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  • Writer's pictureDiane Mesnier

Moral harassment at work

What is harassment in the workplace or mobbing?

How to deal with psychological harassment at work?

How does harassment in the workplace manifest itself?

What are the different types harassment in the workplace?

What are the consequences of harassment at work?

How can we help someone who is being bullied at work?

Who can help you?

What is harassment in the workplace or mobbing?

Harassment at work or mobbing is a type of abusive behavior characterized by mockery, derogatory remarks, intimidation, insults etc. It threatens personal dignity, can compromise ones professional future and alter their physical or mental health .

It is a destruction technique, operating by moral constraint. It can be carried out by one or more persecutors towards a specific person, sometimes following a trivial conflict. The process is self-sustaining and repeated, with the conscious or unconscious intention to destroy someone. Moral harassment is punishable by law.

How to deal with psychological harassment at work?

Whether you are an employee, trainee or apprentice, whether or not you have a hierarchical relationship with the perpetrator, moral harassment is prohibited and punishable by law. The victim must break the silence and denounce his attackers, preferably by letter to the employer or to the occupational physician.

Keep in mind that someone who denounces or fights moral harassment cannot be sanctioned for this reason. Sanctions can only apply when it comes to false denunciation made with the aim of causing harm.

How does workplace harassment manifest itself?

The manifestations of harassment at work are very diverse, but always aim to harm: preventing the person from expressing him/herself, isolating him/her, discrediting him/her, threatening him/her, destabilizing him/her, making fun of him/her, devaluing, reducing his/her salary etc.

Moral harassment can take place at all hierarchical levels: between colleagues (horizontal harassment), from manager to employee or vice versa. Witnesses also play a strong role in bullying, as they can help maintain or break the climate of fear and silence about harassment. They need to be aware of their role and that they can prevent bullying from escalating and contribute to stop it.

What are the different types of harassment in the workplace?

Moral harassment at work can present itself in various ways, but it is always a question of repeated malicious comments or behaviors degrading working conditions, altering physical and / or mental health, endangering the professional future and undermining human rights and dignity.

Humiliations, criticisms:

This can be denigration, bullying, unjustified criticism, public humiliation and vexatious (discrediting the employee, criticism of his professional or psychological incapacity, reduction in salary, etc.).

Degrading working conditions:

Obligation to perform devaluing tasks that do not correspond to the qualification or on the contrary, assignment of tasks beyond the capacities and involving the health of the victim, deductions from wages, aggressiveness, restriction of functions within the company.

Isolation, seclusion:

Closet (installation in a cramped room, without work tools, with no talking to colleagues), deprivation of work tools (office, computer, telephone, etc.).

Unjustified sanctions:

Unfounded warnings, downgrading, disciplinary measures.

There are also two types of violence at work:

External violence, caused by a person outside the company (often in service professions: banks, post offices, shops, police, etc.)

Internal violence, caused by a person or a group of people in the company.

What are the consequences of harassment at work?

Moral harassment is that it creates suffering at work. It has a destructive effect on the victim, on his/her psychological and physical balance and his/her social integration. The impacts can be serious: loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, feeling of worthlessness, depression, anxiety etc.

The consequences of moral harassment at work include:

Physical or psychological health problems:

Anxiety, difficulty adapting, depression, post-traumatic stress, suicide.


Alcoholism, drugs addiction

Professional difficulties:

Can lead to the loss of employment

Financial loss:

Personal difficulties at the family or marital level

The consequences are insidious and profound for the victim, and are sometimes denied or trivialized, hence the importance for victims to break the silence, also in order to be able to reconstruct themselves psychologically.

Harassment in the workplace also affect the company, since employees gradually lose confidence in the employer. We can observe a decrease in productivity, a loss of interest and motivation, an increase in errors and a decrease in the quality of services. Even when the harassment ends, the consequences for the business can continue until a healthy environment is restored.

How can we help someone who is being bullied at work?

To end moral harassment at work, you can help the victims become aware of their rights and support them on a daily basis. With their agreement, you can contact an association that can help them, or even a lawyer. Psychological follow-up is also recommended.

The victim is often broken by moral harassment at work. It is possible that this person took a long time to understand what was going on, and that it has been going on for a while. Support from family and friends is crucial for the reconstruction of the individual.

Who can help you?

In addition to associations, staff representatives or legal entities, a person who is the victim of harassment in the work place will often need help to recover, which is why psychological follow-up is recommended.

If you have been subject to harassment at work, starting a therapeutical process can help you to slowly rebuild yourself, put the trauma behind you, and move on.

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