Proactive prevention of mobbing at work

By Valora Prevención

Health consequences of harassment at work depend on several factors, such as the characteristics of the person involved, the type of company or the job. The consequences it can have on a person’s health are very broad, for example anxiety, concentration problems, psychosomatic disorders, sleep or eating disorders, susceptibility, irritability, aggressiveness, mistrust, increased possibility of suffering accidents at work and depression.

The H-WORK project works in a multidisciplinary way in order to prevent all the consequences that different situations can have on the mental health of an organisation’s employees.

Harassment and other types of workplace violence are usually generated by unresolved conflicts that become entrenched over time, leading to violent situations. Valora Prevención, one of the partners of the H-WORK Consortium, investigated how to act proactively to avoid these situations.

What is mobbing at work?

It is a type of extreme psychological violence in the workplace that is characterised by being repeated and sustained over time. The usual objective is to eliminate a colleague from the organisation through pressure and professional discrediting.

As a benchmark, it occurs at least once a week, and with a minimum period of 6 months. So… do we have to wait all this time before we can act and prove that the criteria of repetition and duration are met? No, harassment is a situation of extreme violence. Action by the company does not only have to be taken after the damage has been done, this is reactive action. It is necessary to act earlier, and prevent damage.

What should we do?

First of all, we have to work to avoid the factors that are conducive to the occurrence of harassment at work, by carrying out proactive prevention. Harassment and other types of workplace violence are usually generated by unresolved conflicts that become entrenched over time, and end up deteriorating interpersonal relationships until violent situations arise.

In the usual harassment scheme, one of the two people has an advantageous position that allows them to exert pressure on the other, either formally, through their position in the organisation chart, or informally, through years of seniority, personal relationships, etc. Unfavourable conditions in psychosocial factors and the feeling of impunity on the part of the people with a better position in the company are a perfect breeding ground for harassment to take place.

There are indispensable aspects of preventive action on workplace violence:

  • Show zero tolerance for workplace violence and respect the dignity of all employees, regardless of their place in the organisation;
  • Establish a company policy jointly accepted by company management and workers’ representatives in this area;
  • Conduct a Psychosocial Risk Assessment to identify areas for improvement and work towards safer and healthier organisational conditions, both physically and psychologically;
  • Create and implement a specific action protocol for the prevention, action and monitoring of workplace violence, of which all workers are aware.
  • Provide Conflict Management Training to the chain of command in order to favour a correct intervention in the initial phase to achieve a more agile and consensual solution as well as the re-establishment of relations, avoiding, in turn, productive loss, the entrenchment of the problem and an authoritarian or disciplinary solution.

And if a situation of workplace violence or harrasment arise?

All workers must be aware of the action protocol generated in the proactive phase, which will be activated quickly, efficiently and with guarantees of confidentiality.

The objectivity of the people involved in the process must be guaranteed. It is necessary to consider changing those people who are part of the protocol and may have a relationship with any of the parties that compromises their impartiality, makes it difficult to obtain information or negatively affects any aspect of the process.

The company must follow the established procedure and put in place the necessary means to ensure the safety and health of workers, physically, mentally and socially. This includes subsequent follow-up to verify that the problem has been solved and that there are no reprisals.

And what do workers do?

Workers have an obligation to participate in the implementation of the safety standards set by the company, and this includes reporting acts of workplace violence.

If we allow harassment, we all lose, because we reinforce the impunity of the aggressor and that makes us potential victims and accomplices.