Frequently asked questions to Dr. Leymann
Here you find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to Dr.Leymann.
- What is meant by ”mobbing or ”bullying? These words refer to a situation in which one or more people (employees) at the workplace show hostile behavior toward (1) most often, only one employee (2) very often and (3) over a very long period of time (months or years), thereby victimizing him or her. We have compiled a more extensive definition of mobbning if you wish to read more about defining the words.
- What is the difference between a conflict and mobbing/bullying? One difference is that a conflict occurs between equally strong people. In a mobbing/bullying situation, the hostility is directed by one or more strong people towards a weaker individual who has become the underdog. This person is further weakened because of the immense pressure caused by the frequency and the duration of the attacks.
- What happens when a person is mobbed/bullied? The attacks aim at destroying or sabotaging the mobbed person´s reputation, disturbing or destroying communication to or from the mobbed person; or, manipulating his or her work performance or work assignments. Extensive bullying can often lead to deeply rooted pschycological problems as for example PTSD.
- Do the mobber´s or victim´s personality traits play a part? No personality traits shared by victims have thus far been detected in research. The causes of mobbing are to be found in the social structures and power structures that are dominant in the workplace organization. More information can be found under Personality Theories.
- Why, then, does it happen? In analyses of mobbing/bullying cases, research thus far has always detected serious organizational problems. Organizational disorder and poor management automatically cause conflicts. Some of these conflicts exaggerate opposing views (most often because of a power struggle), and end up by designating a scapegoat or ”loser”. If this is allowed to continue with any frequency or over a longer period of time, a mobbing/bullying situation will take root.
- Why don´t people leave the workplace and take other employments? People actually do move to other workplaces. Nevertheless, this is difficult or almost impossible for certain employees because of difficulties in the labor market. Sometimes no other employer can be found and individuals are forced to remain where they are. In quite a few cases, the individual chooses unemployment rather than remaining in a mobbing/bullying situation, andthereby ruins his or her own social and financial situation. More information can be found under Mobbing – The Legal Situation.
- Is mobbing a problem between people or is it a management problem? Of course, this is a communicative problem between people. However, the fact that employees can´t act freely as if they where members of a club must be taken into consideration. The organization in which individuals are employed affords them, by definition, minimal possibilities of controlling their own situations in every respect. It is the manager´s job to keep order in the organization and to ensure efficient and orderly production. Management always bears the responsibility if mobbing/bullying is not stopped.
- Is this a new problem in society or has it always existed? This problem between people has always existed in different societies. Thanks to the work of Professor Heinz Leymann and his associates, light has been shed on the problem, and for the first time, a detailed analysis has been presented.
- Why, then, has the problem been discovered so late and just recently? In an advanced industrial society, all disturbances in production and administration are very costly. On the other hand, advanced societies have to provide their citizens with greater security and health care in order to maintain the so-called industrial culture. At the same time, citizens demand more security and integrity (as stated in these societies´ constitutions). Societies gain prosperity by maintaining law and order and arranging for codes in order to further enhance prosperity (Harlem, New York, will never be a place in which an economy can grow). In order to focus on this goal, it is easy to forget other values such as the psychosocial climate in a company. Stigmatization of the mobbed person (that is, arguing that only certain individuals will get mobbed) is often a last resort when the company doesn´t want to be bothered. This process of producing fog instead of insight also creates difficulties for the researcher.
- Can a person become ill as a consequence of mobbed/bullied? Yes he or she can. Quite frequently, victims develop serious anxiety, as well as posttraumatic stress disorder, a condition that must be treated.
- What is the cost to the victim? In the end, the cost to the victim may be enormous: his career may be destroyed as well as his social and financial situation, along with his health.
- What is the cost to the employer? Mobbing is very costly. The employer pays, at least for a certain period of time, full salary to a victim who no longer is able to perform very well. Mobbing also destroys the psychosocial work environment and its psychological climate, infecting the morale of other personnel badly as well.
- Does society also have to pay? Yes. Society has to take over the costs of a sick person by paying insurance and health care, etc. More information can be found under Society´s costs.
- Can anything be done about it? Certainly. Correcting the situation is actually quite easy once an employer decides to do something about it. Different measures can be employed to achieve different objectives.
- Can the victim recover from the illness caused by mobbing/bullying? Yes, but it requires special treatment programs.
- How frequent is this problem in society? It is very frequent. The only representative study in the world so far (in Sweden), where a randomly chosen group, representing the entire Swedish work force, were interviewed, showed substantial figures: 3.5% of the work force found themselves mobbed/bullied situation (154.000 of 4,4 million), with an average duration per case of 15 months (!). Assuming that the individual´s average length of time in the labor market is about 30 years, the risk of being subjected to this devastating treatment for at least a period of 6 months during their careers is 1:4 for young people entering the labor market. Approximately 10% to 20% of these will eventually suffer from severe PTSD-problems.
- Why is mobbing so widespread in organizations? In almost every organization, stress is endemic. As a consequence, organizations lose the organizational correctness that allows employees are less able to perform their work assignments as well as before. Management, supervisors and the work force experience more and more frustration. People who are frustrated tend to come into conflict with each other. Hostility can mount towards a single person over a longer period of time, bringing about a mobbing situation.
- Why are several words used for the same thing, such as mobbing, bullying etc.? The reason is that different research groups during their first years chose different names for their subject of study.