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How does Mobbing happen?

Mobbing occurs when bullying behaviour is carried out and the organisation is also involved. Negative and aggressive acts that do harm are repeated against someone with some degree of organisation help and support. In my research I came across this video about the 5 phases of mobbing.
The presentation is by Gail Pursell Elliott, author and consultant on mobbing.

To summarise the 5 phases that is talked about in the video they are:

  • Critical incident
  • Aggressive acts & psychological assaults
  • Management involvement
  • Branded as difficult or mentally ill
  • Expulsion - voluntary or involuntary

While no two cases are alike they do follow a typical pattern.

Other researchers (Leymann, 1990, Leymann & Gustafsson, 1996 and Westhues, 1998) have a slightly different take on the 5 phases than Elliot. My summary of what they see as the pattern is:

  1. Initial conflict phase - some type of catalyst causes the initial bullying behaviour.
  2. Harassment spreads - a group of mobber's makes the target’s life difficult.
  3. A critical incident - this triggers involvement by management who support the mobber's.
  4. Re-victimisation occurs - management labels the target difficult or mentally ill.
  5. Expulsion or elimination - through 'constructive dismissal' the target quits or retires or management terminates their employment. In some cases the target becomes disabled, dies of stress-induced illness or commits suicide.

One of the real difficulties with dealing with mobbing situations is that organisations will tend to look towards using a conflict resolution process. Elliot suggests that conflict resolution does not work in these cases because the perpetrators do not want the conflict resolved. As she puts it they 'already have the solution' and that is for the person to leave and so will do whatever to help this come about. This seems to indicate that the conflict resolution process or any action is being implemented far too late and in the latter phases of mobbing.

I see this as a warning to take action promptly. Deal with bullying behaviour early before it spreads and becomes mobbing. The fact that there is generally other factors like organisational culture and systems can make it difficult to see the true nature of what is occurring. It can be far easier and convenient to just blame the victim rather than accept that the organisation itself has an issue.
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