Richard Schwindt's guide for targets of mobbing and those who would lend them support — click here for description, reviews, and ordering information.


Jean M. Jones's toxic-workplace survival guide — click here for description, reviews, and ordering information.



More books on mobbing


Mainpage: Academic Mobbing


K. Westhues Homepage




Two new books on mobbing

from Canada

Kenneth Westhues, 2014

One good reason for taking seriously the analysis and advice in Richard Schwindt's Emotional Recovery from Workplace Mobbing is that he is not just a professional therapist but a true scholar. The first I heard of him was in 2009, when he left a voice message on my office phone, saying he had begun reading the research literature on mobbing and found it valuable for recovering from traumatic events in his own working life. He thanked me for my studies and captured in one short sentence the importance of scholarship on mobbing to those adversely affected by it, "that the surest benchmark of healing from abuse is the acquisition of language to accurately articulate your own experience."

What impressed me about Schwindt from the start was his ability to abstract, to distill common elements from disparate and far-flung workplace conflicts, thus to be able to identify a particular conflict, his own or others, as an instance of a general pattern. Schwindt urged me to study the case of John Elliotson, a medical scientist who was ousted from University College London in 1838. He thought the Elliotson affair was a classic case of mobbing, and believed I would find it illuminating. After studying the case, I concluded Schwindt was right, and went on to write and publish a reflection on it.

Later in 2009, I watched with appreciation Schwindt's wry, insightful youtube video on mobbing in the workplace, drawn from his career in social-service organizations. In 2010, he published an article on mobbing and bullying in relation to Ontario law, in the Newsmagazine of the Ontario Association of Social Workers. In following years Schwindt alerted me via email to important historical cases of apparent mobbing — a British diplomat, an American mountainclimber, a French Catholic theologian — and to an important fictional case as well, that of Othello in Shakespeare's play.

Meanwhile Schwindt was connecting and forging collegial ties with other mobbing researchers, notably Anton Hout, whose website has been for a decade a rich resource for people preyed upon and humiliated at work, and whose book,What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know, is no less valuable. To Hout's website Schwindt contributed half a dozen articles that sparkled with reason and compassion — even on topics as personal and delicate as suicide. I found his "Twelve Reflections on Three Years of Counselling Mobbing Targets" extraordinarily perceptive and wise.

Against this background, I've been delighted by news of publication of his book, and by the appreciative reviews on amazon and elsewhere. Even so, I have found the more tempered appreciation in Joybilee Farm's review instructive. The reviewer, a refugee from urban Canada now part of a latter-day homesteading movement, applauds Schwindt's insight, but finds his approach a tad too dispassionate, analytic and clinical. She laments that "there are no stories of people, real or imagined, that experienced mobbing, quit their jobs, found healing, and are now back at work where they are loved, respected, and thriving."

That review got me to thinking that it would be hard to rank survival guides like Schwindt's, Hout's, or Jones's (or other ones like Duffy and Sperry's or Davenport et al.'s) according to their helpfulness to mobbing targets and other readers. These books differ not just in content but in organization, style, tone, points emphasized and examples described. The right book for one reader may be wrong for another. The book that hits exactly the right note for one mobbing target, saying precisely what he or she needs to hear, may make another reader's eyes glaze over.

In any event, I suspect the Joybilee Farm reviewer might like Jones's An Inconvenient Whistleblower more than Schwindt's book. This is because with almost painful candor, Jones weaves an account of her own experience into the book's analytic framework, and makes repeated reference to many other cases of victimization at work. Even though Jones attends more to policy and prevention than Schwindt does, the reader is never in doubt about how deeply she feels about the subject matter. She gives reminders aplenty of her personal stake in the legal, political, and cultural factors that define the difference between healthy and toxic workplaces.

I heard first from Jean Jones in 2008, just after she received notice of termination from her position in academic administration. Clearly, she was reeling from the news. Yet even in the midst of personal crisis, she showed an ability to abstract from immediate experience and conceptualize a more general social process. She had read my studies of mobbing and thanked me for them, believing they might apply to what had happened to her. But she did not want to rely on her own judgment alone. She asked would I review the documentation and give her my "professional assessment." Indeed, she offered to pay for this.

Finding myself already stretched too thin by ongoing academic duties, I had to decline her request. I don't ordinarily accept such assignments anyway, least of all for pay, unless as expert witness in a formal legal or arbitral proceeding. Jones and I did correspond occasionally over the next few years, however, and I was pleased that Linda Shallcross, a leading researcher of workplace mobbing in Australia, was able to consult with Jones regularly as she began work on the book that came to fruition at last in 2013. Watching Jones's unfailing, painstaking effort progress from a sketchy rough draft to the polished final form, with an attractive accompanying website, was a delight. The satisfying lemonade Jones has made from the lemons handed to her at work is a good example of what Joan Friedenberg has called "paying it forward."

An Inconvenient Whistleblower has many strengths, including clear conceptualization at the start, a sprinkling of pungent cartoons, careful review of the literature on the effects of toxic workplaces on workers' physical and psychological health, and trenchant discussion of legal initiatives to safeguard workers' health, notably a series of reports from the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Perhaps the most distinctive contribution this book makes to studies of workplace mobbing comes in its penultimate chapter, on the business case for effective preventive measures in organizations. Jones argues persuasively that mobbing is a costly pathology, not only in psychological terms but in dollars and cents, and that well-enforced policies to reduce its incidence pay off economically.

As an aside in Chapter 6, Jones recounts a funny story from her work years ago raising 30 free-range chickens. As such birds are wont to do, they regularly singled out the one at the bottom of the pecking order for frenzied, bloody, collective attack. Jones was horrified, rescued bird after bird, and at last tried what she was told was the best remedy: to darken the windows of the chickenhouse and put salt in the birds' drinking water. These measures seemed to work. The birds slept more. Jones does not suggest the same remedy for mobbing among humans, and dear reader, don't even think of it, no matter how deep your disgust with your workmates. Still, the example led me to wonder if the widespread use of anti-depressant and other psychotropic drugs among academics these days may be exacerbating their impulses to single out colleagues for mobbing. That many drugs increase aggression in some users is well-documented. Maybe, at least, to be on the safe side, we should all get more sleep.

I recommend both Jones's book and Schwindt's. Neither would likely be as good had its author never undergone, suffered, survived, and transcended the personal humiliation that workplace mobbing entails. This fact gives these books added value, as testaments to human resilience.