Do not allow abuse in your work environment. Get informed about how to protect yourself against mobbing

Author: Fatima Iniestra

On July 6, 2022, Mexico deposited the instrument of ratification of the  Convention on Violence and Harassment 2019, No. 190, at the International Labor Organization (ILO). Convention No. 190 refers to the right of every person to a world of work that is free of violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.

The Convention, together with its Recommendation No. 206, are the first international standards on violence and harassment in the world of work. In this article I want to place emphasis on the sentence “the first international standards on violence and harassment in the world of work” because, at this point,  rather than looking like significant progress to me, it looks like something that was too long in coming.

According to the Convention, violence and harassment include unacceptable behaviors and practices, such as threats or intimidation, happening either once or repeatedly, with the objective of causing harm or that are likely to cause physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, including gender-based violence and harassment.

Violence and harassment in the world of work are an abuse of human rights, they affect people’s health, their dignity and their environment.  They prevent people from growing in their work environment and they negatively affect their relationships at work.

Some of the Fundamental Principles of Convention 190, broadly speaking, emphasize the Right of every person to a violence and harassment-free work environment, to the adoption of an inclusive, integrated approach and to have gender-based considerations taken into account, as well as guaranteeing the right to equality and non-discrimination. This includes female workers, as well as vulnerable groups affected by violence and harassment. Violence against vulnerable groups has always existed, even outside of work, the question is what can be done, what is being done or what will be done, because it definitely seems that nothing is being done.

Upon starting work or entering a new job at an office or a large labor group, the perspective that you have in regard to harassment or violence changes, and a scenario of disappointment, and in some cases desperation opens up in the presence of a situation that you don’t know how to deal with; because you can go through it as someone lower in the hierarchy, providing your social service, as a minority or an intern. If it doesn’t happen to you, you can be a witness of it and hear about it from the human resources people who handle these situations, you hear about it from your coworkers, colleagues, clients. In short, it is hard to find someone who does not mention it.

Agatha is a university student and, as part of the requirements for her degree, she had to conduct the mandatory social service at a non-profit association that seeks to eradicate bullying and mobbing and, thus, she shares some of her experience with us. One of the first things she mentioned is that “nobody does anything until things blow up”, “it is hard for the victim to approach anyone because he or she will not feel safe, given the absence of the ideal methods or the right channel to enable him or her to express the situation he or she is going through”.

It is necessary to have policies aimed toward prevention or psychological support, to offer training courses to all employees within a work center regardless of their category because you never know who is being a victim of this situation, Agatha stated.

She explained that mobbing involves insults in regard to clothing, comments about a person’s physique, sexual violence of any type, physical violence, labor violence, abuse of the workplace hierarchy, among many other practices.

The law, however, protects all workers, therefore, it is important for you to be well informed. For example: Convention 190 protects:

  • Salaried workers.
  • People who work (whatever their contractual situation).
  • People in training (interns, apprentices, etc.).
  • Workers who have been terminated.
  • People seeking work.
  • Individuals who exercise authority, the duties or responsibilities of an employer.

Where can this violence occur?

  • At the workplace.
  • In public or private spaces of the workplace.
  • The places in which the worker is paid, where breaks are taken, or meals are taken.
  • Restrooms, showers or locker rooms.
  • Journeys, trips, social activities, training activities or activities related to work.
  • Communications relating to work.
  • Accommodations provided by the employer.
  • The routes between home and the workplace.

You may be a victim of mobbing when you first start interacting in the workplace, but try to be prepared. When you go to the corresponding courts, the authority takes advantage of your lack of experience, your economic vulnerability or your appearance. There is a firm belief in our circle that we grow through adversity, but to what extent is this mobbing.

Violence, harassment, harrying, abuse can definitively be prevented, and the worker can definitively be protected. Policies must be created at the different work centers in which concepts are defined and, as a result of this, these conducts are prohibited and stopped.

Work centers  must protect the worker, and the worker must do everything possible to report anything that happens to him or her. Rights and obligations must be defined; programs and channels through which workers can communicate these issues and proper investigation procedures can and must be established. There must definitively be training in place explaining the same topics set forth in the policy and continuous updates. All of this is relatively simple, but absolutely necessary for the physical and mental well-being of workers.

Reparation resources must be established, such as effective insurance, as well as providing the necessary support to victims, always. Everyone has the right to remove themselves from a work situation in case of serious and imminent danger.

The Company must provide orientation and training to workers and be able to identify potentially risky situations before it is too late. It is advisable to provide anonymous options; however, the investigation process should be proportional.

“I believe that if you get to the point of penalization, you have failed as a company”, says Agatha when covering the topic of the measures to deal with violence and harassment.

If you are being abused, seek the support of a colleague with experience in the workplace, with Human Resources or another figure that you trust, do not let things get out of control. If you are a witness to it, do not applaud this behavior, reject it, and if you are the abuser, grow as a person and help to strengthen your company, not destroy it.