The mean team

The mean team

Jeff Grossman

Destructive behavior spreads like a virus, even outside junior high school.

Michelle Duffy, associate professor of business management at the University of Kentucky, learned from surveys of 4,100 employees at a U.S. retailing company that 53 percent of workers had participated in some form of “social undermining,” such as starting rumors about co-workers or sabotaging their projects.

Duffy could detect the strikes and counterstrikes in her research. “You could actually watch it moving through the social structure,” she says.

Employees were 30 times more likely to attack someone if they thought they were helping a friend by doing so. Groups of colleagues banded together to pick on the same people over and over again. Workers seen as bosses’ pets were among the most common targets, as well as women and members of the “in” crowd. Popular people attacked each other and were attacked by outsiders, but outsiders were usually left alone.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group