What incident changed the way you perceive someone

"Ignorance tries to turn another into nothing"

At first glance, they seem harmless: ignorance traps in the workplace. This is bullying, subtle psychological violence that goes to the kidneys of employees. Springer author Lilo Endriss explains in an interview why ignorance traps are so treacherous.

Springer Professional: You transfer the term 'ignorance trap' from psychology to the world of work. What does the psychologist understand by this and how do ignorance traps work in the professional world?

Lilo Endriss: The word ignorance trap is a separate word creation in this context and is intended to indicate that an attacker can undermine the self-esteem of the other by means of devaluing behavior and thus checkmate him if he does not see through this nasty game. If one person deliberately and permanently uses devaluing behavior towards another person, then psychologists speak of subtle psychological violence, which aims to wear down the attacked person. This is a special form of bullying.

2019 | book

Ignorance traps in the workplace

Uncover subtle emotional violence - stabilize those affected

Insult by ignorance is a very subtle form of emotional violence, and it causes millions in business losses. Lilo Endriss offers information, support for those affected and prevention.

Why are these ignorance traps so problematic in the world of work?

Ignorant behaviors such as marginalizing someone or punishing them by neglecting them are now very widespread and in some areas of professional life are almost part of the style of the house. On the other hand, it was not just since Joachim Bauer's publications on the subject of "mirror neurons" that it was known how important emotional resonance, empathy, is for a person's self-image and a healthy sense of self. Even criticism or verbal attacks still accept the counterpart as existing. Ignorance tries to turn another into nothing. What many people do not know: The resulting hurts and feelings of powerlessness can make you sick. This not only incurs additional costs for the company, but also loses valuable employees.

Not listening, not answering inquiries, not showing up for a meeting without rejection, etc. are behaviors that are often excused with overload and work density. Is that really the main cause of this subtle form of bullying, or are there other reasons and variations?

Of course, there are innocuous reasons why an employee sometimes behaves ignorantly, for example because he or she hears or sees poorly. Or because he suffers from overstimulation or is not a multitasking type. Here one has to distinguish precisely diagnostically. It becomes problematic if the ignoramus behaves deliberately in a devaluing manner, for example because he has the need to diminish the vitality of the other or because envy, jealousy and revenge play a role. In addition, there is also any form of addictive behavior such as the socially acceptable consumption of alcohol or performance-enhancing drugs. Especially sensitive, creative employees are often secretly targeted, as they are often innocent and never get the idea that you want to feel bad about them personally.

What can HR managers do about the ignorance problem?

HR managers should take those affected and their feelings seriously, familiarize themselves with the psychological mechanisms of this problem, know the effects on the health of employees and check whether there is actually subtle emotional violence. Because, unfortunately, ignorance also works when it happens unintentionally ... Of course, the most effective thing is to bring as much transparency and knowledge as possible into the company on this topic. If this is not possible, they should seek advice from professionals for assistance.

How can employees protect themselves against subtle emotional violence?

Those affected should be able to recognize and name the ignorance problem. It is then important that they get into the habit of paying less attention to the fact that ignorance is being exercised and more about how it is used. If you learn to look through the diagnostic glasses, so to speak, then you gain distance from involvement in devaluing situations. It also helps to realize to what extent the self-image or self-esteem actually depends on the recognition and confirmation of an unsuitable person in the workplace. A competent conversation partner inside or outside can often strengthen your back.

Unfortunately, it is often the managers themselves who do not notice their employees, do not solve problems addressed to them and refuse to react. What do you advise in these cases?

Document all incidents so that you have something in hand should there be any consequences under labor law. Change the way you communicate with your supervisor: ask politely but emphatically for reactions, if necessary by unusual means. Question your attitude towards authority. Find allies so that you can witness this type of communication. And refrain from having to endure such situations on your own.