When it occurs as emotional abuse in the workplace, such as “ganging up” by co-workers, subordinates or superiors, to force someone out of the workplace through rumor, innuendo, intimidation, humiliation, discrediting, and isolation, it is also referred to as malicious, nonsexual, nonracial, general harassment.
To be mobbed is an entirely different thing.
There is no logic from the “mobbed” side. There is often very little reason for the mobbing to occur, and what was initially a small moment or concern, turns into an overwhelming, destructive event.
When a group of people turn on you, whether it is online, or in person, your ability to logically control the situation is gone. You have no control, in fact, you have very little to do in regards to whatever event set off “the mob” You need to sit back, take the abuse and wait until it dies down.
How do I know?
I was “turned against” once at a job. Upon returning after a 1 year maternity leave I walked into a workplace where I was previously a welcomed member of the team, and not a single person would speak to me. I had been gone for 1 year, and had not had conversations with my co-workers in this time, yet during my absence a “hate campaign” had grown because of one disgruntled employee, her issue with our boss, and an assumption of my role in it.
I found out at the end of that first day, and had more information provided to me in fits and spurts over the next month. I foolishly attempted to resolve any concerns, but after 6 months ended up leaving that workplace. Permanently. There was nothing I could do to fix this problem, because it wasn’t MY PROBLEM. In those 6 months, on my drive to work every day I would be shaking, overwhelmed and emotional. I would sit in my office, without any contact with my co-workers, and be stressed to the point of breaking.
It took me years to get over this.. actually, I lie.
I am STILL not over this.
Walking into a previously welcoming space to suddenly have your friends and co-workers turn on you, without justified cause or reason. To have no ability to participate in a discussion and be unable to perform your job because others on your team would not respond to emails, or attend meetings you had booked. To be so completely left, without any options, was devastating.
In the end, there was no solution. HR had a policy that there was no bullying in their workplace, which didn’t mean it didnt happen, only that it was never recorded or acknowledged. I left my career, with a cheque in the bank, but years of trauma to overcome.
I took 2 years off. Completely. I didn’t work.. honestly, I couldn’t. I was unable to collect my thoughts, or communicate. I focussed on myself, and my family. I stayed away from challenges. I was weak, I was scared and I had no confidence in my abilities.
Until I started again. I was tentative, nervous, but I needed to start trying to do something.
And for some crazy and disturbing reason, I started working in an industry rife with bullies. Filled with trolls, spammers and “behind your back” conversations. I have been hit again, and again with this behaviour, and each time, it would destroy me a new.
In this space I am hit with nasty comments, jealousy, and “industry competition” that lacks all reason and ethics. As the layers of hate pile up, over time it becomes unmanageable. I crumble, literally and figuratively under the weight. I turn off my computer, walk away from my cel phone and leave the internet and its bad juju for a few days until I can rebuild my shield and step back into it’s negative space.
I want you to imagine that for a moment. Imagine being so overcome with grief and pain in your job that you can’t physically get out of bed. That you can’t stop crying. That you are vomiting. You are in physical pain.
All because of a group attack on your digital person.
I have left blogger groups because of the constant gossiping. I have silenced the whiners and the complainers and created a big ass wall around myself, limiting the entry into my space to just a few trusted friends. I no longer share willingly, I keep my secrets and avert my eyes. I don’t want part of your group, as I could never do what was needed to “earn my place”.
I have my tribe, but we have no need to work against anyone in this industry. Instead we focus on being successful, on creating and growing and helping. I have no need to knock you down, instead I will build myself up.
But, this nastiness still goes on. Good people are turning off their laptops, afraid of the industry they love, getting hate mail, and death threats to their social accounts. The bullies are still mobbing.
So, how do we fix it?
We stop it when we see it. We NEVER participate. We don’t believe the negative. We support only through positive action. We STOP the conversations in private groups that attack someone unable to defend themselves. We work on having empathy, and understand that behind every keyboard is a PERSON.
We work ethically, we don’t cheat and we support other ideas.
And for god sakes, we never participate in a mob.
To this day, 8 years after my mobbing incident, I still have PTSD because of it. An attack of a group will send me into a tailspin. It will leave me shaking, screaming and huddled in my bed. I get into full panic mode.
Witnessing the mobbing of others causes me anxiety and fear. I KNOW what it is like. I UNDERSTAND that you have no control, and I empathize with your position.
And I am so sorry you are experiencing this, if I could change it, I would. I am so sorry that there are people like this in the world. I am so sorry that there is nothing you can do.
If we put as much time, energy and passion into building UP as we do tearing down, imagine what we could do.