Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Third Advisor

Dr. Glinda Rawls


Mobbing, goal orientation, higher education, academic advisors, learning organization, bullying


Mobbing emerged in research decades ago as a way to understand aggressive behavior in the animal kingdom (Lorenz, 1966). This same concept has been adapted for higher education to explain acts of incivility and negative behaviors employees experience within their institutions (Duffy & Sperry, 2007, 2012; Harper, 2016; Yelgecen & Kokalan, 2009). The theory of mobbing encompasses both the organization and the aggressor.

This quantitative study, operationalized using measurable behaviors from the Work Domain Goal Orientation Questionnaire (Vandewalle, 1997), the Dimension of Learning Organization Questionnaire (Watkins and Marsick, 1993), and the Negative Acts Questionnaire (Einarsen, 1997), researches mastery orientation, performance orientation, performance avoidance orientation, communication, collaboration, empowerment, strategic leadership, and the relationship to reported levels of mobbing by academic advisors from across the U.S.

The survey included results of 1,233 professional academic advisors from across the country at both public colleges or universities and community colleges. Negative relationships were found between all constructs of learning organization (communication, collaboration, empowerment, and strategic leadership) and mobbing, while positive relationships were found between mastery and performance orientations with mobbing. The overall prevalence of any mobbing acts reported within the past six months was 87.3%, while 25.2% reported experiencing mobbing acts weekly. The most frequently reported acts included: someone withholding information affecting performance, having opinions and views ignored, and being ordered to do work below level of competency.

This population was chosen because they are a unique group of staff housed under academic affairs even though increasingly the expectations are to work with students on more personal and social levels, generally considered more in line with student affairs. Some even question whether advising is a profession and if professional staff should be advising students at all (Ginsberg, 2011; Habley, 2009; Kuhn & Padak, 2008; Selingo, 2014; Shaffer, Zalewski, & Leveille, 2010). In order to gain a better understanding of mobbing behavior experienced by professional undergraduate advisors and factors that may contribute to such behaviors, a theoretical framework that encompassed both the individual and the organization was conceptualized.

This study is the first to examine the connection between goal orientation, learning organization, and mobbing of professional academic advisors. The findings show relationships exist between the constructs and reported mobbing behavior. Results further reveal that researchers and administrators may want to focus particular attention on empowerment, strategic leadership, and performance orientation to decrease mobbing acts experienced within this population, and positively support advisors in their role within the institution.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access