Beyond Workplace Bullying: Workplace Mobbing

Workplace bullying has always been a major concern for employers and human resource departments, but have you heard about workplace ‘mobbing’?

Posted by Joe Gerard in Bullying, Employment Law, Human Resources on May 17th, 2011

Workplace bullying has always been a major concern for employers and human resource departments, but have you heard about workplace ‘mobbing’? Mobbing is the term used to describe a more extreme version of bullying, where multiple people gang up and bully people in the workplace.

Workplace Mobbing

Mobbing can severely impact the overall culture and morale of an organization, but it can also result in severe health issues and other traumatic experiences for the individual on the receiving end. Mobbing is an important issue that employers must address in the workplace, as they are responsible for providing their employees with a safe workplace free from harm.

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HR – or other departments responsible for handling employee complaints – needs to take complaints seriously and identify trends in workplace misconduct. Identifying repeat offenders and misconduct of a similar nature can help investigators weed out the ringleaders and stop mobbing in its earlier stages. When employee complaints aren’t addressed, the matter will only get worse.

Investigators need to provide management with appropriate conclusions based on their investigations and follow up to make sure corrective action has been taken. An investigation on its own isn’t always enough. Employees need to be reprimanded for inappropriate behaviour and every employee needs to be educated on various types of misconduct and the effect it has on the people they bully and on the organization.

Workplace Mobbing and the Public Service (Canada)

A CBC article “Public Servants Sound Alarm Over Workplace ‘Mobbing’,” brings to light real examples of workplace mobbing and the affects it had on victims. The article focuses on the Canadian public sector, where people who have fallen victim to harassment are speaking out about their experiences being bullied, intimidated, harassed and discriminated against. The article mentions that these issues exist in some public service departments and are worse at upper levels. The article points out some interesting – but scary – results from a recent survey of public service employees:

“The last Public Service Employee Survey in 2008 found 31% of women and 25% of men reported having been the victim of harassment in the previous two years. Only 46% of women said that they were satisfied with the way in which their department or agency responds to matters of harassment and discrimination.”

The article features an interview with Kenneth Westhues, a professor at the University of Waterloo, who is viewed as an expert in workplace mobbing:

“Westhues predicts most of the complaints are legitimate, but he doesn’t think more rules or better legislation will solve the issues. In fact, he thinks managers need to use more common sense and victims need to know when to move on. ‘What I urge people to do is sit down with a piece of paper and write out, what are their resources, job security, tenure, how much money they have and make a decision on the basis on realistic assessment. By far the most common solution, pack up and get a different job. No shame in that.’ But many public servants choose to stay and fight.”

One of the people interviewed in the article even mentioned that she wished she would have just walked out sooner because it would have been the smarter choice. This sends a loud and clear message to employers that if you want to retain talent and keep your public image intact, handle complaints properly and take action against those who choose to violate corporate policy and codes of conduct. If that means eventually firing people for unacceptable behaviour, then do so.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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