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Psychosocial Risk: How to prevent workplace bullying


This week we talk about violence at work and specifically how to act to prevent workplace bullying by providing specific measures to protect the psychological health of workers and create work environments healthy.

What types of violence can occur in the workplace?

Regardless of the two ways in which we have usually been dividing violence, physical and psychological, in the work environment we can distinguish three types of violence depending on the relationship that the person who exercises said violence maintains with the organization.

workplace bullying


Thus, type I violence would be that exercised by those people who have no relationship whatsoever with the company (also called external violence, exercised on the occasion of robberies, assaults, robberies, etc.); Type II violence would be that carried out by the people to whom the service is attended or provided (called client violence); and type III violence would be that carried out by the co-workers themselves (regardless of the hierarchical relationship that exists between them).

This last type would include the typical behaviors of psychological violence at work, such as sexual harassment, discriminatory harassment and workplace harassment (also called psychological harassment at work, moral harassment or mobbing).

What responsibility do companies have in preventing these types of psychosocial risks?

Companies are the most responsible for the prevention of this type of behavior. Harassment at work, as an occupational risk according to the definitions of the Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks, is a risk that must be prevented, detected and, if it is diagnosed, eradicated.

bullying at workplace


The responsibility of the company arises both by action and by omission. In the first case, it is the employer himself the active subject of the harassment behaviors and his responsibility is direct. In the second case, responsibility for omission arises in the background, when, having had this knowledge of a situation of harassment, it would not have adopted the necessary measures for its treatment and eradication. Hence the importance of always informing the company of any conduct that may constitute workplace harassment.

What are the most common forms of expression of mobbing at work?

When we talk about workplace harassment, we always refer to behaviors that imply psychological violence, that is, we are dealing with behaviors that involve denigration, humiliation or humiliation for the worker who receives it, thus constituting a violation of their fundamental rights, basically of their right to dignity and physical and moral integrity. In general, and as stated in the questionnaire on harassment strategies at work, these behaviors can be classified into six large blocks or items, which are the following:

  • In communication or blocking of communication, e.g. ignoring, avoiding, or not speaking to the worker, prohibiting other colleagues from speaking with that person, not allowing him to express himself ...
  • Work discredit, e.g. criticizing work, exaggerating failures, minimizing achievements, slandering and gossiping, spreading false rumors ...
  • Blocking progress, e.g. assigning the worker a humiliating task, keeping him isolated from the rest, forcing him to perform tasks far beyond his means or capabilities, assigning him tasks below his competence, or leaving him without nothing to do…
  • Overt intimidation, e.g. yelling or scolding the worker out loud, threatening him verbally, making a fool of him ...
  • Covert intimidation, e.g. receiving threatening letters and notes, causing damage to your home, your job, your vehicle or your belongings, manipulating your tools ...
  • Personal discredit, e.g. criticizing, ridiculing or making fun of your private life, calling you insults or obscene or degrading comments, treating you as if you were mentally ill ...

As our jurisprudential doctrine reminds us, mobbing mechanisms   admit a plurality of forms, ranging from the grossest and most violent attitudes to the subtlest techniques. But in any case, the situation of workplace harassment requires certain objective components (systematic pressure, causal relationship with work, lack of protection in the power of direction and elemental gravity) and subjective (denigrating intentionality and individualized character - which does not collective- of the recipient). These requirements can be used to differentiate this figure from other related ones with which it could be confused a priori.

workplace bullying


What kinds of specific measures can an organization take to prevent workplace bullying?

Three basic pillars are essential:

  • First, the company must have a good organizational model, with well-defined work procedures, clear communication channels and effective conflict resolution systems, measures that will minimize the risk of conflicts arising between workers and that some of these Conflicts become stigmatized and lead to harassment.
  • Secondly, it is essential to train the company's managers and executive staff. Let us not forget that command is the modulator of psychosocial factors and effective training in communication techniques, in the development of assertiveness, in conflict resolution and in the prevention of harassment, among others, will be essential to prevent and treat this type of behavior.
  • And finally, one of the most effective measures in the prevention and treatment of harassment is the implementation of a good harassment protocol in the company.  The protocol must contain a purely preventive part (declaration of principles of zero tolerance to this type of conduct, scope of application, dissemination of the protocol, definitions, conduct constituting harassment and exclusions, training, etc.) and another reactive part, that is, a safe, agile, fast procedure and with the due guarantees of neutrality and confidentiality that can respond to the complaints that workers present in this matter.

Faced with a complaint for mobbing, what should the company do?

Always and in any case carry out a good investigation.  Regardless of whether the company has a pre-established procedure for processing complaints, it must carry out an investigation of the facts that are revealed in it and must offer the parties involved the due guarantees of agility, fairness, security, neutrality and confidentiality, these principles that should inspire this type of procedure.

Every complaint must end with a report of conclusions in which the company states whether or not once the investigation phase has concluded the existence of signs of harassment and the consequences of said pronouncement.

If you have experience workplace bullying and finds a way to overcome it. write it and be included to our online magazine by submitting the articles to us, to help spread awareness and how to prevent and overcome workplace bullying. Contact us today!

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