Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ten Key Factors of Mobbing

The mobbing syndrome contains ten distinctive factors that occur in various combinations, systematically, and frequently. The impact of these factors on the targeted person then becomes the major element of the mobbing syndrome.

1. Assaults on the dignity, integrity, credibility, and professional competence of employees.
2. Negative, humiliating, intimidating, abusive, malevolent, and controlling, communication.
3. Committed directly, or indirectly, in subtle or obvious ways.
4. Perpetrated by one or more staff members—“vulturing.”
5. Occurring in a continual, multiple, and systematic fashion, over some time.
6. Portraying the victimized person as being at fault.
7. Engineered to discredit, confuse, intimidate, isolate, and force the person into submission.
8. Committed with the intent to force the person out.
9. Representing the removal from the workplace as the victim’s choice.
10. Not recognized, misinterpreted, ignored, tolerated, encouraged, or even instigated by the management of the organization.

The combination of these ten major factors impacts gravely the emotional and physical well-being of the targeted individual and CAN RESULT IN DEATH BY ILLNESS, ACCIDENT, OR SUICIDE.

Quoted from MOBBING: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace p.41 and 42

Mobbing as a Process

PHASE 1 is characterized by a critical incident, a conflict. In itself, this is not yet mobbing. It can, however develop into mobbing behaviors.

PHASE 2 is characterized by aggressive acts and psychological assaults that set the mobbing dynamics into motion.

PHASE 3 then involves management that plays a part in the negative cycle by misjudging the situation if they have not already been participating in PHASE 2. Instead of extending support, they begin the isolation and expulsion process.

PHASE 4 is critical, as victims are now branded as difficult or mentally ill. This misjudgment by management and health professionals reinforces the negative cycle. It almost always will lead to expulsion or forced resignation.

PHASE 5 is the expulsion. The trauma of this event can, additionally, trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After the expulsion, the emotional distress and the ensuing psychosomatic illnesses continue and often intensify.



Quoted from:

MOBBING: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace p.38

Looking back, I think that the Bird Calling Behavior that I wrote about under CHICKENS AND PAJAROS was the critical incident described in PHASE 1. If it had been handled correctly, it need not have developed into mobbing behavior. However, deans, counselors, and administrators chose to ignore it while it got worse and developed into PHASE 2, full blown mobbing. Instead of extending support, the administration then pushed the process to PHASE 3 by disciplining me instead of the bullies.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Mobbing Syndrome

“The mobbing syndrome is a malicious attempt to force a person out of the workplace through unjustified accusations, humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse, and/or terror.

It is a “ganging up” by the leader(s)—organization, superior, co-worker, or subordinate—who rallies others into systematic and frequent mob-like behavior.

Because the organization ignores, condones or even instigates the behavior, it can be said that the victim, seemingly helpless against the powerful and many is indeed “mobbed”.

The result is always injury—physical or mental distress or illness and social misery and, most often, expulsion from the workplace.”
Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the Workplace p 40

The experience I described in CHICKENS AND PAJAROS was perpetrated by children while the school organization as a whole ignored the behavior. It is difficult for me to include the children as part of the mobbing syndrome because of the stigma involved in admitting that my students were acting out against me.

In the PRE-Bloomberg BOARD of Education, a “good teacher” maintained a quiet, orderly classroom. Nothing has changed in that respect in the Bloomberg DEPARTMENT of Education except that he has added the following condition: a “good teacher” has quiet, orderly students whose math and reading scores improve every year by a minimum of X%. This has now put a lot of teachers who considered themselves in the “good” category into the “bad” category—so much so that Bloomberg is closing schools like crazy and throwing teachers who were previously “good” into ATR status (teacher limbo).

In the present “Business Model” of Education, students are considered “widgets”. They are our products, and their test scores are the way management measures our “production”. But according to this same Model, they are also our subordinates. We are supposed to manage them so that they produce like good little office workers—except that they are five, six…eight, nine, …twelve, thirteen,….sixteen, seventeen.

They are not widgets, they are not office workers. They are children.

Children should not have to sit quietly for seven hours a day or more. Some are able to sit still for most of that time. Others have more and more difficulty as the day goes on. Some are off the wall by 2nd period, and we label them ADHD.

Those antsy little kids who are failing as widget/office workers, act out their low self esteem by bullying good little widget/office workers. And sometimes, if they’re really lucky they get to bully a teacher. It might be because the teacher is a substitute or a newbie, or a teacher that is a little bit off her game; or because they get the message that it’s OK with other adults in the school if they abuse a specific teacher or teachers.

Sometime these adults simply ignore the bullying. Sometimes they tacitly condone it, and sometimes they actively instigate it. It is my contention that adults in my school have perpetrated all three probully behaviors in order to force teachers they don’t like out of the school.

This may sound a little paranoid to you, but in my case, the principal and her assistant principals have been kind enough to provide me with many long, long, letters that are going to help me prove my point.

And I suspect that the Chancellor’s Archives are full of proof. Better start shredding, Bloomie—and hope that the teachers didn’t keep copies.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Principal P. took over our school in September of 2004.

On September 21, 2004 I first noticed some strange behavior on the part of some students. They were making bird noises such as trilling, hooting, clucking, cockledoodledoo, etc. They also had the weirdest converstations about chickens. When they said the word “chicken”, they would emphasize the word. Example: “Are we having CHICKEN for lunch today.”

At first I ignored what I would come to call the Bird Behavior. I noticed it as the kids came into my class, and sometimes as they left, but it didn’t interfere with the class itself. However, I did ask a few teachers if they had noticed the noises, and if they knew where this behavior might come from, but they seemed as clueless as I was.

As September turned into October the incidents increased to the point where they started interfering with some of my classes. I also noticed bird calls as I walked through the hallways. I started to think that it might be gang-related. Gangs have signs; they also have calls. I went to the Counselors and the Deans. Had they noticed the bird calls and references? No. Who might know if it was gang-related? They referred me to the Parent-Coordinator. She lived in the neighborhood, and had attended gang-awareness workshops--If anybody knew, she would know. When I asked her, she replied that they hadn’t said anything in her workshops about bird calls; I should probably talk to the Deans.

OK, so nobody in the school knew anything. I didn’t want to make a big deal about the behavior, because that would only encourage the kids to do it more, so I started making an anecdotal record—trying to figure specifically who was involved. It turned out that it was mostly Hispanics, and they were limited to the students with learning difficulties. All together there were no more that 10 to 15 students who were consistently involved. That was a small group compared to the student population of the school, but it was big enough to be a little gang.

I live in the neighborhood where I teach, so it wasn’t hard to access the knowledge of my Hispanic neighbors. They were much more helpful than the adults in my school. I found out that the word for bird in Spanish, “pajaro”, is a homophobic insult. “Like ‘mariposa’?” I asked. “No, much worse. It’s like calling somebody a ‘faggot’. It’s a bad insult.” “So, if they say ‘chicken’ in English does it mean the same thing for them?”
The answer was yes. Chickens make an up and down movement of their heads that homophobes relate to the up and down movement of someone engaged in the act of fallacio

I gave this information to Assistant Principal Angulo who was in charge of most of the students involved. He said he wasn’t aware of the word “Pajaro” having an obscene reference. I agreed that it might be country-specific, but that I hadn’t had any difficulty finding out about it by just asking around. I asked him to check it out as well and to also watch for whom they might be targeting. My concern was that these kids were ganging up on a student or a group of students.

The behavior got worse and other students started getting into the act. I went back to the counselors and deans with my new information, but no one took any steps to stop it. I finally decided to challenge the worst perpetrators directly. If I made an example of them, perhaps the others would get the hint. I called in the parents of three students who had been particularly brazen and annoying. I explained what they had been doing without specifically accusing them of using homophobic obscenities. It was clear that some of the parents, especially the fathers, knew exactly what the Bird Behavior meant.

The behavior continued to worsen. No matter who was targeted before, now it was clear to me that I had become a target. It was getting harder to get the class started and to maintain control. If I turned to write something on the board, there would be a stream of bird calls that would stop as soon as I turned around.

On November 1, 2004 I went back to Angulo, frustrated and angry. This Bird Behavior was out of control. I had had to figure out its meaning on my own; up until now I had had to handle it on my own; now what the hell was he going to do about it? I pointed out that before I had been concerned about children being bullied. Now I was obviously being targeted, and they were getting away with it. What message was that sending out to every child in the school? These kids might as well be yelling “faggot” at me. Was that OK with him? If the administration didn’t do something about this, the “shit was going to hit the fan”.

That was seventh period. I left his office and went to my eighth period class--I’ll call them 8-F. This class was one of two that I was having trouble with. It was the last period of the day—always difficult for those students who have learning difficulties, and for their teachers. I had begun adding minutes for every time they interrupted the class, so I kept them five minutes after the last bell rang. All the other classes had left as they filed past me out the door. Angulo was standing down the hall talking to another teacher. The students had to go right past him to go downstairs. As they did so, they started making bird calls. He and the other teacher started to laugh.

Angulo and the other teacher might have been talking about something else. Deep in conversation, they might not have been paying enough attention to notice what the kids were doing. But their body language communicated to my students: “What you’re doing is funny and OK”.

I had been standing at my classroom door watching all of this. I went back into my room and started to wash the board. As I moved the wet sponge across the board in overlapping stripes, tears started to stream down my face. We were supposed to have an after-school workshop in my room. Some teachers came in and asked me what was wrong, and I told them. Somebody told Angulo and he came in and asked what was wrong. That was when I lost it. Did he realize that my kids had been making bird calls as they passed him and all he did was laugh? I was more humiliated than angry, because I couldn’t stop crying. They rescheduled the workshop to another classroom, and I gradually got myself under control.

On November 17 I got the first negative letter in my file in twenty plus years of teaching. I was accused of screaming and yelling and using the words “shit”, “hell” and “faggot”.
I grieved the letter, and it went to a step-two hearing. At the hearing I provided a detailed anecdotal record of the bird calling incidents. I provided exact times, dates, names of other adults who were present, a detailed log of every conversation I had had with other adults trying to find out what the heck was going on. In the end, the hearing officer asked if I thought I was being sexually harassed. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. But then I realized, yes, that was sexual harassment. In the end, I had to apologize to Angulo for raising my voice and using inappropriate language, and there was an agreement that if I didn’t do it again, the letter would be removed from my file.

Nothing happened to the kids and nothing happened to Angulo. The bird references continued for the next four years up to the present day—although never as brazenly. I just ignore them.

I am not a lesbian, but this experience has made me even more sympathetic to the gay community. I understand why so many gay people stay in the closet. I admire how those who are out of the closet deal with the bullying and mobbing that I have been subjected to. I admire the way the gay community has organized to support its own and lobby for its interests. Before I didn’t really understand why it was so important to be in everybody’s face. What was wrong with don’t ask don’t tell? It’s nobody’s business but your own.

Now I’m convinced that bullying is everybody’s business. Don’t feel safe because you belong to a group that isn’t targeted. What happens to them can happen to you. If you belong to a group that is targeted—like my little Hispanic bird-callers: The mob you join today could very well lynch you tomorrow—and why should those whom you have mobbed lift a finger to help you?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Mobbing Typology

I am going to be writing from a different point of view than I did before. If I recall correctly, I was maintaining an anecdotal record of how my principal was trying to build a case against me with the help of her assistant principals, Ms. X and Mr. Z. I wrote replies to every unsatisfactory observation and every charge brought against me. As time went on, the charges got worse and so did the behavior of my students. A few of them started to act out in really outrageous ways, some of which I have documented in this blog.

I finally started reading books about scapegoating and bullying in the workplace. I now have a better understanding about what has been happening to me. I got the following information from a book called Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace by Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, and Gail Pursell Elliot.

One of the first people to write about bullying in the workplace was Dr. Heinz Leymann. He investigated what he was told were “difficult” people in the workplace and determined that many of these people were not “difficult” to begin with. What he found was a work structure and culture that created the circumstances that marked these people as difficult. Once identified as difficult, the company created further reasons for terminating them. This Leyman identified as mobbing.

From now on, I will continue to write about my own personal experiences, but I will put them into the context of mobbing and reference the literature as I discover it.

Dr. Leyman identified 45 different mobbing behaviors and grouped them in five different categories, depending on the nature of the behavior. Not all of them will occur in every case. Here they are:



1.1 Your superior restricts the opportunity for you to express yourself.
1.2 You are interrupted constantly.
1.3 Colleagues/workers restrict your opportunity to express yourself.
1.4 You are yelled at or scolded.
1.5 Your work is constantly criticized.
1.6 There is constant criticism about your private life.

SECOND CATEGORY: Attacks on One’s Social Relations

2.1 People do not speak with you any more.
2.2 You cannot talk to anyone i.e. access to others is denied.
2.3 You are put into a workspace that is isolated from others.
2.4 Colleagues are forbidden to talk with you.
2.5 You are treated as invisible.

THIRD CATEGORY: Attacks on your reputation

3.1 People talk badly behind your back.
3.2 Unfounded rumors are circulated.
3.3 You are ridiculed.
3.4 You are treated as if you are mentally ill.
3.5 You are forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation/examination.
3.6 A handicap is ridiculed.
3.7 People imitate your gestures, walk, voice to ridicule you.
3.8 Your political or religious beliefs are ridiculed.
3.9 Your private life is ridiculed.
3.10 Your nationality is ridiculed.
3.11 You are forced to do a job that affects your self-esteem
3.12 Your efforts are judged in a wrong and demeaning way.
3.13 Your decisions are always questioned.
3.14 You are called demeaning names.
3.15 Sexual innuendos.

FOURTH CATEGORY: Attacks on the Quality of One’s Professional and Life Situation

4.1 There are no special tasks for you.
4.2 Supervisors take away assignments, so you cannot even invent new tasks to do.
4.3 You are given meaningless jobs to carry out.
4.4 You are given tasks that are below your qualifications.
4.5 You are continuously given new tasks.
4.6 You are given tasks that affect your self-esteem.
4.7 You are given tasks that are way beyond your qualification in order to discredit you.
4.8 Causing general damages that create financial costs to you.
4.9 Damaging your home or workplace.

FIFTH CATEGORY: Direct Attacks on a Person’s Health

5.1 You are forced to do a physically strenuous job.
5.2 Threats of physical violence are made.
5.3 Light violence is used to threaten you.
5.4 Physical abuse.
5.5 Outright sexual harassment.

Forgive My Silence

Writing about my situation became too painful. I’m still teaching in the same school, and my situation has not improved. On the contrary, it is much worse.

Since my last post, the financial systems of the world went into meltdown, and we elected our first black president .

Remember the so-called “Business Model” of education that was going to fix our “failed” Educational System? At least when we failed, we didn’t take the whole world down with us.

I was profoundly relieved when Obama won, but I’m disappointed with our new Secretary of Education. I would have liked to see someone who had actually taught in a classroom.

But the winds of change are definitely blowing, and they make me want to write again.