Mobbing at Work: Causes, Types, Prevention and More

A recent study by the Association against Psychological and Moral Harassment at Work indicates that around 15% of workers in The United States have suffered harassment at work. But what exactly is workplace mobbing? What psychological, social and labor consequences can they have? We answer these questions and give you the keys to avoid and prevent these behaviors in the company.

What is workplace mobbing?

Mobbing , when it occurs in the workplace , refers to all those actions aimed at intimidating, harassing or degrading a worker with the aim of worsening their work environment and pushing them to leave the company. This harassment can be carried out through different methods, for example insults, threats, humiliation, isolation from other classmates, spreading false rumors, etc.

Normally it is verbal and psychological violence , although there are times when it can reach the physical level (aggressions) or sexual (sexual harassment). Although in most cases the objective is to force the worker to leave the company and not pay him severance pay, it can also have other purposes, such as forcing him to accept suffocating conditions or work environment. Even, sometimes, mobbing has no objective, apart from the humiliation of the victim.

Difference between workplace mobbing and workplace discrimination

Mobbing is distinguished from employment discrimination both in the causes and in the objective it pursues.

Employment discrimination is based on the difference in treatment of an employee due to physical or cultural differences that have nothing to do with their job performance. For example, for reasons of gender, age, sexual orientation, political ideology, beliefs, etc.

However, workplace bullying does not have to be based on physical or cultural differences, but anyone can become a victim.

The objective of labor discrimination is that the affected person has worse working conditions than the rest of the employees (salaries, working hours, breaks, etc.), for the simple fact of being “different”.

For its part, the most common objective of mobbing is the harassment of a worker with the aim of degrading their work environment, forcing them to accept unfair working conditions or to leave work.

However, not all mobbing that occurs in the workplace is the same. Workplace harassment can be exercised in many ways and for very different reasons, as we see below.

Types of mobbing at work

What types of workplace bullying exist? What are the characteristics of each of them? The classification depends on who is mobbing whom, or the objective pursued by this harassment.

horizontal mobbing

The harasser and the victim are in the same professional category or hierarchical level . In other words, it is a type of workplace mobbing that occurs between co-workers and even within the same department. The causes that cause it can be very varied: stronger personality of the harasser, enmity between workers, forcing the weak to perform the worst tasks, boredom due to absence of work, etc.

vertical mobbing

In this case, the harasser is in a higher or lower professional category or hierarchical level than the victim. Depending on this, one can distinguish between ascending or descending mobbing.

Upward workplace mobbing occurs when one or more subordinates attack or harass a superior. It is not usually frequent since fear or fear prevails that the superior may retaliate.

For its part, downward mobbing is much more common than the previous one. It occurs when a superior makes use of his power situation to abuse a subordinate. It is also called bossing .

strategic bullying

It is a type of downward vertical mobbing, which is applied in an institutional way. That is, the harasser asserts his position of superiority to harass a worker, and get the harassed person to resign from his job . As the worker leaves the company voluntarily, the company would not have to pay severance pay.

address mobbing

It is another type of downward labor mobbing, carried out by the company’s management. He often uses threats of dismissal to foment fear and increase productivity. It is also used with the intention of dismissing unreceptive or submissive workers , or employees who do not meet the expectations or needs of the top management.

address mobbing

perverse mobbing

It has no reason or definite objective. It is simply based on the stalker’s perverse or manipulative personality . This kind of workplace mobbing is one of the most damaging to the company, and also one of the most difficult to eradicate. It cannot be corrected by establishing other dynamics or workflows. The only solution is the re-education of the harasser (complicated) or her dismissal.

discriminatory bullying

In this case, mobbing at work would be similar to discrimination at work, since this type of harassment is based on reasons of a cultural or physical nature. In other words, an employee is mobbed for the simple fact of being different. It can be harassment for reasons of age, sex, physical appearance, illness, religious beliefs, political ideology, sexual condition, etc.

disciplinary bullying

It is a type of labor mobbing that uses threats so that employees act in a submissive manner and do not question any of the decisions and actions carried out by the company’s management. The objective is to instill fear and fear in the victims, in addition to warning the rest of their colleagues what can happen if they act in the same way.

This type of mobbing is common against employees who demand better working conditions, who request leave or who denounce illicit practices carried out by the organization.

Examples of bullying at work

There are a large number of behaviors that can be considered as examples of workplace mobbing . These are some of the most frequent.

  • Addressing a worker through shouting, insults, threats and in a continuous derogatory tone.
  • Systematically pressuring an employee, overloading him with work or forcing him to deliver it within impossible deadlines.
  • Assigning tasks of little value to a worker or leaving him with nothing to do, as an excuse to later allege poor performance.
  • Criticizing a person’s work in a systematic and destructive way, with the aim of undermining their security and self-esteem.
  • Magnify insignificant errors, taking disproportionate measures in the face of any type of failure.
  • Modify without prior notice the tasks or responsibilities of an employee, with the aim of inducing him to make mistakes.
  • Isolate the worker from the rest of his colleagues.
  • Spreading slander in order to undermine the personal or professional reputation of the victim.
  • Disregard any opinion of the victim or prevent him from expressing his personal assessments.
  • Make continuous jokes in bad taste, behave in a disrespectful way.
  • Attack your private life, your way of thinking or personal convictions.

Consequences it has on the victims

There are occasions, for example in perverse workplace mobbing, in which the harasser does not realize how harmful this situation can be for the victim. “ It was just a joke ” or “ no big deal ”, they say. However, the consequences of workplace mobbing , in all its variants, can affect the harassed in various ways:

  • Psychological Consequences : Workplace bullying slowly and inexorably deteriorates the victim’s mental toughness. Among the most common effects are anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, isolation, guilt, etc.
  • Consequences on health : the effects of mobbing at work can also be seen on the physical plane. The victim may suffer from migraine problems, gastrointestinal pain, nausea, sleep disorders. Even in the most serious cases, it could cause nervous system disorders, metabolism problems or deficiencies in the immune system.
  • Social consequences : It is common for victims of workplace mobbing to isolate themselves in their own world and abandon their social life. They stop seeing friends, they don’t go to the places they used to go anymore. If it occurs, their social interactions are more sporadic and less in-depth.
  • Family consequences : the family environment itself can be another victim of workplace mobbing. Normally the person who suffers from this situation does not tell their loved ones or those closest to them. On the contrary, he internalizes it, progressively entering into a negative dynamic that affects family life. It translates into a more withdrawn behavior, sudden mood swings, loss of sexual appetite, etc.
  • Labor consequences : mobbing at work is likely to cause the person to leave their job. But, in addition, it can also condition you when it comes to joining another job.

How to prevent bullying

The main measure that organizations must take to prevent labor mobbing and guarantee equality at work is to draw up an Equality Plan , which is also mandatory for companies with more than 50 workers.

Among the specific actions that can be applied are the following:

  • Establish clear internal rules of conduct, with an ethical code based on respect for others.
  • Offer an effective communication channel so that victims of workplace mobbing can talk to a specialized department that deals with their problem, guaranteeing anonymity whenever the victim so wishes.
  • Carry out training and awareness actions with the company’s employees.
  • Promote camaraderie and group work, eliminating black spots such as misunderstood ambition.
  • Distribute tasks based on the capabilities or merits of the employees, avoiding favoritism.
  • Modify, in agreement with the worker, the tasks or activities to be carried out, in order not to fall into monotony.
  • Promote an environment where there is room for new opportunities and personal growth.
  • Ensure the maintenance of a pleasant climate for all, without the presence of “black sheep” or unwanted attitudes.
  • Organize activities outside the office that help establish closer relationships between employees (meetings, dinners, etc.).
  • Be fair in the selection processes, awarding jobs according to the value of the professional.
  • Fairly evaluate the candidates for internal promotions, in order to avoid possible quarrels.

How to prevent bullying

Leave due to workplace harassment

Sometimes, labor mobbing ends in the dismissal of the worker. However, there are those who have doubts as to whether it is a common or professional contingency and, by extension, what can be charged while on sick leave.

Is it considered a common or professional contingency?

The Supreme Court has already defined sick leave for labor mobbing as a professional contingency . It may be the case that the employee has been given sick leave due to stress or anxiety. However, you have the option of demonstrating that the causes of these disorders is mobbing at work, and thus obtain professional contingency leave.

In order to change a leave due to common contingency to one due to professional contingency, it is necessary to request the modification at the National Institute of Social Security (INSS). This body will be in charge of issuing the resolution, being able to request the psychological tests or expert reports held by the interested party.

How much is charged?

A person discharged for labor mobbing will receive 75% of the regulatory base , from the first day the discharge has been granted. This is the general minimum scale since there are Collective Agreements that establish their own amount, which can be up to 100% of the regulatory base. In any case, an amount lower than 75% of the regulatory base can never be set by Agreement.

How to report mobbing at work

The first step to report workplace harassment or workplace mobbing is to do it through the company itself, so that it is the latter that takes the pertinent measures.

If the company does not take action on the matter, the intervention of the Labor Inspectorate can be requested. And you can also claim judicially, by three different ways:

  • Labor route : the best option in case the worker wants to terminate his contract and collect unemployment and severance pay.
  • For the criminal : if you want the harasser to receive a punishment, this is the option. Article 173.1 of the Penal Code establishes sentences of 6 months to 2 years in prison for this type of crime. It is also possible to request compensation for damages.
  • By administrative means: reserved for those cases in which the worker is an official of a public administration.

Evidence Needed to Prove Harassment

The most complicated thing for a person who has suffered mobbing at work is, precisely, to prove that this harassment has existed. In the Spanish legal regulations, the presumption of innocence persists, therefore, it is the victim who must demonstrate that he or she has suffered workplace harassment.

For this, it is important to have all possible evidence : WhatsApp messages, SMS messages, images, videos, emails, voice recordings and any other material that could refute the reported facts.

Another piece of evidence with great weight in a judicial process is the expert report of a psychologist who has evaluated the victim and ruled on a clinical diagnosis. It is evidential in nature at trial.

The interrogations also have evidence, among which are the statements of the victim, the accused, or the testimonies of witnesses .

Compensation for being a victim of mobbing

The Workers’ Statute establishes compensation for dismissal for victims of workplace mobbing equivalent to unfair dismissal , that is, 33 days per year worked. They are also entitled to receive unemployment benefit. In addition, you can request compensation for damages . The amount of compensation will depend on factors such as the duration of the workplace harassment or the seriousness of the effects caused on the affected party. The scale used is that of traffic and that of the Law on Infractions and Sanctions in the Social Order.

In the case of claiming by criminal means, damages and losses suffered according to the traffic scale may also be claimed. In this case, compensation for unfair dismissal is not obtained. In exchange, the stalker will face a sentence that ranges between 6 months and 2 years in jail.

This has been all about workplace bullying. Remember, it is a practice that must be eradicated from any company. For the good of the workers and for the business’s own reputation.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.

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