Mobbing: Assistance and Information

Mobbing at the workplace is a serious burden for those affected. Often, it is not possible to resolve the mobbing dynamics on one’s own, so that further work in the team becomes impossible. Professional advice and help are therefore of great importance. The Swiss Mobbing Center offers assistance and professional advice.

What is mobbing?

Mobbing can affect anyone, as it usually occurs situationally and independently of certain personality traits. Unfortunately, there is (still) no uniform, internationally recognized definition for mobbing. The following characteristics are often cited by professionals:

-Harassing acts, refusal to communicate, or conflictual communication through which individuals or multiple individuals are directly or indirectly attacked.
-The acts are repeated, systematic, and continue over an extended period of time. The nature of the attacks may change repeatedly.
-The attacks originate from superiors and/or co-workers.
-The affected person subjectively perceives the action as hostile. This may not be the case initially and it is only over time and in retrospect that the negative intent is recognized.
-The aim of the act may be to damage the reputation of the person attacked, to isolate or expel him.
-The person attacked is placed in an inferior position as a result of the bullying act.

The term “mobbing” became known through the publications of the German-Swedish industrial psychologist Heinz Leymann. He distinguished 45 mobbing acts, which can be assigned to five areas:

-attacks on the ability to communicate (e.g., not letting someone finish, interrupting, yelling at someone, withholding information) -attacks on social relationships (e.g., general refusal to make contact, not greeting someone, ignoring, excluding, isolating someone)
-attacks on social reputation (e.g., ridiculing someone, spreading rumors, teasing, insulting, making disparaging remarks)
-attacks on the quality of work and life situation (e.g., assigning harassing and demeaning work, unjustified criticism, depriving someone of important tasks) -attacks on health (e.g., threatening or using physical violence).

Whether or not a difficult situation is bullying is not always clear. Not all misconduct is a deliberate act of bullying. In order to recognize mobbing, it is necessary to take a holistic view of the situation and how it arose.
The starting point can be everyday differences that escalate into deficiencies in work organization or leadership. It may be that the “perpetrator” sees his or her interests threatened by the “victim.” It often starts with minor incidents where it is difficult to decide whether it is an accident or a targeted attack. The individual acts of bullying often do not constitute serious offenses on their own and are open to various interpretations. Over time, the incidents and acts of bullying accumulate. At the same time, the nature of the attacks can change again and again. Therefore, it is not the individual incidents but their totality that is decisive for the assessment.
The affected person becomes increasingly unsettled by the repeated attacks. Sometimes she realizes the intention behind the events only relatively late. Victims of mobbing often get into a desperate situation. Not only do they suffer from the attacks, but they also run the risk of being labeled as “difficult.” Since the attacks can go unnoticed by outsiders, there is often a lack of understanding for the mobbing victim. Victims are often experienced as “annoying” when they repeatedly bring up the incidents. This, in turn, can make the bullying actions seem justified.
(Source: State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Mobbing und andere Belästigungen – Schutz der persönlichen Integrität am Arbeitsplatz (2016)).

Find help here

It is an unfortunate fact that hardly anyone on their own succeeds in leaving a real bullying dynamic while remaining in the work team.
Moreover, the sooner an affected person takes action and seeks help, the better the chances are that the bullying dynamic will dissipate and the person in question will be able to remain on the team. This is why the SMPV works together with the Mobbing-Zentrale Schweiz association.
The Mobbing-Zentrale offers initial assistance to those affected by bullying. During a first telephone contact, legal information can be obtained, as well as addresses of specialists such as doctors, lawyers and theologians throughout Switzerland. This first telephone conversation is usually free of charge.
In addition, the Mobbing-Zentrale has set itself the goal of protecting the interests of employees vis-à-vis the employer at the unemployment insurance, the health insurance, the IV and, if necessary, also in court, as well as to carry out public relations work for efficient legal protection and for an improvement of the legislation in the area of employee protection.
Further information can be found at

-The brochure of the umbrella organization for teachers in Switzerland (LCH) provides further information on recognizing, treating and preventing bullying.

-SECO, Mobbing und andere Belästigungen – Schutz der persönlichen Integrität am Arbeitsplatz -> Publications

Annette Dannecker