Mobbing or psychological bullying at the workplace is growing more and more familiar
While sexual harassment has been a familiar concept for some time, mobbing or psychological bullying at the workplace is only now growing more and more familiar, especially since the number of victims is considerable. According to a 2011 survey by the Quality of Life Research Institute, 25.7% of respondents said one of their colleagues was offended by other colleagues or bosses, but only 7.4% admitted to having been offended themselves. At the same time, 41% of the respondents admitted that their boss or colleagues yell at each other at the workplace.
Unfortunately there are no recent statistics related to mobbing, which was introduced in the Romanian legislation in 2015. After amending the law on equal opportunity and criminalizing harassment under Law 229 of 2015, Romania now has the legislative means to punish harassment and discrimination at the workplace. Costel Gâlcă is a lawyer and he told us more on this issue:
Costel Gâlcă: “Psychological bullying takes place over an extended period of time. Also, the acts of a bully need to be evident, and to infringe on the honour and dignity of an employee. These are the main elements that define mobbing as an offence in Romania.”
Costel Gâlcă is one of the first lawyers in Romania to draw attention to this phenomenon and to represent the first victims in court. Here he is back at the microphone with details on these cases:
Costel Gâlcă: “Since 2015, when the law was passed, three already famous cases have been tried, and the courts ruled they were cases of psychological bullying at the workplace. In the first case, the bullied person was an advisor working for a multinational company, while in the other two cases people in the top management were involved, namely the deputy general manager of a bank and the director of the biggest department in the respective company. Mobbing does not target only a specific category of employees or only a certain level in a professional hierarchy. It emerges at all levels starting with the bottom one.”
Leaving aside the destructive effects on one’s professional development, mobbing also has psychological consequences which, in most of the cases, involve somatic reactions. Psychologist Flori-Ana Andronache will give us more details on the impact of psychological harassment on a person:
Flori-Ana Andronache: “Harassment is quite subtle and insidious most of the times, and the victims are rarely aware of what’s happening to them from the very beginning. Generally it starts with a conflict which then gradually develops into psycho-terror in the workplace. Some of the consequences that may appear include the reluctance to come to work, a state of irritation, confusion, the feeling of losing one’s self-control. Sometimes the consequences are even more serious. People develop symptoms of anxiety and depression, panic attacks, insomnia, etc. There are also somatic effects, such as skin irritation, dermatitis, gastro-intestinal problems, rapid weight loss or weight gain, all incurred by this type of stress. The life of the respective person changes not only at a strictly personal level, but also in terms of the relationship with family and friends.”
Given this situation, an increasing number of employees seek psychological counselling. Some of them went to Flori-Ana Andronache’s medical office. She told us about a case in which one of her patients, a mother, returned from maternity leave to deal with an unexpected attitude from her co-workers. Flori-Ana Andronache:
Flori-Ana Andronache: “She went back to work and she started being mobbed by her colleagues because while she was away they had to take over her duties, as no replacement was hired during her maternity leave. So her colleagues resented her. It all started with things like not being answered back when she greeted them and not including her into any correspondence. It culminated with her being asked by her immediate superior to make some accounting entries that were not exactly legal. Her refusal to do so and her already vulnerable position due to previous harassment triggered an even more adverse reaction. She only sought psychological counselling a few years after this episode, when the symptoms of depression were already present.”
Lawyer Costel Galca has advised the employees who don’t understand from the very beginning that they are victims to mobbing to ask themselves whether what is happening to them is part of normal behaviour at work. Costel Galca:
Costel Gâlcă: “Is it normal that once at the airport with the whole team and a valid ticket in your hand to be told by your manager that you cannot go anymore, that you should stay while all the others leave? Of course not, since you didn’t do anything wrong. Is it normal for a company’s deputy manager to have the office at the other side of a hallway, far away from all colleagues, next to the toilet? Is it normal to be missing from the company’s website, you alone, of all employees? Professional harassment is another aspect of mobbing. A person that is no longer wanted in a company does not receive any tasks anymore.”
Although the current law does punish mobbing, experts say it needs additional provisions for prevention and the payment of damages.
Costel Gâlcă: “I have identified two situations. The amounts that multinational companies had to pay in damages are ridiculously small. At present, a Romanian judge is not prepared to order the payment of damages in keeping with the economic value of the company that has lost the case. A protection system is being drawn up for both the employee and the company, which should sanction this offense from its first signs, because by the time victims go to court they are already destroyed psychologically.“
A draft law on psychological harassment at work is currently being discussed in Parliament.
(translated by: Lacramioara Simion, Elena Enache)