Bullying or mobbing

Bullying or mobbing

Harassment or mobbing is a serious problem that has been increasing in recent years. This situation not only affects the performance of work activity but also produces psychological problems in the victim and affects people who are part of their environment. In addition, the biggest problem lies in the great difficulty that exists in most cases to prove its existence due to the cunning and insight of the people who carry it out. Let's look in greater depth at what this situation of abuse consists of.


  • 1 What is workplace bullying?
  • 2 How is it produced?
  • 3 How is the victim prevented from acting?
  • 4 What to do in a situation of workplace harassment?
  • 5 Mobbing and legislation

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is an emerging problem in our society that deserves special attention for the consequences that it causes. But before delving into its mechanisms, let's see how it is defined by different authors who are experts in the subject.

Heinz Leimann, doctor of pedagogical psychology and pioneer in the study of workplace harassment was the first to use the word mobbing to refer to this situation as "one in which a person or a group of people exerts extreme psychological violence, in a systematic and recurring way (on average once a week) and for a prolonged time (on average about six months) on another person or people in the place of work, in order to destroy the communication networks of the victim or victims, destroy their reputation, disrupt the exercise of their work and finally ensure that person or people end up leaving the workplace".

On the other hand, Marie-France Hirigoyen, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst specialized in psychological harassment issues defines it as "any manifestation of abusive behavior and, especially, the behaviors, words, acts, gestures and writings that may threaten the personality, dignity or physical or psychological integrity of an individual or that may jeopardize their employment or, degrade the work environment".

Finally, Professor A. Ovejero considers that "the objectives of the stalkers are on the one hand, socially isolate the harassed and on the other, sink their self-esteem, undoing their identity and self-definition".

As we see all refer to the same but with a different vocabulary coinciding in the existence of a power relationship that aims to destroy another person.

How is it produced?

Workplace harassment originates in a bland way and is spreading insidiously as days go by. At first, the person who is harassed does not want to feel offended by the behaviors of their peers so they do not take their comments, hints and vexations seriously. But as these attacks multiply regularly, the victim begins to feel cornered and gradually loses a part of herself. Every day after finishing his working day he returns home worn, humiliated and sunk.

However, in a work group it is normal that at a specific time conflicts arise in which some hurtful comments or warnings are exchanged, the problem arises when this is repeated over time and fixed in a certain person. Marie-France Hirigoyen says that when workplace harassment appears it's like starting a machine that can crush everything. In addition, as a general rule, the rest of the partners, whether for selfishness, baseness or fear, prefer to stay out of the situation. What causes that the affected person is alone and without support before the threats.

Harassment or mobbing is a circular phenomenon since the behaviors of the aggressor are destined to trigger anxiety in the victim, which causes a defensive attitude on their part that in turn generates new aggressions. Thus, fear will cause the victim to behave in certain moments in a pathological way and this will be used by the aggressor later as an alibi to retroactively justify his aggression. So this situation will go unnoticed on most occasions and will only begin to see some light when the victim reacts visibly through crying, a nervous breakdown or when he or she frequently withdraws.

The conflict usually degenerates due to the little interest that arouses the superiors of the company, feeling the victim that is not defended and in some cases, perceiving the abuse also by those who agree that the situation continues without intervening. Now if at any time a person reacts in a healthy way, the harassment process stops.

How is the victim prevented from acting?

Not only the fear of unemployment acts as a paralyzing factor for the victim but also the perverse mechanisms that the aggressors put in place to attack the victim psychologically and prevent them from reacting are also important. Initially what is sought is to affect your critical sense to lose it and who does not know who is right or not. He is criticized, monitored and subjected to constant stress so that he is continuously in suspense. It doesn't matter what the starting point is because the procedure is always the same as Marie-France Hirigoyen explains "the problem is not named but someone acts in an overlapping way to eliminate a person instead of looking for a solution. For its part, the group amplifies this situation, because the aggressor uses it as a testimony or as an active part in the phenomenon. " Subsequently, workplace harassment will go through different stages that have one point in common: deny communication.

So, some of the strategies that prevent the victim from acting On the part of the aggressor they are:

  • Rejection of direct communication
  • Disqualifications
  • Discredit
  • Isolation
  • Make him hazing
  • Induce it to error
  • Sexually harass her

Although not all are present in cases of workplace harassment if most of them occur. Further, the stalker usually has a characteristic personality with narcissistic, irascible and negative traits. If, together with this, it is added that he has a superior position at work level, the situation will be much more problematic due to the abuse of power that he can perform.

So, The characteristic aspects common to a situation of harassment at work are:

  • Emotional wear of the victim due to constant stress and suffering
  • Establishment of an asymmetric relationship between the aggressor and the victim
  • Intention by the aggressor to harm the victim
  • Silence by the rest of the workers
  • Isolation of the group by the victim and inability to continue performing the activities and tasks
  • Decrease in work performance by the victim
  • Context of labor instability

What to do in a situation of workplace harassment?

As we can see, workplace harassment is a worrying and complex situation that we cannot let go unnoticed. So It is important that it be approached from the health field but also from the legal and labor field to put an end to it.The main thing is to take action as soon as possible.

At the health level, going to a psychologist or psychiatrist will help the victim to elaborate everything that has happened, face it and reduce its negative effects. While at the labor level it is recommended to inform the corresponding agencies so that they are aware of the situation and can act either at the level of the company or the Labor Inspectorate. Finally, as external resources would be the denunciation of the situation with the objective of taking legal measures that can resolve and eradicate it.

In these cases, the problem arises of how to objectively demonstrate what happened since there is hardly any evidence because the aggressors are responsible for leaving no trace. Thus, It is recommended to gather all possible information and evidence. The question is not to remain in the passivity and make this situation disappear as soon as possible to reduce both physical and psychological costs in the victim.

Mobbing and legislation

There are already many Reports and Documents of International Organizations, from the ILO to the European Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions, through the European Parliament itself, which account for the size and seriousness of the issue. At this time, perhaps, in some cases, an excessive social alarm has been created regarding the exponential growth of this phenomenon in recent months, but aside from that, the fact is that we can say that today in the country there are between 700,000 and 1,000 .000 of workers affected by moral harassment at work, a figure that on the other hand coincides with those evidenced for countries around us Sweden, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy….

Our legal system does not have a specific response to this phenomenon, which is why we have attended this year a wide range of legislative initiatives, especially the preliminary draft reform of the Criminal Code that creates the crime of Moral or Labor Harassment, in parallel, also, to what is being produced in Europe, and in America. However, the success of the proposals introduced so far has been minimal, if not void.

All of this does not mean that there are no instruments in current Law sufficiently effective to deal with this “social plague” of the 21st century - which is situated in a broader context of intensifying the phenomena of violence in organizations, whether domestic already economic-business and public-administrative. The proof is that both the Labor Inspectorate, Prosecutors and the Judiciary are showing signs of understanding and fighting the phenomenon.

Despite all this there is a lot of confusion, since it is not just about delimiting or correctly typifying prohibited behavior, so far abandoned exclusively to clinical practice and studies of psychology and psychiatry professionals, but to mark the path of action to follow. This ignorance generates a high degree of frustration in the victims and may be one of the reasons, together with other factors, of the few complaints that are currently produced, and, when they occur, of the low success rate of the actions taken to cape.

Neither the lawyers, nor the judges, nor the prosecutors are sufficiently prepared to face this new figure with reasonable guarantees. The question, however, is not the absence of legal tools or techniques to respond, but of a great training deficit, given the novelty of the phenomenon as a new legal concept.