Bullying at the workplace: What you can do about it

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Bullying at the workplace: What you can do about it

Bullying in the workplace is no trivial matter. Targeted hostility, harassment and discrimination can be punishable under certain circumstances. Mobbing, also known as bullying, impairs the relationship of trust within the company. This is because it is not only those affected who suffer from bullying in the workplace, but the entire team. Negative effects on the working atmosphere are therefore inevitable.

Bullying attacks cause both psychological and physical damage to those bullied. It is not uncommon for workplace bullying to lead to prolonged absenteeism. Frequently, psychological support in the form of behavioral therapy must be sought in order to cope with the mental consequences of targeted bullying attacks.

Those affected usually suffer for years

Harassment on the job can in principle be directed against anyone. It is not always a criminal offense. Often, the misconduct is interpreted by managers or colleagues as a "one-time slip". People who are affected by workplace bullying usually suffer for years.

Targeted psychological terror can, in extreme cases, lead to admission to a psychiatric clinic and the (temporary) loss of the ability to work. For this reason alone, you should know what bullying at work is, what you can do about it, and what you can do about it. Mobbing and what you can do about it.

What is workplace bullying?

Your boss is always in a bad mood? Important information that you need to complete your tasks is withheld from you? You have the feeling that people are gossiping about you behind your back? Is this a Misunderstanding, disrespect or a bullying attack? What is bullying at work and what is not?

The English word Mobbing is translated into German as mobbing or harassing. The official description of mobbing is that it is about conflicts in the workplace that are carried out among colleagues or between managers and employees.

Victims are attacked and slandered

Bullying in the workplace is always unfair. Bullying differs from everyday conflict situations in that there is an intention to hurt and discriminate. Those affected are attacked and slandered in a targeted and systematic manner, directly or indirectly.

In the legal sense, acts of mobbing are considered violations of personal rights. Mobbing in the workplace occurs when hostility, discrimination and harassment occur regularly and/or over a long period of time. If the bullying attacks come from superiors, this is referred to as "bossing".

Workplace bullying examples include:

  • Actions experienced as discrimination
  • Defamation of a person
  • false claims
  • open hostilities
  • Insults
  • crude jokes
  • Discriminations
  • Psychoterror

The aim of bullying actions is to exclude the affected persons or to expel them from a group. This is achieved by false allegations and groundless belittling of performance. The withholding of important information and the assignment of inferior tasks that do not correspond to a job and qualification are further harassment that indicate mobbing.

mobbing at the workplace examples

How does bullying occur?

There are many causes for bullying in the workplace. Envy or Jealousy in the circle of colleagues, an authoritarian management style as well as general internal problems can promote the emergence of a mobbing atmosphere.

The exact time of the beginning of a bullying attack is difficult to determine later. Bullying in the workplace often starts insidiously. It starts with unfriendly comments, supposed misunderstandings and exaggerated criticism.

Whether someone feels "bullied" depends on personal feelings. Some people put away insults and accusations more easily than others. In addition, accusations of bullying are not always justified. An unfriendly look from a superior or a rude answer to a question are not bullying attacks.

Lack of communication and poor working atmosphere create fertile ground

In the early stages, it is difficult to draw the line between uncooperative behavior and workplace bullying. A lack of communication and a poor working atmosphere form the fertile ground on which bullying thrives.

When important information is not shared with employees, rumors quickly start. False allegations make the rounds. A lack of leadership competence as well as a leadership style characterized by authoritarian behavior fosters bullying in the workplace.

Managers in particular have the competence and the opportunity to prevent bullying. However, this presupposes that bullying in the workplace is recognized at an early stage.

Competition fosters mobbing

Work organizational or structural mismanagement are frequent reasons for internal mobbing attacks. Stress is caused by staff shortages and permanent overwork. Employees feel unappreciated or treated unfairly when they are saddled with too much work. Supposedly less capable colleagues fall victim to mobbing.

Unfair promotion opportunities and the resulting competition in the company encourage bullying at the workplace. Those who feel disadvantaged often react to this with mobbing. Targeted slander and false allegations are used to "eliminate" potential competitors.

Envy is an important catalyst. A promotion that is difficult for others to comprehend scratches at the Self-esteem. Bullying in the workplace is then the outlet used to get rid of frustration.

Employees who have a good relationship with superiors are particularly often the target of bullying attacks. The confidential way of dealing is observed by others with concern and regarded as suspicious. Behind this behavior are Fear of loss and lack of self-esteem. Fear of losing one's job can lead to bullying others.

What all falls under workplace bullying?

Bullying in the workplace manifests itself in different ways. Bullying is distinguished between different forms. These are:

  • Bossing
  • Staffing
  • Straining
  • Gaslighting

Bossing is classic bullying, which is not carried out by employees with equal rights, but by superiors. It is difficult to take action against this type of bullying because managers are usually in a better position.

At Staffing the boss's bullying attacks are practically carried out by his subordinate employees. For those affected, this represents a major challenge. First of all, it is important to find out where the bullying is coming from in the first place.

Targeted hostility

The term Straining has only recently been used to describe bullying in the workplace. This special form of bullying describes an approach that is perceived as constant harassment. Those affected are targeted and subjected to stressful situations that they can hardly cope with on their own. Psychological overload is a frequent consequence of straining.

Gaslighting is a subtle form of bullying. The psychological term gaslighting is used to describe efforts to make victims so insecure through bullying that their Self-confidence is gradually destroyed. Someone then deliberately scatters inaccurate allegations to create the impression that the person concerned is incompetent, lazy or simply unable to perform the tasks.

mobbing at work what to do

What is not bullying?

Bullying is poison for the working atmosphere and hard to bear. However, not every nasty remark or unkind action is bullying at work. How can you tell the difference between bullying and a bad working atmosphere? If your boss doesn't greet you in the morning, it's probably because he's tired or busy. If, on the other hand, you are repeatedly passed over for important projects, you should be concerned.

Being instructed to take on inferior work can mean demotion. Whether this is also mobbing depends on the situation. Your superiors may well ask you to perform tasks that are not explicitly stated in your employment contract.

If internal bottlenecks arise due to sick leave, the employer is dependent on your active support. This should not become the rule. Let your boss know that you are willing to help your company in exceptional cases.

A warning is not mobbing per se, even if the reason for it is completely unjustified. However, if the warning is used to "construct" a reason for dismissal, it may be bullying in the workplace. You should therefore react quickly to warnings.

Arrange a clarifying discussion with the HR department. Write down your arguments so that you can better defend your point of view. Contact the works council if you fear that someone is bullying you.

Derisive remarks from work colleagues are generally not considered bullying. Mockery and biting criticism of your appearance, hairstyle, makeup or clothing style are more likely to indicate a lack of social skills. If someone at the workplace calls you names, criticizes or insults you for your performance in an inappropriate way, then inform your superiors about it. Whether it is actually bullying depends on various factors. In a joint conversation you can Clarify conflicts and find solutions.

What are the causes of workplace bullying?

Bullying in the workplace can be caused by a wide variety of factors. One of the most common causes of bullying is low self-esteem. People who do not feel value, try to strengthen their own ego by bullying others.

The main causes of workplace bullying are:

  • unfair distribution of work
  • Lack of trust in superiors
  • unsuitable Leadership style
  • contradictory instructions
  • Deficiencies in the communication structure
  • Over- and underchallenge
  • Restructuring processes within the company
  • unclear responsibilities

Unfair distribution of work leads to jealousy and mistrust. Lack of trust in management as well as an inappropriate, overly authoritarian management style fosters mobbing attacks.

Conflicting instructions often lead to misunderstandings. This creates an internal climate that is an ideal breeding ground for mobbing behavior.

Workplace bullying signs such as a lack of respect in dealing with others, the spread of rumors and intrigue are often due to deficiencies in the communication structure.

Unclear responsibilities cause confusion. The Uncertainty grows. The desire to create clarity and exclude supposed know-it-alls often ends in bullying.

In the event of restructuring processes within the company, job cuts cannot be ruled out. Driven by the Fear before the loss of the job, others are bullied with the aim of keeping their own job.

How can you prove you are a bullying victim?

Bullying attacks endanger career and health alike. What to do in case of bullying at work? If you are being bullied, you must prove this fact. Systematic harassment is best documented in writing. Use a bullying diary in which you describe in detail every incident that you perceive as bullying.

Your records serve as a basis for the necessary personnel interview. However, they are not evidence in the legal sense. Every employer has a duty of care to prevent bullying. Inform your superiors immediately if acts of bullying make your everyday working life more difficult.

Bullying at work: confide in someone

Are there witnesses who have seen bullying attacks against you? Talk about it with your colleagues. Other team members may be affected by bullying. Join forces with others to take action against bullies. Sometimes former co-workers are willing to report bullying incidents. Ask ex-colleagues to support you with their testimony.

Photos can also be helpful in proving workplace bullying. However, most bullying is more verbal. Check your email! If you receive verbal abuse, hatred, or incitement in writing, take it to your employer or, before a lawsuit, to your lawyer.

How to behave in case of workplace bullying?

Bullying at the workplace will only stop if you take action! Regardless of whether you are the victim of bullying or an uninvolved bystander, you should react immediately. Bullying attacks can have serious consequences for your health, for example:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Burnout
  • Exhaustion
  • post-traumatic stress syndrome

Do you feel helpless and ask yourself the question: Bullying at work - what can I do? You can expect support from your superiors, the HR department and the works council. Other competent contacts are psychologists and lawyers who specialize in labor law.

Make it clear to those being bullied in the workplace that you will not put up with bullying. Support colleagues who are being bullied by making it clear that the victim is not alone.

As a manager, you have an obligation to prevent bullying in the workplace. Ensure a good culture of discussion. Be open to your team members' problems. Regular feedback is one way to learn more about your employees' goals and expectations. Topic-specific training can be a personality test or a self-awareness seminar, for example. Understanding yourself, your own behavior and that of others helps prevent bullying.

Is bullying punishable by law?

Is workplace bullying a criminal offense? Although bullying attacks are extremely unpleasant and difficult to cope with, they are not always justiciable acts. In the legal context, it is only in the case of:

  • defamation
  • sexual assault
  • Assault

a criminal offense. In these cases, you can file criminal charges. According to labor law, bullying at the workplace also occurs in the case of non-punishable behavior. For example, withholding important information is classified as a breach of contract.

If you are not informed about things that are important for your area of work, you can hold your employer responsible. A warning becomes invalid if it becomes clear that you have been deprived of essential information. Become active and take self-confident action against mobbing! In this way, you can avoid bullying behavior in the workplace becoming the subject of legal disputes.

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