Different research groups have chosen – in the English language – different terminology regarding destructive activities at workplaces, in schools among schoolchildren or in military organizations regarding drafted young people. In England and Australia the word ”bullying” is preferred for this kind of behavior in all three of these societal settings. In the USA and Europe ”bullying” is used regarding school situations and ”mobbing” regarding the workplace. Beside of this, certain other terminology exists: Harassment, psychological terrorization, horizontal violence or just conflict.

The most intense discussion is between two research groups, those who study violence between schoolchildren at school (the first publication about ”bullying” came in the early 70´s in Scandinavia) and those who study violence between employees at workplaces (the first publications about ”mobbing” came in the early 80s, also in Scandinavia).

These two research groups attracted colleagues in different countries for cooperation. Soon scholars in England, Australia and Japan cooperated with the original research group in Norway to investigate ”bullying” at schools, while scholars in Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, USA and Australia cooperated with the original research group in Sweden to study ”mobbing” at work places. At present, the discussion is about whether to chose an unifying terminology for both of these areas, e. g. either ”bullying” or ”mobbing” or if a third term should be chosen, e. g. ”horizontal violence” or ”psychological harassment” or ”psychological terrorization”.

The discussion between these research groups is understandable as very much, too much effort has been invested during the decades in order to shape and form the research area. The discussion, therefore, does really not meet logical qualities at the moment as scholars are afraid to loose these intellectual investments, which of course would be a problem for many scholars. But let us study what the two most used words ”mobbing” and ”bullying” are use for. The connotation of bullying is both physical and psychological aggression and threat. In fact, bullying at school is very often strongly characterized by physically aggressive acts. In dictionaries, the physical part in the activity of ”bullying” is always noted.

Otherwise with ”mobbing” at workplaces. The behavior there, as much as it is a disastrous communication, certainly does not have this noted characteristics of ”bullying”, but quite often is done in a very sensitive manner, still having highly stigmatizing effects. In fact, physical violence is extremely seldom, if ever, found in ”mobbing behavior” at work. Rather, ”mobbing” is characterized by much more sophisticated behaviors. The term ”bullying” would here certainly not match the behavior that can be observed.

Dr. Leymann suggested keeping the word bullying for activities between children and teenagers at school and reserving the word mobbing for adult behavior at workplaces. He also suggested to point out, in articles and books, what other terminology is been used in related research areas in order to serve the reader. If you wish to read more about the current and historical research in the subject we recommend that you look at our literature overview