Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a mobbing post and discussion at MetaFilter

Workplace Mobbing.

I especially recommend Mobbing and the Virginia Tech Massacre. It's easy to think the writer's taking the outsider's side too much, so I'll note this, from his conclusion: "This does not mean trying to excuse Cho's inexcusable crimes. Nor does it mean trying to shift blame and scapegoat somebody else. It means trying to get at the truth of what happened: empirical identification of the sequence of events, what led to what. Sound scientific explanation honors those who wrongly and unnecessarily lost their lives or suffered injury at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, and gives promise of preventing repetition of the tragedy."

ETA: From Amanda Howard's "Workplace Homicide":
If we turn a blind eye to toxic relationships at work because we fear being disrespectful to the dead, we are actually doing them an injustice. If positive changes come out of workplace tragedies, then at least those who died did not die in vain. At least we can have some hope that by addressing the complexities behind murders in the workplace, lives can be saved in the future.


  1. "If Cho had been excused from oral presentations and class participation in his courses at Virginia Tech, as he had been in high school, he would probably have graduated without incident."

    Of course, Cho deliberately made sure that the professors at Virginia Tech didn't know about the elective mutism or the modified class requirements that he had in high school. Trying to avoid the stigma of mental illness, perhaps?

    "Even if the girl had declined his advances gently and personally, her rejection might not have cut so deeply."

    Or, you know, he might've just shot her instead of going after random people. That being rather more common than rampages.

    The mobbing perspective is an interesting way of viewing things, though.

  2. That sentence about the girl is *extremely* problematic, and yet, the writer did qualify it heavily. I don't think she should blame herself for an instant--she was young, and everything she knew said he was scary. But I also think the situation was made worse by a series of events that made him more isolated and more frustrated. It's not unreasonable to conclude that he decided, "If they think that's what I am, that's what I'll be."

    To make this as clear as I can, I don't think anyone involved in Cho's life should blame themselves for what happened. Yet clearly, the proper systems were not in place for what happened.

  3. She wasn't the first girl he managed to scare into calling the campus police either. Also, one of the problems he had in Giovanni's class was that students were uncomfortable with him snapping pictures of them without permission during class. (Although I notice that isn't mentioned in the article despite the fact that it's in the Massengill Report.) It's quite possible that the instructor's negative reaction to him made the other students more likely to feel threatened, though. That's often in the nature of mobbing.

    Our society tends to drop people like Cho once they reach early adulthood. Then it stomps on them repeatedly. Then they break.

  4. Serial, your second paragraph is dead on.

  5. I suppose we need to learn how to spot mental illness and then know what to do, like we do with heart attacks for instance. If we saw someone having a heart attack, we wouldn't turn and walk away or scream at them for having a heart attack. Most of us know CPR and how to administer it until help comes. There should be an equivalent for mental illness, especially mental illness that makes one dangerous.

  6. Kim, yes.

    I've done some study on early detection of schizo-affective disorders. So many times, people are shocked when someone they love "becomes" schizophrenic. But the longer they think about it, they can usually point to symptoms or incidents that they noticed for years, but just ignored because they had no way of seeing a cumulative effect building.

  7. Thanks! I'll include it in the next batch of links, 'cause it's fascinating.