Academic Matters: the Journal of Higher Education, OCUFA, Fall 2006, pp. 18-19.
“Twenty years ago, Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann gave the name mobbing to this terror, taking the word from Konrad Lorenz’s research on aggression in nonhuman species. Mobbing of alien predators and sometimes of conspecifics occurs among many birds and primates. Something about the target arouses a fierce, contagious impulse to attack and destroy. Mobbers take turns vocalizing hostility and inflicting wounds. The target usually flees. Sometimes it is killed and eaten.
Violent mobbing is endemic to our species. Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has analyzed lynching as a cannibalistic “ritual of blood.” Teenage swarming is similar, as in the murder of Reena Virk in Victoria, BC, in 1997. Her friends set upon her in a frenzy of bloodlust, reviled and tortured her, eventually held her head under water until she was dead.
Leymann studied the nonviolent, polite, sophisticated kind of mobbing that happens in ostensibly rational workplaces. Universities are an archetype. If professors despise a colleague to the point of feeling desperate need to put the colleague down, pummeling the target is a foolish move. The mobbers lose and the target gains credibility.
The more clever and effective strategy is to wear the target down emotionally by shunning, gossip, ridicule, bureaucratic hassles, and withholding of deserved rewards. The German word Todschweigen, death by silence, describes this initial, informal stage of workplace mobbing.”…
Read the full text: http://www.kwesthues.com/unkindlyart.htm