Since the age of 18 Rita has been working in the area of customer service in the Greater Lisbon area. Throughout her professional career she had never been a victim of bullying until she was hired to the clothing store where she currently works. Although she has already lost count of the abusive behavior and humiliating situations she has been exposed to over the past three years, the shopkeeper does not forget the day the 72-year-old boss lacked respect in front of other people. "The store, despite being in the works, was open to the public and, because I was not cleaning, it was passed in front of everybody," he says in an interview with SAPO Lifestyle. At the time, it says that the situation caused in itself an emotional discontrol so great that made it act without thinking. "At the time I started crying and left the store but I ended up coming back because my biggest concern was: I can not be fired."
The story of Rita is just one example among many that are repeated daily in the workplace and are experienced by thousands of Portuguese. According to the study "Sexual and Moral Harassment in the Workplace" developed by the Interdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies within the framework of a partnership project promoted by the Commission for Equality in Work and Employment (CITE), in Portugal alone 16, 5% of the Portuguese working population have already been victims of bullying in their workplace. Contrary to sexual harassment, data from 2015 show that this is a reality that affects both women (16.7%) and men (15.9%). (see box)
In the information guide for "Preventing and combating workplace harassment: an instrument to support self-regulation" developed by CITE, "harassment is moral when it involves verbal attacks of offensive or humiliating content, and physical or more subtle acts, which may include physical and / or psychological violence, in order to reduce the victim's self-esteem and, ultimately, to leave the workplace. "
In addition, it is important to clarify that this is a form of institutional violence based on the imbalance of power.
"One must always look at harassment as a form of power exercise. We are talking about someone who knows that he has power and that he can exercise it over another person who, for various reasons, will allow this to happen, "explains Daniel Cotrim, Technical Advisor to the Directorate of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV) .
Leave or not the job? A difficult decision for the victims
If there are those who benefit from a good organizational climate and a good relationship with management, Rita can not say the same. In the last three years, his superior has never strived to provide a good working environment for the officials responsible for the various establishments he has in the Greater Lisbon area. Every day she makes seven-hour shifts at the store where she is the only employee.
"[O meu patrão] You go to my workplace every day and you have to put pressure in some way. Not to say nothing. Enter the store, go out and say neither 'Good morning' or 'Good afternoon, "says the 37-year-old saleswoman.
"Systematically devaluing the work of colleagues or hierarchical subordinates", "disregarding, ignoring or humiliating colleagues or workers, forcing them to be isolated from other colleagues and hierarchical superiors" and "systematically creating objective situations of stress, recipient of the conduct of their conduct "are, for CITE, some examples of acts and behaviors that can be classified as bullying at work and for which many of the victims spend every day.
But why do many of them refer to silence and do not use the legal mechanisms at their disposal? In addition to the lack of information and the fear of reprisals, the invisibility of the theme explains the low number of complaints made to the competent authorities.
"Usually the victim does not believe this is happening to her. Because it is something so invisible and affects it in such an individual way, it ends up keeping this type of events to itself. When there are phenomena that suddenly appear more people have complained publicly of this type of situation, the people who have been or are being victims usually end up speaking because they perceive that they are not the only ones, that they are not crazy and that what they are to feel is perfectly normal, "says the Technical Advisor of the APAV Directorate.
The 2015 research stresses that the reactions of victims of bullying are largely marked by passivity – "I hoped the situation would not repeat itself" (40.9%) and "did nothing" (22.1%), .
Rita went through a process. Initially he did not respond. Later she began to ask the boss directly why she was being treated badly. It did not work. At this point you choose to ignore the aggressive attitudes, the lack of respect and the personal insults that you are targeting at your workplace.
Asked about the reasons why she has not yet changed her job, the shopkeeper is direct. "It's a job close to home, I'm willing to go out and come back because I have a small daughter and because he's a good payer."
Rita has the job that suits her personal and family life but also has a boss who upset her. The startled mood in which he lives has already begun to leave marks. "Whenever he walks in the store he is in the habit of hitting the keys in the storefront to demonstrate his presence. And every time I hear the sound of keys elsewhere I think it's him, "he says.
At this moment, Rita is considering whether to report her case to the competent authorities. But before making any decision you want to go to the ACT-Authority for Working Conditions to find out about your rights.
Aggressive attitudes, lack of respect and personal insults. A list of consequences
"There are so many people who want to work, why are you here?", "I do not like you" and "This is my home and I can talk as I want" were some of the phrases that Rita was listening from the boss's mouth, and systematically, at your workplace. Although he does not describe himself as a weak person, the shopkeeper admits that the type of conduct adopted by his superior has caused him to begin to doubt his abilities as a professional. "I've been a salesperson since I was 18 and I've already thought about 'But did not I sell because I did not make an effort?'" In the last year, stressful situations at work ended up reflecting on his health, causing him crises of anxiety.