Bullying and underhanded tactics by the popular kids supposedly ends in high school; unfortunately for some workers, harassment is also part of the professional setting in the workplace. According to the website Overcome Bullying, Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann coined the term workplace mobbing in the 1980s. Mobbing occurs when a group of employees gang up on another and harasses him, often pushing him out of the workplace and causing severe psychological stress. You can take several actions to help the victim.
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Keep a record of all mobbing incidents, including the nature of the incident, the date and time it happened and the parties involved. Having a record is helpful when you to take the problem to the Human Resources Department, or if you pursue legal action. Save any harassing e-mails or voice mails.
Speak to people not directly involved in the bullying behaviour and ask for their perspectives. According to a May 2007 article on BNET, you can easily mistaken a single incident that felt like bullying for a breakdown in communication. Talking with coworkers can help you more objectively judge your situation. If you're dealing with repeated harassment, witnesses can also corroborate your story when you take the problem to HR or upper management.
Report the mobbing to your immediate supervisor and to Human Resources. Use your records and witnesses to support your complaint.
Start looking for a new place to work. Even if management deals with the mobbing behaviour and your work atmosphere becomes less toxic, you'll feel empowered to do something about your situation; always remember that you have options. If the environment doesn't improve, you can leave the stress behind for a new beginning at a different workplace.
Look after yourself. Maintain healthy relationships outside of the workplace. Use trusted friends and family members as sounding boards to blow off steam. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and consider meditation to keep yourself physically and mentally strong.
Get a referral from your insurance company or your medical doctor to see a counsellor, especially if you're experiencing depression or physical stress symptoms, such as sleep disturbances and stomach problems. Even if you think you're managing your emotions well on your own, a counsellor can still be beneficial for preventing future psychological issues.
Tips and warnings
- Bullies aren't as strong as they appear to be. They often gang up on others out of insecurity. Realise that you're a stronger person than your mobbers and you'll have the self-confidence to deal with incidents aimed to bring you down.
- If you have thoughts of suicide, seek professional help immediately.
- If a co-worker utters threats that make you fear for your physical safety, speak with someone from HR immediately and call the police.
- Mobbing that spreads outside the workplace is particularly dangerous. Contact the authorities immediately for assistance.
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- OvercomeBullying.org; Mobbing -- At the Mercy of the Mob; Professor Kenneth Westhues
- Workplace Bullying Institute; Workplace Mobbing -- Individual and Family Health Consequences; Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry; October 2007
- Schneider Family Services; How to Combat Workplace Mobbing; Gina Simmons, Ph.D.; March 31, 2010
- BNET; Dealing with Bullying or Harassment in the Workplace; May 2007
- BNET; Survive Workplace Bullying -- Don't Be a Victim; Steve Tobak; April 2010