November 11, 2008 1:03 PM Subscribe
posted by parudox (58 comments total)
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Sometimes, especially in winter, Kenneth Westhues can hear a flock of crows tormenting a great horned owl outside his study in Waterloo, Ontario. It is a fitting soundtrack for his work. Mr. Westhues
has made a career out of the study of mobbing
. Since the late 1990s, he has written or edited five volumes on the topic. However, the mobbers that most captivate him are not sparrows, fieldfares, or jackdaws. They are modern-day college professors
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.
Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace
Mobbing and the Virginia Tech Massacre
Thirty-two academic mobbing cases since 2005.
See also the transcript
of the chat that went along with that Chronicle article.
"Third and probably most important, stand with mobbing targets. In most healthy, productive, well-functioning departments and faculties, one can identify individuals who do not let colleagues get mobbed. Such individuals have the guts to say at crucial moments, 'Cut it out.' They are what researchers call 'guardians' of prospective targets. They are willing to be seen with a mobbing target and to speak up for him or her when that is a risky, unpopular thing to do."
And, in case you were wondering: Westhues has indeed been mobbed