Prevention and Intervention of Workplace Harassment

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has proposed a series of general recommendations to prevent workplace harassment , and considers that the prevention of mobbing is a basic element to improve working life and avoid social exclusion, and considers adoption of measures at an early stage to avoid a destructive work environment, so employers should not wait for complaints from victims. Keep reading this article if you want to know more about the prevention and intervention of workplace bullying.

Prevention and intervention

Given these intentions of the European Agency, it seems obvious that a mature, responsible and ethically committed involvement of companies and workers will be necessary. The specific proposals of the European Agency are:

  • Offer each worker the possibility to choose the way to carry out their work.
  • Reduce the volume of monotonous and repetitive jobs.
  • Increase information on objectives.
  • Develop the democratic style of leadership.
  • Avoid unclear specifications of functions and tasks.

Recommendations for creating an organizational culture with norms and values against workplace harassment are as follows:

  • Promote the dissemination of the meaning of workplace harassment.
  • Investigate the scope and nature of the workplace harassment problem.
  • Formulate clear guidelines to promote positive social interaction that includes:
  1. The ethical commitment, both by the employer and the workers to promote an environment free from harassment.
  2. Explain the types of actions that are acceptable and those that are not.
  3. Establish the values and norms of the organization and the consequences and sanctions for non-compliance with the norms.
  4. Indicate where and how victims can get help.
  5. Guarantee the right to complain without retaliation.
  6. Explain the procedure for making complaints.
  7. Specify the role of the manager, supervisor, contact-support partner, and union representatives.
  8. Provide data of advisory services.
  9. Make help available to the victim and the harasser.
  10. Maintain confidentiality.
  11. Do not unnecessarily expose the victim to confrontation with the aggressor.
  12. Listen to both parties objectively and without bias.

Therefore, it is convenient to establish some objectives :

  • Carry out an effective distribution of norms and values at all levels of the organization, for example, through personnel manuals, informational meetings, newsletters, etc.
  • Ensure ways to resolve conflicts objectively and democratically.
  • Ensure that all employees know and respect the norms and values ​​of the organization.
  • Improve management's responsibility and competence in dealing with conflict and communication.
  • Establish independent contacts with workers.
  • Involve workers and their representatives in risk assessment and prevention of workplace harassment.

Protective and effective factors against mobbing

Approximately half of the workers subjected to mobbing report psychological or physical consequences. Therefore, if situations of workplace harassment are detected, one should not wait for damage to manifest itself to establish preventive strategies. In this sense, some factors for a good prognosis of workplace bullying have been identified :

  • The short duration of the bullying, or stopping it as soon as possible.
  • The low intensity or frequency of the harassment.
  • Social and family support.
  • The breakdown of defenselessness and paralysis, through an active coping strategy.

There are some factors that increase the effectiveness of the worker in dealing with mobbing (Leymannn, 1996):

  • Good physical and mental shape.
  • Self-confidence.
  • Support from the family and social environment.
  • Economic stability.
  • The ability to solve problems and dexterity in social skills.

PĂ©rez Bilbao (2001) points out that the personality of the victims seems relevant in the way of coping with mobbing , and that coping behaviors to solve the problem and to control emotional reactions are more effective than avoidance behaviors.

Regarding the survival of workplace harassment, we could say that they have two different parts; on the one hand, that of strategies for coping with mobbing , and, on the other, the treatment of the consequences that these behaviors have caused in the victim. The most frequent pathologies derived from mobbing have already been seen , whose pharmacological treatment, when required, should not be different from similar symptoms, regardless of the cause that originated them.

Here are some strategies that can be useful to overcome mobbing :

  • Identify the problem of mobbing , learning and training on the subject.
  • Document and record the harassment behaviors that are the object as soon as possible.
  • Make public the harassment behaviors that are received in privacy and in secret, and communicate them to colleagues, bosses, managers, advisers, family members and friends.
  • Carry out emotional deactivation, avoiding reacting with attacks.
  • Control and channel anger and resentment (anger is the bully's ally).
  • Be assertive, respond to slander and destructive criticism, although without passivity or aggressiveness.
  • Protect the data, documents and files of the worker himself, distrusting the manipulative capacities of the harassers.
  • Avoid social isolation , interacting socially and doing leisure activities.
  • Avoid self-incrimination, and if it occurs, use extrojection mechanisms.
  • Do not try to convince or change the harasser.
  • Do not fall into inhibition or paralysis, talk about bullying and express the emotions (laughter, crying) that their behavior provokes.
  • Increase professional training and keep up to date, conducting training and retraining courses.
  • Request medical, psychological and legal help, to design the therapeutic plan with prevention measures, drug treatment, sick leave, etc., and the legal approach.
  • Ignoring the stalker as a form of final release.

In addition, companies should favor:

  • Social support to the affected person through a trusted colleague, the company doctor, the occupational risk prevention service or in the extra-work environment.
  • The recognition by the organization that these phenomena can exist.
  • The planning and design of social relations in the company as part of its business culture.
  • The possibility of having an assistance service for workers within the company.
  • Attention to the deficiencies of the work design, the behavior of the leaders and the social protection of the person through clear, written and public rules on conflict resolution.
  • The development of an action protocol for the prevention and care in the event of workplace harassment.

Facing mobbing involves significant personal effort and going through several phases since it requires the identification of the problem as mobbing , emotional deactivation, which consists of recognizing, analyzing, confronting and dismantling defense mechanisms such as introjection (self-blame) and denial. Once these mechanisms are deactivated, one must be in a position to face and respond to the behaviors and perversions of the harasser, without developing feelings of guilt or shame; that is, extrojecting guilt, cultivating assertiveness and communication skills, and recovering self-esteem and self-confidence (Viana and Gil, 2003).