Jogging past the Senior Solicitor from my old firm threw me off balance last week.
My Water Under the Bridge blog was a little premature because the incident caused more than one spell of water works. Initially, I was pleased I’d carried myself with dignity, but following our crossing of paths I kept recalling awful bullying incidents from my old firm. It culminated in my bursting into tears in front of my new boss – much to his surprise. Choking and sobbing, I apologised and ran off the toilet.
‘You’re only human’, I told myself.
Feeling down, I went to ‘hot yoga’, listened to my affirmations, and threw myself into work and activities like Twitter, which is where a Twitter friend (@pprmintpatty28) asked me to look into mobbing. I’d heard of it, but wasn’t sure exactly what it entailed.
Professor Heinz Leymann invented the term. It means:
‘Hostile and unethical communication which is directed in a systematic manner by one or more individuals, mainly towards one individual, who, due to mobbing, is pushed into a helpless and defenceless position and held there by means of continuing mobbing activities.’
I may not have used the definition myself, but I know exactly what mobbing means.
I’ve always referred to it as dehumanisation (as it’s known in armed conflict), where the aggressor convinces himself and everyone else that the target is sub-human and beyond the bounds of human decency. It’s far easier to commit atrocities when you convince yourself the target has nothing in their makeup that’s redeeming.
I’m sure my delayed but overwhelming emotional reaction was because the Senior Solicitor himself, together with Howard and the Practice Manager, had been involved in the mobbing/dehumanisation. Indeed, my desk was eventually positioned in the centre of their three desks.
As I said, it’s a psychological technique used in armed conflict (see my Sticks and Stones blog at WEEK 37). Professor Leymann writes:
“Not infrequently, mobbing spelled the end of the target’s career, marriage, health and livelihood. From a study of circumstances surrounding suicides in Sweden, Leyman estimated that about twelve per cent of people who take their own lives have recently been mobbed at work”.
Hand on heart, I can believe it. Twice, I stood on the brink of joining that twelve per cent.
The most dangerous stage of this most extreme form of workplace bullying is when the target begins to accept the majority opinion. It’s when you question whether they must be right. They’ll convince you your objections are unfounded. The collective will persuade you that there's something badly wrong with you. They’ll assure you they’re just telling you the truth – for your own good.
And you begin to believe them.
It takes years to overcome this kind of emotional abuse. Even when I convince myself I’m fine – it just takes a close encounter to bring it all back. But perhaps it’s timely. This is my 200th blog and I’m considering what I can do to celebrate the launch of my workplace bullying book early next year. I’ll be pulling out all the stops to raise awareness of workplace bullying.
Whatever I can throw at it in terms of time and money I will.
I’ll be remembering the twelve percent come 2012!
- Bullied By The Boss
- Welcome to my blog. My pen name is Eva James. I'm an aspiring writer paying the bills working as a legal secretary. Relentlessly bullied by my former boss, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I recorded everything in this blog, which serves as a revealing insight into workplace bullying. WEEK 1 starts the story and, as the weeks progress, you'll note what starts as banter soon spirals out of control. Sadly, it's all true. Whilst along the way I've found alternative employment, my passion for blogging about workplace bullying remains. Trevor Griffiths, legendary theatre, TV and film writer said at the outset, "I like the writing a lot: smart, cool, placed. If you were prepared/able to take your prick of a boss on, you'd marmelise him."