Stages of harassment

Why and how can harassment arise?

The reasons for harassment can be organizational or individual in nature. However, a case rarely arises alone but is often a mixture of different causes.

Organizational reasons :

Abuse of hierarchical power is at the top of the list of organisational reasons. This can emanate from the manager, the head of the department or/and from the boss himself/herself.

Often the organisation or disorganisation of work causes moral harassment. If there is too much work, but not enough staff, exploitation of different people without adequate reward and/or appreciation can go wrong. A change of management, reorganisation or a merger turns into a chaotic storm. If the situation is not only temporary and responsibilities remain confused or non-existent: "Who does what? Who do I report the worries to? etc.", persistent frustration is established among employees, which again can lead to moral harassment among colleagues.

Unfortunately, there are cases where, from the point of view of these companies, moral harassment costs less than a social plan and therefore the tactic of moral harassment is applied to get rid of people.

Individual reasons :

People who are fully developed in their work, doing it with body and soul, very often find themselves in a situation of moral harassment. A high level of professional commitment can trigger fear among co-workers for their own position in the company. The same person may be completely accepted and highly valued in another group.

It is possible that particular characteristics of a person may trigger the process, e.g. perfectionist, sensitive, shy etc. But this does not mean that the harassment is his or her fault.

It may be sufficient that a person in a certain group is placed in a socially important position because of his or her personality, gender, skin colour, cultural, political and trade union involvement, and national identity.

People who are or have been exposed to psychological stress in their private life (death, divorce or illness) can sometimes carry this discontent into working life.

Where can psychological harassment lead?

The consequences for the victim:

The process of mobbing can affect physical health in the form of indigestion, nausea, insomnia or cardiovascular problems. The most common psychological manifestations are concentration problems, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, panic attacks, irritable and aggressive moods. Long-term psychological processes can lead to a generalisation of mistrust, also in other areas of life, and can lead to a fundamental change in attitudes. In addition, thoughts that constantly revolve around the humiliation suffered arise, thus considerably reducing the distance from events and individual opportunities for regeneration and reflection. This can lead to complete physical and mental exhaustion, severe depression and even suicidal thoughts.

The consequences for the company :

A drop in productivity due to increased sick leave, internal dismissals of employees, reduced performance, layoffs and re-training become necessary.

Options for action for victims of bullying

  1. Analyze the problem carefully
    An important aid is to write a chronological report, i.e. to note, with the exact date, the infringements and events that took place at work, with the names of the people involved.

    Fill out the Heinz Leymann test to check and compare the violations with your own examples.  If, at an early stage, an interview with the harasser is still possible, this is the time to say clearly: STOP.

  2. Inside the company
    For your sanity, you need someone with whom you can talk about your experiences.  Find allies, your co-workers who can also be witnesses.

    Isolation is not a solution.
    The company's staff delegation is a particularly important partner, as it has the legal mandate (law on staff delegation) to ensure the protection of each employee. In addition, it has the legal and internal power to assert justified claims. Mobbing not only undermines the social situation of those affected, but also jeopardizes the economic existence of individuals or entire families.  With the support of the staff delegation, the chances of those affected by mobbing to find a satisfactory solution is in their favour.
    Afterwards, it is important to know your company's organisation chart, in order to inform the hierarchy - therefore your manager, after your superior, human resources and/or possibly the boss directly if the other actors are not present in your structure.

  3. Outside the company
    Get more information: the union of your choice can tell you about your rights.
    The more you think about the situation at work, the more likely it is that your physical and mental health will be affected by harassment, so take the time to take care of yourself!
    Consult a trusted doctor/occupational doctor if you have symptoms to prevent possible long-term health damage.
    Work on your confidence!
    Also look for other professionals/other services that can give you the support you need during this difficult time.
    Take a step back and create a physical and mental balance to distract yourself from constantly thinking about your problems.  Often the first support comes from family members and friends.  Do not exaggerate with regular complaints and dissatisfaction with them to avoid overloading their private life.
    Sometimes a difficult situation makes us attentive to the priorities of our life.  Reflect on your private goals and alternatives for your professional life, because a crisis can turn into a chance


No matter how difficult it is to endure a situation of moral harassment in the workplace, no one should resign in a hurry.
Anyone who resigns or signs a joint agreement is not entitled to unemployment benefits! If the work becomes unbearable as a result of mobbing and you cannot find a solution, you should look for a new job in peace and discretion, and during this time you should not give up the income from your current job.

Sick leave:
Do not remain passive during your sick leave. Seek help and support from the various associations. It is important to regain self-confidence. An extended sick leave will most likely lead to the termination of the employment relationship, either at the initiative of the employer after the expiry of the 26 consecutive weeks of protection period or automatically after 78 weeks of sickness benefits over a period of 2 years. For this reason an active attitude is therefore indispensable for you.

Contact Mobbing asbl if you have any further questions or doubts.

If you witness moral harassment, react! Do not tolerate moral harassment.


You can find other documents that can help you in our publications section.


Mobbing Asbl

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