Mobbing: what it consists of and how to recognize it. From the psychological and physical consequences of mobbing, to forms of prevention and training to combat this phenomenon.
In recent years there has been an increase in mobbing cases in multiple working contexts. It is a complex phenomenon that has only recently been systematized, but whose origin is actually very ancient.
Advertising message The harassing, hostile and aggressive acts exercised in the workplace have always existed, but only in recent decades has there been an attempt to increase awareness of the subtle and manipulative dynamics that lie behind this phenomenon. Mobbing can be the cause of multiple disorders affecting both the relational and mental sphere, as well as the physical and neurovegetative one. The mobbing actions are able to condition every aspect of the individual’s life, compromising not only the psychophysical health, but also the main human relationships, such as family relationships. Therefore, it is of primary importance to intervene through specific prevention, training and information courses,
Mobbing can be defined as a complex and problematic phenomenon of psychological terrorism perpetrated in the workplace (H. Ege, 1996). From the etymological point of view, the term mobbing derives from the English verb “to mob”, which means to attack, assault and crowd around someone.
Mobbing, initially born and studied in depth in the field of ethology, has been the subject of study in the working context since the 90s, thanks to the contribution of the Swedish psychologist of German origins Heinz Leymann. Mobbing is considered by H. Leymann as a set of psychological harassment, exerted on the workplace, by a colleague or a superior, with recurrent and protracted episodes over time (H. Leymann, 1996). More specifically, H. Leymann defines Mobbing as a set of hostile behaviors that concern three main areas: communication, reputation and performance. As for the first point, Mobbing is carried out through a dysfunctional, hostile, presumptuous communication, perpetrated systematically by one or more individuals and directed against one or more workers, who are pushed into a position of helplessness and impossibility of defense. Then there are the behaviors that aim to destroy the reputation of the worker, through subtle strategies such as gossip, offenses, derision on the physical aspect and public humiliations. Finally, mobbing can also aim at the victim’s performance, who can be professionally disqualified, or forced to perform dangerous tasks for his / her own psychophysical safety (H. Leymann, 1993). The effect of these behaviors acted by the mobber is to annihilate the victim of Mobbing over time, leading her to feel incapable, useless and deprived of any form of value and self-esteem. The reasons can be manifold, many times it may be a strategy aimed at driving away workers who have become “uncomfortable”, leading them to voluntarily resign or arriving at a dismissal procedure (H. Ege, 2002). Therefore, in order to talk about mobbing, the mobbing actions must be acted by the mobber over time (a period longer than six months), with a frequency of at least one episode per week (H. Leymann, 1990). It is important to underline that this is a phenomenon not limited to the work environment, but much more extensive. The psychological, physical and psychosomatic difficulties that the victim of Mobbing can develop, mess up every area of the individual’s life, often resulting in mental disorders such as depressive episodes, insomnia, panic attacks and eating disorders. One of the contexts that is most affected by the negative consequences of mobbing is certainly the family of the mobbed worker. The family represents the main place in which all the feelings of frustration and helplessness arising from the unhealthy and pathological work environment are poured out. However, the daily dose of negativity that the victim of Mobbing brings to his family unit, can lead to a real crisis in the relationship with family members, who, after various attempts to encourage and support the relative in difficulty, end up with the exhaustion of available resources to face the working problem, and therefore the phenomenon that H. Ege defines as “Double Mobbing” occurs (H. Ege, 2002). The victim ends up finding himself completely alone and misunderstood, deprived even of the possibility of finding support and understanding in his family, and it is precisely at this stage that the most tragic scenarios can emerge. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in mobbing-related suicides in recent years. These are suicides that many times can be defined as such only on paper, as they represent the last desperate choice made by those who have suffered for too long the deleterious effects of the reprehensible and inhuman conduct acted in the world of work. Therefore, rather than suicides, one could speak of masked murders. These extreme gestures can be considered as the last step that the victim of Mobbing wants to take, in order to free himself once and for all from a terrifying torment whose weight has become unsustainable over time. These are drastic decisions, not easy to accept and understand for those who have never found themselves in the role of the victim of Mobbing. For these reasons, it is of fundamental importance to reflect on the critical nature of this serious phenomenon, because it is a reality that encompasses multiple values and meanings. Just think of the value that work has always had in the history of the human being. Work is something that defines and structures the identity of man. The possibility of doing a job offers the individual the opportunity to feel productive and capable of supporting themselves independently. From this derives a sense of gratification and personal satisfaction which is indispensable for healthy self-esteem and a positive perception of one’s social image. Therefore, should problems affecting the productive function of the individual arise, such as criticisms of his work, humiliations, harassment and denigrating acts, it is self-evident that the emotional meaning of these events can be destructive for the worker. Feeling continually devalued in one’s operational skills is something that wears out and that digs a deep wound in the inner world of the individual. One of the most worrying consequences can be the destructuring of the person’s identity, who can no longer recognize himself, his qualities and his value, until he reaches a condition of annihilation. it goes without saying that the emotional meaning of these events can be destructive for the worker. Feeling continually devalued in one’s operational skills is something that wears out and that digs a deep wound in the inner world of the individual. One of the most worrying consequences can be the destructuring of the person’s identity, who can no longer recognize himself, his qualities and his value, until he reaches a condition of annihilation. it goes without saying that the emotional meaning of these events can be destructive for the worker. Feeling continually devalued in one’s operational skills is something that wears out and that digs a deep wound in the inner world of the individual. One of the most worrying consequences can be the destructuring of the person’s identity, who can no longer recognize himself, his qualities and his value, until he reaches a condition of annihilation.
Advertising message Paying attention to this phenomenon is surely the first step to try to counteract such a great inconvenience. It is good to specify that intervening on mobbing does not mean limiting oneself to treating only the psychophysical symptoms manifested by the victim, but it is necessary to act more broadly. Mobbing is a phenomenon of socio-cultural interest, which in most cases has its roots in an unhealthy and dysfunctional organization of the working context, therefore all the actors belonging to this environment must be involved, since each of them contributes unconsciously or consciously to the maintenance of those relational dynamics that lead to the implementation of hostile and bullying behavior. So the psychology of work and organizations, with its wealth of specific cognitive and intervention tools for production contexts, it is undoubtedly a valuable resource for dealing with this form of hardship. Even more useful can be the commitment dedicated to prevention activities. So, in addition to intervening on the full-blown situations of Mobbing (i.e. where Mobbing has already manifested itself producing its harmful consequences), it is especially important to prevent it through targeted initiatives such as training and information courses. We can also act well in advance, starting from education and education, as the transmission of the main ethical values and social and civil coexistence can represent an important step for the formation of a healthy collective conscience, capable of combating all forms of violence and / or discrimination against human beings. It is essential to educate the new generations to respect the human being, whose protection must not be entrusted only and exclusively to the institutions (delegating the latter to resolve any difficulty), but also to our sense of social responsibility, from the perspective an active and participatory citizenship.
Prevention can also be planned at company level, for example through training courses focused on conflict management and mobbing, or at a professional level, by contacting the network of the main professionals working in the field of mobbing, such as doctors, psychologists and lawyers. In fact, mobbing is a phenomenon that must be contrasted on multiple levels: ethical, institutional and legislative.
Finally, to contribute to the prevention and contrast of mobbing, each of us can start by paying attention to the relational dynamics that are created in one’s work environment, denouncing morally incorrect, violent and aggressive conduct, and, above all, renouncing that passive and humorous attitude that too many times has produced innocent victims.