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The 4 keys to a proactive response to mobbing behaviours

How to deal with mobbing behaviours is a challenge. It is likely that some outside help might be needed. Sheehan (2004) suggests using 4 types of response: problem solving, skill development, understanding and solution focus.
Problem solving
Organisations need to confront the users of mobbing behaviours within a problem solving approach rather than thinking about punishment. To address the problem anyone identified as mobbing needs to be made aware that this behaviour is not okay. Being made aware this is a problem and seeking changes is important in helping behaviour change to occur. A simplistic punishment is unlikely to get the job done effectively and can possibly make things worse.

Skill development
By helping people to develop skills, this can help solve many of the issues that leads to mobbing behaviours.

Sheehan (2004) writes "… the development of “soft” people skills (Karpin, 1995) is now suggested as a strategy for solving the problem of workplace mobbing. The skills identified as most likely to help deal with the problem of mobbing behaviours include communication, conflict resolution, interpersonal relations, leadership, negotiation, stress management, and team-building (following McCarthy, Sheehan & Kearns, 1995). To these skills I would add the development of personal mastery (Senge, 1992) and emotional intelligence skills (Gardner, 1993; Goleman, 1996; Salovey and Mayer, 1990)."

The idea is to help people understand the problem better and the damage that is does. This "assumes that those people confronted will have the cognitive ability to understand the nature of the problem, and the desire to address the problem for the benefit of all. Advising that person of the likely economic and legal risks to the organisation, or the likely negative outcomes for themselves should their behaviour continue, may be avenues to appeal to their better judgement." (Sheehan, 2004)

Solution focus
Lastly Sheehan quotes Westhues that when dealing with mobbing we should think about “how things might become: rather than to pontificate on 'how things are'". This sums up neatly the difference between problem and solution focus. If focus on what is wrong we can get trapped into thinking just about punishment and how bad it is. If we focus on where we need to get to we can look at ways in which things need to change and what that change will look like.

So Sheehan suggests that you need to be looking to solve problems not punish people for them, help develop peoples skills and understanding and focus on solutions.While there is only 4 points it represents a lot of work. These are not something you tick of your list after having a stern meeting with the users of mobbing behaviour. This is on going and difficult work.

The quicker method of just telling someone off or giving them consequences is actually no method at all. It will generally not help to change a group of peoples behaviour. But the pay off for all the extra effort is that this will help lead to actual behaviour change and improvement. Serious and difficult problems need strong and effective solutions and taking short cuts just leads wishful thinking that the problem is dealt with when it has not.

Workplace Mobbing: A proactive response by Dr Michael Sheehan
Paper presented at the Workplace Mobbing Conference Brisbane, Australia 14th – 15th October 2004
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