Workplace Mobbing Defined
Bullying was once considered a childhood problem, and was often shrugged off by those not on the receiving end. However, bullying has recently come to the forefront of America's consciousness, and several forms that affect adults -- including mobbing in the workplace -- have gained wide recognition as the serious issues they are.
The first step in recognizing and stopping workplace mobbing is to create a clear definition. Employees who bully coworkers in this manner do not likely see anything wrong with their behavior, or may justify their actions by telling themselves that the coworker in question deserves this treatment. As an employer, you will have an easier time getting your employees to comprehend the seriousness of their actions if you can provide a specific definition.
The United Nations actually considers workplace mobbing a form of psychological violence, and the ILO has been discussing this phenomenon for nearly 15 years on an international level. In a 2000 report titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: Situation Analysis: Finland," specific guidelines for workplace mobbing recognition include the systematic nature of the harassment, as well as a timetable.
For the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees, the behavior must occur weekly for six months or more, and is defined as “hostile and unethical communication." The ILO's quarterly publication, World of Work, addressed the issue as early as 1998. Some specific examples cited in an article titled “When Working Becomes Hazardous" include:
- Criticizing or making disparaging remarks
- Isolating an individual from the social aspects of the office
- Spreading gossip or telling outright lies about an individual.
Even in this 1998 article, the U.S. was listed as one of seven countries in which workplace mobbing was a problem, although the issue seemed most serious in Sweden, where the ILO estimated up to 15% of suicides could be attributed to this form of bullying.
On paper, workplace mobbing is obviously a serious issue with potentially dire consequences. However, it may be difficult to recognize this behavior from within the office setting.