In the preface to their superb book, Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying (2014), Drs. Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry describe mobbing as a “complex phenomenon that happens in workplaces and in other settings and that involves individuals, groups, and the larger organization mutually influencing the behavior of one another.” They aptly distinguish mobbing situations from those of a “single bully or small group of bullies directing their aggression toward a hapless victim.”
In mobbing situations, targeted individuals often feel besieged as they face ongoing, seemingly constant, attacks from multiple sources. I find myself invoking the word maelstrom to characterize their experiences. It’s not a term that I often use, but when I consulted several dictionaries to verify that I was using it correctly, I found myself vigorously nodding my head:
From the MacMillan Dictionary:
a confusing, frightening situation in which there is a lot of activity and strong emotions
From the Cambridge Dictionary:
a situation in which there is great confusion, disagreement, or violence
From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
a situation in which there are a lot of confused activities, emotions, etc.
Coping with a mobbing experience and assessing one’s options become at least slightly easier once the aggressors’ intentions and modus operandi are understood. That’s why books such as Maureen & Len’s Overcoming Mobbing can be so useful. Surely in this realm, as elsewhere, knowledge is power.