Workplace bullying & mobbing: Applying Jennifer Freyd’s framework of institutional betrayal vs. institutional courage

Psychology professor Jennifer Freyd (U. Oregon) is helping us to understand organizations in ways that illuminate the dynamics of workplace bullying and mobbing. Last year (link here), I highlighted her work on “DARVO,” which stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” I cited DARVO as an important concept for understanding how some workplace aggressors try to play the victim role.

Dr. Freyd’s latest contribution (link here) is framing the distinction between institutional betrayal and institutional courage.

Freyd defines institutional betrayal as “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution.”

By contrast, institutional courage is “the antidote to institutional betrayal. It includes institutional accountability and transparency, as when institutions conduct anonymous surveys of victimization within the institution.”

When organizations fail to address workplace bullying and mobbing, and especially when they take the side of abusers, they engage in institutional betrayal of targets and other employees. When they take workplace bullying and mobbing seriously, including the discipline and even termination of bosses and others who engage in work abuse, they are demonstrating institutional courage.

Freyd’s work centers on sexual violence in institutions, but her conceptualizations of institutional betrayal and institutional courage apply to other forms of workplace mistreatment. We hear countless stories of institutional betrayal concerning workplace bullying and mobbing. Unfortunately, we hear fewer stories of institutional courage. The most common “resolution” of a severe workplace bullying situation remains the departure of the target from the organization.

Freyd has started a non-profit Project on Institutional Courage (link here) to address institutional betrayal concerning sexual violence. Hopefully her work will offer some ideas for the workplace anti-bullying movement as well.

5 responses

  1. “Institutional courage is “the antidote to institutional betrayal. It includes institutional accountability and transparency, as when institutions conduct anonymous surveys of victimization within the institution.” The problem is that the institutions DO NOT want to admit or take responsibility for corruption and fraud which leads to bullying. They become less transparent and more creative with how they will silence a “whistleblower.” Higher Education institutes are always trying to protect their reputation and with political and government connections they have plenty of help hiding information that would damage those reputations. We see more and more CEO’s rewarded with huge severance deals to resign when a huge corporation does wrong. What kind of a message does this send to the rest of us who are damaged by their coverups?

  2. Pingback: Workplace bullying & mobbing: Applying Jennifer Freyd’s framework of institutional betrayal vs. institutional courage

  3. Reblogged this on bullying in the workplace and commented:
    I recommend following David Yamada’s blog in power & abuse in society, workplace bullying, mobbing, etc. This one focuses on Professor Jennifer Freyd (U. Oregon) sharing how organizations see workplace bullying and mobbing. Very interesting ! There is so much more to do.

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