Workplace bullying and mobbing stories: “Do you have a few hours?”

…in about the time it takes to read this book

Countless public speaking appearances about workplace bullying have taught me that covering the essential basics about work abuse is doable in about 15 minutes or so. For many talks, I include a “Workplace Bullying 101” intro segment that quickly describes the most common bullying behaviors and their impacts on workers and organizations, as well as prevalence rates and a few other key pieces of information. As I go through this baseline description, I often see folks nodding their heads in recognition.

However, what I can’t do in the typical short presentation is adequately convey the twisted, sick, and utterly disturbing narratives of the worst individual bullying and mobbing experiences, where the abusive behavior has been ongoing, targeted, malicious, multidirectional, and often suggesting an absence of conscience on the part of the main perpetrator(s). In past blog posts, I have invoked terms to describe aspects of these behaviors — “crazy making,” “gaslighting,” “blitzkrieg,” “eliminationist,” and the like — but a standard entry of 300-750 words does not yield sufficient space to communicate the excruciating details of individual stories.

I have learned that some of the most compelling stories of work abuse often take hours to explain, even if the targeted individuals have been able to work through the resulting trauma so as to be able to share their experiences coherently. (See my 2016 blog entry, “Workplace bullying, psychological trauma, and the challenge of storytelling,” summarizing scientific research that explains why traumatized individuals may find it difficult or impossible to provide ordered narratives of their experiences.) You see, the complexities of certain bullying and mobbing situations often do not fit into neat, sequential, and linear start-to-finish storylines. There are digressions, subplots, and spin-offs along the way, and some of them are important toward comprehending the overall narrative. In fact, sometimes these little details provide the “OMG” moment of understanding the breadth and depth of the situation.

In trying to get to the essence of a story, many of us would prefer The Little Engine That Could over Moby Dick, at least if we’re stretched for time. I believe this is among the reasons why targets of bullying and mobbing who have committed their stories to paper have found that conventional book publishers are not very receptive to their work. Some have opted for the self-publishing route as an alternative. While these self-published narratives are uneven in quality, they are uniformly reflective of the writers’ courage in bringing them to publication.

Personally, I’m at a point where I’m not searching for more stories. Alas, the ones I’m closely familiar with have sufficiently informed my grasp on how virulent, heartless, and harmful these behaviors can be. I also realize that longer, detail-packed narratives of work abuse exceed the attention spans of most legislators, executives and managers, labor leaders, and other individuals who should be taking such mistreatment more seriously. That said, the true horror and destructiveness of severe bullying and mobbing at work cannot be known without absorbing the whole of individual stories. We have to find a better way to tell and share them.

5 responses

  1. It is a very long narrative when ongoing and malicious. When reporting mine, it was a twenty minute narrative read aloud, and those were just the good old fact based stories that didn’t make me look like a crazy. It was the tip of the iceberg. I guess before we learn how to share these multidimensional traumas in our workplace, there must be people who care. Which there are not, or it would not have happened in the first place, eh? Come to terms with that, and that is called the healing process….

  2. I would like a list of any books written about the personal stories, I would like to read them…lived through a mobbing and still trying to recover…

  3. As much as legally and realistically feasible, I’ve made a lot of my personal ordeal into public stories at blog.hunterword.com. It was a reflex action based on my many years as a journalist/reporter investigating corruption and homicides and child abuse (two books published by William Morrow, one was selected by the NYT for its 100 Notable Books of the year, 1993). My thinking was this: I’ve written stories or worked on projects that have gotten youths out of jail or have a better chance at justice and I’ve written stories what I regard as positive influence so I surely should be able to write about my bullying experience at Hunter College. I might be able to help others in similar situations.
    I have recently received several threatening letters from the college administration about the blog. Eventually I will publish the letters.
    I started posting about my experience on the main college listserv many years ago, posting accounts of the bullying and mobbing of me and others and the results of numerous complaints I’ve filed and memos I wrote to the ombudsman, deans, provosts and, not too long ago, the president of the college. I also wrote about volunteering for New York Healthy Workplace Advocates and lobbying trips to Albany, NY, to support the healthy workplace bill in NY.
    I’ve filed more complaints in recent memory than any other tenured professor regarding grade, grade appeal corruption and similar academic debauchery in my department. I’ve only lost once but have become a pariah on my campus, which I knew could be inevitable but I was willing to take the risk. My department has used the department grade appeal procedure to punish Colleagues in disfavor, but I learned to use the senate grade appeal procedure to document the corrupt grade appeal procedures and out department corruption as best I can, but, as I said, it has made me a pariah on campus.
    [Now, I usually have a tape recorder with me anytime I meet before a college committee or administrator regarding the fight in my department.]
    I’m working on a memoir and it includes audio-video tapeings and recordings, public records, postings in campus online forums, memos and lots and lots of interviews, such as with a former college president who virtually ordered my department to give me tenure when the department plan was to get rid of me. I’ve done several online radio and TV shows.
    One of my immediate plans is to deal with the latest threats from the administration. Now, I also carry a camera to document physical altercations – there have been a lot in recent years. I’ve been publishing photos [“mug shots -:)] of the bullies in my department for years. And I plan to start adding video on YouTube.
    One of my colleagues a while back was zeroing in for one of his kamikaze attacks when he saw that I was taping him with my cellphone. His kamikazes have been to try to make me walk around him or rush up to me as if he was going to do something physical and then changing direction at the last second. He freaked and ran the other way when he saw I was taping him. I’m putting the incident on YouTube in a few weeks once I work out some legal strategies. I also plan to out him at a department meeting.
    I was targeted for bullying many years ago after starting a college funded project that excited the imaginations – I’m not exaggerating – of my then College President and a former CUNY Chancellor. It also excited the imagination of the psycho bullies in my department and their buddies in other departments. And one of the pernicious natures of the bullying is that my Colleagues use students in their attacks.

  4. Personally I believe that telling the world about those cases is one thing, but second is preventing such things from happening. We have a lot of power as a people to stop those from happening. Because if the society pretends not to see anything, then the problem will still exist. Education is in fact a solution.

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