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Understanding mobbing and its effects on victims

In these last years, bullying has become a trending topic, as it has increased and generated strong emotional and psychological effects, which may bring about violent episodes. The same problematic behavior may also take place in our companies when the employee is affected by ill-intentioned behavior by their superiors or coworkers, causing emotional instability.

Peralta (2006) states that the concept of workplace harassment is also known in the corporate sphere as mobbing, bullying, intimidation or psychological terror.  The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines it as the aggressive and threatening behavior of one or more members of a group towards an individual in their work environment (as cited in 5 Factores, 2014). This behavior has the objective of instilling fear, terror, disdain or discouragement in the employee to the point of dismissal or resignation. Piñuel (2003) states that mobbing can occur in different levels, the most common ones are:

  • The mobber and the victim are in the same hierarchical level (employee to employee)
  • The mobber has a higher hierarchical level
  •  A group of employees may join forces to affect a particular employee

Without delving into the mobber’s psychological profile, and to put it in simple words, the mobber’s objective is to confuse the victims into blaming themselves for everything that happens. Mobbing may cause the employee to perceive that the company belittles their work, that they are not performing their tasks satisfactorily, or that they do not fit within the company. Mobbers, on the other hand, may give them a heavier workload, or over simplify their tasks. The control that the mobber has over the victim is a reflection of an imbalanced relationship that may conduct the employee over different stages into an overwhelming mental and emotional condition up to the point of resignation.

Contrary to bullying, mobbing does not always involve physical aggression; its effects are more on the psychological side. The affected employee may show symptoms like “anxiety, depression, stress, work discouragement, interference with work performance, and in most cases, a damaged reputation.” (Piñel, I)

The organizations should take notice of mobbing. They should be clear on the parameters that define when and how the problem has been developing, in order to determine when it is a case of mobbing and when it is a case of other employee-related topics within the organization, such as burn-out syndrome.

A significant factor to consider: For it to be considered work harassment, the behavior must take place within a certain frequency, space and time. The WHO establishes mobbing based on the following parameters:

  1. It is not a one-time event and it has persisted for at least 6 months.
  2. It is recurrent, and it occurs at least once a week.
  3. There is an actual, specific victim. In other words, it is not a generalized bad working environment.
  4. The harassment is not a consequence of the victim’s behavior.
  5. The victim does not have a personality disorder with a previous conflictive history.

Costa Rica does not have a work harassment law; however, companies can establish parameters and processes to deal with workplace harassment incidents in their organizational policies.

The next article on mobbing will cover Perfiles Tecnológicos’ approach, and the recommendations expert give on the topic.


Los 5 factores del mobbing según la OMS. (2014, March 24). Retrieved from

Peralta, M.C. (2006). Manifestación del acoso laboral, mobbing y síntomas asociados al estrés postraumático: Estudio de caso [E-reader version] Retrieved from:

Piñuel, I. (2003). Mobbing: cómo sobrevivir al acoso psicológico en el trabajo. Ed. Punto de Lectura. Madrid. Retrieved from:

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