Mobbing: Meaning And Origins Of Workplace Harassment

Mobbing may lead to serious physical and psychological consequences for those who suffer from it.


Unfortunately, nowadays there are cases of workplace harassment or mobbing in many companies. People suffering from this experience serious psychological and physical problems, which can lead to fatal outcomes. So, it is important to know what harassment at work is, its causes and what are the consequences of mobbing.

What is mobbing?

Mobbing is the general term used to talk about harassment at work. It refers to the action or set of actions that an individual or a group of people, called bullies, target at a person in order to scare, discourage, frighten or look down on them in the workplace. This person is psychologically harassed (insulted, humiliated, looked down on, etc.) for no reason by their colleagues or the company they work for.

This harassment is caused intentionally and deliberately as well as systematically and repeatedly for a long time, which can lasts from days or weeks to years. The most serious cases include occasional accidents involving physical assault. Being exposed to this type of workplace violence for a long time causes serious psychological problems to the victim, which may even lead to suicide.

The bullies’ goal is to ruin the working environment of the victim, so that they feel afraid to go to work and, eventually, as they cannot control and stand the situation, end up leaving their job. The harassment is usually done in secret, with no witnesses, when the victim is alone. They are usually threatened, insulted and their work is disregarded as well as have false rumours spread about them.

If the harassment is carried out by a superior, the victim is usually assigned more work, tasks outside their professional competence or is denied their holidays and subjected to abusive time schedules.

What are the causes of mobbing?
Workplace mobbing may lead to serious physical and psychological consequences.

What are the causes of mobbing?

Mobbing is a type of work-related stress which is characterised by not being directly related to work, but to the relationship with the people from work. Some of the causes that may lead to mobbing are: 


Strict superiors or bosses who want to improve and get better results, but do not take into account the human factor of their workers. Conflicts can arise between the two individuals that lead to workplace harassment.

Work organisation  

The victim is assigned an excess of tasks  so that they cannot perform their work properly. They are also given boring and repetitive tasks. All these issues may create conflicts that lead to mobbing and workplace violence.


It happens when the victim always performs the same tasks. Their monotony and constant repetition can cause unease among the different team members. Besides, if the tasks do not pose a challenge for the workers or do not allow them to be promoted and improve at the working level, it can cause depression and frustration.

Signs of workplace mobbing

Some of the actions that represent workplace harassment towards an individual are:

  • Shouting and insulting the victim when they are alone or when other co-workers are present.

  • Assigning excess work to the victim and putting pressure on them.

  • Assigning deadlines that are impossible to meet.

  • Removing responsibilities and assigning repetitive tasks that are boring.

  • Threatening and coercing the victim.

  • Treating the victim differently or discriminating and putting them to shame in front of their colleagues or superiors.

  • Changing their responsibilities without communicating anything to the victim.

  • Withholding and not passing on essential information for the victim’s work or even manipulating it to mislead them in their tasks.

  • Slandering the victim, when the company spreads spiteful rumours that damage their reputation or professionalism.

  • Ignoring or excluding the victim, making them feel non-existent or invisible in front of other people.

  • Not appreciating the victim’s effort nor evaluating them for the work done.

  • Failing to acknowledge good work or attributing it to other colleagues.

  • Constantly criticizing the victim’s work, ideas or proposals.

  • Preventing the victim’s professional development.

  • Ridiculing the victim’s proposals, ideas or work in front of their colleagues.

  • Assigning the victim embarrassing or humiliating tasks.

  • Invading the victim’s personal space, intercepting their emails, documents or telephone.

  • Monitoring the victim’s work to be able to criticise it.

  • Sabotaging the victim’s workplace (desk, computer, etc.)

  • Encouraging the rest of the workers to participate in some of the actions mentioned above.

Types of mobbing
There are different types of mobbing depending on the position of the person who performs the harassment at work.


Types of mobbing

According to the position of the person who performs the harassment at work, there are three different types of mobbing:

1. Upwards mobbing

It is the harassment directed by two or more workers at a higher-ranking employee within the company. This situation usually happens when someone new receives a higher position within the company and their work methods or actions are not accepted by the rest of the staff.

It can also occur when a worker is promoted and they are given responsibilities that the rest of their colleagues do not accept, or when they become the superior of their former colleagues and the latter do not follow their orders.

2. Horizontal mobbing

This type of harassment happens among workers who have similar positions within the company. The harassment can be performed by one or more workers who want to achieve the same goal.

3. Downward mobbing

This type of mobbing tends to be the most common one, and it is also known as “bossing”.  It occurs when a higher-ranking employee disrespects, insults, makes false accusations or inflicts other psychological abuse on subordinates.

What are the consequences of mobbing? 

There are different consequences for the people who suffer from workplace harassment. Some of its signs are:

1. Psychological consequences

Mobbing slowly decreases the physical strength of the victim. The emotional problems that are showed at the beginning develop into a post-traumatic stress disorder that can be caused by harassment situations.

The victim loses self-esteem and feels guilty about not being able to meet the expectations of other people as well as their own. These are the first symptoms of a severe depression that is characterised by fear of going to work, isolation or avoidance behaviours. The most serious cases can even lead to suicide.

2. Health effects

One of the earliest consequences is somatization, which has a significant impact on the victim’s health. Some of the consequences of this disorder can be: gastrointestinal pain, nervous system disorders, migraines, metabolic problems, etc.

3. Effects on family life

The victim who suffers from mobbing, at first, does not mention it at home. However, as time goes by, the victim becomes introverted, presenting long periods of silence, sexual inhibition, mood swings and other behaviours that affect their relationship with their partner as well as their children.

4. Downgrade of the victim’s work 

Mobbing may cause the victim to leave their job  and have difficulty fitting into a new job. 

5. Social consequences 

The people who suffer from mobbing give up, stop meeting their friends and isolate. Also, they often develop aggressive attitudes towards them and so, they end up losing their friendship.

Check out the original article: Mobbing: cómo afecta y cuáles son los orígenes del acoso laboral at



Peralta, M. C. (2004). El acoso laboral-mobbing-perspectiva psicológica. Revista de estudios sociales, (18), 111-122.

Rojas Chávez, A. M. (2011). El acoso o «mobbing» laboral. Revista de Derecho, 24(24).