Mobbing is a common practice in many workplaces.
Although you may not recognize the term, chances are you have watched it or possibly experienced it as a target. Maybe you experienced it as a perpetrator.
Either way, we all have a responsibility to understand it and stop it.
To be clear, all of these actions are considered workplace mobbing:
- Attacking communication including not returning phone calls, ignoring emails, and generally creating a cone of silence around the mobbing target.
- Name calling and personal attacks against the target.
- Spreading lies and rumors about the target.
- Creating a difficult work environment by issuing unrealistic demands and deadlines, and denying the target opportunities for raises or promotions.
- Attacking the target’s health, calling them sick or crazy, and exhibiting behavior that harms the target physically and mentally.
Sound familiar? I thought so.
Targets and Perpetrators
It has been said countless times that there is little difference between high schools and workplaces. There are cliques, nerds, popular kids, and star pupils and loads of drama.
Pixar perfectly nails how difficult toxic workplaces can be in the short film “Purl.”
Think about it. There is always that one employee that is branded as “weird” by other employees. People remark on how this individual reacts to things. They don’t include the person in group activities because they don’t want to hang out with them. It can go further with people being excluded based on age, race, or gender. People engage in mobbing without even realizing it because they avoid people who are different, and stay with the co-workers they feel most comfortable being around.
I wrote about dealing with ageism in the workplace, and how it is a battle for older employees to remain relevant to their co-workers. It is essentially another form of mobbing.
As individuals, we have to be strong enough to stand against the crowd and welcome in all people. Inclusivity makes for healthier workplaces, and we all end up benefiting when we reach out.
A Leader Has a Responsibility to Stop Mobbing
Employees aren’t the only ones who need to take action to stop mobbing. Leaders have to step up.
Hiding in your office and hoping a mobbing problem will resolve itself is no way to solve this issue. Once mobbing starts in your workplace, it requires quick, decisive action to keep your office from dissolving into toxicity. Where there is toxicity, productivity slows, team performance worsens, and morale tanks.
Don’t let this happen. Quick actions to take include:
- Checking in with new employees to ensure that they are being included on projects and being communicated with on a regular basis.
- Scheduling regular team building professional development sessions that focus on building trust and inclusivity among colleagues.
- Assigning groups to work together on issues, and ensuring that people have a chance to work with newer employees.
- Anytime an employee reports an incident, address it immediately.
Leaders who let the mob rule risk putting vulnerable employees at risk. Bullying and mobbing behavior in the workplace has been linked to physical and mental illness, and can even result in tragedy such as suicide.
If leaders don’t take action, they could face losing their job as well as potential legal liability for the health and welfare of the bullied employee.
Build A Healthy Workplace and a Healthy Workforce
Leaders have the power to turn a mob into a community that cares.
Every day is an opportunity create an environment that is positive, where all people are respected and the work gets done. Leaders have the power to build a culture where people collaborate and thrive, welcoming new people and ideas for the collective good of individuals and the organization itself.
Investing in regular professional development opportunities is essential for helping to set a standard for acceptable behavior in the workplace. As a leader, leading by example and ensuring that all employees are included in conversations and projects matters. The engagement of the leader sets a tone for others to follow, creating a healthy workplace for all to value and enjoy.