What is mobbing? Mobbing is a form of on-the-job harassment that is engaged in by more than one person.
Often it takes the form of unreasonable or contradictory criticism. A coworker with no supervisory authority over you may take it upon himself to start criticizing your work. Or, one supervisor may tell you to do a job one way and another tells you to do it a different way. Then both can tell you that you are doing it incorrectly.
Mobbing often takes the form of unreasonable or contradictory criticism for a very simple reason: constructive criticism is recognized as a useful and necessary part of the workplace.
But just as the term "constructive criticism implies, there is a counterpart: criticism that is unreasonable and break another's spirit instead of improving his or her work performance. Unreasonable criticism can be a sneaky form of harassment, because it can masquerade as an attempt to improve another person's work performance.
I believe that shy people are frequently the victims of mobbing or work harassment. Shy people, because of their quiet manner and seemingly timid disposition and their lack of assertiveness, may be seen as easy "marks."
Furthermore, shy people may have a harder time building strong relationships and friendships in the new workplace. The shy person's manner can be interpreted as a lack of self-confidence. Poor eye contact on his or her part can even convince some coworkers that he or she is dishonest, or at least lacking in self confidence.
I believe mobbing, however, to be a sign of a dysfunctional or toxic workplace. It is not really a matter of coping, but rather of finding a new job as quickly as possible. Admittedly, this can be difficult in tough economic times. So here are some tips to cope with coworkers' workplace mobbing -- or even to avoid it in the first place.
First of all, you should cultivate a good memory for people and the instructions they give you. Know who tells what and how they tell you to do it, so if you are criticized by someone else, you can explain that you were told to do it this way, and by whom. For this reason alone, it is useful to cultivate a good memory.
Along the same lines, when starting a new job, you should try to learn the names and positions of all of your coworkers on the first day. Some coworkers with no supervisory authority whatsoever can do an amazing job of putting on airs and making you think that they outrank you, unless you clarify. Learn everybody's supervisory status as well as his or her name.
Try to overcome shyness and project a friendly, confident attitude when starting a new job. If people personally like you, they will be more likely to treat you fairly.
Not everyone will have to deal with coworkers' workplace mobbing, but it is a serious and not uncommon problem that everyone should be aware of.