Published Articles

Bullying and Mobbing in the Workforce
published in February 2005 issue of QC Family Focus

Anthony D. Rodriguez, MSW, LISW, LCSW, BCSA

The International Labor Organizations (ILO) concluded that workplace violence, intimidations, and harassment have become a planet-wide phenomena. In the US alone an estimated 1 in every 5 workers are bullied sometime during the course of their career. Other researchers have estimated that 20 million American workers are abused on a daily basis. Consequently, Corporate America spends billions of dollarrs due to loss of production, training cost, healthcare, legal fallout, and negative publicity.

In the 90s, the term “going postal” became a common vernacular for violence in the work environment. Though those events were tragic, other forms of abuse called bullying and mobbing are an everyday occurrence. Yet few have heard such terms as they pertain to the workplace. The ILO defines bullying as “a vindictive, cruel, malicious or humiliating attempt to undermine an individual or group of employees”. Mobbing on the other hand is “a concerted effort by a group of workers to denigrate and ostracize a fellow employee”. The goal is to create a hostile work environment in which the victim is forced out of the workplace.

Bullying and mobbing behaviors are attacks on a person's self-expression, social relationships, reputation, quality of profession, and personal health. These attacks can be in the form of constant interruptions, treatment of a person as though he/she is invisible, ostracism, harassment or a physical threat. The extreme is violence itself. Acts of violence end in fatalities 4% of the time.

As a single occurrence, bullying and mobbing behaviors are at the very least unprofessional. However, if t hese behaviors are pervasive and occur over time, they can be considered abusive and create a hostile work environment. To those victimized, these aggressions affect their emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Generally those who are targeted by bullying or mobbing experience exhaustion, shakiness, obsessive thinking, nightmares, poor concentration and sleeplessness. Because the autonomic nervous system is effected, they may also experience heart palpitation, sweating hands, and shortness of breath. They become jumpy, tense, agitated, and irritable (all of which paints the victim as a troubled employee). There is increased tardiness and absenteeism from work. Some experience severe depression, panic attack, and accidents. In worse cases, there are suicidal or homicidal attempts. Because of dread, disgust, and fear of work, the victim is no longer able to perform and is expelled from work (via resignation, termination, or constructive discharge). If not done appropriately, the separation from work further exacerbates symptoms.

If you are being abused at work, begin to document the dry facts of each occurrence. Include date, time, who was involved, what was said/done, and what was the outcome. If you cannot resolve the issue with your coworker, speak to your supervisor and Human Resource representative. It is important to be calm and reasonable, but be aware that a single event may be difficult for them to understand. Hence, by providing them documented events, you can present to them the big picture.

Because the effects from bullying and mobbing can be devastating, see a professional to deal with your experience so you can once again be productive. You can start with your Employee Assistance Professional (EAP) who has an appreciation of your work environment. Your EAP cna advocate for you and be a conduit between you and HR/management. If you feel uncomfortable with your EAP, see a counselor who understands bullying and mobbing in the workplace.


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