One of the ongoing debates among those who study psychological abuse at work is the question of “bullying” vs. “mobbing.” At times it is presented as an either/or dichotomy. Some will use the term bullying exclusively, while others will use only the term mobbing.
Personally, I think of workplace mobbing as a form or subset of workplace bullying, but others don’t necessarily agree with my distinction. In any event, I’d like to look at two forms of multiple-aggressor abuse at work that may stand at the fault lines between common conceptions of bullying and mobbing.
“Puppet master” bullying
Let’s start with what I call puppet master bullying. In these situations, a chief aggressor’s power and influence over a group of subordinates may be sufficient to enlist their participation in mistreating a target, creating what looks and feels like a mob. For example, if the aggressor is a mid-level manager, he may…
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