Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Surviving Workplace Bullying: Mobbing

It's hard to choose a picture when you're feeling as wrecked emotionally as I've been the last few days so I chose a very recent victory photo.  One in which I'm wearing a bright yellow shirt (which ironically matches the flowers in bloom) and not only appear to be happy but am very happy.  I call it photo therapy - and it works.  At least for me.  It brings me to a happier place, a place of peace.

It took three days of hard work to finally write down for the first time what happened that awful day at the doughnut shop.  Putting the story into writing left me feeling down and depressed.  Things bothered me that usually don't.  I knew I was on the edge.  So why did I keep going?  Why didn't I just say "Forget it" and write about something else?

Because to me it is important to finally tell my story publicly.  To come out of the shadows.  To stop living in fear.  Like the rest of us who have been through workplace bullying.  I had been reduced to being voiceless, faceless, helpless and hopeless.  Like the rest of those who have been through workplace bullying, I had been made to feel that I, Suzanne Guest, was not only worthless and worth less, but that I was the cause of all the problems in the workplace.  I was the bad guy.  I was the bully.  This was the perception and assumption HR, management and the union representative were all working on.


Writing yesterday's blog has left me totally wrecked.  It has brought up many emotions - most of which I thought had been dealt with long ago.  Things I had thought were buried.

After writing yesterday's post and feeling so wrecked emotionally, I am left to wonder if the hurt ever completely goes away.

The injustice of it all?

To be forced to resign?  In a donut shop?  With only the union representative present?  On sick leave?
Many questions persist:  Where was HR?  Is it even legal to do this kind of legally binding business, terminating an employee, outside of the office without HR present?  What about the workplace policies?  Accepted operating procedures, not just internally within each individual corporation, but accepted globally?

I have reams of paper printouts of the company policies, the binding union agreement and things I've printed off the internet about various aspects of the bullying process.

Each piece of paper is proof to me of how wronged I was.

Yet, that's all it is is paper.  Meaningless pieces of paper.  Worthless.  Unless someone decides to listen and take action.

Workplace bullying works on a very simple, tried and true principle:  united we stand; divided we fall.

The bullies in the workplace became a cohesive, powerful group.

It's a very effective form of bullying called mobbing.

By the end of the story, it becomes the entire office against one person.  One fairly insignificant person.  In my case, I was a person who, although extremely good at me job, was at a low level on the hierarchy of things.  I had an entry level position.  I had no ambition to go above that position.  I was happy where I was, that is until bad things started to happen.  I was good at what I did - that is until the stress started to wreck havoc on me and I started making mistakes.  I had a good rapport with everyone - at least initially.  Even at the end, I had a good rapport with everyone outside of my immediate work area.  I treated people with respect.  I had a smile - even at the worst of it, I still had a smile - and it was genuine.

I was mobbed.

According to Prof. Kenneth Westhues, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo,
Mobbing can be understood as the stressor to beat all stressors. It is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate.
Detailing the example of a woman employed in a factory setting who was mobbed by her fellow employees for approximately 10 years, became clinically depressed and later suffered a heart attack due to the extreme stress she experienced in her workplace, Westhues writes:
The case illustrates the escalation that is essential to workplace mobbing. Each higher level of authority, in both company and union, to which this woman and her husband appealed, was faced with overturning the will of a successively larger group of subordinates. Steadily more and higher-level employees over time voiced the common sentiment: this woman is impossible to work with, she has to go.
This article, based on the research of Heinz Leymann, a Swedish psychologist, is one of the best, scholarly articles I've read so far.  It goes on to cover a lot of territory regarding the dynamics of the form of bullying called mobbing including examples and such issues as:  why doesn't the target leave?  who is vulnerable?  in what conditions are workers the most vulnerable?  the least vulnerable?  It is a good read for those who want a better understanding of what is happening to them or their loved ones if they are being mobbed.  

Basically, this article reinforces my already existing opinion of what happened to me in the workplace.

I was mobbed.

The prevailing opinion at all levels became:  "This woman is impossible to work with, she has to go."

So that is what they did.

End of story.


This may be the end of their story, i.e. the bullies in the workplace, but it is not the end of mine.  I am still alive.  I am a survivor.  I am also a writer....

It's time to go now for today.

I end today's post with a shot of last night's super moon above our house.  

Until tomorrow ....

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