The meaning of moral harassment

What is moral harassment?

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Many researchers are now trying to define and understand psychological or moral harassment at work. Among these, we have retained a definition from a renowned expert in the field, French psychiatrist Marie-France Hirigoyen, here freely translated:

“If a person or a group of individuals treats you in a manner that is hostile, whether through actions, words or in writing, and if those actions affect your dignity, your physical or psychological well-being, as well as causing a deterioration in your workplace or even jeopardizing your employment, you are the victim of psychological harassment.”

How to recognize moral harassment?

According to German psychologist Dr. Heinz Leymann, the following are some of the effects and behaviours of moral harassment (for which he uses the term “mobbing”):

Effects on the victim’s possibilities to communicate (management gives you no possibility to communicate, you are silenced, the verbal attack against you regarding work assignments, verbal threats, verbal activities in order to reject you, etc.)
Effects on the victim’s possibilities to maintain social contacts (colleagues do not talk with you any longer or you are even forbidden by management to talk to them, you are isolated in a room far away from others, you are “sent to Coventry”, etc.)
Effects on the victim’s possibilities to maintain his personal reputation (gossiping about you, others ridicule you, others make fun about a handicap or your ethnic heritage, or your way of moving or talking, etc.)
Effects on the victim’s occupational situation (you are not given any work assignment at all, you are given meaningless work assignments, etc.)
Effects on the victim’s physical health (you are given dangerous work assignments, others threaten you physically or you are attacked physically, you are sexually harassed in an active way, etc.)