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France has paved the way in terms of labour legislation, and Marie-France Hirigoyen has been a standard-bearer for the improvements which have been enshrined in law. Following our initial contact with Marie-France Hirigoyen in and some scheduling acrobatics to find a date in her packed diary, we were finally able to meet her for this interview with jupsin. Through her words, an image of a great woman emerges, a strong, confident campaigner who has dedicated a significant part of her life to working to raise awareness of emotional abuse and bullying as serious issues.

In recent decades, France has been a pioneer in terms of incorporating the concept of emotional abuse into labour legislation , serving as an example for other countries. Marie-France Hirigoyen has been a key figure in this process.

Twenty years on, her teachings are as relevant now as ever. Workplace bullying is an insidious form of violence, involving words and gestures which often go unwitnessed, with the aim of attacking and destabilising the victim. Marie-France Hirigoyen. The definition of workplace bullying I published twenty years ago remains valid today.

I continue to use the same definition, although it is not the exact definition enshrined in French law. The difficulty in identifying this type of abuse lies in the fact that, when viewed in isolation, none of the acts in themselves are particularly serious.

The abuse becomes severe when there is a succession of microaggressions. A single instance of abuse is not especially serious in itself, but it becomes so when there are multiple instances. The abuse lies in the repetition of these attacks. In France, case law has demonstrated that attacks can take place over a short period of time and be equally damaging. Yes, but my definition differs to Leymann in several ways. He considered that at least one aggression should occur per week for a six-month period in order to consider it bullying.

I think that aggressions can be very violent and not necessarily as frequent, but they are equally harmful. MFH: When I wrote my first book, the concept of workplace bullying was still new. I was consulted as part of the drafting process for the French law. That was the first time that mental health was discussed in the labour code. Until then, the labour code had only mentioned physical consequences and not mental consequences.

The law forced companies to implement prevention plans. In theory, this should be divided into primary prevention , addressing the context which allows abuse to take place, and secondary prevention , supplying tools to allow individuals to better defend themselves. Finally, support should be provided for any employees experiencing bullying.

That was the first time mental health was discussed in labour law. Before, only physical rather than mental consequences were addressed. The law also helped to raise awareness of the mental suffering experienced by people affected by abuse, as well as other types of distress in the workplace, which are referred to as psychosocial hazards. We must not forget that workplace bullying is merely another type of hazard to which employees are exposed. Psychosocial hazards include stress , burnout , external violence e.

This is why the law obliges large companies unfortunately it does not cover small companies to keep a record assessing psychosocial hazards. There was certainly a change in some companies, although many only implemented the prevention plan in order to give a good impression. I find this solution rather concerning, and I discuss it in my latest book, Les Narcisse.

It creates an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence, without resolving the real problems causing people to suffer. What leads to distress is the pressure increasingly placed on employees to work faster and more intensively. What is lacking is acknowledgement. People do not receive recognition for what they do.

The problem is essentially one of a lack of recognition. Most people work in jobs which do not give meaning to their lives. We call them bullshit jobs , jobs which have no purpose. Often, people are taught how to manage their stress as a way of reducing it, and that leads to more stress.

This type of practice artificially conceals the issue. It is becoming more and more difficult to manage work all over the world, and people are receiving less and less recognition. That has to be addressed. This area has also borne witness to a twofold trend.

But then there is also workplace stress , which has increased simultaneously. We have to keep in mind that the focus is on profitability. I think this is happening in other countries too. The type of management being applied in hospitals is based on profitability, just like in the private sector. By definition, hospitals are unprofitable because they take care of sick people, who, if well cared for, will live for a long time, requiring more care for longer.

Healthcare is increasingly expensive. It is undeniable that working conditions are worsening all over the world under the pretext of profitability. In this way, we overlook human concerns. This is happening in hospitals , but it is also occurring in teaching , in all of the places where humanity should be fomented and people should be cared for.

We need to ask ourselves where our priorities lie. How we can restore the meaning of work , how we can cast off this profitability model, this short-termism which priorities profitability at all costs. We need to think about the issue more holistically. The best response to a person who has fallen victim to workplace bullying is to acknowledge their distress.

The problem is that these situations are often hidden. Amicable settlements offering economic compensation are used to silence victims. Most victims do not want economic compensation, they want acknowledgement that what is happening to them, what has been done to them, is not normal.

It would be even better if they were to receive an apology, but unfortunately that happens very rarely. We are all vulnerable because we are all human beings, although not everybody has the same vulnerabilities.

We can all be victims of workplace bullying or sexual abuse. We can all be victims, but when faced with this type of situation, not everybody has the same resilience or the same resources to defend themselves. That means that people experience distress from two sources: the abuse they are currently suffering and any abuse they have suffered from in the past.

If they have been victims of emotional, sexual or other kinds of abuse, either in childhood or adulthood, they are obviously more fragile. Workplace bullying acts as a hoover, bringing out earlier abuse from the inner recesses of the mind and causing victims to recall previous harassment and insults… That means that people experience distress from two sources : the abuse they are currently suffering and any abuse they have suffered from in the past.

Yes, absolutely. Abusive situations in general are the result of an issue with boundaries. We must be able to establish clear boundaries. It is important to understand that this type of abusive behaviour can affect anyone: we are all capable of falling victim to it. But that means we have to educate people to think critically , so that they are clear on what they should and should not accept. This is something which can be traced back to childhood.

This is why some people, due to the specific setting or their past experiences, are more vulnerable than others. Although it is important to understand, equally, that this type of abusive behaviour can affect anyone: we are all capable of falling victim to it. We can do that simply with a little role play, where we ask them: what do you think about this? How do you think the other person feels if you say nasty things to them? In Quebec , there are people who advise on preventing violence and who visit schools to carry out this kind of work.

Perhaps, although I think individual and family therapy is still important. At the very least, this type of work should be rolled out much more widely. I address this exact issue in my latest book, Les Narcisse. My argument is that in a narcissistic, individualistic society , we focus largely on ourselves. In education, we value children to the detriment of others.

We protect individual freedom to such an extent that we forget about collective responsibility. We live in a society with other people, in which we must consider reputations, appearances, success. In order to exist, we must be the best. Not out of malice, but because we want to be the best, we want to come first.

I talk about our society , which seeks high performance and prioritises consumerism. We focus on ourselves and that has boosted the narcissistic side of every one of us, leading the most narcissistic individuals to be selected for the highest ranking positions.

We find narcissistic individuals everywhere, who are willing to do anything to obtain or maintain power. If we go even further, there are now heads of state in some countries who have been democratically elected but who are complete narcissists and govern their countries like autocrats. On the other hand, there are also more fragile individuals all over the world who are not able to progress as far, who can feel overlooked or even devalued.

This is most likely what is behind the yellow vest movement. On the one hand, we have the financial, intellectual and political elites , whose lives are going better and better. The rich are becoming ever richer, the famous are becoming ever more famous, while on the other hand, we have everyone else , who can start to feel like they are worthless. The yellow vest movement has seen the latter attempt to make themselves heard. Some have become very radical or have used violence in order to make themselves heard, paving the way for completely unacceptable and very violent movements.

In reality, Donald Trump is an extremely narcissistic individual, completely focused on himself and his money.


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