A Guideline against Mobbing at the Workplace

Term Paper, 2010

10 Pages


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 What does the term “mobbing” mean?

3 Does mobbing follow a certain scheme?

4 How do mobbers terrorize their victims?

5 What consequences can mobbing have?

6 What are the reasons for mobbing?

7 How to fight against mobbing

8 Conclusion

9 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Imagine you are a newly hired employee and you are looking forward to your new job, the new boss and the new colleagues. But instead of talking to you they ignore you, they insult you and finally they exclude you from their social circle. You might think that this is an unlikely scenario but the reality proves something different, as I will show in the following paper.

In this “Guideline against mobbing at the workplace” I will firstly answer the questions what mobbing is and what phases of mobbing exist. Secondly, I will deal with the strategies bullies pursue and its consequences. Thirdly, I will dis­cuss the underlying reasons for mobbing and recommend different strategies to fight bullying and support a peaceful working environment.

2 What does the term “mobbing” mean?

To fight against mobbing one has to understand what it means first. Mobbing is also referred to as victimization, workplace bullying or moral harassment.[1] It usually is a process that starts with a simple conflict. However, in the course of time this conflict escalates and one employee suddenly becomes a victim. The person concerned is now in an inferior position and she or he is systematically and repeatedly attacked by one person or a group of people over a certain pe­riod of time.[2],[3]

3 Does mobbing follow a certain scheme?

According to Heinz Leymann mobbing proceeds in five different phases. However, those phases can only be separated in an analytical way since they are con­nected with one another in reality. Knowing them might help when it comes to approaching and helping a victim.

The whole process of mobbing starts in the first phase with a harmless conflict by virtue of jealousy, envy, dissensions, injustice etc. Nevertheless the atmosphere at work is still good as to the chance of solving the problem peacefully.[4] After all even conflicts can be positive, if they are constructive.

However, in phase two it becomes obvious that there is no possibility of a solution for the conflict. One person is being made responsible for the situation and because this person shows weakness, she or he becomes a victim.[5]

In phase three the boss notices the mobbing – often too late. In most cases six months or more time has passed and by then the victim is stigmatized as a scapegoat already.[6] The person concerned feels unable to defend her-/himself[7] and from that point on the days of absence from work increase dramatically due to the psychological and psychosomatic ailments that come along with mobbing (cf. chapter 5). Suddenly the victim simply becomes a problem distur-bing the company’s operating schedule.[8] Therefore the bullying continues with the goal to make the victim quit or the boss even tries to fire the employee.[9]

In the fourth phase the victim is already baldly afflicted with health problems and the whole situation gets even worse. Unfortunately, most psychologists and doctors only treat the symptoms without asking for the reasons. Suffice it to say that all the medical opinions and diagnoses make it even easier to blame the mobbing victim since there is no physical evidence of the sickness at all.[10]

In phase five the mobbing victim is excluded from work life. Either the victim has to work in an isolated working place or employer and employee agree upon a cancellation agreement.[11] Sometimes, however, the victim even quits on her or his own after a long period of sickness and ends up in unemployment.[12] This is one of the worst things that can happen because the doers feel approved in their behaviour and they are very likely to continue with yet another victim.

4 How do mobbers terrorize their victims?

Suffice it to say that one also has to be able to identify the strategies bullies pursue in terrorizing their victims. After all recognizing typical behaviour pat­terns helps to stop bullying in the first place simply by taking action in time.

One strategy of mobbers is for example to limit the victim’s possibility to communicate. Not only colleagues but also superiors act here by withholding information on purpose, making destructive comments, even on good profes­sional ideas and work, and in some cases they even insult or scream at their victim. But bullies don’t stop there: they simply leave, if the victim sits down on the same table for lunch, they stop talking or close the door when the victim approaches and they leave offensive notes on the desk or make phone calls in the middle of the night without saying anything.[13]

The first strategy goes along with yet another way of victimization: the com­plete isolation of the victim by stopping the social interaction. The person con­cerned has no connections anymore, neither to colleagues nor to customers and everybody, even superiors, pretend the victim does not exist at all.[14] The doers also manipulate the person concerned[15] for instance by keeping quiet about appointments and data necessary for the job. The bullies are also not willing to help if the victim is under time pressure, in fact they even try to avoid working with her or him at all. In this phase the psychological pressure on the victim rises very fast and it usually goes along with a severe loss of self esteem.[16]

Bullies enjoy their victim’s anger and helplessness as well as the loss of social prestige of the person concerned. Rumours are used as weapons for example by telling the husband or wife that the victim has an affair but also pretty simple things like nasty comments on the hair dress and the appearance in general. In this phase the doers also terrorize their victim by name calling, by making fun of her or his beliefs[17] and showing no respect whatsoever.[18] What is especially worrying about this strategy is that it usually happens behind the victim’s back, namely until the reputation is destroyed beyond repair.[19]

Obviously the well-being at work has to affect the private life too and as a matter of fact bullying always comes along with an enormous reduction of the work and living satisfaction. Of course there are several ways to make sure of that: the victim gets totally useless assignment, where the results are not needed afterwards and at the same time the competences are being cut, so that it is impossible to work autonomous. Furthermore tools, letters and documents etc. disappear or are destroyed and the victim’s work is deliberately manipu­lated. Sometimes the people concerned even get assignments they are not even qualified for just so they fail and of course the failure is all the more reason to blame her or him.[20]

However, the most frightening strategy of mobbers is physical abuse and direct attacks on the well-being. On one hand the doers try to harm the mental health of their victim for instance by locking them up in the garage “by mistake”, by causing accidents on purpose or deleting files from the victim’s computer. In worse cases bullies even terrorize their victim by placing a chopped off pig’s head on the porch or by sending packages containing excrements. Physical abuse on the other hand is more common in low skilled jobs and areas where men work only. Sometimes bullies “just” threaten with violence but in other cases it even comes to criminal offences, like slashing car tires or smashing windows, but also forcing the victim to do bodily unhealthy work.[21]

5 What consequences can mobbing have?

Although the effects of bulling can vary, the experience is often traumatic for the victims. Usually they feel powerless and unable to defend themselves against their perpetrator. Bullying creates an enormous stress and has therefore effects on motivation, commitment, performance and mental health.[22]

Firstly, the subjective well-being suffers by virtue of being ignored, insulted or even screamed at. The people concerned usually feel very uncomfortable working under such circumstances. Not only do they have a low job satisfaction but they also lack of organisational commitment.[23]

That is why, secondly, workplace bullying also has effects on the organizations concerned. On one hand the victims can not do their job properly because the bullies withhold information on purpose or manipulate their work. On the other hand mobbing leads to a decreasing working morale in general and the victims usually lose all interest in their work and show a severe lack of initiative and creativity. Consequently the company loses potential ideas, they can not improve their (product) quality and innovation becomes impossible. A global estimation of the “Bureau of Nation Affairs” even claims that the lost pro-ductivity due to mobbing equals an amount of fife to six billion dollar a year.[24]

Thirdly, the organization concerned also has to bear the costs caused by victims who are solely absent from work because they are afraid of mobbing. According to a study 60 % of the employees even leave the company due to bullying at the workplace.[25] In fact, fluctuation and absenteeism cost a company for each mobbing victim about 15,000 to 50,000 Euros per year.[26]

Furthermore the total exclusion form the social circle often results in serious psychological and psychosomatic ailments. The victims experience the insults to their work as affronts to their dignity and the result of this constant pressure are stress-related health diseases, such as anxiety disorder, depression, insomnia, heart- and cardiovascular diseases.[27]

The family is also affected because mobbing victims get home in a bad temper and they react very sensitive and testy, even to little things. They also keep on talking about their negative experiences without realizing that they might scare their family. They are depressed, desperate and they do not want to participate in family activities anymore so that a marriage crisis is most likely.[28]

The bad mental and physical health caused by mobbing also causes the work results to spiral downward. Superiors and colleagues blame the victim instead of helping and that leads to even more time of absence. Finally the economical existence of the person concerned is in jeopardy and even if a victim gets out of the situation, she or he usually has trouble finding a new job. Sometimes they are so depressed that they are not able to work any more at all.[29]

6 What are the reasons for mobbing?

Knowing all that one has to wonder why people terrorize others at all and in fact there are several reasons why the doers act the way they do. Furthermore identifying possible reasons for mobbing and establishing ways to minimize them might also help to prevent bullying in the first place.

One reason for mobbing can be the task one is given at work. Sometimes conflicts only occur due to the fact that a person is overstrained or not challenged enough. Naturally this can lead to stress and conflicts in the working environment and therefore also to mobbing.[30]

Factors connected with the job design and work organization can also be the reason for bullying, for instance the authority of decision making and giving orders, organizational constraints or the absence of clear goals.[31] If the competences are low or if the company’s goals are not clear, mobbing occurs solely by virtue of boredom or a lack of identification and understanding.

Furthermore the management style can lead to mobbing. A dictatorial leadership causes conflicts because the employees consider themselves competition whereas a laissez-faire management style brings forward bullying because the employees can decide everything on their own.[32]

Yet another important reason is that mobbers often are afraid to lose their promotion prospects or even their job to a new employee. This goes along with an insecurity about the own abilities as well as the fear of failure in general.[33]

The occurrence of bullying is also connected with the organizational culture and the social climate. A poor social climate is very common in companies that encourage toughness, competition and humiliating jokes instead of appropriate treatment.[34] Under these circumstances it is just a question of time until the situation among employees escalates and results into mobbing.


[1] Cf. Browne, M., Smith, M. A. (2008), l.c., p. 132

[2] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., pp. 17 - 18

[3] Cf. Einarsen, S. (2000), l.c., p. 381

[4] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., p. 20

[5] Cf. Grünewald, M. Hille, H.-E. (2003), l.c., p. 29

[6] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., p. 21

[7] Cf. Salin, D. (2008), l.c., p. 221

[8] Cf. Grünewald, M. Hille, H.-E. (2003), l.c., p. 30

[9] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., pp. 20 - 21

[10] Cf. Grünewald, M. Hille, H.-E. (2003), l.c., p. 30

[11] Cf. ibid., p. 31

[12] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., p. 21

[13] Cf. Brinkmann, R. D. (1995), l.c., pp. 35 ff.

[14] Cf. ibid., pp. 38 ff.

[15] Cf. Saunders, P. et al. (2007), l.c., p. 350

[16] Cf. Brinkmann, R. D. (1995), l.c., pp. 38 ff.

[17] Cf. ibid., pp. 43 ff.

[18] Cf. Saunders, P. et al. (2007), l.c., p. 350

[19] Cf. Brinkmann, R. D. (1995), l.c., pp. 43 ff.

[20] Cf. ibid., pp. 48 -49

[21] Cf. Harvey, M. et al. (2006), l.c., p. 192

[22] Cf. Saunders, P. et al. (2007), l.c., pp. 343 - 344

[23] Cf. ibid., p. 343

[24] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., pp. 66 ff.

[25] Cf. ibid., pp. 65 ff.

[26] Cf. Litzcke, S. M., Schuh, H. (2007), l.c., p. 144

[27] Cf. Browne, M., Smith, M. A. (2008), l.c., p. 132

[28] Cf. Litzcke, S. M., Schuh, H. (2007), l.c., p. 143

[29] Cf. Leymann, H. (1995.), l.c., p. 21

[30] Cf. Grünewald, M. Hille, H.-E. (2003), l.c., p. 50

[31] Cf. Salin, D. (2008), l.c., p. 222

[32] Cf. Grünewald, M. Hille, H.-E. (2003), l.c., p. 51

[33] Cf. Heidenreich, J. (2007), l.c., pp. 33 ff.

[34] Cf. Salin, D. (2008), l.c., p. 222

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A Guideline against Mobbing at the Workplace
Berlin School of Economics
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Dana Ziegel (Author), 2010, A Guideline against Mobbing at the Workplace, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/301821


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