Mobbing in the company - how to protect yourself against it?

Service Business

For the first time, the term mobbing was used by Konrad Lorenz, an Austrian zoologist, to describe the behavior of animals that torn each other apart. Although it may sound a bit scary, mobbing at work is such a metaphorical tearing, an attack on an employee. Always very dangerous, in some cases mobbing may even lead to suicide attempts. What is mobbing, how to recognize it, how to defend yourself against it and how to prevent mobbing in your company?

Mobbing - how does it work?

According to the Labor Code, mobbing is an action or behavior concerning an employee or directed against him. It may be persistent and long-lasting harassment, intimidation of a subordinate, which will cause him to under-evaluate his professional suitability. Negative behaviors are aimed at humiliating, ridiculing, isolating or eliminating an employee from the team.

Not all negative behavior can be considered mobbing. It is assumed that it must occur frequently and over a longer period of time - norms indicate at least six months. Importantly, mobbing behavior does not always mean the employer's attitude towards the employee. Although such relations cover the highest percentage of mobbing, it happens that negative events also arise between employees at the same level, and sometimes even upwards (mobbing may be used by a lower-level employee in relation to a higher-ranking person, e.g. a superior).

Heinz Leymann, a Swedish psychologist, specialist in the field of mobbing and author of many publications on this subject, accurately described the four stages of the phenomenon of mobbing. The first of them was called the critical incident stage. There are minor conflicts in the contacts between the mobber and the victim - criticism, rejection of ideas, unfavorable opinions. These events seem to be so insignificant that they are often underestimated. It's easy to blame them on exhaustion, bad days or temporary problems in the company.

Mobbing - the second stage is stigma and escalation. Conflicts begin to go beyond the dyad and become apparent also among the entire team. The persecutor comments on and criticizes his victim in front of other employees in such a way that it becomes visible to all. Due to the fact that - as mentioned earlier - the mobber is most often a person in a higher position, the victim's associates begin to notice that contacting her may have a negative impact on their image in the eyes of the superior.

In this way, there is a smooth transition to the third stage, which Leymann calls personnel management. Co-workers have already noticed the boss's negative attitude, but most often they are more likely to blame the victim for the situation - it is safer, both in terms of work and emotional relations. The mobbed also begins to feel that he does not fit the team, does not keep up, does not have the appropriate competences, and that his self-esteem and self-esteem begin to decline. The situation is not improved by the fact that co-workers suddenly avoid contact with the victim of mobbing also in non-work situations - they do not eat meals with her, do not make coffee when she is there, do not invite them to possible events and various types of employee events. Thus, the person begins to be completely excluded from the life of the company.

Mobbing in the third stage usually lasts the longest of all, and ultimately leads to the fourth stage - getting rid of the employee. Sometimes he is fired, but often he breaks down himself and leaves the company. In some cases - as already mentioned - the persecuted person may even take suicide.

Persecutor and victim - who can become?

Both the mobber and the mobbed person are usually characterized by certain features that predispose them to such a role.

Again, it is worth emphasizing that, most often, the persecutor is higher in the hierarchy of the company than the victim. Such a person is characterized by an authoritarian personality, i.e. colloquially - he likes to have everything under control, often both in the professional and private sphere. She is very orderly, sometimes perfectionist, and requires the same from her subordinates. At the same time, such a boss rarely leaves a free hand to control every aspect of the proceedings. What he wants is the respect of others - and this desire is most often at the root of mobbing. An authoritarian person is most often suspicious, and with intimidation he wants to nip in the bud any attacks - even imaginary ones - on himself.

On the other hand, there is a mobbing victim. It will not always be a shy person or at the beginning of a career - they are often lively, creative and courageous people with experience, who want to prove themselves in the company. However, the problem is most often the uncertainty as to one's own competences and a high demand for feedback. Such people are prone to criticism and base their opinion on themselves and their abilities on what they get from others.

The victims of mobbing most often do not want to confront the persecutor at the beginning - that is why they have the aforementioned tendency to blame minor nuisance on the account of tiredness and overwork of their supervisor. They often recognize that they are oversensitive and only think they are - such thinking, on the other hand, leads to the next stages of mobbing, from which it is much more difficult to extricate themselves.

It is also worth mentioning here people who perceive themselves as victims of mobbing, and in fact it is only their imagination. This phenomenon is interesting because such people often become mobbers themselves in defense, establishing alliances with their colleagues and thus looking for support for themselves.

How to protect yourself against mobbing?

Being a boss in his own company, an entrepreneur should really pay a lot of attention to establishing such rules that will ensure clarity at work and reduce the likelihood of mobbers. How can this be done?

The key is to define a clear, transparent scope of tasks for each employee from the very beginning. On this basis, however, you should then create a plan for assessing the results and effects of each subordinate. Such arrangements will make it possible to build on actual events and reward real achievements. Also, in the event of possible errors, the employer will be able to criticize his employee referring to specific shortcomings.

In the case of providing feedback, one should also stick to the appropriate canons. First of all, you should never judge a person, but - his work. Thus, messages relating to the person of the employee ("you are lazy", "you cannot be relied on") should not appear in the conversation. However, when criticizing, you need to point out specific shortcomings and present your expectations for correcting them ("this week your projects were received late, I would like you to send them on time from tomorrow"). Also, do not ridicule the subordinate - the basic principle is always showing respect to another person, and it is all the more important the more the other person is dependent on someone.

When deciding to provide feedback, you should also focus on your own emotions. The boss, even if he is in friendly relations with employees, should not show his emotions, especially if they are negative. On the other hand, it is not correct to choke anger or negative feedback and then call on the rug. In such a situation, it is difficult to talk to an employee, indicate areas where something needs to be improved.

It is also worth remembering that even if the company is organized in teams, conversations regarding job evaluation, criticism and even praise should still take place in private. Giving a public reprimand or making someone a role model does not improve the mood in the company. In extreme cases - even if the employer did not consciously have such a goal - it may provoke ostracism and mobbing. You should also never express criticism in the form of allusions, thrown in passing on the forum - "I do not want to accuse anyone, but there is a person who makes our team limp". If there is actually a campaign against an employee in the company - it is clearly a manifestation of mobbing, if not, then there will be tension in the team related to the fact that employees do not know who the criticism was addressed to.

Being a boss is also not very pleasant duties, such as the need to dismiss an employee. However, the basic rule is that it is the boss who has hired that should also fire. You should never use intermediaries for this purpose. It is also worth remembering that for most people, having to say goodbye to your position is a difficult experience. And again - a non-mobbing boss is one who, even while firing him, tries to give the employee as much as possible. It does not judge, but presents the facts that contributed to the decision. If possible, he offers good references.

Psychologists also try hard to draw employers' attention to the flow of information in the company. No gossip, bumps or complaints. Only clear messages, avoiding secret conflicts, in which one of the parties tries to "drag" the boss to his side, allow for an objective view of the company.

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What can a mobbed do?

The employer's efforts to prevent harassment of employees in the company give a good chance that the relations will be correct. But what if there is a persecutor among the subordinates or - even worse - when you find a company where the boss becomes such a person? The mobbed person may use any of the techniques listed below.

The first is called the "stay and survive" strategy. Good for really self-confident, mentally strong people who additionally have support in the company. However, most people find it difficult to function in such conditions, let alone maintain respect and positive self-esteem. It is also not a long-term method, but rather for people who are trying to find an alternative job.

The second strategy is "stay and fight." The person who chooses it must seek support from colleagues or the management board. It is necessary to talk to other people from the company, because it may happen that they have also experienced negative treatment on the part of the employer or a specific co-worker. However, more people have a chance to defeat the aggressor. Mobbed persons are also advised to keep a diary and record specific behaviors, marked with a date and time. In this way, documentation is collected in the event of possible legal proceedings. One of the possibilities is also talking to a mobber - telling directly about your feelings and expectations. Do not use threats or accusations, only present facts.

The last strategy seems to be the most obvious - "I'm leaving." If it's hard to find support in your current workplace and mobber goes unpunished, this may be the healthiest solution. It is difficult for even strong people to cope with a mobbing situation, and they often pay for a possible fight - even a win - with health problems.

Mobbing is a very destructive phenomenon that can destroy not only its victim, but also the persecutor. At the same time, it has a very bad impact on the company and its external image. Therefore, every boss should take all measures to protect himself against mobbing in his company.

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