Minding the Workplace

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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