harassment at work (mobbing) is a reality that is increasingly studied and recognized. However , it can still be difficult to identify mobbing where it occurs , especially considering that this form of harassment does not always present the same characteristics.

The different types of mobbing mean that, sometimes, this phenomenon is camouflaged or even interpreted as something that falls within the scope of normality. At the end of the day, wherever this form of harassment occurs, there is an interest in making sure that what happens cannot be used in front of a judge, and this means that in every type of work environment these attacks are adapted to the circumstances.

However, distinguishing the different types of mobbing is not impossible . In this article we’ll go through them, but first we’ll look at an example that will help us recognize the characteristics of this kind of bullying.

A History of Harassment at Work

Cristóbal was a worker highly valued by his company dedicated to tourism, as he responded effectively to any problem that might arise in dealing with customers. He was disciplined, responsible and even worked overtime; simply because he enjoyed his work.He was an employee that any employer would want to have on his team, so he quickly moved up the ladder in his organization to become an airport area manager.

He had been with the company for three years and there were no complaints about him for his good professional work, but everything changed for him from the fourth year due to the restructuring of his company, in which the director had changed.
Apparently, Cristóbal was not to his liking, probably because he hardly knew him and had not hired him .

Changes in the company

After his arrival, the new director accused him of working too little,
of being sexist without any foundation (because of a conflict with an employee who was trusted by the director and in whom Cristobal was right) and decided that he had to carry out tasks that were not at all productive. In addition, the fifth year he decided to place a supervisor who was hierarchically above him. It can be said that the supervisor was not competent enough, as he did not know how to work in a company of this type.

It was Christopher himself who had to teach him how to do the work effectively . The director’s strategy was to have Cristóbal under control, something that was unnecessary since the levels of customer satisfaction in his area of work were the best in the company in the whole of Spain. The mission was clear: to discourage Cristóbal from taking voluntary leave and thus leave the company.

At different points in time,
the director accused Cristobal of creating a bad atmosphere at work without having any proof of it . Simply to prove his men of trust right. And, moreover, he made up lies to discredit his good professional work.

The result was that Cristóbal decided to abandon the work because of the psychological damage he had been subjected to . As a victim of mobbing, he tried to defend himself on several occasions until, as a result of the emotional exhaustion he had reached with this situation, he gave up on staying with the company.

Mobbing: a reality present in the work environment

The above example is a case of mobbing, also known as harassment at work. A phenomenon that occurs in the workplace, and
in which an individual or several individuals systematically and repeatedly exercise psychological violence on another individual or individuals, over a prolonged period of time.

Bullies can be co-workers, superiors or subordinates , and this behaviour can affect workers in any type of company.

Furthermore, on many occasions it is a matter of confusing the victim so that he or she believes that he or she is the culprit of everything that happens, sometimes leading to questioning the sanity of the person who suffers everything . This phenomenon, known as Gaslighting, is very frequent in cases of partner abuse, but it also occurs in harassment at work. One of its effects is that the victim is paralyzed and anchored in the doubts, which makes it possible to continue with the flagrant injustices.

The effects of bullying

Attacks suffered in the workplace can cause
serious psychological problems in the victim(s) (e.g. anxiety, depression, stress), demotivation at work, disruption of the exercise of their duties and, in most cases, damage to their reputation. The more this situation persists, the worse the discomfort generated .

Types of mobbing

Mobbing can be classified in two ways: according to the hierarchical position or according to the objective . What are these types of mobbing? They are summarised below:

1. Harassment at work according to hierarchical position

Depending on the hierarchical position, mobbing can be:

1.1. Horizontal Mobbing

This type of mobbing
is characterized because the stalker and the victim are in the same hierarchical rank . In other words, it often occurs between co-workers, and the psychological repercussions for the victim can be devastating.

The causes of this type of harassment at work can be many and varied, although the most common are: to force a worker to conform to certain rules, out of enmity, to attack the weaker worker, because of differences with the victim, or because of lack of work and boredom.

1.2. Vertical Mobbing

Vertical workplace harassment is called this because either
the stalker is at a higher hierarchical level than the victim or is at a lower level than the victim . Therefore, there are two kinds of vertical mobbing: ascending and descending.

  • Upward mobility : Occurs when a higher level employee is attacked by one or more of his or her subordinates.
  • Downward mobility or bossing : Occurs when a lower-level employee is psychologically harassed by one or more employees in higher positions in the company hierarchy. As we have seen in the case of Cristóbal, it can be carried out as a business strategy to get the harassed worker to leave the company.

2.Harassment at work according to objective

Depending on the objectives that the bully intends to achieve with the mobbing, it can be classified as follows:

2.1. Strategic Mobbing

This is a type of downward or “institutional” harassment . It is characterised by the fact that mobbing is part of the company’s strategy, and the aim is usually for the harassed to terminate his contract voluntarily. In this way, the company does not have to pay him/her the compensation that would be due for unfair dismissal.

2.2. Management Mobbing

This type of mobbing
is carried out by the organisation’s management , generally for various reasons: to dispense with an unsubmissive worker, to reach situations of labour slavery, or to end up with a worker who does not meet the boss’s expectations (for example, because he is too qualified or to make him look bad).

In addition, this type of harassment at work can be carried out to maximize the productivity of the company through fear, using repeated threats of dismissal in the event of failure to meet work objectives.

2.3. Perverse Mobbing

Perverse workplace harassment refers to
a type of mobbing that does not have an employment objective, but the causes are found in the manipulative and harassing personality of the bully. It is a very harmful type of mobbing because the causes that produce the harassment cannot be solved by implementing other work dynamics as long as the person who is harassing remains in the organization or is not re-educated.

This type of stalker usually carries out the mobbing in front of the victim, with no witnesses. He’s very seductive and quickly gains the trust of others. It is common for perverse mobbing to be a horizontal or ascending mobbing.

2.4. Disciplinary Mobbing

This type of mobbing is used to make the person being harassed understand that they must “get into the mould” , because if they don’t they will be punished. However, this type of harassment not only instills fear in the victims, but also warns other colleagues of what could happen to them if they act in this way, creating a work climate in which no one dares to contradict their superior.

It is also used against those people who have many sick leaves, pregnant women, and all those who report fraud by the institution (for example, the accountant who witnesses bribes from the company).

Bibliographic references:

  • Piñuel, I. (2003). Mobbing: how to survive psychological harassment at work . Reading Point Ed. Madrid.