Mobbing at work

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Mobbing, as defined by Article 94 of the Polish Labour Code, means persistent and long-lasting harassment or mistreatment of an employee. This behavior can involve actions that make the employee feel humiliated, isolated, or excluded.

Not all conflicts are mobbing. The Labour Code says mobbing must happen over time. The employee who’s targeted has to show it’s happening. Sometimes employees don’t say anything because they’re afraid of losing their job. Mobbing can look different to the person it’s happening to and to others who see it.

Effects of mobbing – what happens to employers and perpetrators

At work, it’s the employer’s job to stop mobbing. If they don’t, they might get fined or have to pay the victim. Employers can also punish the person doing the mobbing. They can take away bonuses, lower pay, or move the person to a different job.

The mobber also faces consequences. In some cases, mobbing can even be against the law and treated like a crime.

Spotting mobbing at work

Mobbing is when the hurtful actions keep happening over time and affect an employee’s self-esteem. To identify mobbing:

  • Look for actions that are repeated and last for a while,
  • Watch out for actions that make the person feel worse about themselves.

Both things have to happen for it to be mobbing.

Different types of mobbing

Mobbing can happen between different job levels. It’s not just about professional positions. There are different types of mobbing:

  • Vertical Mobbing: This is when someone higher up harasses someone lower down.
  • Horizontal Mobbing: This is harassment between colleagues on the same level.

Mobbing isn’t just about hierarchy. There are two main types:

  • Direct Mobbing: The mobber directly harasses the victim, making them feel bad in front of others.
  • Indirect Mobbing: The mobber does things behind the victim’s back, like spreading rumors or excluding them from things.

Stages of Mobbing

Mobbing often escalates gradually, passing through several phases before reaching a critical point. Recognizing the distinct phases can help address the issue promptly and reduce its impact on the workplace atmosphere.

Early phase of mobbing

This phase marks the transition from a simple conflict to a desire to harm another person. Signs include reluctance to communicate, unwarranted criticism, and attempts to exclude the victim from team activities.

Conflict escalation phase

During this phase, negative comments about the victim circulate among colleagues. The mobber publicly criticizes the victim’s skills, arranges social gatherings without them, and instigates rumors or false information.

Advanced phase

In this dangerous stage, the victim becomes a scapegoat within the company, and their self-esteem suffers significantly. Psychological mobbing can lead to severe mental health problems and potentially undermine the victim’s ability to perform their job.

Final phase of mobbing

In extreme cases, mobbing can manifest as physical violence or forgery, which further degrades the victim’s reputation and self-worth. Such prolonged abuse can have long-lasting consequences on the victim’s mental well-being.

Methods of operation of bullies/mobbers:

  • Isolation: This tactic involves excluding the victim from social interactions and making them feel unwanted.
  • Obstruction: Deliberate attempts to hinder the victim’s work, leading to their dismissal.
  • Humiliation and Ridicule: Mobbing involving public criticism and belittlement of the victim’s achievements and competencies.

Documenting mobbing

Proof of mobbing usually rests with the affected employee. Conversations with employers, labor inspectorates, or courts should be supported by documented instances of mobbing. While recording a perpetrator without their consent may be disputable, actions such as salary cuts, threats, and excessive overtime are easier to document. Archiving conversations on private and business messengers can provide indisputable evidence. Convincing witnesses to testify in court or confirm the victim’s account can also help gather additional evidence.

Protecting yourself from mobbing

Addressing the issue directly with the perpetrator, if safe, can help stop their behavior. If dialogue is ineffective, seeking assistance from supervisors or the CEO is recommended. Employers have a duty to combat mobbing, and signaling the problem should prompt them to take action.

In cases involving a superior, collaborating with colleagues to address the issue collectively can create a unified front against unfair treatment. Seeking support from institutions that combat workplace harassment is crucial. In some cases, criminal proceedings may replace lawsuits for harassment.

Mobbing and the law

Mobbing is handled differently in criminal law compared to labor law. Violations of employee rights can become criminal offenses prosecuted under the Criminal Code. Polish criminal law targets employers or individuals acting on their behalf who deliberately violate an employee’s rights, with the intent to harm or inconvenience the victim.

Where to report mobbing?

Employees can report mobbing to trade unions in the company or the National Labor Inspectorate. Written notifications of mobbing can prompt investigations and possible fines for companies that ignore harassment signals.

Compensation for mobbing

Employees who terminate their contracts due to mobbing are entitled to compensation. To qualify, the contract termination must be caused by harassment. Compensation cannot be lower than the minimum annual remuneration.

The battle against workplace mobbing requires prompt action. Recognizing the signs, documenting instances, and seeking support are essential steps to combat this detrimental behavior.

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