Gang members derive their strength from the group, and are not nearly as dangerous when encountered alone. The same is sometimes true for groups of employees who share a similar mentality. Workplace "gang members" engage in a form of harassment called "mobbing." The goal of mobbing is to exclude, harass, humiliate or even drive a colleague from the workplace. Dealing with this behavior is not easy, but gang tactics must be addressed immediately and forcefully.
Identify the behavior. Recognizing that you are being ganged up on by others is the first step to solving the problem. People who experience mobbing may first tend to wonder if they are imagining the exclusion, silences and sabotage that is going on.
Document the gang-like behaviors that you have been subjected to. Be specific. Instead of writing, "My coworkers destroyed my work," write "At 8 a.m. on 8/15/12, I arrived at work and saw Bill, Meredith and Sonya leaving my office. When I entered my office, I found that my project notes were missing from my desk and the shredder was warm." Documenting each instance of harassment protects you against accusations of paranoia, as it may be difficult for your supervisor to believe that employees are stooping to this level of behavior.
Make an appointment to speak privately to your supervisor about the situation. Bring your documentation to the meeting and convey your concerns to your supervisor in a calm manner. Let your supervisor know that you are willing to work with her to resolve the situation, but that you insist it be addressed immediately.
Request mediation. Psychologist Heinz Leymann, an expert in the mobbing phenomenon, recommends that supervisors set up an emotionally safe forum in which both sides can communicate respectfully and as equals. The facilitator should prevent each side from engaging in conflict during the mediation. This process can provide you with a degree of protection from blatant behaviors such as name-calling, overt sabotage and exclusion from work-related events.
Look for a new job. It is more realistic to change your work situation than it is to expect the environment at work to change. It is unlikely that the people responsible for bullying are going to be fired or entirely cease their inappropriate behavior, as mobbing is often caused by organizational factors in the workplace.
- Mobbing.ca: The Workplace Mobbing Syndrome -- Response and Prevention in the Public Sector
- The Mobbing Portal: Mobbing and Psychological Terror at Workplaces
- European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology: On the Relationship Between Mobbing Factors, and Job Content, Social Work Environment and Health Outcomes
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws
- Seek psychological help if you are beginning to experience depression, suicidal thoughts or physical illness as a result of the mobbing. This is not uncommon. It is helpful to have your feelings validated by another person who is not part of your dysfunctional workplace. If you are being targeted by a group at work because of your race, religion, nationality, gender, age or disability, seek legal advice. Bullying is legally actionable in these situations as there are federal laws that protect against such behavior, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Do not allow yourself to react angrily to your coworkers' behavior. This will not only add fuel to the fire, but it will give your enemies ammunition to use against you.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.