Janice Harper is an anthropologist who was herself a target of workplace mobbing which destroyed her career as a university professor. She now writes for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today on the topic of mobbing. Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing, is divided into two parts. The first part explores how and why mobbing happens, and the second part focuses on what targets can do to protect themselves emotionally, socially and professionally.
In Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing I focus on the unique dynamics of group behavior as an evolutionary mechanism rooted in our biology. I argue that in order to effectively respond to workplace aggression, it is crucial to understand our animal natures, because in times of crisis it is our animal natures that will prevail. And what that means is that once mobbing ensues, it becomes an unwinnable war as long as the target of aggression is within sight. Here’s an excerpt:
Primate research has demonstrated the multitude of ways in which the bullying behavior of a high-status member can turn otherwise peaceful group members into a gang of thugs. Take rhesus monkeys, for example. In his book, Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World, primatologist Dario Maestripieri shows the cunning and manipulative strategies that rhesus monkeys deploy to gain status and power in their societies—in a manner which is strikingly similar to how humans behave at work and at war.
Maestripieri opens his book with the tale of a bully macaque who bites a well-liked adolescent male named Buddy. Rather than end the conflict by countering with an equally-painful blow, or showing submission and surrender to the bully, Buddy ran away in pain. By failing to gain or show respect, Buddy’s display of weakness invited pursuit, and the bully escalated his abuse, as Buddy’s friends rushed to join in the excitement. Rather than assist their friend who was under attack, however, Buddy’s friends pursued and attacked him, causing the researchers who were observing the encounter to remove Buddy from the group for his own protection.
When Buddy was returned to the group, his former playmates badgered him, knocking him down and challenging him to fight. Still weak from the anesthesia the researchers had given him after removing him from the prior attack, Buddy’s vulnerable state was exploited by the very playmates he grew up with. Mastripieri describes what happened:
“Buddy has spent every day of his life in the enclosure with all the other monkeys. They all eat the same food and sleep under the same roof. . . . . They were there when he was born. They held him and cuddled him when he was an infant. They have watched him grow, day by day, every day of his life. Yet, that day, if the researchers had not taken Buddy out of the group, he would have been killed. . . . He was weak and vulnerable. The behavior of the other monkeys changed swiftly and dramatically—from friendliness to intolerance, from play to aggression. Buddy’s vulnerability became an opportunity for others to settle an old score, improve their position in the dominance hierarchy, or eliminate a potential rival for good. In rhesus macaque society, maintaining one’s social status, being tolerated by others, and ultimately surviving at all may depend on how quickly one runs and how effectively one uses the right signal, with the right individual, at the right time.” (Mastripieri, 2007:4, 5).
This same pattern of harassment is found in wolves which will rarely organize to attack other packs of wolves, but will routinely single out weakened members of their own group for prolonged harassment, almost always instigated by an alpha wolf and carried out with the frenzied compliance of lower-ranking wolves. According to the renowned naturalist and wolf expert R. D. Lawrence, wolves literally “follow their leader” and turn on their pack members if a high-ranking alpha does so. To stop the harassment, the victimized wolf must show signs of submission—by lying on its back, exposing its throat, belly and groin to the
Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing, by Janice Harper, Ph.D., 2013, $7.99, 216 pages. A Kindle book available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Mobbed-Survival-Bullying-Mobbing-ebook/dp/B00ERMBY84/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1378916110&sr=8-2&keywords=mobbed (For those who don’t have a Kindle, a free Kindle app can be downloaded so that you can read any Kindle title on your computer or smart phone: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=dig_arl_box?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771
alphas—or by fleeing.