EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

One in 10 teachers subject to mobbing at work

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Research in European countries shows that teachers are often exposed to mobbing at work. Recent results of a study by the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute in 2006 provide data on mobbing among 1,098 teachers in Poland. Of the teachers involved, 9.7% reported experiencing different forms of mobbing. The study offers an insight into the relationship between experiences of violence, psychological health and work satisfaction among teachers.

Legal context

The term ‘mobbing’ is defined in the Polish Labour Code (Article 943) as:

actions or behaviour concerning an employee or directed against an employee and comprising, in particular, consistent and protracted harassment and intimidation of the employee which causes the employee to develop a low esteem of her/his professional value, causing – or intended to cause – humiliation or mockery of the employee, isolation of the employee from her/his co-workers, or her/his elimination from the employee group.

The Labour Code obliges employers to counteract mobbing.

About the survey

In 2006, the Central Institute of Labour Protection – National Research Institute (Centralny Instytut Ochrony Pracy – Państwowy Instytut Badawczy, CIOP) interviewed 1,098 teachers in five Polish cities using the Negative Acts Questionnaire (CIOP, 2008). The respondents were predominantly women (86%), holders of regular teaching positions (92%) at public schools (96%). The average age of the respondents was 39 years. These characteristics are broadly in line with the demographic profile of a Polish teacher (National In-Service Teacher Training Centre (Centralnego Ośrodka Doskonalenia Nauczycieli, CODN), 2008).

Types of mobbing activity

The questionnaire consisted of 22 descriptions of negative actions and phenomena which a respondent might potentially encounter in the workplace. It is worthwhile noting that the descriptions did not use the actual term ‘mobbing’. The teachers involved in the study were asked to estimate how many times, if any, they were the target of such actions over the past six months. The table below summarises some of the replies.

Respondents exposure to different forms of mobbing over past six months (%)
Type of mobbing Frequency of mobbing
  Once a week (or more), daily Once a month or less Never
Ignoring the employee’s opinions and views 1.9 43.7 54.4
Spreading rumours and slander about the employee 2.8 38.3 58.9
Withholding information which has bearing on the employee’s results at work 1.5 38.0 60.5
Overburdening the employee with work 3.0 33.5 63.5
Screaming, displays of anger or rage 1.5 30.2 68.3
Hints and intimations from others that the employee should leave work 0.6 10.1 89.3
Physical intimidation: finger-pointing, encroachment of personal space, pushing or obstructing the employee’s way 0.5 6.9 92.6
Threats of physical violence or actual physical abuse 0.1 1.9 98.0

Note: All 1,098 teachers responded to this question.

Source: CIOP, 2008, p. 7

The responding teachers most often encountered other co-workers ‘ignoring their opinions’, ‘rumours and slander’ and people ‘withholding information’ about their performance. The most physical manifestations of mobbing – ‘finger-pointing’ and threatened or actual violence – were the most seldom reported by respondents.

Scale and characteristics of mobbing

According to the survey results, 9.7% of Polish teachers experience mobbing at work. This figure is calculated with the use of the Leymann criterion, in accordance with which an individual who experiences at least one negative action or phenomenon at work at least once a week over a period of at least six months can be considered to be a victim of mobbing.

When asked about the perpetrators of the mobbing experienced by them, the teachers most frequently pointed to their superiors. Co-workers were the second most frequently named category of perpetrator, followed by subordinates (see figure).

Main perpetrators of mobbing (%)

Main perpetrators of mobbing (%)

According to the data gathered, in some instances, mobbing was perpetrated by superiors, co-workers and subordinates all at the same time.

As part of the study, teachers were asked to answer a series of questions designed to gauge their psychological health. Analysis of the replies indicates that the more negative actions or phenomena experienced by respondents and the greater the frequency of such experiences, the poorer their psychological health (Pearson’s correlation coefficient = -0.31, relevance level p<0.01) and the lower their job satisfaction (Pearson’s correlation coefficient = -0.46, relevance level p<0.01).


Polish employment law obligates employers to counteract mobbing; meanwhile, it is at the hands of their superiors (that is, school principals) that teachers suffer mobbing most often. The negative actions directed at teachers assume the form of broadly defined psychological violence rather than physical violence, which is often typical of white-collar work environments. Clearly, mobbing among schoolteachers must be eradicated – as with any other vocational group, mobbing has detrimental effects on the psychological well-being and job satisfaction of teachers. However, other reasons for eradication of mobbing can also be highlighted that are not necessarily covered by this study, such as the potentially harmful impact on pupils.


CIOP, Zjawisko mobbingu wśród nauczycieli [The phenomenon of mobbing among teachers], in Bezpieczeństwo Pracy 5/2008, 2008.

CODN, Nauczyciele we wrześniu 2007 roku. Stan i struktura zatrudnienia [Teachers in September 2007. State and structure of employment], Warsaw, 2008.

Ewelina Kuźmicz, Institute of Public Affairs (ISP)

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