A reality that becomes daily of contempt, ridicule in public, making a vacuum, humiliating treatment, disqualifications that are aimed at mentally destabilize the person. In these terms he defines the RAE harassment in the workplace. It is not easy to identify it, much less act against it. On average, you have to spend at least a year suffering from this situation to become aware that what is happening is not due to your own incompetence but is mistreatment, as explained by the Spanish Association against workplace harassment and violence in the family (AECAL). So far this newly released 2022, they have already received a dozen persons, almost one daily, who have turned to this organization in search of legal and/or psychological help to deal with a sustained and recurring scenario of mobbing.
“Lately, many professionals from the health sector, also from the National Police or even high officials of an Andalusian football team. Rare is the week that workers from a department store chain do not come to us. We also have cases from the Public Administration. I would go beyond the figures of the ILO and I would double it, I would say that one in five workers is exposed to harassment at work”, he explains. Carlos Bravo, legal director of AECAL.
Harassment is exercised both horizontally, by co-workers, and vertically, from bosses to subordinates and vice versa, from employees to their superiors. It occurs both in the Public Administration and in the private company.
the forensic psychologist Ainhoa Mayoral, specialized in occupational psychopathology, explains how there is a common pattern to subdue the mobbing victim. “Strategies are used such as lowering the person by assigning him jobs below his capacity o your usual skills; exert undue or arbitrary pressure; unreasonably amplify and dramatize small mistakes; belittling or undermining the person personally or professionally, undervaluing or not valuing the effort made at all, being threatened by telephone, networks or verbally, entrusting excessive or difficult work to them, continuously criticizing their work, their ideas, their proposals, their solutions ”.
Through the company Estudio Psicoforense, Mayoral collaborates with AECAL offering psychological support. This professional details the repercussions that are observed in the victims of workplace harassment who come to her consultation. “Present – he explains – confusion about what is happening to them, gradually beginning to suffer a stress response that is usually accompanied by fear, passivity and isolation. This psychological imbalance of the affected worker will increase as the harassment situation continues, beginning to appear emotional reactions such as anxiety, depression and psychosomatic complaints (headaches, muscle tension, stomach discomfort…)”.
The usual outcome is that the victim voluntarily or forcibly leaves the organization. On many occasions, the symptoms that you present will lead you to obtain sick leave. “During this period in which she remains away from the stressor, is when she will have time to work through what happened, accept her role as a victim and prepare to face legal proceedings. That is when they usually get in touch with me”, adds Mayoral.
“There comes a time when you don’t feel capable of anything. If one day I was cleaning a microphone, the next day when I had to do an interview, I doubted myself. I mistrusted my own senses. I thought that the mistreatment was due to something I had done, that if my boss greeted everyone except me, if she yelled at me… they were my imagination or that I was very ‘soft’ and it was no big deal”, Fran Pastor tells about the harassment he experienced.
A few weeks ago this journalist created a thread on Twitter – which exceeded 2,500 retweets and 12,000 likes. In it, he made public the ordeal he suffered for seven years on a radio station. He was under the orders of a boss who often ignored him, ordered him to do tasks that were not his responsibility and that rarely had to do with creativity and more insidious tasks, such as ordering or taking photos for his social networks. her. “After a “horrible fight” he would respond with a gesture that made me hope that everything would change. But nothing got better, everything got worse. confess.
Fran Pastor, who in the end left her job, remembers that it was not difficult for her to take the step of publishing it on the networks. “What was hardest was the first time I said ‘no’ to him. After years of complying with everything, the day I refused to clean a microphone in the midst of a pandemic, which was not my job, that was the most difficult thing,” he says. Nine months after exposing it to his bosses and seeing that nothing changed, he began to suffer from dizziness and nightmares. “You have to tell it to people who may not have the preparation or sensitivity to understand you. You realize, as in the case of women who have suffered abuse, that the magnifying glass is put on the weakest and not on the abuser”, she says on the way to the psychologist’s office to whom the situation of abuse in the work environment.
“Normally the cases that we have seen here end with an agreement with the company before reaching mediation or trial and they usually end with a ‘dismissal’ with compensation as unfair. There are cases in which the employment relationship is not broken and a solution is achieved, but it is not the most common”, he explains. Charles Brave.
Recognize and react
If you think or suspect that you are experiencing harassment at work, it is important to act as soon as possible, seek professional help. both in AECAL like in the Foundation in action against harassment (Funaco), The first thing they do when they receive people who suffer harassment, in addition to offering support, is to assess whether there is a real case and whether it is feasible to act. “In some cases, the harassment is so serious that it could go to criminal law,” emphasizes the lawyer Carlos Bravo.
On many occasions, the worker is afraid of losing his job and what these associations try to do is mediate with the company or with the Administration in the case of public employees. Sometimes a letter or a call to the department of Human Resources or to a political position, in the case of small town councils, so that it can be corrected, but it is not always that simple and it is not easy to prove it. There is the option to report it to the Work inspection.
Carlos Sanz, president and founder together with two other city council officials from the Madrid’s community, created Pridicam 20 years ago, an association that today is integrated into Funaco. “I myself was a victim of workplace harassment. He worked as IT director in a town hall in a town in Madrid with more than 200,000 inhabitants. The mayor had me for a year from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon without entrusting me with any task. They respected my position and salary, but they didn’t give me a job,” says Sanz.
Bought a laptop “one of the first to come out”, points. Thanks to that, he entertained the idle hours in the town hall and began to form the Pridicam association, which has given help to more than 289,000 people throughout Spain affected by psychosocial risks, including workplace bullying. “Now there are more cases, but there is also more knowledge about what it is and how to act,” he acknowledges.
The president of Funaco was lucky enough to find a psychologist, a professor at the Complutense University, that had been formed in U.S and two decades ago he was already a specialist in harassment. “Thanks to him I was able to recover. And when the mayor who had cornered me finished his term and returned to his post as a municipal official, he suffered the same ostracism from his colleagues that he condemned me to. When I ran into him in the corridors, I hugged him, I perfectly understood what he was suffering from. At 75 years old, this former official answers daily calls from victims of all kinds of harassment.
An evil of our society
Paz García (not her real name because she lives in a small town in Cáceres and wants to avoid being recognized) put up with pressure and contempt for years from her brother and boss in the family business. “The worst thing was the gestural communication, the disapproving looks he gave me. Everything got worse when I told him I was leaving, that I couldn’t manage certain things. He dissuaded me and replied that he was very happy with my work and that he needed me. After that conversation it got worse, more isolation, he ignored me, he barely addressed me and when he did it was with bad manners, in front of everyone.
Nervousness, insomnia, a total lack of self-confidence, lack of concentration, exhaustion, were the symptoms that Paz developed. “Until one day I had an anxiety attack and started crying, I couldn’t stop and they had to take me to the health center. It was for a banal comment but one that I took very seriously. Holy attack! It was the spring that got me out of there,” he says.
the psychologist Ainhoa Mayoral considers that bullying is a product of the prevailing social and business culture in our society, “because for the process of psychological bullying to occur, active or passive complicity is required on the part of the group in which it took place, as well as, perhaps even more, by the labor organization as a whole” he argues. He points out that it is an “emerging pathology” that, despite the fact that it is often a phenomenon masked as “conflicts between people”, being silently tolerated or trivialized, is beginning to be increasingly recognized by the courts and legal modifications are being made in its definition, as this forensic psychologist points out.
“In workplace harassment we still have a long way to go to create a social conscience, as has happened with sexist murders, which were called ‘crimes of passion’ in the news. Neither was there talk of bullying, nor of sexual abuse that was normalized by describing the abusers as womanizers…”, he points out. Fran Pastor. We lack a #Metoo that sheds light on mobbing and allows us to recognize and combat it.