Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace

Review by Eleanor White
January 30, 2005


Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace
By Dr. Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, Gail Pursell Elliott
Copyright 1999
ISBN 0-9671803-0-9
Civil Society Publishing
P.O. Box 1663
Ames, ... Iowa
USA ..... 50010-1663
http://www.mobbing-usa.com
Price printed on back cover: $15.95 US dollars

This review will comment on and quote some parts of this book which are most similar to, and potentially helpful in, the campaign to expose and stop organized stalking. One way, in general, to use this book, and use the reality of workplace mobbing in anti organized stalking work, is to use an explanation something like:

"Organized stalking is mobbing which has 'leaked' from the workplace into the community."
In my (Eleanor White's) view, having this book in hand can be a great way for organized stalking targets to begin the process of educating one's friends and family as to the reality of this seemingly 'taboo' side of contemporary human behaviour.

Both mobbing and organized stalking are vicious, illegal harassment of selected targets by multiple harassers.

The unique characteristic of mobbing, and organized stalking too, is that the origin is NOT the more familiar harassment due to gender bias, or motivated by sexual interest in the target, or due to racism or the sexual orientation of the target. This is hard for the general public to grasp.

When a mobbing or organized stalking target reports the harassment, the unaware listener consistently tries to find a "reason" among the popular ones just stated. Mobbing can INCLUDE sexual harassment, or racism but it is quite distinct, a separate crime entirely.

The advantage of using mobbing to assist in exposing and stopping organized stalking is that mobbing has been formally studied since the 1980s by Dr. Heinz Leymann's examination of group violence among adults in the Swedish workplace. The book refers to other more recent research projects as well. Thus, mobbing has the professional validation which organized stalking still lacks at this time.

Those of us who are experienced in organized stalking know that organized stalking is in fact a separate phenomenon, but the explanation above is helpful in getting the unaware public started along the road to understanding what is going on in the lives of their neighbours, family members, friends, co-workers, or people in the news.

Let me quote the blurb from the back cover of this book, which summarizes the book's subject quite well:

"An insidious and powerful subculture is thriving in the American workplace. Every day, in all sorts of workplaces, mean spirited mobs [groups of co-workers] are forcing capable, hard working employees to flee from jobs they love. Despite historic successes of unions and civil- and human-rights movements, and the best efforts of enlightened managers, millions of Americans suffer the dignity- robbing trauma now known as mobbing.

"Mobbing extracts staggering economic and emotional costs from victims, their families and society. In many cases, the victims are literally mobbed by co-workers, not only old-fashioned bullying bosses. Many of the victims are managers and supervisors, attacked or undermined by jealous or unscrupulous subordinates or peers, often with approval of higher management. The mobs intentionally target -- and ultimately destroy -- innocent individuals."

And now, let me list the table of contents for those who may be interested in purchasing a copy of this book. I, Eleanor White, heartily recommend purchasing this book! I have discovered in my picketing experience that having a physical book in hand is highly persuasive when dealing with the skeptical public:
========================================================================
                         CONTENTS

Preface to the Second Printing ..................................   6
Author's Note ...................................................  14
Foreword by Dr. Heinz Leymann ...................................  16

                       INTRODUCTION

Introduces the nature of the mobbing syndrome, informs about background
of the research and the use of different terms.

* Driven Beyond Endurance:  Three Cases .........................  19
* Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment --
  A Brief History of the Research ...............................  20
* The U.S. and Canada ...........................................  23
* Extent of Mobbing .............................................  25
* What is Being Done About It in Europe .........................  26
* Our Interview Partners ........................................  28

                          PART  I

CHAPTER 1:  What Mobbing Is and How It Happens

Describes, analyzes and defines the syndrome.  What mobbing entails.
Mobbing behaviors. Degrees of mobbing and how it evolves over time.
The role of management.  Why mobbing is different from any other form
of harassment or discrimination.

* Aggression Against "Anyone":  Workplace Expulsion .............  34
* Injury Not Illness ............................................  34
* Mobbing Typology ..............................................  34
* Mobbing as a Process ..........................................  38
* Degrees of Mobbing ............................................  39
* The Mobbing Syndrome ..........................................  40
* Ten Key Factors ...............................................  41
* Conclusion ....................................................  55

CHAPTER 2:  Why Mobbing Occurs and Persists

Presents reasons from different points of view and attempts to
understand the phenomenon in the context of systems thinking.  The
personality of the instigators, group dynamics, links to workplace
structures and the wider society.  The role the victim may play in
the mobbing.  Why mobbing behaviors are allowed to persist.

* The Psychology and Circumstances of the Mobbers ...............  58
  - Evil Personality
  - Divine Right
  - Threatened Egotism, Inflated Self-Appraisal
  - Narcissistic Personality
  - Why Do Mobbers Seldom Come Alone?
  - Why Does the Mobbing Continue Even After Resignation or Expulsion?
* The Organizational Culture and Structure ......................  65
  - Bad Management
  - Stress-Intensive Workplace
  - Monotony
  - Disbelief or Denial by Managers
  - Unethical Activities
  - Flat Organizations
  - Downsizing, Restructuring, Mergers
* Psychology, Personality and Circumstances of the Mobbee .......  70
  - Why Me?
  - The Dynamics of the Interaction
  - Coping and Outcome Determined by Beliefs
* The Triggering Event -- A Conflict ............................  75
* Factors Outside of the Organization:  Values and Norms in the
  American Culture ..............................................  75
  - Disposable workers
  - "Emotional Labor"

                          PART  II

CHAPTER 3:  How Mobbing Affects You

Examines the devastating impact mobbing has on an individual's health
and emotional well-being.  Provides strategies to survive the
experience without long term negative personal and professional
repercussions.

* A Strong Commitment to the Job ................................  82
* Feeling Confused, Isolated and Paranoid .......................  83
* "Difficult" Becomes Re-Victimization ..........................  85
* Persistent Attacks ............................................  86
* Help Is Out of Reach ..........................................  87
* Compounding Factors ...........................................  88
* Degrees of Mobbing and the Effects on Your Health .............  89
  - First Degree Mobbing
  - Second Degree Mobbing
  - Third Degree Mobbing
* Symptoms of Prolonged Anxiety .................................  93
* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ................................  94

CHAPTER 4:  How You Can Cope

Advises victims of mobbing about helpful ways to overcome the
experience.

* Grieving ......................................................  98
* Reaction vs. Response -- Do Not Assume that You Have No Power . 100
* Options ....................................................... 101
* Survival Strategies ........................................... 105
* Do Not Isolate Yourself ....................................... 107
* Build Your Self Esteem ........................................ 107
* Deal With Anger, Loss and Betrayal ............................ 108
  - Writing
  - Creative Quiet Time
  - Private Screaming
  - Movement
* Things You Love ............................................... 109
* Keep a Sense of Perspective ................................... 110
* The Power of Humor ............................................ 111
* Choose Professional Help Very Cautiously ...................... 112
* Considerations for Legal Recourse ............................. 112
  - Concerns That May Keep You From Taking Legal Action
  - Considerations That May Lead You to Decide to Take Legal Action
  - Simply Put -- Begin!
  - A Word of Caution
  - Mediated Settlement:  A Good Option?
* Remembering the Possibilities ................................. 115
* Recovering and Moving Forward ................................. 116

CHAPTER 5:  Family and Friends, How They Are Affected,
            How They Can Help

Describes the potential impact of mobbing on family, friends, and
significant relationships.  Explains the mobbed person's state of
mind and how support can best be given.

* What Is Happening? ............................................ 120
* Not the Usual Self ............................................ 121
* Early Warning Signs -- Changes in Behaviors ................... 123
* The Difficulty of Communicating and Giving Support ............ 123
* Affirmation Is the Key ........................................ 126
* The Helping Art of Being There ................................ 126

                          PART  III

CHAPTER 6:  How Mobbing Affects the Organization -- Impact and
            Prevention, The Bottom Line

Discusses the impact on the organization.  Offers suggestions for
strategies to detect, halt and prevent mobbing from occurring.
Recommends modifications to existing human resource policies and
procedures.

* All Types of Organizations .................................... 132
* Warning Signals ............................................... 132
  - Significant Changes Without Preparing Employees
  - One Individual Has Suddenly Become a Target
  - Alliances Across the Hierarchy
  - "Anarchy"
  - Use of Consultants
* A House of Cards .............................................. 138
  - Reduction in Quality and Quantity of Work
  - Loss of Organization's Reputation
  - Increased Employee Turnover
  - Increased Sick Leave
  - Unemployment Insurance Claims
  - Workers' Compensation
  - Litigation or Settlement
* Prevention .................................................... 141
  - Giving It a Name -- Creating Awareness
  - Education and Training
  - Establishing an Anti-Mobbing Policy
  - Risk Assessment
  - Conflict Management Procedures
* Systems That Already Exist and Good Examples .................. 146
  - Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Health --
    A Psychologically Safe Environment
  - Levi Strauss & Co. -- A Proactive Approach
  - Saturn Corporation -- Respecting All Employees
* Intervention .................................................. 153
  - Disciplinary Actions and/or Discharge for Severe Misconduct
* Rehabilitation
* In Conclusion -- The Bottom Line .............................. 154

                          PART  IV

CHAPTER 7:  The Challenge of Conflict Resolution

Analyzes the triggering event - a conflict - of the mobbing syndrome.
Discusses the apparent predicament of the attempt to resolve the
conflict, why the attempt is often futile and what can be done about it.

* In the Beginning Is a Conflict ................................ 158
* A Clash of Values and Personalities ........................... 161
* Understanding Conflicts ....................................... 162
* Ways of Handling Conflicts -- You Have Choices ................ 164
* Possible Solutions for Organizations .......................... 167

CHAPTER 8:  Mobbing and the Law

* Present Rights and Statutes ................................... 173
* Civil Rights Legislation ...................................... 174
* Hostile Environment ........................................... 175
  - Voluntary Resignation or Constructive Discharge?
  - Retaliatory Discharge -- Protection to File a Claim
* Torts Relating to Acts of Mobbing ............................. 176
  - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  - Defamation -- Libel/Slander Statements
* The At-Will Doctrine, Contracts, and Public Policy ............ 178
  - Employment -- At-Will Rule
  - Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy
* Workers' Compensation -- Non-Traumatic Mental Injuries
  (Mental-Mental) ............................................... 181
* Workplace Protection Statutes Occupational Safety and Health
  Act - OSHA .................................................... 182
* Procedural Considerations ..................................... 183
  - Timing -- When Should You File Your Claim?
  - Individual Liability vs. Employer Liability
  - Payment of Damages
* Appeal to Lawmakers ........................................... 184

CHAPTER 9:  Acting on Awareness

Discusses implications and the cost of the mobbing syndrome to the
American economy and society.  Specifies the responsibility all
sectors of the society have to deal with mobbing, and the role they
play in help to prevent mobbing.

* Research -- Building a Foundation for Action .................. 191
* The Media -- Building Awareness ............................... 191
* Health Care Services -- A Key ................................. 192
* Help-Hotlines in the Community -- First Responders ............ 192
* Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) -- A Crucial Role
  and a Word of Caution ......................................... 192
* Health Insurance Companies -- Sounding the Alarm .............. 193
* Unions -- Another Key ......................................... 194
* Educators -- Teaching Respectful Conduct and
  Conflict Resolution ........................................... 195
* Organizational Consultants and Trainers -- At the Forefront ... 196
* Legal Community -- Being Better Prepared ...................... 196

* Epilogue ...................................................... 201
* Bibliography .................................................. 204
* Index ......................................................... 209
* Acknowledgements .............................................. 213
* Authors, Illustrator .......................................... 214

========================================================================

Now, about the book's content:

In his Foreword, Dr. Heinz Leymann notes that

[Page 16]

"This is the first book in the U.S. that presents the research of the last two decades [1980s-90s] on mobbing -- also known as bullying -- in a comprehensive way.

"Though this phenomenon has been recognized among children, before 1982 it was totally unidentified as such in the work world of adults."

As an organized stalking target, with the first book on the limited topic of workplace mobbing not coming out until 1999, it's no wonder that we have had such difficulty getting heard since organized stalking (often with electronic harassment) began to happen in a big way circa 1990.

In the Introduction, the authors explain the reasons mobbing has stayed 'in the closet' for so long:

[Page 20]

"One is that mobbing behaviors are ignored, tolerated, misinterpreted, or actually instigated by the company or the organizations management as a deliberate strategy.

"The second reason is that this behavior has not yet been identified as a workplace behavior clearly different from sexual harassment or discrimination.

"Thirdly, more often than not, the victims are worn down, feel destroyed and exhausted. They feel incapable of defending themselves, let alone initiating legal action."

Whew! "Misinterpreted." "Clearly different from sexual harassment or discrimination." And "worn down."

That really describes the situation of the in-community organized stalking target! But, reader, the in-community gang stalking target has one more HUGE barrier: The justice and medical systems are almost seamlessly biased towards labelling gang stalking targets as mentally ill. By that I mean, even though they damn well know better, they refuse to officially acknowledge the reality of organized stalking.

This reviewer, Eleanor White, believes that this is because when one has a large group (hundreds in many cases) of people part-time harassing them, it's impossible for ordinary police work to prove it because there isn't just one perpetrator, or even a small, identifiable group. In organized stalking, it's common for one member of the group of hundreds to do one harassment act and then virtually never be seen again.

Justice system employees do not like to work cases where they can't be assured of a "good collar", in their jargon.

Let me make one distinction here for the reader: With workplace mobbing, one can usually leave the problem behind by leaving the company. For the organized stalking target, however, there is no way to leave the group harassment behind - even moving to another country on another continent does not stop the harassment. This is why we in the anti organized stalking community are working hard to raise your awareness - both problems are equally urgent.

For readers who may want to do more research, this book has a 5-page bibliography of other references in the field of mobbing and bullying in the workplace.

Another researcher quoted in this book is Dr. Carroll Brodsky, who did research on "the harassed worker" in the 1970s. Here is a quote which makes a very relevant point for organized stalking targets also:

[Page 22]

"The person who is mobbed is pushed into a helpless and defenseless position. These actions occur on a very frequent basis and over a long period of time.

"Both Brodsky and Leymann stress the frequency and duration of what is done."

Now, one of the most difficult problems facing organized stalking targets is that the human psyche has a quirk: When you tell someone that you are being harassed "all the time", the listener automatically discards that phrase. Because of this, and because organized stalkers design their attacks to look like "bad luck" events that really do happen to non- targets, it is simply not possible to convey with words that when "life's normal mishaps" start happening daily, it is no longer "bad luck", it is deliberate, non-random harassment. Because of this, I was overjoyed to see these two mobbing researchers stress frequency and duration.

This book (Special thanks to the authors!) provides mobbing statistics we can compare with organized stalking:

[Page 25]

"Extensive research conducted in Sweden in 1990 extrapolated that 3.5% of the labor force of 4.4 million persons, i.e. 154,000, were mobbing victims at any given time. Dr. Leymann also estimated that 15% of the suicides in Sweden are directly attributed to workplace mobbing.

"If we transpose these figures to the U.S. work force, comprising some 127 million people, well over 4 million people yearly are, or may become, victimized by mobbing."

If the U.S. at time of writing has about 300 million people, that means about 1.3 people per 100 are victims of mobbing at any one time. That is a very interesting figure. In 2002, a short survey of symptoms of organized stalking (with electronic attacks too) of about 12,000 people returned a rate of about one person per hundred saying they had most or all of the organized stalking symptoms. In other words, these figures for mobbing back up our gang stalking statistic quite well.

On a web site of an international detective agency (late 2004), a statistic stated that in the United Kingdom, at any one time there are about 990,000 targets of harassment including single-stalker stalking. The United Kingdom has maybe 70 million people, meaning about 1.4 people per 100 are being stalked or harassed at any one time. That too, backs up our organized stalking estimate of one person in a hundred as of the year 2002. [The British figure was a quote from the official government source, the Home Office.]

The book brings us the good news that, as of 1999:

[Page 26]

"Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany have enacted new proactive and protective occupational safety laws, including emotional well-being, to legally address the mobbing behavior. For example, in 1993, the Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Healh adopted an Ordinance Concerning Victimization at Work.

It is further reported that Dr. Leymann had treated some 1,700 mobbing patients, mainly in Germany, Sweden, and Norway, in conjunction with Dr. Michael Becker, a German psychiatrist and neurologist.

The authors chose "mobbing" over "bullying" for this book because they felt that "bullying" implies aggression by an individual, as opposed to a group.

Here, the authors summarize their take on why mobbers do what they do:

[Page 58]

"... we suggest that the mobber's actions derive from his/her inability to value life and difference, from pretense and dishonesty, from an inflated sense of self, i.e., from a need for self aggrandizement. The personality of the mobber has been described with such traits as excessively controlling, cowardly, neurotic, and power hungry. Many of his or her actions may be driven by jealousy and envy derived from feelings of insecurity and fear. Mobbing occurs because people, sometimes without even realizing their harmful ways, act in an evil manner."

Dr. Leymann is quoted as saying that people resort to mobbing to cover up their own deficiencies.

Here's an item dear to the hearts of organized stalking targets:

[Page 70]

"Can mobbees be held responsible for what happens to them? Researchers debate the question of whether there is anything in the person's background, behavior, attitude, character, or circumstance that predisposes them to become mobbees. There is no case for this in the mobbing literature. ...

"Yet, we found that the people [targets] we interviewed were exceptional individuals. They demonstrated throughout their professional careers many positive qualities: intelligence, competence, creativity, integrity, accomplishment, and dedication."

Nice someone recognizes we're really good folks!

Of course, organized stalking targets don't often talk to people who think we are "really good folks."

Especially, most unfortunately, family members. Family members are sometimes even co-opted to help with the organized stalking, and usually, the best an organized stalking target can hope for is for a family member to merely tolerate the target's talking about his or her experiences. Here is a quote from one of the mobbees illustrating this:

[Page 123]

Joan: I tried to talk to my mother, but she said, "You need to tell all this to your counselor." And [Joan] said, "You know, if I had someone in my family I could talk to, I would not need a counselor. But you do not want to hear it, you do not want to listen."

"As a crisis lingers on, partners may feel overwhelmed by continuously being cast into the care-giver role and being unable to eliminate the actual problem. They [partners] become needy and can't receive support. It is this imbalance, over too long a period, that may eventually lead to separation or divorce."

Separation and divorce are not uncommon in the organized stalking target community either. The chapter on Family and Friends contains quite a bit of discussion about how family and friends can provide support, and tells them which deeds and language are supportive and which are not. The organized stalking situation is much more severe, however, and an organized stalking target should not assume that every proposed support method applies. The difference is that the organized stalking perpetrators make efforts to tell vicious lies, sometimes backed up by official looking "police records" to family members, friends, neighbours, and co-workers.

Organized stalking groups may also try to bribe family members, friends, neighbours and co-workers, and if the group members don't get cooperation, they may intimidate the associates of the target to get the cooperation they want. They are often successful.

However, an organized stalking target's family member might, if they were willing to scan Chapter 5, at least begin to realize that the team of authors put quite a bit of effort into methods for supporting victims of mobbing. That might help to impress on family members just how serious and real group harassment actually is.

Chapter 7 is about conflict resolution. Organized stalking members wish that conflict resolution could be accomplished, but one way in which organized stalking differs from workplace mobbing is that often, in fact a great deal of the time, the organized stalkers do not allow the target to know what the reason was which started the long term harassment. In fact, if an organized stalking target challenges one of his/her harassers, the perpetrator will deny having any knowledge that the target is even being harassed.

Deniability is assured by designing organized stalking attacks which always are either "life's normal mishaps", or, covert sabotage or theft which only occurs while the organized stalking target is away from his/her home, locked car, or workplace. Neither can be traced to the stalking group members.

Even when a target does know what started the harassment, because new people are constantly brought in to carry on the harassment, no tie-in to the original problem can be persuasively made if the target complains to the authorities.

What this adds up to is that the chief value of this book is to prove the EXISTENCE of coordinated multi stalking attacks, something that a great many people, particularly law enforcement and medical people, consistently deny.

In the same sense, Chapter 8, "Mobbing and the Law", is likewise of limited direct value to organized stalking targets because until law enforcement admits coordinated multi stalking attacks EXIST, laws on the books are of very limited use.

In conclusion, at 215 pages, this book is a valuable resource for those who are mobbing targets in their workplace. But the CHIEF advantage for organized stalking targets is that if others -- family, friends, co-workers, police or doctors -- read even a little of any chapter, they will quickly find that harassment by groups is something that has a base of ongoing professional study, and canNOT be denied.

This book, along with David Lawson's Terrorist Stalking in America, is like a very powerful and accurate "activist's sidearm." My advice to organized stalking targets who contemplate being in a place where discussion of organized stalking is likely to happen is, "don't leave home without it", i.e. don't leave home without your copy!

Eleanor White