Lemon, Kathy

Lemon, Kathy

Associate Professor, School of Social Work


Preferred: kathy.lemon@sjsu.edu


  • Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare, University of California Berkeley, 2006
  • Master of Social Work, San Jose State University, 2001
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Literature, University of California Santa Cruz, 1997



I am interested in workplace bullying and mobbing in higher education. In particular, I am currently researching:

1) the prevalence of workplace abusive conduct among tenured and tenure-track professors in the California State University system;

2) the causes of workplace abusive conduct in universities, including: a) higher education institutional structures that are easily perverted through abuses of power, b) organizational cultures of competition and fear that arise from direct and indirect threats of retaliation, and c) attributes of the perpetrator, including the presence of the 'dark triad' of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy; and 

3) the connections between workplace bullying and mobbing in higher education and the erosion of academic freedom. 

Help for Targets

These are useful resources for targets of workplace bullying who would like to learn more about how to defend themselves and minimize further attacks:

High Conflict Institute

Overcoming Mobbing: A recovery guide for workplace aggression and mobbing by Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry

In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and dealing with manipulative people by George Simon 

Psychopath Free: Recovering from emotionally abusive relationships with narcissists, sociopaths and other toxic people by Jackson Mackenzie 

What is workplace mobbing? 

Industrial psychologist Heinz Leyman (1990) applied mobbing concepts to adults in the workplace when he observed cases of group aggression against a targeted employee. He defined workplace mobbing as "Psychical terror or mobbing in working life means hostile and unethical communication which is directed systematically by one or several persons mainly toward one individual" (Leyman, 1990, p. 120).

Five phases of the mobbing process are described:

1) a critical incident or difference in opinion (real or imagined) is a catalyst for the mobbing and serves as a justification for the perceived need to target the individual;

2) workers are recruited into the mob and the target experiences ongoing abusive conduct aimed at dehumanizing, humilating, degrading, devaluing and discrediting them;

3) the target requests help from the administration;

4) the target is revictimized as the administration agrees with the mob’s justification for targeting the individual and joins in the abusive conduct; and

5) the target is expelled from the work environment, either through termination or through resignation due to the health and mental health consequences of the abuse.

 What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying (AKA emotional abuse, workplace violence, workpalce aggression, workplace incivility, workplace harassment and abusive supervision) occurs on a personal level and an organizational/work level (Einarsen, Hoel, & Notelaers, 2009; Einarsen, Raknes, & Matthiesen, 1994).

Personal workplace bullying can include:

  • Ridicule
  • Being ignored (AKA stonewalling: the perpetrator evades acknowledgment of a problem by refusing to respond or cooperate) 
  • Being discredited as unstable (AKA gaslighting: a manipulation tactic in which a bully denies objective reality in favor of a narrative that recasts the victim as the actual perpetrator)
  • Spreading gossip
  • Scapegoating: The target is blamed for the perpetrator's behavior so that the perpetrator can maintain a positive self-image 
  • Being the target of spontaneous anger 

Organizational workplace bullying can include:

  • Replacing critical areas of responsibility with more trivial ones 
  • Being given unreasonable deadlines and workloads 
  • Persistent crticism of one's work 
  • Excessive monitoring of one's work 
  • Having information that affects performance withheld 
  • Being ordered to work below one's competence level
  • Being repeatedly reminded of past errors  
  • Experiencing pressure to not claim something that one is entitled to (e.g. vacation, sick, holiday)
  • Experiencing pressure to quit

The target is exposed to the bullying on an ongoing basis and has few avenues for resolution due to real or perceived power imbalances between themselves and the perpetrators (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011).

Many targets of workplace bullying and mobbing are silenced by perpetrators who use the tactics of Deny Attack Reverse Victim and Offender (DARVO)(Harsay, Zurbriggen & Freyd, 2017). DARVO occurs when a victim confronts their perpetrator about the abusive conduct, and the perpetrator minimizes their conduct, attacks the victim's character and reputation, and then declares themself as the true victim of abuse.


The Workplace Bullying Institute 

Bergen Bullying Research Group University of Bergen 

Kenneth Westhues: Workplace Mobbing in Academe and Beyond

American Association of University Professors: Advancing Academic Freedom

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)