What Is Mobbing? - The office disease

What Is Mobbing? - The office disease

The hallmark of mobbing behavior is an initial unresolved conflict that is preventing the targeted person from accomplishing his or her job in the most effective way.

The targeted person tries with good intent to resolve the situation in a constructive way, never realizing that the people he or she is dealing with have already decided to get rid of him or her, which is "revealed in attacks of various sorts: humiliation, ridicule, stigmatization, ostracism, exclusion and isolation.".


This leads the targeted person to suffer "self-doubt," "…confusion, tension, anger and depression." Id. These unresolved conflicts intensify and are magnified until the targeted person is suffering severe emotional distress. The more the targeted person attempts to find recourse the more those who are doing the mobbing create reasons why the issue cannot be resolved. Because those doing the mobbing have no intention of resolving the conflict, the conflict escalates until it is virtually unmanageable.

The targeted person becomes very ill or depressed, work suffers and it is only a matter of time before the targeted person is terminated, resigns or retires. The expulsion of the targeted person was predetermined by those doing the mobbing from the very start and there was nothing the targeted person could have done to resolve the issue (therein lies the "crazy-making").

People new to handling power, and who are insecure and incompetent when it comes to wielding it, will apparently target the talented and dedicated for mobbing. Learn to spot and stop it whenever it rears its ugly head.

Checklist of mobbing indicators

Sociologist Kenneth Westhues devised the following list of mobbing indicators, with indicator number 12 probably being the most important:

- By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.

- Rumors and gossip circulate about the target's misdeeds: "Did you hear what she did last week?"

- The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.

- Collective focus on a critical incident that "shows what kind of man he really is".

- Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, "to be taught a lesson".

- Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e.g., apart from the annual performance review.

- Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.

- Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e.g., a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.

- High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.

- Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to "speak up for" or defend the target.

- The adding up of the target's real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.

- The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

- Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.

- Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.

- Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.

- Mobbers' fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.

Psychological and health effects to the victim of mobbing in the workplace

Victims of workplace mobbing frequently suffer from: adjustment disorders, somatic symptoms (e.g., headaches or irritable bowel syndrome), Post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression.

In mobbing targets with PTSD, Leymann notes that the "mental effects were fully comparable with PTSD from war or prison camp experiences. Some patients may develop alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders. Family relationships routinely suffer. Some targets may even develop brief psychotic episodes, generally with paranoid symptoms. Leymann estimated that 15% of suicides in Sweden could be directly attributed to workplace mobbing.

Degrees of mobbing

First degree: Victim manages to resist, escapes at an early stage, or is fully rehabilitated in the original workplace or elsewhere.

Second degree: Victim cannot resist or escape immediately and suffers temporary or prolonged mental and/or physical disability and has difficulty reentering the workforce.

Third degree: Victim is unable to reenter the workforce and suffers serious, long-lasting mental or physical disability.


Mobbing can happen at work, school, or society through mobbing networks or criminal harassment networks that use homelessness as their main weapon to get rid of people.

Research Note:

"Sociologist Kenneth Westhues devised the following list of mobbing indicators, with indicator number 12 probably being the most important:"

"- Mobbers' fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both."

This indicator by sociologist Kenneth Westhues said to probably be the most important is probably also linked to rage shootings and rampages.