Anti–bullying legislation: A hot topic for 20 years

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

A new attempt for an anti-bullying law has been on the table for more than a year. But whether the text will ever be passed is questionable due to legal concerns and weak support. Moreover, workplace harassment is apparently still not fully recognised as a problem.

Marie was happy with her job, the collaboration with her colleagues went smoothly. Until one day a new supervisor takes over the department and wants to implement changes. In a team meeting, Marie raises justified objections to some decisions based on her long work experience. But her new boss wants to know better and, even more, sees his authority undermined. To reinforce this, Marie is given other tasks. In addition, the agreement made with the old boss to be able to take leave on Wednesday afternoons so that the solo parent can look after her children is cancelled under the pretext that team meetings are only possible on Wednesdays.

Marie first tries to come to terms with the new situation. But things do not get any better. After being subjected to persistent criticism, she loses self-confidence, makes mistakes that she would never have made otherwise. The evaluation report issued on her, which follows a few weeks later, is another blow. The document calls her professional competence into question. Marie becomes depressed and often calls in sick. This causes resentment among her colleagues who have to do her work as well. When she turns to the staff delegation one day and they write a complaint with her consent, things only get worse. The complaint remains without consequences and the harassment increases. Eventually, after a long back and forth, Marie is transferred to another department where the work environment is better and she has more time to take care of her child again. But the bullying experience has left deep scars.

Depression, burnout, frequent sick leave, dissatisfaction at work: these are all possible consequences of bullying. As in this fictional case example, they primarily affect an individual person, but the consequences also affect the immediate work environment and the general public, who bear the costs for continued pay, doctor's visits and therapies.

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