WORKPLACE HARASSMENT (MOBBING)

Author:

Peter Kovacs

Abstract

“Mobbing, or psychological terror at work involves hostile and unethical communication, systematically directed, mainly toward one individual, who, therefore, is pushed into a helplessness and defenceless position; the victim is held in this situation for months (maybe years), during which the enemy continues the mobbing (at least once a week and at least 6 months in a row) “(Leymann, 1996).

Keywords: mobbing, harassment at work, unethical communication
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Address of correspondence: peter.kovacs[at]ohpedu.ro

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CONTENTS

 

Introduction

The group and harassment

Defining mobbing

The background vulnerability in phylogenetic perspective

Factors

Dynamics

Consequences

Solutions/Recommendations

Conclusions

Bibliography

Introduction

In a Saratoga Institute research (2003, cited by Branham, 2005), involving nearly 20,000 employees from 18 branches of industry, showed that 89% of the investigated managers believe that employees who leave their organizations, are leaving to other companies for financial reasons (for more money), and 88% of employees say they have other reasons for leaving those organizations than financial ones.

The results of the cited study raise a series of questions / problems:

why is there such a big disparity between what the managers think and what the employees are saying?

if the payment is not the main reason why employees leave an organization, then which are the real reasons?

it is known that seldom an employee leaves suddenly (from one day to another with or without notice) by resigning or dismissal and when it occurs, however, most often is as a result of a traumatic and / or unacceptable event for at least one of the parties; the staff often prepare their departure; this preparation is a series of steps which can take from several weeks to several years; what happens in the meantime? What are the actions, attitude and efficiency of these employees from the idea of leaving until the actual resigning? How they behave in relationships with their fellow workers? And how their fellow workers behave with them? And do not forget that the most expensive form – both for the organization and the employee – as a last step in the resignation, is not the resigning itself when employees physically leave the organization following a formal approach, but is the psychological resignation, when they are not taking any formal action, they remain in the organization but no longer involved in its actions more than appearances demands. How to get to this situation and what means this lack of involvement?

In another study (Coffman and Conzalez-Molina, 2007), involving 3,000,000 employees, 200,000 managers and 10,000,000 customers, revealed that only 33% of employees of companies with fewer than 50 employees are involved emotionally in the workplace and 22% in companies with over 1,000 employees. And what about the other 70%? How is manifested their lack of involvement?

Of those listed above, even intuitively, we can see that many, even among those who will not want to leave the organization, will resort to counterproductive behaviors (see also Sulea, 2008). One such behavior is harassment or mobbing at work, which is considered a problem more harmful and devastating for employees than all other work related stress problems put together (Wilson, 1991, Zapf et al., 1996 Niedl, 1995, quoted by Einarsen, 1999).

Along the same lines, the Romanian socio-economic environment attends frequent to economic, social, technological, organizational changes, specific for transitional periods and the more current period of economic crisis. One such environment influences in a specific way feelings, how to be, to relate or, in a word, life, both at social and individual level.

On one such ambiguous, uncertain ground, mobbing founds a favorable environment, its justification being the modus vivendi itself of the protagonists , which is considered a necessary evil on the path to better. Of course, this statement have multiple nuances and specific features depending on the addressed topic: the organizational level – management (leadership style, organizational politics), employees (job satisfaction, organizational climate), at the individual level – conscious, unconscious (with reference to motivation and intent related to behavior).

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The group and harassment

By nature, humans are social beings who, along their lifetime become members of various groups: in some are born, in some they wants very much to participate, in others falls somehow by chance, some of them they leave in order to enter in other groups, in others they returns, or, by  theyr own, simply put the basis for a new group. Membership to one or another group reflects to a large extent the interests, needs, attitudes of people at that time. But if the group is the one who brings him satisfaction (work-related, material, spiritual, etc..) development (personal, professional, etc..), safety, happiness and other psychological certainties, spiritual or material, the whole group is one that contains danger, subjective and / or real catalyst or source of dissatisfaction, insecurity, misfortune, suffering, etc.., because groups, just like people can get sick or run in disharmony or be ineffective. Harassment is part of the last ones, as a fact of life. Its features varies from one group to another, from one culture to another.

In Figure 1., are presented the categories (in particular intra-group column) in which groups may show characteristics of harassment, in the broad sense, each with its specific, governed by law, internal rules, socio-psychological and socio-economic characteristics, practices, etc..:

categorii-grupuri-2-en

Figure 1. Categories in which groups may show characteristics of bullying

The difference between categories A and B in Figure 1 – these relate to the topic discussed – is given not by harassment process, which is the same in both groups, but by the significance of which is activated this process. The human being, the only one who is aware of its end, the stakes of the two categories is different – perceived, felt both objectively and subjectively.

Another aspect of harassment in a wider sense, is the inter-correlation one (in particular intergroup column in Figure 1.), whereby individuals or groups in a category (particular intra-group columns in Figure 1.) can harass a person or persons from other categories. Some examples of intergroup harassment:

a group of high school students in the same class (category “E”) can harass one or more teachers (category A) or

a student (category “E”) can mobilize a few friends (Class “G”) to harass a teacher (category A) from their high school or

a prisoner (category “B”) can mobilize a few friends (category “D”) to harass a penitentiary employee (category “B”) or

a manager, a colleague or a subordinate (category “A”) may harass subordinates, fellow workers or boss (category “A”) and in informal settings, in the family (category “C”) or in group of friends, acquaintances (category “D”) by abusive phone and / or emails, gossip etc..

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Defining mobbing

The word mob means a disorganized crowd, engaged in violence without rules (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliott, 2002) and derives from the latin mobile vulgus, which means volatile, hesitant crowd.

The first researcher who used the term mobbing was Konrad Lorenz, ethologist, Nobel laureate, in describing the animal behavior. Studying aggression, which he calls the fight instinct against individuals of the same species (Lorenz, 2005), the author argues against the idea that prey counter enemy is closer to genuine aggression than the attack of the hunter against the prey. Specifically, he calls this way the attack or threatening behavior of a small group of animals on a larger animal. Later, Heineman (1972, cited by Zlate, 2007), became interested in this phenomenon. He described mobbing as that destructive behavior, directed by a group of children to just one. Leymann introduces the concept of mobbing in organizational setting, in contrast with bullying, which is often used as a synonym by some authors. In his opinion, bullying is focused on physical aggression and threat. In contrast, physical violence is very rare in mobbing phenomenon, present in the workplace. Mobbing is characterized by more subtle, apparently normal behaviors, but can, through the cumulative effect (several repeated behaviors) to lead, by example, at undermining the victim’s self-esteem (Fischer and Reidesser, 2001), social isolation of the victim (Leymann, 1996) or the failure of duties. Consequently, he uses the concept of mobbing for organizational environment and that of bullying to define a similar process, but between children. We will keep this delimitation in the present article.

Mobbing is a form of aggression, where the other is harmed more or less conscious. The problem is that this aggression often appears perverse, hidden, this being the reason for the assaulted often aware of its existence rather late or too late (they already start to experience disturbances or signs referred to in consequences section). Mitrofan (1996) believes that aggression is represented by any form of conduct intentionally directed to objects, people or to itself, in order to produce harm, injury, damage and destruction and mentions three approaches to aggression:

1. Innate behavior (hereditary)

2. Reaction to frustration (environment)

3. Learned behavior (education and / or environment)

Besides the three approaches mentioned – heredity, environment and education – are the main categories of factors in the human development. An objective approach also takes account of all three, without exaggerating one at the expense of others, approach which we endorse, even if the information presented in this article is mainly from environmental category followed by education and heredity. The opposite of aggression is prosocial behavior (Mitrofan, 1996), on which we shall return in section dynamics.

This way, any form of aggression is based on a conflict, as also any conflict left to run, sooner or later turns into interpersonal conflict. This conversion, by nature, is a process (see also section dynamics) also called spiral conflict. The reason of this transformation, for example into an intergroup conflict, is because any group is made up of individuals – an indivisible unit of a group  - which in case of an escalated conflict, eventually crossing the barrier to see the other group as the obstacle, to see the individuals of that group as the obstacle in achieving their goals. Therefore, Bogathy (2002) includes mobbing in interpersonal conflict, which he defines as: interpersonal conflict involving two or more individuals who are perceived as being in opposition to each other in terms of the purposes, attitudes, values and manifested behaviors. In the same book, the author presents the characteristics and dynamics of different conflicts accounted in organizations.

But the conflict has its advantages and socially acceptable forms – for example, two teams playing a match are in conflict, or the well-known role of conflict as a precondition to change. Into an organization, there may be departments that are by definition in conflict, but controled and accepted by management and those involved, and used in actors benefit, eg. production department is oriented to utilize at full capacity (time and parameters) the equipment and machinery, which is why they use them and therefore may increase the frequency of failures and the maintenance is responsible for those equipments and machineries to operate for as long and smooth. In turn, aggression has also  its socially acceptable forms, a such example is that of a boxer during a match, or specific situations of forces; some strategies to counter / discourage undesirable phenomena such as drug abuse, human trafficking, etc.. also, can be aggressive but socially acceptable.

Common knowledge and is familiar with another stress-related concept, but this one is totally undesirable and condemned by society: harassment. Brodsky (1976, cited by Einarsen, 1999) defines harassment as any acts which have the purpose to repeatedly and persistently distress, embarrass, or frustrate a person, and also all the behaviors that eventually dread, intimidate or cause discomfort to the receiver. In this definition can be included but not necessarily sexual harassment, and mobbing.

Among the relevant concepts I have described above for mobbing, also suggested conceptual area in which it is conducted – aggression and conflict. Among the following are some definitions of harassment at work:

Einarsen (1999) defines mobbing as the systematic persecution of a colleague, subordinate or superior, which if continued, may cause serious social, psychological and psychosomatic difficulties to the victim.

UNISON (1997, quoted by Rayner, 1999) defines mobbing as those offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behaviors, abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees and can cause them stress related problems.

Mobbing, or psychological terror at work involves hostile and unethical communication, systematically directed, mainly toward one individual, who, therefore, is pushed into a helplessness and defenceless position; the victim is held in this situation for months (maybe years), during which the enemy continues the mobbing (at least once a week and at least 6 months in a row) “(Leymann, 1996).

The latter definition is the most influential in the literature, which is why we consider a milestone for the site material.

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The background vulnerability in phylogenetic perspective

Groups as a whole, as people, individually, can get ill. If you look at individual level factors influencing ontogenesis configuring defective or vulnerable (background vulnerability) field, at group level (societal), we must have regard to factors influencing phylogenesis. The reason for this approach is based on the well known role of heredity in aggressive behavior and is reinforced by one of the psyche laws: the general law of cultural development that Pierre Janet (quoted by Munteanu, 1998) considered fundamental in psychology and proved that any function , before being intrinsic (intra-psychically), there was extrinsic (inter-psychically, social).

The extrinsic society, the society now, is developing very fast . Printing was invented 600 years ago, and changed the way of interpersonal relationships, growing the flow of information: what belonged to the privileged, to some elected, became available to the masses. The fundamental existential ways: to be and to appear, do and have acquired a new dynamic as the fuel (information) which actuates them, gains access to the commoner. But why the information and the ways in which we conjugate this verbs of existence is known in the world are so important? Because the judgment, free and responsible commitment into action is the fundamental engine, the cornerstone of a meaningful human existence, of significant human acts (Lazarescu, 1989). In other words, knowledge = cognition (to have information, to have adequate capacity to process information – a rational process) + command ( awareness to information, to have it – act of will and influence) (Perciun, 2004), and its consistency is a measure of power. On this line, power is a serious stake, allowing the individual to exist in the world. The unique constellation derived from the cognitive approach and the act of will is even more important as their owner stands on a hierarchically higher position (either social or organizational), in a society where change and interdependence tend to be always conjugated to the present time.

From another perspective, selection and mutation are theories of biological favored responses in terms of human evolution: the body knows what is best for him and act accordingly – to adapt. At this point there is a dilemma, because what is good for the individual may not be good for the group and the other way around. For example, if by a few hundred years ago, the reproduction was a priority for survival (average life was very small), now we are faced with overcrowding. In this regard, in addition to the familiar observation that overcrowding leads to aggressive behavior, Lorenz (2001) describes how to not get emotionally involved (in ro. să nu te implici emoţional) becomes a principle, a belief that it is better to do so, and the society is changing on this way. Another feature which we link to that described above is competing with himself, following the principle that the man for a man is a wolf (in lat. homo homini lupus) is very topical, creating values as time is money (in ro. timpul înseamnă bani ),  underlying the change of being in having, for which the author defines the utilitarianism’s error, which has a destructive effect, as the confusion of means with the purpose (first the money was seen as only the way). Lorenz (2005) goes further with this approach, arguing that intraspecific selection cultivated in the prehistoric man an instinct of aggression for which no sufficient valves found in today’s societies. Wilson (2003), a promoter of sociobyology and double Pulitzer Prize winner, refined this statement by suggesting that human aggressive responses vary according to the situation in a genetically programmed. It remains questionable how adaptive or maladaptive is this that according (see also the article experience emotions at work: anger and fear). With such a dowry, it can be said that not by chance one of the symbols of peace is the dove, which Lorenz (2005) say that they can kill a fellow from the same species by torture, without any inhibitions.

Goleman (2001), also refined intrapsyhic determinism, putting into question the generic name of Homo sapiensthe species that thinks. He suggests that even the name takes a wrong path in assessing the place of emotions in our lives, because we are born with what worked best for the last 50,000 human generations and not for the last 500, and definitely not only the last 5. Author’s main arguments to this claim on two aspects:

In terms of phylogenesis (species development), pending the development of language and reason (and even long afterwards), emotions and instincts were the main sources of environmental knowledge, involved in survival and adaptation; in time, even if reason has claimed the place in the hierarchy, the first ones are very easily felt even today (eg see the masses behavior in panic situations)

In terms of ontogenesis (individual development), is well known the primary role of the emotions in experiencing the world in the early years of life, and in this case, the reason is to earn a place in time, but under the same conditions as those mentioned previous

This issues are relevant, as bullying is a common phenomenon among children, which not places the phenomenon in elaborated cognitive (rational) strategies. Moreover, the root of the word emotion is Latin motere, meaning moving, and together with the prefix e, meaning is to get out of that, suggesting that the tendency to act is implicit in every emotion – impulse which brings responses, and these emotions lead to actions, which can be most easily observed in animals and children (Goleman, 2001).

Another possible view is Horney’s (1998), in  The Neurotic Personality of our Time. Detaching from the psychoanalysis theory, Horney give social factors primary importance in the structure of neurosis, opposing Freud’s theory by: if we understand the great importance of social conditions in the structure of neurosis, where biological and physiological conditions which Freud considers to be at its origin , withdraw behind the rule. Horney’s neurotic is a product of society, based on competition and aggression; this society is a fertile ground for the development of pathological personalities, self-consuming, but also hetero-consuning. The danger may be amplified by the media and the neurotic’s possibility to access the levers of power hierarchy – intra-organizational or intra-institutional – thereby creating a vicious circle.

In closing, may be mentioned the intergenerational inheritance practices and rituals of initiation into certain groups: for example, as a newcomer to be accepted into the group, had to perform some tasks / activities humiliating or painful for a certain period of time. Is the same situation with some punishment rituals / practices: the punished one was excluded from group (temporarily or permanently), some privileges / rights / property were taken fron him, he had tasks to work more and / or more humiliating ones, he was humiliated in public, etc.. In both cases, the public plays an important role – the person in question must execute the specified target in sight group members.

Some rituals are preserved and used even in the present, in different forms more or less adapted to this times.

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Factors

Davenport, Schwartz and Elliott (2002) shows that mobbing appears and persists following the interaction of five elements:

1. perpetrator’s psychology and circumstances

2. organization’s culture and structure;

3. victim’s psychology and personality;

4. the trigger event

5. extra-organizational factors .

Elena and Fernandez (2005) offers a descriptive model of mobbing, which is presented in Kovacs (2008), in which there are three levels that define and have a psychological role in all situations at work:

1.    immediate organizational level (situation)

2.    broad organizational level (organization as a whole)

3.    the extra – organizational level

Besides, the two models reach the same size but in different ways. It is important to note that mobbing is a process involving many factors, because on those we need to act in order to have a positive outcome.

1. The immediate organizational level (situation) is analyzed by Davenport, Schwartz and Elliott (2002) through the factors: psychology and circumstances of the perpetrator, victim’s psychology and personality and the event trigger.

At this level, mobbing can be defined as a three groups interaction process: between aggressors and victims, in the presence of witnesses (and Helen Fernandez, 2005). Understanding the interaction process and the three groups, raises questions:

for the aggressor, must take into account who is? – One or more? – Subordinates, colleagues or superiors? – How are they? – Have a particular psychological profile, such as narcissistic, sociopathic or paranoid or their acts are learned? What is their motivation? What can they gain? Unfortunately, studies provide very few information about this category (Zapf, 1999), because the victim is often the scapegoat, which is why Rayner (1999) states that, until now, we didn’t found patterns of attackers and victims, but rather patterns of suffering and disorder after the event. However, some offenders may have the perverse psychosocial characteristics (Sirota, 1998):

1. propensity for confusion, opacity thinking and evasion, with its corollary – the rejection of rules;

2. propensity to transgression, provoking incidents, manifested disturbance, irruptive and intrusive;

3. attraction to the negative, attacking relationships and disqualification, humiliating others and  collective courts;

4. search for a exclusive or central position;

5. reification trend, the use of a third person, a predilection for anonymous vocabulary;

6. nonsuppressive fascination exerted by the domination of the subject or object.

Also, abusers can be frustrated people (Magda, 2000), who find a way through mobbing to maintain emotional balance and to provide a temporarily catharsis (release). Such an approach is rooted in the Edward Claparede’s 12 laws of psychology, more specifically, in the law of substitution, whereby when a goal can’t  be achieved by a particular behavior, it always appears a different behavior for the same purpose and never will happen to give up that goal (Perciun, 2004). This approach somewhat allows us to compare  mobbing to expression of the repression, at the organizational climate level (Kovacs, 2006). In this respect should look for the source of frustration. For example, Sheehan (1999) promotes the idea that managers use mobbing when they think that their skills and competencies are outdated and their statu is threatened. Moreover, in this regard one of the mobbing goals is making the target feel incompetent (Thomas, 2005). This approach, according to the same author, is based on the fact that they know that mobbing is an effective measure of restraint of the / those who are the source of threat (eg is more competent). Leymann (1996) found that in Finland women who turn to mobbing, they are doing it in an indirect way: gossip, slander, encouraging other individuals to take action against the victim.

Common knowledge surprised the profile of the aggressor in general in the expression : for a hammer, all objects are nails.

the victim – the victim is a person who is deprived of certain rights and benefits by specific actions (see the definition for mobbing); for the question who is the victim? must be identified the number of victims (one or more); if more victims, should be considered if they are targeted together or separately (Elena and Fernandez, 2005). Another important question is how is the victim? For this, should be considered individual characteristics related to cognitive, emotional, behavioral or socio-demographic (age, ethnicity, etc..) factors; also should be considered personal resources available, resistance to stress, social skills, social support ( especially family) etc.. From another perspective, might ask whether and what have the victim different from others?, in addition – for example power? status? freedom? success? etc.. – or less – for example relationships, power, status, etc.. However, Leymann and Gustafsson (1996) argues that studies showing the link between personality and mobbing victim (ie anybody can be the target / victim of mobbing) does not exist . However, we must take into account that the life situations / events in conjunction with the human personality (predisposition) may result in developing an anxiogen or depressed (eg hyperactivity) way of communication, which may trigger negative reactions from the group, and in time may induce mobbing (Zapf, 1999). Even if people are different in the way they experience this conflict situations, this is not justifying the mobbing – for example those with agreableness, extraversion and lower emotional stability experience more acutely, suffer more in conflict situations than those with these high (Dijkstra, Dierendonck, Evers and De Dreu, 2005).

witnesses - are people present to the actions undertaken by the aggressors; they can be incorporated indirectly under the aggressors, the question to be answered in this is there compromised witnesses who have acted as social support for the aggressors? (Elena and Fernandez, 2005); organizational climate and interaction relations (sociogram) analysis can provide important information about this category.

the interaction process – on this subject, most researchers agree on the power imbalance of those involved. Depending on the direction (horizontal, vertical) in which the phenomenon take place, can be distinguished specific interactions.

In situations where stress and frustration are caused by a source not defined or inaccessible or too strong or respected to be attacked, the group can move hostility against someone less powerful, using it as a scapegoat (Thylefors, 1987; Bjőrkvist, 1992, Brodsky, 1976 cited by Einarsen, 1999). Since communication resulting from such a process, often is doomed to failure, it creates a vicious circle from which arises blaming-the-victim-solution (in ro. soluţia-victima-este-de-vină) (Fischer and Reidesser, 2001).

2. The broad organizational level (organization as a whole), corresponding to Davenport, Schwartz and Elliott’s (2002) model, the organizational culture and structure factor.

There are three reasons behind the proliferation of mobbing (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliott, 2002):

a. mobbing is ignored, tolerated, misinterpreted or even encouraged by the company or management;

b. this behavior has not yet been identified as distinct from sexual harassment or discrimination,

c. often, victims feel destroyed and exhausted. They feel unable to defend themselves; they are left alone to initiate legal action.

Moreover, after about 800 case studies, have identified a dysfunctional pattern consisting of incomplete working methods and procedures and an almost helpless or disinterested management (Becker, 1995; Kihle, 1990; Leymann, 1992b; Niedl, 1995, quoted by Leymann, 1996). Zlate (2007) mentions three main factors:

a. labor organization, which may generate situations:

quantitative overload the job

quality lack

no rules, responsibilities disturbance etc..

b. design tasks

c. coordinating and directing the employees

At this level, mobbing occurs only if the abuser feels he has allocation, is encouraged or at least has the implicit permission of the superior to act in this manner (Einarsen, 1999). This may be supplemented by an indication that if discouraged or do not have the superior’s allocation or psychological support, if appropriate measures aren’t taken, it can resume / take the course, to be understood the cause and spoke about it and not just the symptom / effect (behavior).

Also, on this level an important factor is the way work stations are designed, in which cooperation / interaction with other employees / colleagues or head is very important. Zapf, Knorz and Kull (1996) states that at such jobs mobbing targets are more frequent than the jobs that do not require a high degree of interaction tasks. Also job related, Drucker (2006) mentioned widow makers jobs, (in ro. făcătorii de văduve ), which by their constitution  dazzle anyone reading it occupies (it is not skills or personality characteristics but job characteristics itself). Occupant of such a job will not be able to meet its prerogatives and may be also affected the way to communicate with others, which may degenerate. The author suggests that job redesign, sharing the burden with another employee or job suppression station (and the division of the more employees) are solutions to this issue.

Structurally, the organization may facilitate the institution of double organizational chart (Heintz, 2002), meaning that an informal but functional organizational chart- made up of older employees or circles of interest – often with a greater influence than the oficial, operate in parallel with the official chart. Double organizational chart is one of the signs of organization’s vulnerability and reveals deeper problems.

Moreover, the organizational culture itself may be dysfunctional by its organizational values and practices. Kets de Vries and Miller (1984) mentions five types of such cultures / organizations: dramatic, detached, suspicious, depressive and compulsive. Status quo of dysfunctional prolongad of these types of cultures, may be based on organizational policy and resistance to change – see shell syndrome (Kets de Vries, 2007) – despite the obvious feedback ( unsatisfyng results, tense climate, etc.) . To the other pole are organizations focused exclusively on the objectives, developing cultures as the end justifies the means (Sheehan, 1999) or hire and fire culture (in ro. angajează-concediază) based on principle bring input or become output (Kets de Vries, 2007). This is defined by common knowledge by the term extremes are not healthy, something which is based on another important principle of psychology:  expression of excess represents masking the weaknesses (Perciun, 2004).

Likewise, both at this and at the immediate organizational level (situation), attribution errors from colleagues and management tend to create explanations exaggerated based on personal characteristics, ignoring the environment (Jones, 1984, quoted Leymann, 1996) . Gavreliuc (2002) mentions the following attribution errors :

1. fundamental attribution error – can be described as the tendency to overestimate the impact of dispositional (internal)  causes on the behavior of others; we exaggerate the other’s behaviors as if they represent a specific personality profile

2. the actor-observer effect – for example we assign to personal failure external, situational causes, but when others fail, we assign it to internal causes (careless, lazy, immature, etc.).

3. self-serving bias – when our actions are successful, they ascribe to internal causes ( I’m smart, I prepared myself for this etc..) and when are failing, we perceive them as results from the outside (it was noise, I have not had good instruments , the device did not work properly, etc..); for others, we do the reverse: he succeeds – is lucky, have relations, money, etc.. – and when he is wrong – it’s a silly, is untrustworthy, lazy, etc..

4. self over-estimation bias – can be described as actors tendency to overestimate (especially when the event is ambiguous or loaded with negative affectivity) the number of subjects who think and behave the same way with them.

5. over-generalization bias – is expressed through our tendency to generalize from one specific factor, to the features of all; from exception or an isolated event, we do law / rule

3.    Extraorganizational level

This level includes all those groups, collectives, entities and institutions existing in society, as well as the values they support and participate in order to influence an organization. They consist mainly of three elements: institutional, socio-cultural and direct support to the victim (social support).

However, one of the major factors that link and move the issues mentioned in a specific and unique way is the mentality. The collective mental, or the mentality means a set of mental images, characteristic of a social reality, which support a group consensus and ensure community solidarity (Gavreliuc, 2002). Mentality is a reading scale for reality, which order the individual psychosocial orientation. Thus, values, principles, laws, concepts, etc.., defined relatively the same in different cultures, are understood differently. For example, the type culture universalist vs. particularistic can provide relevant information to the environment in which the organization operates and to its members. In short, universalistic culture emphasizes rules of coexistence (laws, rules, etc..) and treat equally all its members, while particularistic culture emphasizes relationships (eg friendship) and leaves room for interpretation (exceptions) in applying the rules. For example, imagine how you would feel in one of the two situations described by Daniels (2007):

“a doctor would say: I’ve developed my own style to operate. I will do a brain surgery slightly differently from how other brain surgeons would do it. No need to worry about. I’m used to my style of work and I recorded some successes.

Or imagine the pilot announced that passengers through speakers: I will land the plane slightly different from the procedures required by the FAA; I have my own method. It seems that the track designated by the tower today is not the best, so I have to use another. It will be better, I assure you”.

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Dynamics

There are more relevant descriptions to the topic discussed, of which we mention only that of Bogathy (2002) related to interpersonal conflict and that of Einarsen (1999), related to mobbing. Both are also presented in Kovacs (2008). Because, as mentioned in definition section, mobbing’s reference definition to us is Leymann’s (1996); below, I present the four phases of mobbing desried by the same author:

1. critical incidents - the triggering situation is often strewn with small conflicts (inherent in the workplace); mobbing, is often seen as an escalated conflict, conflict transformation at this level in mobbing may be due to stigmas / prejudice / discrimination or bad management;

2.mobbing and stigmatization - mobbing activities may contain a number   of behaviors which, in normal interaction, are not necessarily aggressive or expelling; however, used frequently and for a long time, these behaviors may stigmatize the person; stigma, in Greek language, means a derogatory sign on the skin, maintaining its wearer a moral infirmity (Gavreliuc, 2002).

3. the third phase is characterized by management intervention; it formally recognizes the case; the desire to quickly resolve the situation, can lead to serious violations of the victim’s civil rights; at this stage, attribution errors may play a key role; situation, at this stage may be enhanced at the expense of the victim, if the management is maintaining organizational climate; Einarsen (1999) says that three quarters of managers see the situation as a normal treatment to a difficult or neurotic person;

4. the fourth phase is completed by the exclusion from employment; the consequences are serious because this is probably responsible for the development of disorders for which the victim will seek help; the chances of being diagnosed incorrectly are high namely when they do not want to believe the person´s story or when they do not bother to look into the triggering social events; examples of incorrect diagnosis: paranoia, manic-depressive disorder or character disorder (Leymann, 1996).

But what is the content of these stages? What are the aggressors do in order to achieve their goal? Rows below are specifically describing how this dynamic is. If we consider the systematic nature - at least once a week and at least six months in a row – of these behaviors, we can deduce the effect of cumulative trauma (Fischer and Reidesser, 2001) of the phenomenon and the evolution of the four phases described above.

Leymann (quoted by Zlate, 2007): discovered during 300 interviews, 45 of behavior that the aggressors adopt and use on the victim, which he ordered in 5 categories, as follows:

1. action to prevent the victims´ possibilities to communicate:

victim’s superiors can refuse the possibility to communicate

victim is constantly interrupted when speaking

vicim’s colleagues don’t let her to express

victim’s colleagues scream, insult

victim’s work is criticized

victim’s private life is criticized

victim is terrorized by phone calls

victim is threatened verbally

victim is threatened in writing

refusing contact with the victim

ignored the presence of the victim

2. actions designed to isolate the victim:

do not ever talk to the victim

the victim is not allowed to talk to another person

the victim is assigned to another job, which removes and isolate the victim to colleagues

colleagues are not alloved to speak to the victim

deny physical presence of the victim

3.contempt actions involving the victim in front of colleagues:

sland or defamate the victim

gossip about the victim

ridicule the victim

allege that victim is mentally ill

coercing the victim to submit to a psychiatric examination

make up a disability of the victim imitate the victim’s actions, gestures, voice for more ridicule

attack on political or religious beliefs of the victim

the jokes at the expense of the privacy of the victim

the jokes at the expense of its origin or nationality

victim is required to accept humiliating activities

evaluating in unfair and malicious way the victim’s labor

victim’s decisions are questioned or challenged

agressing the victim in obscene or insulting terms

sexual harassment of the victim (through gestures or proposals)

4. professionally discredit the victim

not given work assignments

depriving the victim of any occupation and toring the victim to not find another occupation

give unnecessary or absurd tasks

provide lower activities than victim’s competences

permanently allocate new tasks

require the execution of humiliating tasks

give tasks superior to victim’s qualifications, in order to discredit the victim

5.compromising the victim’s health

give dangerous and health-hazardous assignments

threat with physical violence

physical aggresion of the victim, without gravity, as a warning

serious physical aggression without reservation

intentionally making the victim to spend money, with the intention of producing prejudice

cause nuisance damage at home or at work

sexually harass the victim.

Altogether, mobbing is a relational disorder, meaning that a set of behaviors of (an) individual (individuals) targeting another individual (individuals) the purpose being his (their) neutralisation . The way by which this occurs is based on communication, which, from a broad understanding is an information exchange, which in order to became a behavior, is suffering a number of changes (Figure 2.):

Sensations → perception → representation → cognition → beliefs / values → attitudes / opinions → behaviors

Figure 2. The process of information transformation

Dynamics course becomes very complex if we consider that may operate in reverse, eg. cognition can produce representations that can become perceptions, which then starts the transformation process of new information to action. In other words, to the achievement of perception occur all cognitive functions: attention, memory, thinking, as well as reasoned intentionality of the subject, from which appear certain perceptual expectations. Thus, a behavior can have many meanings . These meanings are decoded more or less truthful, consciously or unconsciously, the people involved in communication.

On the other hand, in an organization, the employees can accomplish tasks more or less efficiently and depending on the nature of the interaction processes, cooperation or competition. These are processes that in a relatively short period of time create a specific climate and on a long period of time, they contribute to the development of the organizational culture, very difficult to change once grounded. For example, in a competitive environment, people are sensitive to the differences between them, while in a cooperative environment, they emphasize the similarities. In a competitive environment, people also tend to be suspicious, oriented towards exploitation, while in a cooperative environment, people trust each other and they are oriented towards helping each other. Last, but not least, we need to keep in mind that often, in a competition, one’s gain (individual or group) can mean the other’s lack, but in a cooperation relationship, people tend to balance gains, effort and losses.

Furthermore, as in any organization the departments interdependence and  formal and informal communication are necessary and present an important role in shaping the development of certain attitudes or behaviors, it is played by feedback.

In Figure 3 (Groza, 1999, adapted from Radu, 1994) is shown how a behavior at the individual level changes, influenced by feed-back; the design have a cyclic form, and function in numerical order: each item that comes back to the present me forms the the future me. Thus, perception becomes a prerequisite for change, configuring cognitive process chain in a specific manner. For example, if employees will perceive that the competition can meet the needs of job duties, will develop a characteristic way of relating to competition.

groza-1-feedback-en

Figure 3. 360′ Feedback  (Groza, 1999, adapted from Radu, 1994)

Moreover, as mentioned in definition section, the opposite of aggression is prosocial behavior (Mitrofan, 1996), for which among the following, we present some aspects of one of the prosocial behavior subcategories that is self-help behavior. In organizations, mutual assistance takes the form of effective closure of the interdependence process and is subject to a significant degree of organizational climate, between the two existing a relationship of mutual development. An important role it has trust in this process because it is one that allows organizations to work (Bennis and nanus, 1985 quoted by Bruhn, 1991). Trust is the degree to which a person feels assured that another person will not develop malicious or arbitrary action, and to a certain extent, a person can expect predictability in the behavior of others through what is normally expected from a person acting in good faith (Gabarr, 1978, quoted by Smith, Birney, 2005).

Trust allows a successful communication. It has beneficial effects on the organization, for example:

increases the strategic flexibility

increases organization’s adaptability .

Therefore, the conflicts presence within an organization is directly proportional to the erosion of trust.

In Figure 4 is shown how the individual functionality shown in Figure 3, is nuanced, each phase having its unique style, both psychologically and behaviorally. If, for cooperation, the cognitive process facilitates aid decision-making process, the chances to get to the last stage (aid) are high, for competition, these chances decrease significantly, the individual developing an egocentric reasoning, in which to not be resposible for the other becomes a priority. The cycle resumes and increases each time a bid is activated and the individual decides and acts without aiding.

groza-2-ajutor-en

Figure 4.  Helping as decision making stage (Groza, 1999, adapted from Radu, 1994)

“When action is required made, non-action is culpable.” (Radu, 1994, quoted by Groza, 1999).

The reverse of these four ways (stages) to engage in a prosocial conduct of aid, the author also mentions four reasons why people do not engage in such conduct:

1. DO NOT PERCEIVE the situation as alarming,

2. DO NOT FEEL RESPONSIBLE to assist

3. Considers COSTS incurred to be too large;

4. Would like to help but DO NOT KNOW HOW

An important role in aid granting / denial can be played by the gatekeepers (in ro. păstrătorii porţii), by controlling the information flow and content. They are people, usually key-persons, with access to more or less important and deciding / filter information that passes through and to whom. Often, in this process, more or less deliberately to distort the original meaning of information by interests. But gatekeepers may be a department, group, organization or institution.

Subjects interviewed in a research about the mobbing causes (Einarsen, 1999) described the workplace as follows: greate stress, competitive environment, frequent interpersonal conflicts, a less friendly behavior, authoritarian leader. In a competitive environment (economically), unproductive employees are sacrificed in the interest of the organization; how this sacrifice takes place, is often mobbing; this approach saves later the management from a lot of trouble and expenses (eg, dismissal must follow a formal path, to be initiated, etc..).

In another research (Liefooghe and Olafsson, 1999), were identified following representations for the interpretation of incidents (related to mobbing): rough, unprofessional, insecurity, bad mood, divide and conquer, exclusion, embarrassment, injustice, hypocrisy, selfishness, control, power, manager (good or bad), humiliation, pressure, stress, aggression, victim, weak personality. Each representation corresponds to a set of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. For example, the stress representation (see also Figure 3) includes beliefs about stress causality, behavior of stressed people and how should behave with stressed people. In interviews (Liefooghe and Olafsson, 1999), was suggested the idea that a manager who mobbs is stressed. Moreover, the stress excuse or concern is raised frequently as a side effect of the common good, which in topic, often bears the imprint of machiavellian principle the end justifies the means.

Rather than allow such representations, the organization (leadership) should populate the employees vocabulary (both verbal and behavioral) with other representations as internal policy or regulation, of course, ensuring their proper implementation.

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Consequences

Without this subchapter’s arguments, mobbing’s importance would be much lower (in fact, it wouldn’t exist), because the lines below describe insufficiently significant consequences on several levels.

a. Individual level, the consequences are concerning both the victim and  the aggressor.

The victim can develop disorders, whose characteristics is to:

instincts: food (anorexia, bulimia), sleep (insomnia, nightmares, bruxism, etc..) sex life

mood: melancholy , sadness, apathy, etc..

communication / behavior: self-heteroagressivness, isolation (Zlate, 2007), social phobia (Einarsen, 1999).

Positive attitude towards work in general may decrease or be lost (in more severe forms) and can increase fatigue. Thus work satisfaction decreases, which causes  performance and efficiency to decrease (Zlate, 2007), which can be used by the aggressors against the victim, as evidence of incompetence, thereby creating a vicious circle. Over time, victim may develop generalized anxiety with panic attack, with obsessive-compulsive, fobia, somatization symptoms (Zlate, 2007, Einarsen, 1999) and posttraumatic stress syndrome (Leymann and Gustafsson, 1996).

Nor the aggressor is not protected from the consequences of his own actions. Concerned to develop different behaviors against the victim (see section dynamics) he tends to neglect his work engagement (time, effort consuming). Furthermore, since he use mobbing, work satisfaction is low, which together with neglect affects the efficiency and performance, creating once again a vicious circle that maintains the conflict. From another perspective, the decision (more or less conscious) to use mobbing indicate a degree of despair, frustration (Magda, 2000), which may be based on an old cognitive dissonance (discrepancy between what he is / have and what should be / have or which would like to be/have) – in which case the perpetrators psychology have the leading role in start and proliferation of mobbing and organizational factors serve to maintain it – or a new one, possibly created by organizational factors (see section factors). In both cases the abuser is likely to develop certain inadequacies/disorders. In other words, as in any war, losses are on both sides, with different degrees and / or contents.

b. At the work group level, mobbing makes its presence by laying  its hands on some time and attention of direct and indirect witnesses. Employees talk to each other, and find out who is the aggressor and who is the target. Over time information circulating this way – gossip – can distort and start another conflict. Consequently, confidence is reduced and professional relations suffer as a result of communication quality degradation (Zlate, 2007). This degradation is more acute in the case of direct witnesses (those who actually see what is happening) because they are faced with a decision – or to intervene and bear the consequences (see Figure 4. Aiding as a stage decision-making in dynamics section), or to not intervene and adjust in time their cognitive dissonance (see also the reasons for not developing mutual assistance, in the same section). In both cases, witnesses may question who’s next? This cognitive-emotional adjustment is based on human need for structure and to give meaning to the world, the environment and himself, and more as negative experiences creates a narrative thirst, a need to explain these experiences to reduce inherent uncertainties accompanying them and provide the illusion of understanding and control (Spence, 1982 quoted by Schneider and Dunbar, 1992). In conclusion, at the work group level, mobbing negavtively affects the group dynamics, organizational climate, and therefore can increase absenteeism (employees are not happy to come to work), turnover (because of organizational climate, even if they are not directly involved in mobbing). It also has to suffer the company’s image  because of negative information spread by disgruntled employees or processes related to work conflicts in which may be driven the organization (see the statistics related to work conflicts, www.insse.ro).

c. at the social level, mobbing consumes time, money, energy to support programs of social and professional recovery, unemployment, etc. restoration of victim’s balance.

Note that prevention and intervention in early stages reduces direct and indirect costs at medium and long period of time compared with delayed intervention (final stages) or post factum. In other words, for each of those levels is possible prevention or treatment, that’s because mobbing is a complex phenomenon with clear solutions. Eventually, mobbing  may be considered a matter of decision, of concern for quality of work relations and organizational effectiveness.

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Solutions/Recommendations

One of the most important approaches to prevent mobbing is the contact, direct knowledge of field reality, the organization reality (from departments, from production line, etc..). This is recommended especially to those from human resources departments as well as management (any level), whose work is mainly office. This approach will be taken anyway when things get out of control, postfactum (then it is rather an investigation) and so it is recommended to introduce it as a common practice also for other aspects (prevention of occupational accidents, work efficiency, etc.) than mobbing. Contact can be an effective method against the office work syndrome and the ivory tower syndrome. Because this way psychology was born – interacting obervation, direct contact.

Another recommended approach is the leaders and managers availability at any level. Inaccessibility (eg gatekeeper – for example secretary – by procedure or personal refusal) for their employees, as common practice may lead to acute the problems (and other than mobbing). Both methods require good communication networks in organizations and a supportive organizational culture (eg complaints / communications without retaliation).

Creating a culture of psychological hygiene at work is another significant way to reduce the risk of mobbing and generally to reduce occupational stress and to increase employees well-being. Are well known the studies in this field (particularly organizational-managerial psychology) showing the benefits (in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, sales, psychological comfort, etc..) for example of creating a supportive climate, an effective team, enhancing creative potential, development of trust and respect between members of an organization, promoting organizational well-being, etc.. The simplest way, it is a logic of common sense that smoking is injurious to health and not vice versa (Sava, 2004).

Bogathy (2002) describes a series of measures and personal styles of conflict resolution in organizations, including:

1. Intergroup conflict management:

a. avoiding conflict strategies

b. defusing strategies

c. solving strategies

d. confrontation strategies

2. personal style settlement:

a. cooperative style

b. avoiding style

c. adapting style

d.compromising style

e. confronting style

Each of these styles or strategies can be used in prevention or intervention in mobbing process, with the condition to fit the situation. In other words, each has it’s characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. Using a style or strategy in inadequate or abusive manner, has a boomerang effect (as well as inappropriate use of team-building) in dealing with conflict – for the time  tensions calm, but appear in another form or lent to others. Awareness of own style of dealing with conflict situations and the development of skills and knowledge of different conflict approaches trainings can be very useful if based on identifying the training needs of the individual,on group characteristics and on organizational culture.

Zlate (2007) also presents a series of preventive/ counter measures and in the same book are also found other information relevant to the topic, in chapter organizational pathology, and Rayner (1999) states that it is not ethical that mobbing to be simulated in laboratory (experimental) – an option is role-playing with professional actors. Also, Pikas (1989) recommends to teachers two methods to combat bullying (psychological harassment between students):

promoting attitudes that discourage the phenomenon among students

therapeutic intervention – in the sense of mediation / conflict resolution

In Kovacs (2008) are described a series of measures:

1. prevention of the mobbing’s occurrence

a. spreading information about mobbing – through workshops, trainings and various other actions

b. explicit indication in internal rules of conducts prohibited at work

c. communication skills, networking, emotional education

d. occupational stress reduction

e. encouraging civil and helping behavior and discouraging workplace incivility (in ro. impoliteţea la locul de muncă)

f. developing motivational policies adequate to fulfill both organizational and its members needs

g. developing and fostering an ethic (see also Popescu, 2008) and supportive climate

2. early diagnosis and intervention

a. organizing work, designing job descriptions (and understanding / taking it by the parties), controling and coordinating the employees

b. creating optimal working conditions

c. creating appropriate, transparent and functional punishment / reward systems – employees tend to behave as it behaves the rewarded one.

d. conducting periodic organizational, group (departmental) and individual diagnosis

e. establishing procedures for answering / resolving the complaints (eg audience to the manager or placing a box in which employees can call in an anonymous system, their complaints)

f. exit interwiev (in ro. interviul la plecarea din organizaţie) can be a very useful tool for prevention of mobbing and other organizational issues / problems

3. case focused measures (Zlate, 2007):

a. reconciliation of parties

b. vocational rehabilitation

c. legal rehabilitation

d. individual counseling and psychotherapy or

e. creating support groups

4.general measures

a. law adoption

b. institutional, organizational (eg social responsibility projects), group or individual initiatives – to deter all forms of discrimination (ethnicity, religion, sex, profession etc..)

c. developing a guide of good practices at national level in line with EU trends

d. reconsidering the criteria for classification of professional diseases

e. promoting intercultural tolerance (reducing prejudice, discrimination); Triandis (2006) describes culturally intelligent individual as someone who makes decisions about a person only after he knows the cultural significance of content circulated in interaction / communication (eg collectivism / individualism, idiocentrism / alocentrism etc..)

f. inter-professional communication (notably in health and education) – psychologists, psychotherapists, family doctors, psychiatrists, teachers, etc..

All these measures must be consistent in terms of explicit (assumed) / explicit (functional) ratio,  and that is to be respected and be composed on the principles of mutual respect, competence and synergy of efforts.

Moreover, Quigg (2005, see Figure 5) presents an intervention model that can be adapted as a prevention  model for mobbing, highlighting the importance of organizational factors (particularly management / leadership).

Harassment is felt by the target through behavior (detailed in section dynamics) and, after starting it may be possible to action or inaction, each with specific denouement (victim vs. survivor). To note that anyone, regardless of level of training and / or personality (strong / weak) or other individual characteristics (assertivity, emotional intelligence, etc..) can be a mobbing target. An exceptional setting – high  power + strong personality+ exceptional skills (high level of emotional intelligence and assertivity and so forth) – can at most delay the inevitable (illness or resigning / firing) or speed the recovery (see also Dinu, 2005). Therefore, Quigg (2005) called the figure mentioned, the myth of self-help, approach seen at the most of the authors. Often mobbing’s targets are too late aware of the true scale of the phenomenon, namely when the signs appear (see consequences at the individual level), because on the one hand believe they can control the situation and on the other hand perceive subtle deformed behaviors (eg it seemd to be , it happens, I think I was wrong etc.). Therefore management / leadership plays a decisive role in prevention and intervention work harassment.

quigg-1-en

Figure 5. The Seflf-Help Myth (Quigg, 2005)

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Conclusions

As you can see, this phenomenon hide organizational, in groups and individual shortcomings, issues that taken together cost the organization and its people, resources (time, money, materials, customers, etc..). In other words, non-proliferation of mobbing means no deficiencies or effective, optim control, of all the factors mentioned.

There are instruments, methodologies and specialists to use them properly for the benefit of organizations and their people to reduce or cope with situations of mobbing and beyond (see also counterproductive behavior).

In present, discouraging mobbing and other dysfunctional phenomenas, or investing in people and in their professional development, remains an option. And there are many options – and some are effective and beneficial.

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