It's true that false accusations can multiply, but in the case of Bill Cosby, the pattern of accusation suggests they are more credible than suspect. When mob mentality or opportunism lead to false accusations, they share specific features that are missing in the litany of accusations against the famed comedian.
When Ferguson Chief of Police Thomas Jackson apologized for the response of his team in the aftermath of Michael Brown's killing, many dismissed the apology as too little, too late. Yet the apology was not only rare, it was profound and rejecting it will do more to stifle healing than to promote it.
The armed military confrontation between police and protestors in Ferguson, Missouri was only made possible by police leadership--and only ended when saner leadership stepped in. The same psychological processes that led the police to exceed necessary force and escalate the conflict are the same psychological processes that unfold in a workplace mobbing.
The statement by Arthur Sulzberger justifying his termination of New York Times Editor-in-Chief, Jill Abramson contains all the elements of an untruthful attempt to discredit her and turn public tide against her. What we can expect to happen now is that her former staff and the public will increasingly revise their perceptions of her to accord with Sulzberger's.
When Sam Geimer was raped by director Roman Polanski at the age of 13, she had no idea that the real damage was about to begin. But it wasn't the rape that damaged her. It was the media, the courts, and those who insist she remain damaged for the rest of her life. Refusing to be a victim, she has chosen the path of compassion. What might we learn from her recovery?
At the turn of the 20th century, the media encouraged lynching by presenting the violence as moral and necessary to protect women from rape. Now, with accusations levied against Woody Allen of the rape of a child, the media are at it again, fueling a bloodlust that parallels lynching—and workplace mobbing—in its group psychology and trajectory.
With the resurfacing of accusations that Woody Allen molested his young daughter, the public has been drawing hasty conclusions regarding the guilt or innocence of both parties. But in this case, as in any case when someone is accused of serious wrongdoing, the ease with which we judge has less to do with the facts, than it does with our discomfort about the claims.
Governor Chris Christie is not the only one who presides over a workplace that engages in retaliation and awards abuse. Retaliation has become a common practice at work and in our daily lives, viewed as deserved punishment for what are often petty offenses. It's time we look to our own lives to recognize the many ways we engage in it ourselves, and excuse it in others.
When Bijan Ebrahimi was falsely accused of pedophilia, he was burned alive by an angry mob in the UK. This same mob mentality follows accusations routinely made in the press, in the workplace, or in our daily lives, as the recent accusations of pedophilia against a school principal, and my own experience of being accused of terrorism, demonstrate.
In the interactive documentary "What Killed Kevin?" filmmaker Beverly Peterson set out to explore how a man was driven to suicide by a bully boss. But what she discovered was far more complex and troubling, raising questions of what it means to point the finger at someone as a bully--and how that label comes to be created.
Shame is a damaging emotion that is linked to increased anger and cognitive dissonance. Shaming people to injure them is not only damaging and devastating; it can increase aggression as the target attempts to shake off the painful feelings of shame by justifying their actions and by fighting back.
What can animals teach us about human aggression? When humans act in groups under times of conflict or severe stress, our animal nature takes the lead. By understanding how animals become aggressive toward each other, and how they escape the aggression of their own species, we can better learn how humans act and react when bullying each other.
Everyone has ignored someone, gone out of their way to avoid them, and refused to interact with them. When we do this, we tell ourselves we have to do so, that the person deserves it. Yet in most cases, shunning or ostracizing a person is neither necessary nor deserved. Moreover, it is so damaging to the person who suffers it that it can lead them to violence.
While conducting fieldwork in Madagascar, I got a taste of what it felt like to be dehumanized with a name. But in watching the public vilification of Paula Deen, I cringe not so much at her insensitivity, as at the gleeful opportunity the public has been given to attack her. In so doing, we miss a far more valuable opportunity to discuss racial divides in our nation.
If Nelson Mandela could forgive those who imprisoned and tortured him, what lessons might we learn from him on how to find forgiveness for the injustices we have suffered in our own lives? To forgive does not mean to excuse, but to open ourselves to compassion. And if we cannot forgive, there is sometimes power in forgetting.
Bullying is a very real problem, but in recent years efforts to address it have relied on stereotypes of "bullies," with calls to label people as "bullies," talk about them with others, and shun them. These are aggressive behaviors which fail to reduce workplace hostility, and instead, provide a class of people who are considered deserving of group aggression.
Hatred is an understandable emotion, but all too often it is viewed as a virtue associated with strength, power and moral superiority. Yet the more we express our hatred toward another, even when justified, the more it weakens us and the more powerful it becomes. By rethinking hatred not as a virtue, but as a wound, we may begin to heal from the wounds another caused us.
How can we move on when we have suffered an injustice so great that the damage cannot be repaired, the loss cannot be restored? We begin by learning to control our thinking about it, and our emotions will follow. By willing ourselves to recover, we can slowly create and appreciate new normal in our lives which give us meaning and lasting joy.
When a coworker is mobbed, people often want to help but they don't know how, and if they do help, they risk becoming targets themselves. But there are a few things a bystander can do, or should not do, that will provide the target some support and lesson the chances of the bystander joining the mob.
Much attention has been paid to what to do about bullies, or what targets can do to protect themselves. Far less attention has been paid to what the bystander can do to help the target, avoid joining the mob, and protect themselves. A better understanding of what mobbing is and how it progresses may lessen the chances of a bystander joining, or being targeted by, the mob.
With the testimony of Domestic Violence specialist Alyce LaViolette that Jodi Arias was a victim of abuse, public outrage—including by multitudes of domestic abuse victims—has taken to the internet to criticize and condemn the witness. Their concerns about her testimony and expertise are legitimate, but without restraint, the attacks have become a form of social violence.
Psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette has been ridiculed for a talk she once gave asking if Snow White was a battered woman. But fairy tales do indeed reveal troubling truths about the human psyche and behavior. Unfortunately for Jodi Arias, the fairy tale is not on her side. And unfortunately for the defense, their efforts to portray the defendant as Snow White will fail.
When the boss comes after you, it's tempting to turn to trusted coworkers for support. But they are the very people to keep distant when under fire. But because mobbing involves isolating, shunning and dehumanizing a person, it is essential to find support elsewhere. Who you turn to and how, may mean the difference between surviving and perishing.
When Francine Hughes killed her husband in 1977, her tragic act raised awareness of domestic abuse and "battered women syndrome." It also raised awareness of the common patterns of intimate partner stalking that turns deadly.
Mobbing targets are overwhelmed with emotion when they find themselves subjected to group aggression, making them appear and feel crazy. Anger, fear and sadness are normal responses to threats to survival, but in order to effectively respond to, and survive, mobbing, the mobbing target must learn to control intrusive thinking and emotional flooding.
Workers who are targets of mobbing suffer profound losses, which lead to depression comparable to grief. By understanding the stage of grief they are in, mobbing targets may be better equipt to control the aggression against them, as well as control their own emotional responses and begin to heal.
Bullying is a serious problem in school and at work, yet there is very little discussion of the differences between bullying among children and bullying among adults. Moreover, workplace bullying and workplace mobbing are distinct, yet often treated as the same thing. By failing to distinguish among these different forms of aggression, it is difficult to resolve them.
When workplace conflicts erupt, we tend to respond in ways that are more likely to intensify the conflict, than resolve it. By fostering compassion in small actions, we may build the capacity to address workplace conflicts more compassionately and humanely.
Christopher Dorner was no hero. But his tragic ending may illuminate how workplace mobbing can push an otherwise normal person to violence. In most cases, that violence takes the form of suicide, but in rare cases, targeted workers turn on their coworkers and supervisors. By reducing workplace mobbing, we might reduce future incidents of workplace violence.
We might think we're surrounded by crazy people at work, but work itself can be crazy making. When it comes to looking at our own behaviors, however, we often fail to see the many ways in which we normalize aggression and self-interest. Perhaps it's time to rethink how we approach workplace conflicts, toward greater cooperation and compassion.