Introduction to the concept of mobbing

Introduction to the concept of mobbing

"Through their national work environmental acts Sweden, Finland and Norway support the rights of workers to remain both physically and mentally healthy at work. Yet, in recent years, a workplace-related psychosocial problem has been discovered, the existence and extent of which was not known earlier.

This phenomenon has been referred to as "mobbing", "ganging up on someone", "bullying" or "psychological terror". In this type of conflict, the victim is subjected to a systematic, stigmatizing process and encroachment of his or her civil rights. If it lasts a number of years, it may ultimately lead to ejection from the labor market when the individual in question is unable to find employment due to mental injury sustained at the former work place.

I introduced this phenomenon in 1984. It certainly is a very old one, well known in every culture from the very beginning of these cultures. Nevertheless, it has not been systematically described until the research started in 1982 which led to a small scientific report written in the fall of 1983 and published in early 1984 at The National Board of Occupational Safety and Health in Stockholm, Sweden

(Leymann & Gustavsson, 1984)"

segunda-feira, 5 de novembro de 2012

Survey on moral harassment in health and social work

Although moral harassment is not a recent phenomenon at the workplace, few studies have been carried out in Portugal to quantify the problem. In 2007, the Association for Competence Development conducted a study with the aim of better understanding moral harassment in the healthcare and social work sector. ‘Symbolic violent harassment’, ‘control harassment’ and ‘functional and pressure harassment’ were some of the most common types reported.

Studying moral harassment

Since few studies have been carried out in Portugal with the aim of quantifying the occurrence of moral harassment at work, the Association for Competence Development (Associação para o Desenvolvimento das Competências, ADC) conducted a pioneer study in the healthcare and social work sector to improve understanding of the problem. The study, entitled Moral harassment at work, focuses on the concept of mobbing or bullying. According to the authors, mobbing has gained greater visibility in Portugal due to rising education levels and consequently better knowledge of labour law, as well as increasing job insecurity and the feminisation of the labour market.

About the study

The study is based on a survey which was conducted in 33 organisations of the healthcare and social work sector, covering hospitals, healthcare centres, crèches, homes for elderly people and day-care centres in three geographic areas – Greater Lisbon, and the cities of Setúbal to the south of Lisbon and Santarém to the northeast of Lisbon. Some 732 professionals of the sector responded to the self-administered questionnaire; the population sample covered different types and levels of occupations in the sector. Most of the survey respondents (71.8%) were women, reflecting the traditional proportion of female workers in the healthcare and social work sector.

Perception on moral harassment

According to the ADC survey, 35.2% of the respondents indicated that they knew the meaning of the term ‘moral harassment’; this proportion is slightly higher among female workers, at 36.8%, than among male workers, at 32.8%. When asked how they acquired knowledge about the meaning of moral harassment, the majority of survey participants responded ‘others’ (51.2%), mentioning means such as ‘own experience’, ‘articles and magazines’ and ‘media’ in general. ‘Work colleagues’ (30.8%), ‘experts’ (10.4%) and ‘parents’ (7.5%) were the other main sources of having become aware of moral harassment, according to the survey respondents.

The respondents were also asked to provide their opinion on which factors were more likely to lead to moral harassment in their organisation or company. As regards factors related to the personality of the perpetrator, respondents mostly referred to ‘the abuse of power’ (15.8%) and ‘personality characteristics’ (11.8%). In terms of factors leading to moral harassment that are related to the organisation, survey participants mostly indicated ‘inappropriate leadership’ (12.3%) and a ‘set of factors’ (9%). In the latest case, this may include a combination of the following elements: asymmetry in roles and power, inadequate human resources management, organisations’ economic interests and economic globalisation.

The survey participants were also asked to state which factors may explain the existence of hostile behaviours towards them in the organisation for which they worked. Factors such as nationality, unpleasant work relationships, lower individual performance and physical appearance were less often cited in terms of explaining hostile behaviours towards workers. On the other hand, factors such as poor conflict management and a negative organisational environment emerged as the most important elements to explain hostile behaviours at the workplace.

Moral harassment characteristics

By means of a statistical method, the 32 questions used in the survey to assess the respondents’ personal experience on moral harassment were aggregated into 10 factors, ranging from ‘subjective harassment’ to ‘disciplinary harassment’. The table below shows a hierarchy of harassment factors according to the average frequency that respondents are exposed to different types of moral harassment behaviours.

According to the results of the analysis, the types of moral harassment that, on average, show a higher frequency of occurrence in an organisation or company are ‘symbolic violent harassment’, ‘control harassment’ and ‘functional and pressure harassment’. Symbolic violent harassment refers to situations where respondents were subject to defamatory behaviour at work, that is, they were humiliated because of their work or yelled at in front of other people. Control harassment means that workers have been the target of excessive control over their work, while functional and pressure harassment means that workers were asked to fulfil unreasonable tasks or within impossible deadlines, or they were frequently asked to carry out insignificant tasks which do not belong to their usual functions.

Fonte: ADC, 2007
Referência: Pereira de Almeida, P. (ed.) et al, Assédio Moral no Trabalho – um estudo aplicado [Moral harassment at work – an applied study], Associação para o Desenvolvimento das Competências, 2007.