Nowicki i Ziemczyk Adwokaci i Radcowie Prawni
In 2012, some 452 employees sought compensation for a health disorder suffered due to mobbing. How to protect yourself against such a turn of events?
by Agata Sobczyk, Legal Trainee, Kancelaria Prawna Nowicki i Ziemczyk Adwokaci i Radcowie Prawni
Have you heard him yelling at me at the last meeting? I bet everyone could hear that!”
“I don’t get it. Why do I have to sign an attendance list every single day to be later forced to justify via an official email even the slightest 5-minute tardiness?” “I have a feeling that he sees everything I do – I can see him in my dreams correcting my reports, every single night.”
Not very surprised? Well, such situations happen in all companies and I bet that many can recall the feelings that a victim or a witness of such office drama might have. How to tell the difference between a manager who simply controls the workflow and a boss whose supervision starts resembling the behaviour of an aggressor – a mobber?
The term ‘mobbing’ has its origins in England, where ‘mob’ means crowd or rabble, but also harassment. In the UK, such terms as ‘workplace bullying’ or ‘workplace harassment’ are used to precisely define the mobbing of an employee or a co-worker in the workplace. However, in Poland the word ‘mobbing” entered legal jargon with the reform of the Labor Code in 2004. This is when the term and its definition was officially introduced to define situations which should be classified as ‘mobbing’ under the country’s legal provisions and to serve employees, employers and courts.
Employees are often unaware of the fact that mobbing might have a significant impact not only on the working climate, but also on interactions with family and other social relationships. Mobbing in the workplace might influence one’s psychological state so much that a mobbed employee might decide to take their life. Based on the statistics prepared by Heinz Leymann, a Swedish researcher and scientist, it appears that approximately 15% of suicides committed in Sweden every year might be directly related to mobbing in the workplace. According to Leymann, victims of mobbing in the workplace might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), same as victims of war or a labor camp. Mobbed employees demonstrate an acquired tendency towards alcohol and drug abuse as well as violence. There were even some instances of mental disorders (paranoid complex).
The underlying reason for many companies to implement preventive procedures are health risks on the side of an employee and potential implications of mobbing for the employer. Let’s imagine that some employee is found dead in his flat (overdose of sedatives). However, he had left a letter precisely describing the hardships that he had to suffer from his superior in the form of continuous criticism regarding his work, appearance or intelligence. The police and the prosecutor address the case, conducting an in-depth investigation inside the company which takes several months. All employees, including the CEO, are questioned about the circumstances that led to such a dramatic end. There is no surprise that law enforcement authorities are involved in the case, especially as the superior of a deceased employee might be charged with imprisonment from 3 months up to 5 years for the crime of employee abuse. It’s nearly impossible to estimate the scale of reputation damage to a company charged with such accusations nor the impact it might have on its employment market position. Not to mention the fact that any news posted online by frightened and confused employees might overwhelm all anti-crisis measures implemented by PR specialists hired by a company.
The first place is to ensure that each employee knows who to turn to in the event of mobbing, and how to recognize a mobbing case. An employee should, first and foremost, be aware of zero tolerance for mobbing in the workplace. Meaning that an employer will immediately remove a mobber from work or force him to undergo specially designed recovery programmes. It should come as natural that modern companies not only care for a proper work-life balance of their employees, but also notice alarming tendencies occurring inside the office and nip them in the butt.