Help and Strategies

Bullying vs Mobbing?

Is it Bullying or Mobbing?[ii]

Bullying and mobbing are different. Both involve aggressive and hostile behaviours directed towards a ‘target’.

  • Church bullying happens in relational situations between one or a few bullies and a victim.  Bullies are aggressive in the way they deal with others. These behaviours can include repeated harassing or ‘pushy’ behaviour, offending others and excluding them from events or activities (isolating). This will eventually have a negative impact the targeted person’s service within the church and their sense of belonging within the church community.
  • Mobbing is more complicated. Several factors come into play including the personality of the individuals involved, group dynamics within the church and organizational dynamics (church leadership). Mobbing is more intentional and calculated and has further reaching consequences. Church bullies in this case engage in repeated hostile, unethical communication; ganging up on; and conspiracy with the ithe-person-vector-abstract_MkZNCev_ntent to eliminate the targeted person(s) from the church community. In church circles this is sometime referred to as a ‘forced exit’.

The critical factor that distinguishes between church bullying and church mobbing is the involvement of church leadership in the bullying situation.

  • Organizational involvement is present with mobbing and absent with bullying.
The destructive, divisive behaviour that we are seeing in many churches today    fits the definition of mobbing.

Four Components of Church Mobbing (Bullying)

The Targeted Individuals:

  • Usually those in a leadership role. These are not necessarily ‘weak’ individuals although some targets can be vulnerable, sensitive people. Often they are strong, Type A and among the most competent in the organization.
  • Leaders who view their role as a career or calling not just a job. Targets can be conscientious high achievers
  • Can have a tendency to be people pleasers, with poor conflict management and confrontational skills.
  • They are often not aware of the coordinated network of individual and organizational involvement leading to their exit.

Those who Engage in Mobbing (bullying): 

  • Can be volunteer or paid church leaders, church staff members or congregation members.
  • They are masters of impression management and deliberately create a negative or misleading image of the targeted individual or group of individuals. They control the information about the victim and therefore become the ‘ringleader of the in group’.
  • They exhibit recognizable red flag behaviours. (see Characteristics)

The Bystanders:australia-head-in-sand-climate-change

  • Those within the congregation or denomination who know the truth do not come forward (the silent majority).

The Church Organization:

  • Those within the church or denomination who have the power to stop the mobbing (bullying) but instead either turn a blind eye or join in. (elders, deacons, denominational leaders, etc.)
  • Mobbing prone churches often do not have any clearly defined processes for solving problems. There is often confusion about roles, expectations and procedures.
  • Times of rapid growth, transition and decline make a church more susceptible to mobbing (bullying).
  • Hostile communication patterns (gossip is the primary form of this) are present.


[i] Sczarro, Peter. (2011) Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

[ii] Much of the description of ‘mobbing’ has been gleaned from a literature review of mobbing research published by Duffy,M & Sperry,L (2012) Mobbing: Causes, Consequences and Solutions. New York, New York. Oxford University Press.

One Comment On “Bullying vs Mobbing?”

  1. Wow. Incredibly accurate.

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