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One trick is to pull a little bait and switch on your own brain. It goes like this: When the urge comes to do the counterproductive thing, don’t resist. Instead, replace.

Carl Richards

When a person trusts that a system designed to defend, respond, protect, or seek justice will do its job after an interpersonal trauma, and when that system either chooses not to respond (omission) or worse, chooses to lay blame at the feet of the victim (commission), institutional betrayal occurs.

Phil Monroe, Institutional Betrayal: Secret Ingredient to PTSD

According to research by psychologist Jennifer Freyd, PhD, when wrong-doers are confronted with their acts (which may be criminal), they show a pattern that can be abbreviated as DARVO, which stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.  Victims of wrong-doers have a need for the truth to be revealed and for justice.  But, the proclivity of the toxic and narcissistic organization is to suppress such truth, protect the wrong-doers and evade responsibility by denying the truth and attacking the victim.  Therefore, rather than a victim making specific public allegations that will invoke such focused attacks and reprisals, it is perhaps safer and more productive to illuminate patterns of behavior, grounded in research, that will enlighten and protect potential future victims of institutional betrayal, while giving credence to current victims’ narratives.   In institutional betrayal, power and prestige within the institution is preserved through protecting the wrong-doer over the victim.  Victims place their trust in institutions based on expectations that the institution is worthy of their trust.  Stakeholders in the institution trust that the published institution core values, policy, and procedures are in place to protect their own, as well as other institutional stakeholder’s, vested interests.  After all, the main objective of publishing such information within business proposals and annual reports is to inculcate such feelings of trust in the values of the institution and its leadership.  When institutions do not respond in accordance to their espoused values, they betray this trust and in such cases, this betrayal of trust can be more traumatizing to the victims than the initial perpetrated wrong-doing, according to Betrayal Trauma Theory (BTT).   

Institutional DARVO
Institutional Betrayal

Mobbing is the nonsexual harassment of a coworker by a group of other workers or members of an organization of the one who is targeted.  The term psychological terrorism is also used to describe workplace mobbing.  Mobbing is not a conflict over facts and reasons.  Mobbing is a form of genocide where the objective is to eliminate the target that poses a threat to the power structure, influence, and reputation of the institution, and more precisely, its leadership.  Workplace mobbing tactics often are used against whistleblowers – workers who report concerns about illegal or unethical behavior in the workplace.  Mobbing requires the support of top management.  Mobbing cannot be sustained without the permission and/or direction from top-management.  The damage done to a person through workplace mobbing is an injury, not an illness.  Fundamentally, it is a workplace health and safety issue.  Therefore, there is always an effort by top-management to skirt responsibility and accountability for their intentional or negligent injurious actions.  The objective is to make the workplace so miserable for the target that they will leave voluntarily without a fight.  Workplace mobbing and bullying results in a number of health injuries and consequences for both the target, as well as his/her family.   The fabric of relationships within the organization is damaged and the victim of mobbing has suffered an injury that can be life threatening.  Victims of mobbing are documented to become ill and die prematurely or commit suicide.  Mobbing is violent health-harming abuse perpetrated through the abuse of authoritative power and a profound breach of trust.

Gaslighting is an insidiously cruel form of sociopathic narcissistic psychological manipulation and abuse often practiced to gain power and control over a target.   The objective of the gaslighting is to cause the target to lose their sense of identity and perception of what’s really happening around them.  The term originates from the 1938 stage play, GaslightIn the play, a husband dims the gas lights while he searches for jewels that he believes were hidden in the attic by his wife’s aunt, who was murdered in the apartment which his wife inherited.  The wife notices the dimming gas light, as well as other strange goings-on.  The husband tries to persuade her that she is imagining the light change, and other things.  The objective is to replace the truth with a lie.  The term gaslighting is now used colloquially to describe efforts to manipulate someone’s perception of reality.  Gaslighter’s will use persistent lying, denial, misdirection and contradiction to destabilize the victim’s beliefs and make them doubt their perceptions of events.  In the workplace, for instance, an individual who reports or discloses being harassed and bullied, or other workplace behaviors that may contradict their understanding of policy, or even the law, may become targets of gaslighting.  Gaslighter’s may try to make the victim believe that no wrong-doing has occurred and that they are just coping badly with “work performance” or other unrelated issues.  Gaslighting and workplace mobbing, or gang-bullying, can be applied together in a collective effort to force the target out of their job in retaliation for disclosing and revealing such wrong doing.  Mobbing and gaslighting are tactics used to force whistleblowers out of the workplace.

DARVO also exists on an organizational level. When a company or organization is complicit with the accused who employs the same strategy, it’s “institutional DARVO,” and what Freyd calls a form of betrayal.

Ashley Judd

And leadership is even more frightened that they might lose power, so any signs of “trouble” can easily be perceived as threats to that power.

Janice Harper, PhD, Just Us Justice

What is the difference between lying and fraud?  At what point does telling lies go from being a poor decision to a violation of the law?  Fraud is an intentional false representation intended to mislead the receiver to their detriment.  Courts will often look at what the liar(s) gain if the lie is believed and what harm is caused to the person who relied on truthful information.  If the victim believed the lie and acted as if it were true and suffered some sort of injury because of the betrayal in trust, there could be liability for fraud.  Denying or ignoring the truthful narrative of a victim is a lie and a betrayal, and a particularly pernicious form of denial is DARVO.  Organizations, like people, have an incentive to protect their ideal image.  Organizations have attributes and personalities formed by the decisions and actions of directors and top-management.  It is these decisions and actions which form the institution or corporate character.  This is not to be confused with the published corporate values, mission statements, and annual reports, which are created to form an ideal perception of the corporate character.  Narcissism describes a self-absorbed person.  Narcissists are prone to frequent lies and exaggerations and enjoy getting away with violating rules and social norms.  Narcissists project a false idealized image of themselves and use or control others as an extension of themselves.  The narcissistic organization becomes similarly self-absorbed in protecting an ideal identity above dealing with contrasting reality.  When agents of organizations gang-bully and gaslight targets in the workplace, it above all involves a conspiratorial myriad of intentional false representations intended to mislead and change the targets perception of true events to their detriment.

Participants in the atrocities and genocide carried out by Nazi Germany justified their actions on following the orders of superiors, or obedience to authority.  Could it be that the millions of accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?  In 1961, US Yale University psychologist, Stanley Milgram, began his famous experiments into analyzing obedience to authority.  The Milgram Experiment wanted to determine if ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.  Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up.  People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school, and workplace.  The experiment concluded that ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.  Ordinary kind and humane people can easily become sadistic under certain conditions.  When someone in a position of leadership makes it clear that certain individuals are undesirable, these targets may be mistreated, shunned, and even falsely accused of misconduct and crimes.  If people believe that they will not be held accountable for their actions, and the more they see others acting aggressively without sanction, the more likely they will behave aggressively.  However, if people were reminded that they had responsibility for their own actions, almost none of them were prepared to obey. 

It is important to remember that the heinous genocide and elimination of those deemed socially undesirable during of the Holocaust was not only legal, but also a principal objective of the authoritative Nazi regime in power.  There was, and would have been, reprisal and punishment to those citizens who thwarted those objectives.  Nevertheless, many charged in carrying out these objectives were punished, and even executed, following the Allied trials that followed the conclusion of the Allied victory of World War 2.  In the Milgram experiment, teacher subjects were allowed to dispense punishment to “learners” under the direction and authority of the Yale University researcher.  Yale University’s reputation provided additional allegiance and obedience to follow these instructions.  Further, the teachers were not enfranchised in the Yale University organization.  They were not fellow researchers with an understanding of the experiment or knowledge of human psychology.  Mobbing and gaslighting behavior may be authorized by leaders – those holding authoritative decision-making power – of organizations, but those who follow the sole instruction of authority are also agents who have pronounced their commitment to uphold laws, organization policy, and organization values. 

We should never forget that everything Adolph Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Retaliation against whistleblowers is common and severe and includes negative job performance evaluations, micromanagement, isolation, loss of job, and blacklisting.

Kathy Ahern, PhD., RN, Institutional Betrayal and Gaslighting: Why Whistleblowers are So Traumatized

Gang-bullies and gaslighter’s breach all of these commitments and provide their allegiance to corrupt wrong-doers with authoritative power.  Categorically, this not “professional” behavior.  Beyond this, the law and organization policy most certainly advocate the intervention by professionals to not follow lawless, arbitrary and capricious authority that can seriously endanger the health and well-being of a coworker.  For any policy not to state this would be malpractice.   (This was not the case in Nazi Germany.)  Joining the mob and protecting corrupt leadership may enable employees to secure benefit and promotions for helping management eliminate a “difficult” employee – the whistleblower – or the target of discriminatory or abusive treatment.  Isn’t this bribery for the purpose of perverting the course of justice? Anyone who threatens the narcissistic delusion of the organization has put themselves in jeopardy.  In a safe and functional organization, disclosures are handled according to both the law and policy.  Whistleblowing tends to refer to disclosures which are not handled appropriately and result in acts of retaliation and reprisal against those who make protected disclosures.  So, why is providing protected disclosure – or whistleblowing – about organization wrong-doing so dangerous and damaging for professionals who do so, when just the opposite should be true?

Transparency International, U4 Expert Report

When what should happen is quite the opposite to what the employee who discloses wrong-doing is experiencing, cognitive dissonance is created.  There is a betrayal of trust which undermines one’s sense of reality and confidence.  Most whistleblowers disclose with the belief that the organization leadership will be just as troubled by the reported behavior as they are.  The whistleblower has been promised by the organization that disclosures will be handled fairly and effectively.  It is a legal and fiduciary promise made by leadership.  When the whistleblower begins to see the published proclamations as false assurances and is at the receiving end of unabashed reprisals, this distresses the whistleblower immensely.  Many whistleblowers experience long-term Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD).  Disclosing organization wrong-doing often implicates higher level executives, directly or indirectly.  DARVO occurs when the perpetrator, which could be an organization, literally accuses the victim of doing something specific that they did.  For instance, if you accuse perpetrators of defamation for evaluating your performance arbitrarily and not in accordance to the organization performance management system, as is common for workplace bullies and the mob, the perpetrator will deny the bullying and claim your accusations are defamatory.  The organization will protect the improperly empowered wrong-doers.  There will be no fair investigation or resolution, in contradiction to the written policy.  The victim of harassment/bullying by the mob will likely be terminated and blacklisted, all the while the narcissistic organization will preserve the myth of being guided by high values and fairness.  This is an orchestrated deception.

Betrayal is very threatening to our survival as humans.  When former colleagues and professionals assist in the elimination of the betrayed target, it comes as a shock.  It is very painful and confusing to the target who cannot understand what’s going on?  The betrayed target is likely to be enraged at the trusted institution and fellow employees who have breached their trust and demonstrated cowardice and lack of moral fortitude.  Once former colleagues align themselves with the immoral mob, there can be no redemption.  An initial moment of guilt may occur with the initial small betrayal.  This is followed by anger at the target because being angry with the corrupted power structure and calling them out is too risky.  The anger is fueled by fear and guilt that they have become accomplices in evil and compromised their own principles by betraying the target.  Following the initial betrayal, the subsequent lies and betrayals increase in intensity.  The problem is that eventually the betrayals will be discovered.  The mob must create justifications for their decisions that support the false narrative of events aligned with the corrupt power structure that oversaw the gaslighting and manipulation in the workplace which was orchestrated to eliminate the target.  The mob would like to frame the targets reaction as unhinged, when it is entirely normal for a betrayed person or victim to act as a betrayed person or victim.  The participants within the mob must collectively maintain the mythological institution identity or face internal or external legal reprisals and accountability.  They do this knowingly to protect a hypocritical and corrupted power structure and false institution identity at the expense of the victim.                          

Every life is a test but, in the workplace, few are tested more than whistleblowers.  The act of whistleblowing is a comprehensive test of the whistleblower’s values, loyalties, and above all their self-worth.  The whistleblower who survives, survives these tests. 

K. R. Sawyer, The Test Called Whistleblowing

Whistleblowers are “not” wimps. They are mighty men and women of valor as Jesus Christ was when He overturned the tables of “The Den of Thieves” who were using His Father’s House to make money.

Margaret Kannaday, Jesus: The Whistleblower

Mistreatment of workers in the workplace has always existed.  At the same time, more recently a growing attention has been given to issues such as workplace harassment, bullying, and mobbing.   In 1976, Carroll M. Brodsky, a psychologist and anthropologist, opened the discussion of workplace abuse with his book The Harassed Worker looking at the outcomes and accidents from worker stress and exhaustion.  In the mid-1980s research by psychologist and pedagogist Heinz Leymann began further investigating workplace stress and introduced our modern concept of workplace bullying and mobbing.  Workplace bullying and mobbing are identified as principal workplace health and safety hazards.  Workplace environments where mobbing and bullying occur have been antecedent to both the Piper Alpha (1988) and the Deepwater Horizon (2010) offshore oil rig disasters.  The Piper Alpha disaster cost the lives of 167 offshore workers and was the deadliest offshore disaster.  The Deepwater Horizon is the largest offshore environmental disaster and it also cost the lives of eleven (11) offshore workers.  Workplaces environments where there are feelings of economic uncertainty from downsizing and restructuring leave fewer people to do more work and also make the competition for positions intense seem to fuel harassment, bullying and mobbing cultures.  While the cyclic oil and gas industry that employs geo-services professionals is not unique in terms of harvesting workplace conditions conducive to workplace harassment, bullying and mobbing, but is especially susceptible during down cycles which exacerbate uncertainty.

Much of the research work by Freyd focuses on sexual offenders and identifies a form of institutional betrayal, which is a negative reaction when an assault is reported.  This negative response by the organization adds additional trauma to the victim beyond the interpersonal violation.  The comment that is often heard, “The rape was bad, but what was even worse was how I was treated after the rape occurred.”  Institutional DARVO occurs when DARVO is committed by an institution (or with institutional complicity).  Institutional DARVO is when an institution minimizes – sometimes to the point of ignoring – the harms done to the victim(s) and frames the alleged perpetrations in such a way to blame the victim and protect the perpetrators.  An example of institutional DARVO would include to institutional leaders responding to disclosures by gaslighting victims into thinking they do not have a sufficient understanding of policy and practice and that there was no non-compliant or illegal behavior.  In the case of bullying and mobbing, the ruse of “poor performance” is often used as a justification for mistreatment.  Institutions may also obstruct the victims redress through outright lying about policy and legal obligations of the institution.  Institution betrayal really boils down to leadership corrupting the processes of redress in order to avoid culpability.  The institution does not follow their own rules and decisions are made with arbitrary caprice. 

Milgram demonstrated the power of authority over the minds and wills of ordinary people.  Milgram’s experiment was conducted following the trial of Otto Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Eichmann was executed in 1962.  The trial was followed closely by the media and was the inspiration for several books.  One of the more famous books was written by Hannah Arendt.  Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe Eichmann.  Banal evil is characterized by a belief that what one is doing is not evil, rather, what they are engaging in is a behavior that is, or has been, normalized by the society in which they reside.  The horrors of the Holocaust, to which Eichmann assisted through overseeing the deportation of many of the Jewish population to the Auschwitz concentration camp, resulted in the murder of about 75 percent upon arrival.  Eichmann was loyally following the laws and carrying out the evil objectives of the Nazi regime.  Institutional betrayal and acts of psychological violence in the workplace, such as harassment, mobbing and bullying is different.  Those who follow the evil dictates of authority are usually acting against the policy and laws.  Such “professionals” are actively and willingly complicit in the destruction of the victim’s professional life and reputation, as well as the family and loved one’s who depend on their betrayed victims.  These acts are evil.  Such behavior is only normalized through the indifference of legal authorities to pursue such evil institution leadership and mob participants.  Scientific research has determined proclivities and patterns followed by abusers and criminals.  Now, institutional governance bodies and law enforcement must actively embrace the research and the body of knowledge it provides to aid victims.  For institutional governance and law enforcement not to do so is a further betrayal to victims and a miscarriage of justice.  Being a victim or doing the right thing should not be dangerous. 

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.

Hannah Arendt

Consecrated persons, chosen by God to guide souls to salvation, let themselves be dominated by their human frailty or sickness and thus become tools of Satan.

Pope Francis, 2019 Sex Abuse Summit