Workplace mobbing is a type of bullying where more than one person commits egregious acts to control, harm and eliminate a targeted individual in the workplace. One of the leaders in identifying this phenomenon was Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann. Dr. Leymann’s research during the 1980s and 1990s identified behaviors associated with workplace mobbing and he categorized them into five different areas:
- Attacks on self expression and communication (ignoring emails, refusing telephone calls, withholding information)
- Attacks on a person’s social relations (ostracism, yelling, name calling) .
- Attacks on a person’s reputation (lies, rumors and innuendoes about the target).
- Attacks on the quality of a person’s professional and life situation (sabotaging work projects, unrealistic deadlines, withholding raises or promotions)
- Direct attacks on a person’s health (labeling the target as sick or crazy, increasing stress level to make the person physically or mentally ill).
Accordingly, the definition Dr. Leymann used is:
…hostile and unethical communication which is directed in a systematic manner by one or more individuals, mainly toward one individual, who, due to mobbing, is pushed into a helpless and defenseless position and held there by means of continuing mobbing activities.
Mob participants control targets through demeaning behaviors that often lead to psychological and physical illnesses. Targets may become depressed, anxious and even suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In severe cases, targets have committed suicide because of the actions of a workplace mob. Heart disease, gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep disturbances and pain disorders are not uncommon.