yes, therapy helps!
How to identify mobbing or workplace harassment

How to identify mobbing or workplace harassment

June 14, 2024

It is not obvious for a victim of workplace harassment to have the awareness of being . Recognizing, accepting and taking on one's own situation usually takes some time, fundamentally for two reasons.

The first is the scarce information that is available about the problem. In Spain and in Europe, workplace harassment is relatively unknown in all its dimensions and implications compared to, for example, other similar forms of violence such as sexual harassment.

The second is its course. At first the harassment can go unnoticed since the aggression behaviors begin being, usually, sporadic and of low intensity to go increasing progressively. When the worker notices that the situation is unsustainable it is already difficult to stop it.

That is why it is important to know how to recognize it in its initial stages . For this, it is best to understand on the one hand its course and the strategies carried out by the aggressor and, on the other, identify its consequences.

  • Related article: "The 11 types of violence (and the different kinds of aggression)"

How to identify workplace harassment in the company

We are going to focus on the aggression behaviors carried out by the harasser in each phase.

First phase

The beginning of the harassment can be preceded by a conflict or, on the contrary, start without an apparent reason. In this second case, the aggressor will "rehearse" with caution the behavior of aggression. A reprimand in public, some derogatory comments, hints , a joke in public, sow a rumor, etc.

Acts in a subtle way, always looking for an excuse in case of being unmasked ("Everything was a joke!", "I am like that", etc.). If the aggressor perceives that the behavior has gone unpunished or that some of the comrades have laughed at him, he will gradually increase the frequency or intensity of the abuse while trying new methods to cause additional damage.

As well it is possible that this phase has as origin a conflict a particular situation . A conflict that the organization does not resolve and that the aggressor will use as a recurring excuse to justify his behavior.

If the aggressor is a superior, complaints about work, the imposition of impossible tasks (so that the worker can not fulfill them and have a perfect excuse to continue with the criticism) or, on the contrary, tasks that are not according to the worker's training: ask him to prepare a coffee, to make photocopies, etc.

These micro-aggressions will gradually undermine, day by day, the morale of the victim. In fact, in France mobbing is called "moral harassment" because it aims precisely at that; demoralize the victim.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Mobbing: psychological harassment at work"

Second stage

In a second phase, the aggressor will display a repertoire of behaviors heterogeneous in terms of their evil, power, their capabilities, the implicit or explicit support of the witnesses and the tolerance they perceive in the organization itself.

Obviously there are many aggressive behaviors. Some of them would be to threaten, insult, criticize, discredit, harass, ignore, annoy, defame, ridicule, hinder the task, silence, etc. Studies suggest that all this wide range of destructive behaviors responds to four types of strategies:

1. Bullying

Here behaviors such as verbal threats, looks of contempt, screams, murmuring in their presence, would enter provoke emotional reactions in the victim , etc.

2. The incommunication of the victim

Prevent the victim from speaking with colleagues, not letting them express or interrupt when they speak, leaving them without a telephone or computer, placing them in a secondary or marginal place, not passing important calls, hiding relevant information, etc.

3. The loss of prestige and personal loss of prestige

Run rumors, minimize their efforts and achievements, hide their skills and competences , commenting on their mistakes in public, criticizing them (remember that previously they have been loaded with unrealizable works or "cheated" to fail, etc). In addition to the professional loss of prestige, the victim will be tried to discredit him personally.

Your personality traits will be sought to explain your abnormal behavior (when the possible abnormal behavior has a lot to do with the situation you are going through). This strategy is important because it will eventually lead to the expulsion of the worker on the pretext that he was not efficient or that he had a disorder.

4. Prevent professional progress

Do not provide feedback or give bad evaluations. Do not assign interesting projects or, conversely, assign tasks that are not according to your experience or your training , not to propose for promotions, hinder their development, etc.

One of the main characteristics of this type of violence is its continuity over time. The worker can endure this abuse for years. Obviously, this prolongation in time has destructive consequences for the mental and physical health of the worker. At some time or worker or company they try to tackle the situation which brings us the resolution phase.

Third phase

In this phase, worker and company try to find a solution to the problem. Sometimes companies try to mediate between aggressor and victim either through the personnel department, trade unions or by resorting to professional mediation services. Mediation in this type of problems is not usually an adequate remedy from the victim's point of view .

On the one hand because when the company resorts to these services the mediator himself tends to be conditioned to adopt a solution, which is usually a drastic solution (remember that the company wants to get rid of the problem as soon as possible). The situation of strong psychosocial deterioration of the worker may end up convincing the mediator that the best option would be the worker's exit.

Another alternative is to open an "internal investigation" that, in the best of cases, may end up in the worker being changed from a job, although it is usually the case that this worker already carries with him that "stigma" that may restrain his adjustment to work. the new location

It is common for the worker to voluntarily apply for this job change although that desire is rarely fulfilled. In private companies there is an aggravating circumstance that a worker with several years of experience does not want to leave and renounce compensation. This leads him to go through a calvary that brings an aggravation of the consequences in his health.

In this phase are common for depression, anxiety, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other types of social problems are generated outside work (break with the couple, estrangement from friends, etc.). They put the worker in an extreme situation vulnerability and that, normally, end with their dismissal.


If as a trainer you recognize yourself in any of these or in the type of strategies and maneuvers that we have described, it is likely that you are suffering from mobbing. Then, it is best that you ask for professional advice and help to try to get out of the situation. Trying it for yourself can be a daunting task with little chance of success. The necessary help has to be both psychological and legal.


Similar Articles