Co-workers Who Are Troublemakers in Packs

Problems at work are a typical topic of advice columns. Many working people have their own unhappy stories to tell, and entire books have been written on the subject of problems at work.

Discussions of sexual harassment have been commonplace in recent years, but dysfunctional on-the-job behavior from coworkers is not necessarily sexual and can affect both genders.

If difficult behavior from coworkers is multiplied among several people, the situation could become even more difficult. Authors Noa Davenport, Ruth D. Schwartz and Gail Pursell Elliott use the term “mobbing” to describe on the job harassment perpetrated by more than one person.

The authors define mobbing in their book, Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, as “’Ganging up by several individuals, to force someone out of the workplace through rumor, innuendo, intimidation, discrediting, and particularly, humiliation.”

According to Davenport and Schwartz, “Every day, capable, hardworking, committed employees suffer emotional abuse at their workplace. Some flee from jobs they love, forced out by mean-spirited coworkers, subordinates or superiors — often with the tacit approval of higher management.”

The term “mobbing” has gained a great deal of popularity. In fact, as of this writing, a Google search of the words “mobbing” and “work” together (to differentiate it from animal behavior) brings up 396,000 results.

Shy people are more likely to be at risk of this kind of behavior than more outgoing people. Still, none of this is to say that most shy people will experience mobbing in the workplace. It is, however, helpful to know about it, why it may happen, and what to do about it.