Book Reviews

Human Resources

Mobbing:Emotional Abuse in the American WorkPlace

Author: Noa Davenport, Ruth D. Schwartz, Gail P. Elliott
Publisher Civil Society Publishing
Publication Date: May 1999

Reviewer:Susan Dunn
Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, coaches individuals and executives in emotional intelligence, and offers workshops, presentations, trainings, Internet courses and ebooks.  She is a regular presenter for the Royal Caribbean and Costa cruiselines.  Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine.

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"What Every Manager Should Know About 'Mobbing'"

Mobbing in the workplace has long been studied in Europe (just look it up on a search engine). Now authors Elliott, Davenport, and Schwartz discuss this disturbing phenomenon in America in "Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace." It's about collective assault in the office, on the assembly line, or in the board room.

This book is a serious call to action to decent human beings -- be they managers, CEOs, or employees; and describes a syndrome coaches, counselors, trainers and therapists need to recognize. Labeling it, and recognizing it as a syndrome with predictable patterns can be the first step at eliminating it, and treating those who are the victims.

A mob is one of the most vicious subcultures of collective individuals. Described in "The Ox Bow Incident," by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, we understand that a mob behaves in a way most individual humans would not. "Single-focused, whipped to a frenzy by a puffed-up martinet and unfettered by normal restraints of morality," writes book reviewer Mary Bradley, "the mob is merciless in its assault."

Did you know immediately what this term meant as applied to the workplace? "People are aware of it, but they never had a name for it," says Elliott. "When we speak to people, they know immediately what we are talking about.

Study after study in psychology proves that people draw a perverse strength from the group and will do in a group what they would never do alone. Normal moral behavior--even decent behavior--is competent but beautiful new receptionist who's pulled down by jealous co-workers...

Done by colleagues, subordinates or superiors, the goal of mobbing is to force someone out, using gossip, ostracism, innuendo, humiliation, ridicule, intimidation, and just plain meanness.

The blame is projected on the victim, who, 'gas lighted,' becomes confused, has trouble perceiving correctly (that people could really do this), and accepts that he or she is incompetent, to blame, etc. And no allies are forthcoming, fearing the same treatment.

Dr. Heinz Leymann, German industrial psychologist, is credited for identifying the syndrome in Europe, Japan and Australia for nearly 20 years. He estimated that 15% of the suicides in Sweden were the result of mobbing in the workplace.

Mobbing is a serious behavioral risk-management issue for organizations; it results in low morale, high turnover, fear, anxiety, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and departure of key individuals. Teamwork, trust and positivity are destroyed.

"It's a widespread, vicious workplace tort [civil wrongs recognized by law as grounds for a lawsuit], says Scott H. Peters, Esq. of The Peters Law Firm. P.C., Iowa (quoted in "Did You Hear of Mobbing?" by Elliott).

It's difficult to stop unless it's caught early on, the authors say. Part of the problem is that it can actually be instigated by superiors, and therefore condoned. The authors even cite cases where HR managers were 'ordered' by superior 'mobbers' to support a mobbing process.