Surviving Workplace Mobbing: Identify the Stages
The stages of grief may help mobbing targets identify and heal their own losses.
Posted Mar 28, 2013
For targets of workplace bullying who suffer severe psychological and social pressure, there are many resources and trained professionals to help them. But for targets of workplace mobbing, which is a form of group bullying that can have even greater impacts on one’s psychological well-being and career, there are far fewer resources. Moreover, few mental health professionals are trained to recognize mobbing, much less adress its impacts.
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As someone who receives phone calls and emails from mobbing targets on a regular basis, and having survived a particularly egregious case of workplace mobbing, I have come to see that how a mobbing target heals and recovers from mobbing varies, depending on the psychological stage of grief they are in when they seek help.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross famously demonstrated that grief is a profound and patterned state of psychological stress and depression associated with the loss of a loved one. Not everyone who is grieving experiences all of the stages or even the same sequence of stages, yet the patterned emotional responses to death and loss are common to most humans.
When applied to mobbing, where loss of one’s reputation, professional identity, job, economic base and career are put at risk, these stages may be meaningless in the early phases of collective aggression. Indeed, in the early stages of collective aggression, targets are often unaware that others are gossiping about them, or that leadership has marked them for elimination. To the extent they are aware a mob is forming, they often dismiss the red flags that indicate group aggression is gaining momentum and that the target’s elimination from the workplace is inevitable.
By the time a worker realizes that they are being targeted by an ever-growing group of hostile coworkers and managers, saving their job may be too late. But identifying where they are at emotionally in their response to the mobbing, may help them gain control of their emotional responses—and hence their career.