Why do individuals resort to psychological terror at work – mobbing

Maria was getting ready for work that morning. Her eyes were red when she looked in the mirror. She couldn’t sleep again. She didn’t like the way she looked. She tried applying makeup but her hands were shaking. She could barely bread. The feeling of fear was too strong again. She was getting ready to go to work. She thought about the possible unpleasantries that await her at work that day.

Only weeks ago, she was happy and satisfied with her job. She wanted a career and she did everything she could to make her dream come true. She was a successful student. She worked overtime. She completed tasks deemed by her colleagues to be too boring, too monotonous or not challenging at all. She worked overtime. She helped her colleagues in completing tedious tasks. She covered her colleagues when necessary. She was nice to everyone.

Now, she was in that workplace she wanted so much. She worked for a long time to move forward in her career. She became deputy editor in chief. But her dream job turned into a nightmare. Marko, her colleague, wanted to do the job that she was assigned to and he couldn’t stand the defeat.

The psychological terror began!

She heard rumors spread by Marko and his friends at work. She endured hostility every day. She was humiliated and ridiculed. “Where did you leave the paperwork I gave you yesterday? You can’t do anything right! All you make is mistakes…”

Of course, Maria was a reliable worker and she did everything right. Despite that, she endured everyday attacks. When she entered the office, everyone would stop talking. She could see certain employees ignore her. When she left the office, she could hear laughter and people gossiping about her. Even though she was deputy editor in chief, she was never informed about the meetings she was supposed to partake in.

After a brief period of time and as a result of the psychological terror she endured, she became a different person. The abuse she endured at work took a toll on her personal life and her health. She was becoming weaker. She was unbalanced and abstracted. She kept withdrawing into herself. She was stressed out all the time because she didn’t know what kind of unpleasantries awaited her that day. She couldn’t understand why it was happening to her.

Psychological Terror in the Workplace

Those who become victims of attacks, bullying, and intimidation at work are in a difficult situation. Stress affects one’s mental and psychological health.

The tools bullies use vary from denying contact and information about open and concealed attacks on one’s appearance, reputation, and performance, to intimidating, blackmail, insulting, and humiliating.

A victim of violence can be treated like air and neglected. They are not greeted anymore, they are not invited to meetings, they are not informed about business activities, they are denied the information and disinformation. They are being shown that they are unwanted in every possible way so that the victim remains alone and embarrassed.

The bully attacks the reputation of the victim. They spread incorrect and offensive rumors about the victim which is part of psychological terror. The bully ridicules, mistreats, disrespects, and intimidates the victim. If the bully is the boss, then complex tasks deemed to lead to failure are given to the victim. During the performance, the bully continues to criticize and underestimate the work of the victim thus creating tremendous mental pressure.

In cases when the victim is being used as an object, a means for one’s personal self-praise, prestige, superiority, domination, attractiveness, and proving one’s worth, sexual violence is frequent. For the bully, sex is proof of ownership, of triumph, so they will do everything to weaken the victim and break their resistance. If they succeed, they feel excitement and joy, but anger and frustration if they don’t. Also, posting private photos and information online (Internet mobbing) is a popular tool to hurt the victim.

Alarming Signals Which Point to Mobbing

The following are the alarming signals which indicate that you are being attacked in the workplace and that someone is working against you:

  • When you arrive, a conversation between your colleagues stops;
  • You notice that some colleagues stopped greeting you or don’t respond to your greeting, and they are no longer kind to you;
  • Targeted rumors circulate in your workplace which you deem to be humiliating;
  • You are no longer being informed on company matters and so you are feeling more ignorant due to lack of knowledge;
  • Your statements are being incorrectly reproduced;
  • Cooperation with you is subject of boycott;
  • Small mistakes and omissions are exaggerated;
  • Offensive things are spoken about you behind your back or in your presence;
  • You start to notice an invisible wall being built around you;
  • Irrelevant tasks are being assigned to you or you are being transferred to a less desirable, less important part of the company.

Why Must a Mobbing Victim Defend Themselves?

If you are a victim of abuse and attacks in the workplace, you should not assume the role of the victim. It is the worst reaction to violence due to the negative and devastating impact bullying can have on your condition, your reputation, your self-confidence, your self-esteem, and your dignity. When your self-esteem and self-confidence are weakened, it makes it difficult for the victim to defend themselves from the bully. In time, this seriously affects both mental and physical health of the victim.

The effects of psychological attacks include:

  • A decrease in operational efficiency;
  • Thinking and memory problems;
  • Fear of going to work and spending time in the workplace;
  • Decreased motivation;
  • Decreased mental resistance;

Physical effects of violence include:

  • Sleep disorder;
  • Gastrointestinal disorders which lead to serious health problems;
  • Back pain;
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias);
  • Stress symptoms which the victim can try to alleviate with alcohol or medication which eventually leads to serious health consequences.

If the victim does not defend themselves from mobbing, they often resign or enter early retirement. Silence or lack of reaction can lead to strong anxiety and feeling of helplessness. On the other hand, if you are kind to the bully, it can indicate that you are psychologically weak or vulnerable and suitable for being a victim.

Knowledge is Power!

The example we provided could lead you to think that Maria’s colleague is only fighting for the workplace that she was given. However, there are many people who want certain jobs at work and who do not abuse their colleagues in higher positions.

If you are a victim of mobbing, it is useful to arm yourself with knowledge about potential reasons for attacks and the bully’s personality profile. In this case, knowledge is power!

You should know that a mentally healthy and emotionally stable person has no need nor desire to demonstrate destructive and aggressive behavior towards others. If you are under attack, you are probably dealing with pathology or a person frustrated for not having achieved anything in their life, a person who is unhappy with themselves and their life, even though it doesn’t seem that way at first. Such individuals suffer from a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, individuals who cannot stand their reality.

In order to maintain an acceptable image of themselves, they have to nurture their negative self-esteem. Since they cannot stand those who are happy, attractive, who are moral or stand out in a positive way, unfortunately, they often start bullying them. They do it by intimidating, abusing, threatening, insulting, and blackmailing. For that purpose, the bully can ask friends and colleagues to help them, they will use lies and misrepresent themselves, they will manipulate and cheat. In order to include as many people as possible against a certain individual, they will pretend to be the victim to cause others to feel sorry for them and show compassion, while they use lies and frauds to portray the person they chose to be the victim as the aggressor.  All that in order to break the victim, hurt their self-esteem, make them fragile, humiliate them, their moral, their values, and qualities in front of others while they rise and feed their negative self-esteem.

Regardless of the real reasons for failure and discontent, what really leads a person to show their destructive behavior towards others who are completely innocent for their displeasure, lie in the following:

  1. Personal Insecurity. Knowing that one of the real reasons of someone’s destructive behavior towards you could be their personal insecurity based on their low self-esteem, could be beneficial for preserving your psychological stability.

You should know that it’s a person who:

  • Can’t face the reality about them;
  • Doesn’t have an adequately developed personality and identity;
  • Lacks the ability to adequately deal with difficulties and frustrations.
  1. Inability to deal with conflicts. Due to the inability to adequately solve conflicting situations at work and in life, a person has countless unresolved conflicts they experience as an injustice they don’t can’t defend themselves from. That is why they engage in confrontations. That means that the victim, the target of his bullying, is not responsible for their inability and discontent.
  2. Defense mechanisms. Even though harassments and plots appear to be an offensive weapon, it’s actually a consequence of the attacker’s defense mechanism. Defense mechanism will activate each time the bully feels inferior and hurt. Whenever the acceptable image of him is questioned, they want to punish the person who caused it as revenge. If the bully feels their position at work is far below yours, they can feel anger, and anger creates the need to destroy the person who made them see the real picture. In such a case, you could be a target. Although this insight does not resolve the conflict with the attacker, it will help you feel less threatened, more cautious, and mentally more stable.
  3. Lack of self-confidence. The attacker has a problem with self-confidence. It is a common occurrence that the attacker feels inferior to the victim or as if they were in a worse position at work and in life in general. Due to their personal weaknesses, they feel in the presence of a more successful person (something they find intolerable), the bully will resort to psychological terror by attacking, abusing, humiliating, and intimidating the person as well as spreading rumors about them. In that way, the bully will place themselves above the victim thus diminishing the discontent caused by their low self-confidence.
  4. Inferiority complex. The bully is not capable of dealing with reality so they project the things they don’t want to admit to themselves. It is usually the inferiority complex, insecurity, low opinion of oneself as a man or a woman, etc. That is why they use their intelligence in a witty, cunning, and refined way to manipulate. That means their intelligence is not focused on self-questioning in order to get an insight into what is going on, but the suppressed feelings are instead projected to others through refined intelligence. Since they use their intelligence to manipulate, it’s clear that such individuals have selfish and sordid goals. Unfortunately, the work environment is the ideal place to manipulate those people since they work in closed spaces.
  5. The common motive of all attacks is envy. The bully is envious of a person’s (the victim’s) position. The fact that their victim is more popular, accepted, wealthier, more educated or more attractive than they are, combined with the bully’s inability to cope with frustrations, is the reason why a person becomes a target.

The painful and unpleasant feeling of envy is one of the main reasons for attacks. Other people’s success, a good financial situation, a good life or a quality that others could perceive as proof that you are better than them. If you are better than someone, that someone is proportionally worse than you. In that way, being aware of someone’s success is being aware of your own failure leading to a painful and unpleasant feeling of envy. The envious person then feels less worthy while the person they are envious of appears to be more worthy. The feeling of envy could be diminished if the said difference is diminished. That occurs when the person who envies you tries to belittle you or ruin your advantage over them. The bully will try to destroy your dignity, your reputation and honor, they will do anything to humiliate you and ruin you.

  1. Emotional Immaturity. As we mature emotionally, we come to realize how adult relationships really function. In case of a lack of emotional maturity-mostly due to inadequate education in one’s childhood-a person cannot function adequately (emotionally) in the world of adults. Such a person feels less worthy if another person doesn’t accept them or ignores them or shows disinterest. A person who lacks a healthy emotional development will attack you if you only look at them the wrong way or fail to greet them in a manner they believe you should.

What to Do if You Are a Victim of These Attacks?

If you are a victim of an attack, it is highly important that you know how to behave and what to do in order to preserve your peace, dignity, and your physical and mental health.

  1. Try talking to the attacker first. Try to discover the reason for such behavior, why they are bullying you. You can talk at work or outside of it. Give the attacker a chance to explain what they actually want from you

Try to find a compromise with the person attacking you. Unfortunately, that often means that you cannot express your opinion openly, but you must develop certain diplomatic skills to agree with the attacker and preserve your own beliefs.

Try not to hurt their self-confidence and ignore their suggestions or worries in your conversation. If you always know better, you will be provoking an argument. You must be aware of this fact when dealing with such people.

  1. If your communication is always a conflict then you should keep it at a minimum. That includes abandoning situations which hurt you and make you feel bad. Do not let the person provoke you during the conversation because bullies hurt you in order to provoke an attack and get attention. The bully needs to feed their low self-esteem. Therefore, never attack the bully in front of others! That is exactly what they want since they want to present themselves as the victim and you as the attacker. He is good and you are bad. If you attack them in the presence of others, you will only support their theory.

What does the bully want to achieve?

Your explosive reaction! KEEP THAT IN MIND! That is exactly what they want to achieve. Use their own weapon against them because knowledge is power in this situation. Don’t react to the comical situation and don’t worry about the insults even if you do feel insulted. Use your inner strength and faith in yourself to remain standing firmly above things. Don’t give them what they want! Don’t give them the food because they seek attention through such explosive situations. It is important to remain tough in order to protect yourself. Set clear boundaries because bullies don’t respect boundaries. The reason they dislike boundaries is that they enjoy drama and boundaries preclude drama. That is why it is important to stick to your boundaries and never try to cross them in order to manipulate things. If you remove the barrier, they will acknowledge that as weakness and recidivation, and they will insist until they get what they want. Even if it is contrary to your usual ideas, be strong and persistent.

  1. Don’t show emotions to the bully. If you show your emotions, they will attack even harder. Bear in mind that the bully feeds on your emotions, your fear, anger, etc. if you show positive emotions, they will perceive you as an easy target.
  2. If the colleagues you were previously in good relations stop talking once you enter the room, if they boycott you or you notice anything that hurts your reputation, ask why. Be determined even you are afraid or fear a negative outcome. It is a better method than hiding and enduring in silence. Resolving conflicts among employees evokes respect. You will know what it is about because one of the employees will tell you the truth.
  3. In reality, bullies are insecure people who suffer from low self-esteem. They nurture their negative self-esteem by harassing those who are respectable and successful business people trying to belittle them. If they realize you have discovered their method, they usually seize attacks although it also happens that they change the tactic.
  4. Since bullies are cowards, they don’t dare attack the victim in front of others. That is why when you need to have a business conversation with the person attacking you, do it in the presence of others. Be prepared to provocations in advance but don’t respond to them. Use the power of knowledge of the reasons for the attack and remain calm. Make the conversation only as long as necessary.
  5. Make a record about harassment. Create some sort of a diary about who attacks you, how, when did the attacks occur and what were the consequences. Make sure to document it. Use your phone or another means to record an unpleasant situation. Record every attack, every offensive conversation, harassment, and intimidation, and every other situation that affects you. If the attacks become more frequent, talk to the manager or the company or organization you work for.

If the bullying is based on race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation, record it with your phone or document it in another way and then report it to the manager. If the attacks become frequent and aggressive, and the manager doesn’t do anything, report the case to the police in the presence of your lawyer.

Strategies for Your Physical and Emotional Well-being

  1. Bullying leads to stress at work. That is physical exercise or other activities that help you calm down are recommended after work.
  2. The moral support of your coworkers is invaluable. However, you should not expect their help because they don’t show their solidarity with the victim out of fear. Sometimes it occurs that mentally weak people side with the bully out of fear. Knowing that they personally have nothing against you and that they fear the bully can help understand their behavior. However, you need allies who will support you emotionally and have your back. Surround yourself with friends, coworkers, family
  3. Even though you are attacked, do not engage in negative thoughts and think about revenge. Stay above that because you should value yourself more than the attacker who is unhappy and tries to nurture their misery by destroying and humiliating others. Your attacker is not part of your life! Live your life surrounded by pleasant, successful life and with positive thoughts.
  4. Don’t think about what others say of you at work. It is not healthy to be spending your time worrying about what others think or say about you. Your self-esteem usually fades in such situations and other people’s opinions start affecting you emotionally. It is good to be among those who accept you and think positive of you because that strengthens your self-esteem.
  5. Don’t place yourself in a victim’s role. If you place yourself in a victim’s role blaming others for what’s happening to you, you can easily become overwhelmed by it, and your self-confidence and self-esteem will weaken. Take responsibility for your actions instead. Work on strengthening your position at work and in life in general. Increase your individual strength which you will then adequately use when confronting difficult people. Instead of wasting your energy on revenge, focus it on strengthening your position. The bully doesn’t deserve your time and attention.
  6. Keep in mind that even though the bully likes to present themselves as a divine figure, the truth is that they are flawed and full of weaknesses. You must know that you should not drown in fear and be hypnotized. Attracting the bully and their strong charisma can stop if you set your mind to it, think critically, and always know your needs and your strengths as well as your limitations. Therefore, you can maintain your autonomy.

Do you still see the attacker as a strong person, or as a sensitive and insecure individual instead? This will liberate you from the fear of this person because suddenly, you don’t see a strong individual but an aggrieved one.

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