The 7 types of mobbing and their causes

Harassment of an individual by a group is a phenomenon well known to everyone.

It is common that during the schooling stage some of the students suffer from different types of harassment, a process that is commonly known today as “bullying”. Bullying is now recognized as a serious problem affecting the mental, physical and emotional health of those who receive it.

Although we think that when people reach adulthood, having matured, they should put this kind of unpleasant behavior aside, the reality is that harassment in the work environment also exists. It is known as “mobbing” and is believed to affect at least one in ten working people.

Mobbing has different forms and causes that we will review in this article so that we are clear about the situations of harassment at work that can occur during our daily lives.

Definition of mobbing

Workplace bullying is a practice that is carried out in a more subtle way than school bullying, the dynamics of which vary from case to case according to a large number of factors that make it difficult to study. Luckily currently mobbing is considered by law to be a labour problemso that the bosses are obliged to offer solutions to this problem.

In general, we can define mobbing events as acts of emotional and/or psychological violence directed at a specific person within the work environmentThey affect their physical, mental and emotional health as well as their work performance. These practices take many different forms depending on the perpetrator, the victim and the working relationship between them.

The end result of mobbing practices is a very hostile work environment towards a particular worker.This is usually carried out directly or indirectly by several members of the work team, usually led by a principal harasser. This leads, in most cases, to the harassed person leaving his or her job.

Signs of harassment in the workplace

The practices carried out to produce this environment include, among others:

  • Provocations
  • Offenses
  • Threats
  • Discrimination
  • False rumors
  • Impossible tasks
  • Lack of recognition

Mobbing mainly affects women (approximately 70% of victims), especially those in workplaces with low levels of organization and whose supervisory staff tend to be ineffective and inattentive.

If the harassment is suffered over a long period of time (more than 6 months), repeatedly and systematically by one or more individuals, causing the isolation and silence of their victims, we would be faced with a clear case of mobbing.

Although it is not usual for harassment at work to escalate to physical violence, there are also cases in which this occurs..

Types of workplace harassment

Although harassment methods and their dynamics vary enormously from case to case, certain parameters can be established to help distinguish different types of mobbing that occur regularly.

If we look at the hierarchical dynamics that exists between the victim and her aggressor(s), we can separate the mobbing into:

1. Vertical upward Mobbing

This type of harassment comes from a person or group of persons in a hierarchical position inferior to that of the victim, that is, subordinates harassing their superior.

2. Vertical descending Mobbing

This type of mobbing is more frequent, and occurs when a superior initiates mobbing actions against a subordinate. The asymmetrical power relationship between victim and aggressor makes it difficult to defend oneself from harassment, either by communicating with peers or superiors, or by reporting, as this will most likely mean firing the harassed person.

3. Horizontal Mobbing

Another very common type of mobbing is between employees of the same level. There may be several reasons for this, but it usually occurs when the aggressor detects an asymmetry between the hierarchical position between him/her and the victim, not by rank but simply by other factors such as personality, studies or work performance.

We can also separate the different types of mobbing according to the motivation behind the harassment of the victim by the assailant. We would observe, for example:

4. Strategic Mobbing

Strategic mobbing is that which occurs for the benefit of the aggressor. Whether it’s to eliminate a competitor for a promotion or to eliminate a subordinate so they won’t be replaced by this one, this type of mobbing stands out for being a calculated strategy to eliminate someone from the work environment or wear them out enough to stop them from being an inconvenience.

5. Perverse Mobbing

Perverse mobbing occurs when the instigators have no special reason to start harassing the victim. It’s characteristic of certain pathological personalities.It is also important to note that in the case of the victims of torture, they enter into this type of practice of psychological abuse with the sole aim of deriving satisfaction from the tortures they have inflicted and the effect they have on their victims.

6. Management Mobbing

When supervisors agree to harass a worker. It is often an extremely unpleasant experience, due to the strong asymmetry between powers within the work environment that exists between the victim and her aggressors.

Vexatious practices such as disqualifying the victim from work or assigning tasks that are known first-hand that cannot be completed shall be used. In some cases, employees with mundane and tedious tasks are assigned so that they decide to leave the company..

In general, this type of mobbing occurs to prevent the subordinate from receiving any type of compensation at the time of dismissal, since it will be the victim who decides to give up the benefits of the dismissal by leaving the job on his own feet.

7. Disciplinary Mobbing

Disciplinary mobbing occurs when the victim’s personality or actions do not fit in with the work environment. It can be vertical or horizontal, but it occurs because of a difference of opinions and way of doing between the victim and his aggressors.

It occurs, for example, in jobs where practices of dubious legality are carried out.In this way, those who have doubts about the legitimacy of certain behaviors will have a victim as an example of what can happen in the event of rebellion.

Bibliographic references

  • Acquadro Maran, D., Bernardelli, S., & Varetto, A. (2018). Mobbing (bullying at work) in Italy: characteristics of successful court cases. Journal of injury & violence research, 10(1), 17-24. doi:10.5249/jivr.v10i1.945.
  • Tatar, Z. B., & Yüksel, Ş. (2019). Mobbing at Workplace -Psychological Trauma and Documentation of Psychiatric Symptoms. Noro psikiyatri arsivi, 56(1), 57-62. doi:10.29399/npa.22924.