The Anti-Mob: A force for good

Constructed hand

It is called “mobbing,” when a group gangs up to shun or thwart an individual.

We humans are social, thrive on attachment and register physical pain and stress when we are excluded.  No matter how we try to minimize it, mobbing is hostile.

The mobbing tactic can be turned toward the good, however.  When group solidarity is invoked to resist gossip, competition and divisive tactics, order, support and inclusion can be maintained.  I have witnessed this a few times and it is as beautiful a dynamic as a bullying mob is ugly.

The manager likes to talk to one worker about another, stirring up hard feelings, competition and distrust.  However, the workers know how this manager operates, so they agree to never get sucked into saying anything negative about each other.

  • If the manager suggests to Jill that Jack complained about her, Jill answers that she’s had only good experiences with Jack and will talk to him about his complaints.  (The manager will, of course, urge Jill not to say anything to Jack.)
  • If the manager then suggests to Jack, that Jill thinks his department gets an unfair portion of the resources.  Jack responds that he and Jill can work everything out easily together as they always do.
  • Jack and Jill then confer with each other to find out what, if any, truth underlies the manager’s comments.

A vice president likes to come into the department and nose around when the department head is on vacation, digging up problems to confront her with later.

  • The staff, when questioned, resist any impulses to act defensive, or to play the expert or the hero.
  • They are careful not to commit themselves to answers until they have thoroughly researched any inquiries the VP has made.
  • Staff then reassure the VP that processes are being followed and errors have been corrected.
  • All the information is compiled to inform the department head as soon as she returns.

If work group members are all trustworthy, they can maintain power and a collaborative spirit by recognizing the troublemaking forces in the culture and agreeing to stick together and support each other, working out any differences privately.

The wagons are circled, calm is maintained, arrival at conclusions is postponed.  The work group continue to enjoy their mutual support which is their best defense against troublemakers.

This creates a safe haven and positive work environment within an otherwise unfriendly culture.

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