It pays for senior leaders to be aware of some key indicators that the person being evaluated may not be as honest and ethical as they are inclined to believe. These are:
• He or she knows the difference between right and wrong, but they don’t care about it.
• His or her interactions are noteworthy for their glibness, superficial charm, and efforts to show how much the employee and the leader have in common.
• Whether in business dealings or personal interactions, the employee is unable to appreciate the feelings of others.
• When there is a choice of action, it is always in favor of self-interest and self promotion, even where it is ethically questionable.
• Chronic and pervasive lying about matters that may be major or insignificant.
• Lack of remorse for harm caused to others.
• Blaming others for their mistakes or problems.
• Insincere or transient emotions, but capable of emotional outbursts.
• Failure to fulfill responsibilities.
• Evidence of conning and manipulating coworkers, customers, clients, and competitors.

The presence of some, or even all, of these does not necessarily mean that the employee in question is an almost or full-blown psychopath. But they do mean that the leader who is assuming the best should take a second look.”

A number of these behaviors echo the lists associated with mobbing and bullying in the workplace. A true mobber is a master at manipulation, loves to be the catalyst and then stand back and watch the mayhem created by what has been instigated. When people think of psychopaths, they think of a serial killer or a rapist. Mobbing is like a rape of the spirit. Mobbing destroys people from the inside out. When this satisfies a need for power and control over other human beings the perpetrator actually enjoys the domination over others, for example, “likes watching them squirm.”

I still believe that many who engage in this behavior are lacking in empathy, insight and awareness which can be developed, while acknowledging that there are those who truly relish the power and arrogance that comes from being able to manipulate and abuse others in this way. Power can act like a narcotic to some people, causing their ability to relate to the humanity of others to be diminished. The clichéd phrase “drunk with power” has a basis in fact. Adding expectations of civility and human relations skills to evaluations, as well as determining whether an individual’s successful performance has the side effect of leaving a trail of professional human carnage in its wake, is well advised. When educated about mobbing and bullying, a majority of people make personal decisions to pay closer attention to what they say and do with regard to other human beings.

* * * * * *
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 weekly Food for Thought is read by people around the world. Gail trains employees for corporations, associations and universities, designs sessions upon request to address specific needs and timely issues, and is a featured speaker at conferences as well as a media expert on workplace and school violence. 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 through her website: http://www.innovations-training.com

Leave a comment

When a Bully is the Target

©2013 Gail Pursell Elliott

The term mobbing originates from the animal kingdom, generally referring to birds although it does occur in other species. There is a barnyard behavior known as chicken pecking which is not when one bully chicken picks on another, but when all of the chickens target and isolate one bird and take turns pecking it. Each one pecks just once or twice. Not one of them really does enough to do harm. The end result is a horrific death because of the accumulation of all the pecks.

This is a good example of how random mobbing can appear and how damaging it is. Nobel Laureate, Konrad Lorenz, first described mobbing among birds and animals in his 1966 book, On Aggression. He attributed the behavior to instincts rooted in the struggle to survive. He also observed that humans are subject to similar impulses but are able to control them.

What does this have to do with the bully at work? The target of a mobbing in the animal kingdom generally is a predator. The target of a workplace mobbing often is someone who represents a threat in some way. Anyone can be a target, including a bully. When I present programs on mobbing, occasionally a few participants will tell me that they believe they have a mobber at work and that a group of them plan to get together to stop or expose him or her. This is dangerous ground, for these well meaning individuals are forming a mob. People often view their actions as justified when they join together to drive out another coworker. When the target is a bully it becomes reminiscent of the villagers going after the beast in the castle. Mob rule takes over and people will engage in behavior that may be out of character.

While a person who engages in bullying behavior needs to be dealt with professionally, mobbing is not the way to do this. When mobbing springs up in an effort by staff to eliminate anyone, bully or not, it may indicate a misstep on the part of management to recognize and handle unpleasant employee relations as they occur. When issues are not addressed in a satisfactory manner, people may take matters into their own hands in whatever way they can. Mobbing is one of these. At that point rumors fly and individuals will look for an opportunity to discredit, blame, isolate and intimidate the target. A bully is not necessarily a mobber, though these terms have been used interchangeably by some and indeed a person may play the role of both bully and mobber. In fact, a bully may be part of a mobbing not as a target but as a willing participant who is encouraged by the mobber to engage in more overt forms of abuse.
A real concern from an organizational standpoint is that both arrogance and anarchy on the part of employees can be the aftermath once a mobbing has taken hold and has been successful. No longer trusting appropriate management to handle situations, employees may inadvertently set up their own quiet network to handle individuals or situations on their own. Both perpetrators and targets may participate in a code of silence when there is a real fear of retaliation or when staff members are convinced that nothing will be done if situations are reported. When this occurs it is usually way under the radar and appears confusing to Human Resources and others. You know that something is not right but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Mobbers work in the shadows and operate on the fringes of policy. I know it is October and this may sound like the scenario for a Halloween drama or the Twilight Zone, but this actually can and does occur.

It may seem preposterous to have to protect a bully from a mobbing but it is necessary to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect. It must be remembered that a person who engages in bullying is still a human being and so are those persons who become mobbers. This is why setting expectations regarding conduct and ethics to corroborate with the organization’s mission is so important. Even more important is management at all levels setting the example by behaving in accordance with those expectations. Consistency with these behavioral expectations along with appropriate consequences for not meeting them helps to build trust and opens the door to better communication, collaboration and teamwork.

Konrad Lorenz believed that human beings, while being capable of mobbing, can also use their ability to reason to stop themselves before acting this way. I concur with this belief. While we can get caught up in survival, especially in uncertain times, we have the ability to think and to reason. We can respond rather than react to the words and actions of others and set standards for our own behavior within the professional experience as well as in our own lives.

* * * * * *

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 weekly Food for Thought is read by people around the world. Gail trains employees for corporations, associations and universities, designs sessions upon request to address specific needs and timely issues, and is a featured speaker at conferences as well as a media expert on workplace and school violence. 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 through her website: http://www.innovations-training.com