Mimetic desire and mirror neurons: the consciousness of workplace bullying


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Workplace bullying is important to business and government, because it has a real impact on unfortunate casualties’ wellbeing and organizations’ benefits. Studies into the causes and outcomes of workplace bullying with a focus on the key psychodynamic factors underlying harassment and the subsequent results are rare. This paper applies Rene Girard’s mimetic desire theory to clarify the elements and non-cognizant components associated with “interdividual” connections prompting aggression for the victim by the harasser. The disclosure of mirror neurons affirms that mimetic desire grows unwittingly through a mediator of the mimetic brain. Mimetic desire theory helps to recognize and understand that the destructive patterns of behavior and emotional responses to situations leading to moral harassment is a direct consequence of the mimetic rivalry between the bully and the victim. The unconscious mechanism is then brought up to the consciousness. The bully and the victim can avoid becoming entrapped within dysfunctional and toxic relationships such as bullying. The use of the mimetic desire concepts also enables human resources managers, bystanders, and practitioners to better deal with protagonists. This can help minimize or eliminate workplace bullying.

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    • Figure 1. The “blind box” (adapted from Faulx (2007))
    • Figure 2. Triangle of the mimetic desire
    • Figure 3. The relationship between distance and rivalry in external or internal mediation
    • Table 1. Theories of WPB: the four Antecedent-Bullying Relationship theories
    • Table 2. Theories of WPB: the four Bullying-Outcome Relationship theories
    • Table 3. Theories of WPB: the three Bullying Antecedent Outcome Relationship theories