Yelling, critical remarks and looks, insults in the company of co-workers – these are the most frequent manifestations of mobbing which draw the attention not only of witnesses to these situations, but above all, of the person affected by such behaviour. Mobbing is not always manifested that explicitly – how can we prove that something bad is going on?
After all, observable reprehensible situations are often followed by seemingly acceptable behaviour, involving the following:
- delegating more and more tasks without any justification whatsoever;
- sudden refusal to take part in co-workers’ meetings;
- turning back in the middle of a six-hour business trip;
- relocating to another department overnight;
- inviting to the office after two hours of waiting;
in which mobber allow themselves for friendly gestures and positive show-off behaviour.
In the situation when mobber engage themselves in indirect acts weakening the position of the mobbed person by means of:
- third parties;
- performed work tasks;
- applicable organizational procedures;
- existing professional relationships;
is it possible to fulfil the conditions for mobbing?
The immediate superior does not have to scream in order to qualify it as mobbing
Looking at the Labour Code’s definition of mobbing we do not see there a catalogue of behaviours falling under it.
What’s more, a definition of mobbing points out the coverage of both activities and mobber’s behaviours, that is passive behaviour, abandonment of certain (often desired from the employee’s point of view) actions.
We should bear it in mind that harassment and threatening may occur in a variety of aspects – they can be clearly reprehensible behaviours and can involve:
- not inviting an employee without any justification;
- delegating a bigger number of assignments than other employees;
- granting a lower salary bonus without any justification;
- failure to inform an employee about the departmental on-the-job training.
What is crucial, the mobbed employee should be able to prove all the grounds for the Labour Code definition of mobbing. In practice, it basically involves proving that the mobber’s behaviours and accusations towards the mobbed employee were:
- and had a precisely defined purpose.
How come we can’t see mobbing?
White-glove violence often resembles so called a boiling frog syndrome. When a frog is thrown to boiling water, it will jump out immediately. However, if it is thrown to cold water, which will then be heated, the frog’s vigilance will be lulled.
The same will be true of white-glove mobbing. It all starts innocently: reprimandable behaviours are intangible, the mobbed employee is perceived by others as over-sensitive. A slow-paced but systematic process of employee’s isolation and barrier creation starts. An artificial world is being created in which nothing is real – the mobber’s gestures, smiles, conversations – everything seems to have a hidden agenda, hidden purpose.
After some time symptoms of experienced violence, like frustration, fear or apathy appear. This is when the employee most often realizes that they have fallen prey to mobbing.
How to demonstrate mobbing in such a case? Is it worth filing a lawsuit in court?
It is really difficult for a mobbed employee to prove that they have become the target of mobbing activities and behaviours. Since such behaviours are often invisible on the outside, it is difficult to find witnesses who will confirm the version of events.
Proving the occurrence of mobbing largely depends on shreds of evidence possessed by the employee as well as the factual course of events, duration of mobbing and the persistence of mobbing activities.
We recommend reporting such situations – to the employer, HR personnel, immediate superiors or the person who the mobbed employee trusts. Often solely signalling the existence of mobbing activities and behaviours might help. Filing court claims is mostly the last step – recommended in the situation when the previous actions haven’t delivered any results whatsoever and the collected evidence give a substantial chance to prove mobbing activities in court.
There is still one really significant (if not the most significant) aspect of white-glove mobbing: preventing it from happening. Regular on-the-job trainings in connection with the analysis of the cases and decently prepared, widely known procedure constitute the first step leading towards the protection against such phenomena.
Paula Staszak-Urbańska, LL.M., Trainee attorney-at-law