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Bullying at work

July 20, 2011

Mobbing is not a recent phenomenon

Two men are whispering behind the back of a woman

Mobbing is not a recent phenomenon. The problem of "mobbing at the workplace", however, has greater status than in earlier days due to the changes in the social environment, in values and, in particular, the persistently critical situation on the labour market. The increasing use of new technologies and new types of work organisation can lead to psychological stress caused by permanent time pressure, a hectic pace, increased performance demands, greater responsibilities or cuts in staff, monotony and a lack of meaningfulness in work.

In addition, employees may be anxious that they are unable to fulfil the increased demands and pressure to adapt, or that they will lose standing or even their jobs. Defence mechanisms are developed to deal with this conflict which can manifest themselves in mobbing - for example by putting blame on others, mounting personal attacks, intrigues and chicanery and even engaging in psychological blackmail.

Mobbing frequently has far-reaching consequences for victims, and these can have negative effects on health or on professional or personal lives. This may result in absences due to illness, changing positions at the workplace, resignation and incapacity to work. The goal must therefore be to intervene in this potential source of conflict as early as possible through preventive measures. Those who take on responsibility in companies¿ personnel and organisation departments in particular need to take suitable preventive measures - such as through comprehensive information-provision and awareness-creation among senior staff and the assertion of modern motivational work and health policies - so that everyday conflicts at the workplace do not turn into mobbing.

Employers are obliged to protect their employees right of privacy and health. They must therefore prevent mobbing, act against employees who mob others and take all possible measures to prevent mobbing in their companies. Employees have a number of legal opportunities to defend themselves against mobbing. They can also file a complaint with the responsible officials within the company. They have the right to demand that mobbing co-workers, superiors or employers cease and desist, and they can assert compensation for damages and damages for pain and suffering.

Furthermore, affected parties can now also invoke the General Anti-Discrimination Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz - AGG), which came into force on 18 August 2006, in cases of discrimination due to race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or convictions, disability, age or sexual identity. Sexual harassment at the workplace and harassment linked to one of the discrimination characteristics cited above are also considered to constitute discrimination in terms of the legal definition. The General Anti-Discrimination Act regulates rights and measures that employers can take to prevent discrimination and protect employees¿ rights. For the first time, the fight against discrimination is also being supported institutionally through the establishment of a Federal Anti-discrimination Office at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Whoever believes that they are being discriminated against or harassed for reasons of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or convictions, disability, age or sexual identity can contact the Anti-discrimination Office.