Overcoming the Onslaught: A Tale of Woe from One Adjunct Professor

Overcoming the Onslaught: A Tale of Woe from One Adjunct Professor

Janelle Christine Simmons (Walden University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9485-7.ch001
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This chapter seeks to explore and examine the phenomenon known as mobbing and more specifically academic mobbing. First, a brief introduction to bullying at the workplace as well as mobbing ensues. Second, the definitions of mobbing and academic mobbing as well as clear descriptions are delineated. Third, various topics surrounding academic mobbing are introduced such; the phases of mobbing, a description of the bully, a description of the “mobbers,” a description of the bystanders and a description of the target. Other topics are introduced as well such as statistics that surround the phenomenon of mobbing at the workplace as well as workplace engagement results of academic mobbing. Then the methodology is introduced. This research study is qualitative in nature. An autoethnography is utilized and the data is seen through a constructivist/interpretivist lens. The author than introduces her experience via narrative form, which is followed by a discussion and conclusion, limitations of the study, recommendations for future research, and a statement of conflict.
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For centuries, workers have endured treatment that belittles their pride and robs the artistry from their craft. Stud Terkel (Murphy, 2016, p. 1).

The workplace is a seemingly important facet of one’s life (Osborne & Hammond, 2017; Pheko, 2018; Tigrel & Kokalan, 2009). Sigmund Freud once noted that working is an action that continues to be the strongest link to reality (Pheko, 2018). The social environment of a workplace is extremely important to establishing normalcy. “The emotional state of an employee also relates to motivation” (Osborne & Hammond, 2017, p. 52); and employee engagement is critical to any organization (Osborne & Hammond, 2017).

A positive social work environment where an employee is healthy and happy is necessary due to the fact that people spend a large amount of their time at the workplace (Tigrel & Koklan, 2009). This may be because “many scholars concur that organizational life, jobs and work are fundamental to the human condition, to human beings’ sense of identity [...], and are central to establishing personally meaningful self-definitions [...]” (Pheko, 2018, p. 1). It also important to point out that employee engagement is necessary for organizational productivity (Osborne & Hammond, 2017). An employee’s emotional state relates to motivation (Osborne & Hammond, 2017) - their “basic needs of satisfaction have been found to directly relate to the dedication of employees” (Osborne & Hammond, 2017, p. 52). It has become apparent that a byproduct of sound leadership is literally healthy employee engagement (Osborne & Hammond, 2017). Employees must be allowed to have psychological autonomy and be encouraged to be extrinsically motivated (Murphy, 2016; Osborne & Hammond, 2017). While workplace conflict is normal in small doses; it can also have detrimental effects to employees (Murphy, 2016). Nonetheless, normal conflict in the workplace is not equivalent by any means to the “art” of mobbing.



The term mobbing was first used in the 19th century by biologists to define/describe birds’ behaviors of protecting themselves and their needs by flying around their enemies (Tigrel & Kokalan, 2009). It is based on the premise of a mob, which is a lawless and disorderly crowd (Staub, 2015; Tigrel & Kokalan, 2009). The term evolved through a handful of scientists and researchers (Tigrel & Kokalan, 2009), which included Konrad Lorenz (Staub, 2015) until it was applied to complex behaviors that occur at actual workplaces (Murphy, 2016; Tigrel & Kokalan, 2009). “Mobbing is considered a severe social stressor, a traumatic life event, an epidemic that causes work dissatisfaction, a psychological distress, & a physical problem” (Taspinar, Taspinar, Guclu, Nalbart, Calik, Uslu & Inal, 2013, p. 405). Moreover, “mobbing [is] a rising issue in the occupational health area [which] has recently [..] paid attention more and more in the academic and business settings” (Gul, 2009, p. 515). Mobbing leads to acts, behaviors, gestures and words or even writings that strip the target of their dignity, physical well-being and their “psychological integrity” (Gul, 2009, 515).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bullying: a form of intimidation that involves various forms of harassment and sometimes physical abuse/assault.

Academic: Something that is related to education or a higher level of scholarship pertinent to a specific field.

Tenured Professor: An instructor at a place of higher learner whose position is protected and can work at the same institution until the time of their retirement.

Academic Mobbing: The act of ganging up on a colleague within an institution of higher learning by targeting the individual in order to force them to leave the workplace.

Professor: A person who teaches and lectures students at a place of higher learning in the field of their specialization. Said individual may also serve on committees, engage in research, attend faculty meetings/trainings, et al.

Mobbing: The act of a group of people targeting one specific person for some shared purpose (i.e., dislike, envy, etc.).

Adjunct: An instructor at a college or university that usually holds a Master-level degree and teaches 1-2 courses per semester in their specialization.

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