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Kenneth Westhues is a professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. In particular, he has researched the phenomina of mobbing as human bullying behaviour. His publications include an article explaining the Virginia Tech massacre in terms of character–situation interplay, accusing many of the professors and students of mobbing.[1]

Westhues's checklist of mobbing indicators

Westhues devised the following list of mobbing indicators, with indicator number 12 probably being the most important:[2]

  1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.
  2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”
  3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.
  4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is”.
  5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson”.
  6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.
  7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.
  8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.
  9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.
  10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for” or defend the target.
  11. The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.
  12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.
  13. Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.
  14. Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.
  15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.
  16. Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.

See also


  1. Westhues K. Mobbing and the Virginia Tech Massacre, November 2007
  2. Westhues K. Checklist of Mobbing Indicators, 2006

Works by Kenneth Westhues

External links

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