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Workplace bullying occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm. This form of bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of workplace aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and occasionally can be subordinates. Research has also investigated the impact of the larger organizational context on bullying as well as the group-level processes that impact on the incidence, and maintenance of bullying behaviour. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in organizational culture.
While there is no universally accepted formal definition of workplace bullying, several researchers have endeavoured to define it:
Because it can occur in a variety of contexts and forms, it is also useful to define workplace bullying by the key features that these behaviours possess. Bullying is characterized by:
This distinguishes bullying from isolated behaviours and other forms of job stress and allows the term workplace bullying to be applied in various contexts and to behaviours that meet these characteristics. Many observers agree that bullying is often a repeated behavior. However, some experts who have dealt with a great many people who report abuse also categorize some once-only events as bullying, for example with cases where there appear to be severe sequelae. Expanding the common understanding of bullying to include single, severe episodes also parallels the legal definitions of sexual harassment in the US.
According to Pamela Lutgin-Sandvik, the lack of unifying language to name the phenomenon of workplace bullying is a problem because without a unifying term or phrase, individuals have difficulty naming their experiences of abuse, and therefore have trouble pursuing justice against the bully. Unlike sexual harassment, which named a specific problem and is now recognized in law of many countries (including U.S.), workplace bullying is still being established as a relevant social problem and is in need of a specific vernacular.
Euphemisms intended to trivialize bullying and its impact on bullied people: incivility, disrespect, difficult people, personality conflict, negative conduct, ill treatment.
There is not the exact definition about the bullying behaviors in workplace. So when a researcher want to investigate bullying behaviors in workplace, he or she would like to label it. That is the reason why we can see different terms of this behaviors in different academic papers. For example, mobbing is commonly used by researchers in France and Germany. Harassment is the term preferred in Finland. And in USA, aggression and emotional abuse are used. In additional, workplace bullying is primarily used in Australia, UK, and Northern Europe. The decision by researchers to use different terms stems from the type of behavior that is reported to occur most frequently within the country in which bullying is being investigated. For example, in Germany, where the term mobbing is used, bullying is frequently reported to be perpetrated by a “mob” of bullies, rather than a single bully; a phenomenon which is not shared by other countries. On the other hand, relatively high incidence of violent in workplace behavior was mainly focused by researchers.
Statistics from the 2007 WBI-Zogby survey show that 13% of U.S. employees report being bullied currently, 24% say they have been bullied in the past and an additional 12% say they have witnessed workplace bullying. Nearly half of all American workers (49%) report that they have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker.
Although socio-economic factors may play a role in the abuse, researchers from the Project for Wellness and Work-Life suggest that "workplace bullying, by definition, is not explicitly connected to demographic markers such as sex and ethnicity" (p. 151). Because 1 in 10 employees experiences workplace bullying, the prevalence of this issue is cause for great concern, even as initial data about this issue are reviewed.
According to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement (NHIS-OHS), the national prevalence rate for workers reporting having been threatened, bullied, or harassed by anyone on the job was 8%.
In 2008, Dr. Judy Fisher-Blando wrote a doctoral research dissertation on Aggressive Behavior: Workplace Bullying and Its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity. The scientific study determined that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness. Further research showed the types of bullying behaviour, and organizational support.
In terms of gender, the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007) states that women appear to be at greater risk of becoming a bullying target, as 57% of those who reported being targeted for abuse were women. Men are more likely to participate in aggressive bullying behavior (60%), however when the bully is a woman her target is more likely to be a woman as well (71%).
In the research of Samnani and Singh (2012), it concludes the findings from previous 20 years literature and claims that in terms of the gender factor, inconsistent findings could not support the differences across gender.
The NHIS-OHS confirms the previous finding, as higher prevalence rates for being threatened, bullied, or harassed were identified for women (9%) compared with men (7%).
Race also may play a role in the experience of workplace bullying. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007), the comparison of reported combined bullying (current + ever bullied) prevalence percentages reveals the pattern from most to least:
The reported rates of witnessing bullying were:
The percentages of those reporting that they have neither experienced nor witnessed mistreatment were
Higher prevalence rates for experiencing a hostile work environment were identified for workers with only a high school diploma or GED and workers with some college education compared to workers with less than a high school education.
Lower prevalence rates for experiencing a hostile work environment were identified for workers aged 65 and older compared to workers in other age groups.
With respect to the age, conflict findings have been reported. However, in the study of Einarsen and Skogstad (1996), it indicates the older employees tends to be more likely to be bullied than the young ones.
Among industry groups, workers with higher prevalence rates of a hostile work environment, compared to all adults employed at some time in the past 12 months (8%), were in Public Administration (16%) and Retail Trade industries (10%). Lower prevalence rates of a hostile work environment were reported among those working in Construction (5%); Finance and Insurance (5%); Manufacturing (5%); and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services industries (6%).
For occupational groups, workers in Protective Service reported a higher prevalence rate (25%) of hostile work environments compared to the prevalence rate for all adults employed at some time in the past 12 months. Workers in Community and Social Service occupations also experienced a relatively high rate (16%). Lower prevalence rates were observed among Architecture and Engineering (4%), Computer and Mathematical (4%), Business and Financial Operations (5%), and Construction and Extraction (5%) occupations.
From the research by Hoel, it is clear that most of the perpetrators are supervisors, the second one is peers, subordinates and customers follow which found from Hoel's research. So three main relationships among the participants in workplace bullying can be indicated as:
Bullying behaviors shows as an abuse of power between supervisors and subordinates in workplace. Supervisors release their own pressure to bully subordinates with their higher power due to workplace bullying. It is always related to management style of the supervisors. An authoritative management style is accompanied by a kind of bullying behaviors which can make subordinates fear so that supervisors can become authority themselves. On the other hand, some researchers agree that bullying behaviors is a positive performance in workplace. Workplace bullying can attribute to the organizational power and control. It is also a representative of power and control. if an organization want to improve this situation in workplace, strategies and policies must be improved. Lacking of policy in bullying like low-monitoring or no punishment will result in tolerating in organization. Bullying behaviors in workplace also exist among colleagues. They can be either the ‘target’ or perpetrator. If workplace bullying happens among the co-workers, witness will take side between target and perpetrator. Perpetrators always win, because witnesses do not want to be the next target. This way, it does encourage perpetrators to continue this behavior. In addition, the sense of the injustice by targets might become another perpetrator to bully other colleagues who have less power than them. Varitia who is a workplace bullying researcher investigate that 20% of interviewees who experienced workplace bullying thought the reason why they became a target is they are different from others. In a word, bullying can increase more bullying in workplace. The third relationship in workplace is between employees and customers. Although it takes a little part, it play a significant role about the efficiency of the organization. If an employee work with unhealthy emotion, it will affect the quality of the service seriously. This relationship is closely related to emotion label. Lots of examples can be listed from our daily life, like customers are ignored by shop assistants, patients are shouted by nurses in the hospital and so on. On the other hand, customers might despise the employees, especially blue-collar job, such as gas station assistants. Bullying behaviors in workplace can generate effect mutually between the employees and customers. The Fourth relationship in workplace is between organization or its institution or its system and the employees. In the article of Andreas Liefooghe (2012), it notes that a lot of employees describe their organization as bully. It is not environmental factors facilitating the bullying but it is the bullying itself. Tremendous power imbalance enables company to "legitimately exercise" their power in the way of monitoring and controlling as bullying. The terms of the bullying "traditionally" implies to interpersonal relationship. Talking about bullying in interpersonal level is legitimate, but talking about the exploitation, justice and subjugation as bullying of organization would be "relatively ridiculous" or not taken as serious. Bullying is sometimes more than purely interpersonal issue.
Bullying is seen to be prevalent in organisations where employees and managers feel that they have the support, or at least implicitly the blessing, of senior managers to carry on their abusive and bullying behaviour. Furthermore, new managers will quickly come to view this form of behaviour as acceptable and normal if they see others get away with it and are even rewarded for it.
When bullying happens at the highest levels, the effects may be far reaching. That people may be bullied irrespective of their organisational status or rank, including senior managers, indicates the possibility of a negative domino effect, where bullying may be cascaded downwards as the targeted supervisors might offload their own aggression on their subordinates. In such situations, a bullying scenario in the boardroom may actually threaten the productivity of the entire organisation.
According to a research investigating the acceptability of the bullying behavior across from different cultures (Power et al., 2013), it clearly shows that culture could also serve as an influencing factor. The difference on the cultural dimension across different cultures could affect the perception on the acceptable behavior. National-level factors, such as culture, may also represent a predictor of workplace bullying (Harvey et al., 2009; Hoel et al., 1999; Lutgen-Sandvik et al., 2007).
Humane orientation is negatively associated with the acceptability of bullying for WRB (Work related bullying). Performance orientation is positively associated with the acceptance of bullying. Future orientation is negatively associated with the acceptability of bullying. A culture of femininity suggests that individuals tend to value interpersonal relationships to a greater degree
Confucian Asia, which has a higher performance orientation than Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, bullying may be seen as an acceptable price to pay for performance. The value Latin America holds for personal connections with employees and the higher humane orientation of Sub-Saharan Africa may help to explain their distaste for bullying. A culture of individualism in the US implies competition, which may increase the likelihood of workplace bullying situations.
Ashforth discussed potentially destructive sides of leadership and identified what he referred to as petty tyrants, i.e.leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear in the workplace. Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. When employees get the sense that bullies “get away with it”, a climate of fear may be the result. Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on the one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflicts or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, where there is little or no room for dialogue and where complaining may be considered futile.
In a study of public-sector union members, approximately one in five workers reported having considered leaving the workplace as a result of witnessing bullying taking place. Rayner explained these figures by pointing to the presence of a climate of fear in which employees considered reporting to be unsafe, where bullies had “got away with it” previously despite management knowing of the presence of bullying.
The workplace bully is often expert at knowing how to work the system. They can spout all the current management buzzwords about supportive management but basically use it as a cover. By keeping their abusive behavior hidden, any charges made by individuals about his or her bullying will always come down to your word against his. They may have a kiss up kick down personality, wherein they are always highly cooperative, respectful, and caring when talking to upper management but the opposite when it comes to their relationship with those whom they supervise. Bullies tend to ingratiate themselves to their bosses while intimidating subordinates. He may be socially popular with others in management, including those who will determine his fate. Often, a workplace bully will have mastered kiss up kick down tactics that hide his abusive side from superiors who review his performance.
As a consequence of this kiss up kick down strategy:
The most typical reactions to workplace bullying are to do with the survival instinct - “fight or flight” - and these are probably a victim’s healthier responses to bullying. Flight is a legitimate and valid response to bullying. It is very common, especially in organizations in which upper management cannot or will not deal with the bullying. In hard economic times, however, flight may not be an option, and fighting may be the only choice.
Fighting the bullying can require near heroic action, especially if the bullying targets just one or two individuals. It can also be a difficult challenge. There are some times when confrontation is called for. First, there is always a chance that the bully boss is laboring under the impression that this is the way to get things done and does not recognize the havoc being wreaked on subordinates.
Research by the Workplace Bullying Institute, suggests that the following are the 25 most common workplace bullying tactics:
According to Bassman, common abusive workplace behaviours are:
According to Sean Kennedy, more common abusive workplace behaviours include:
Several aspects of academia, such as the generally decentralized nature of academic institutions and the particular recruitment and career procedures, lend themselves to the practice of bullying and discourage its reporting and mitigation.
Bullying has been identified as prominent in blue collar jobs including on the oil rigs and in mechanic shops and machine shops. It is thought that intimidation and fear of retribution cause decreased incident reports. This is also an industry dominated by males, where disclosure of incidents are seen as effeminate, which, in the socioeconomic and cultural milieu of such industries, would likely lead to a vicious circle. This is often used in combination with manipulation and coercion of facts to gain favour among higher ranking administrators.[non-primary source needed]
A culture of bullying is common in information technology (IT), leading to high sickness rates, low morale, poor productivity and high staff turnover. Deadline-driven project work and stressed-out managers take their toll on IT workers.
Bullying in the medical profession is common, particularly of student or trainee doctors. It is thought that this is at least in part an outcome of conservative traditional hierarchical structures and teaching methods in the medical profession which may result in a bullying cycle.
Bullying has been identified as being particularly prevalent in the nursing profession although the reasons are not clear. It is thought that relational aggression (psychological aspects of bullying such as gossipping and intimidation) are relevant. Relational aggression has been studied amongst girls but not so much amongst adult women.
School teachers are commonly the subject of bullying but they are also sometimes the originators of bullying within a school environment.
Bullying in the legal profession is believed to be more common than in some other professions. It is believed that its adversarial, hierarchical tradition contributes towards this. Women, trainees and solicitors who have been qualified for five years or less are more impacted, as are ethnic minority lawyers and lesbian, gay and bisexual lawyers.
Adult bullying can come in an assortment of forms. There are about five distinctive types of adult bullies. A narcissistic bully is described as a self-centered person whose egotism is frail and possesses the need to put others down. An impulsive bully is someone who acts on bullying based on stress or being upset at the moment. A physical bully uses physical injury and the threat of harm to abuse their victims, while a verbal bully uses demeaning and cynicism to debase their victims. Lastly, a secondary adult bully is portrayed as a person that did not start the initial bullying but participates in afterwards to avoid being bullied themselves ("Adult Bullying"). 
Workplace bullying is reported to be far more prevalent than perhaps commonly thought. For some reason, workplace bullying seems to be particularly widespread in healthcare organizations; 80% of nurses report experiencing workplace bullying. Similar to the school environment for children, the work environment typically places groups of adult peers together in a shared space on a regular basis. In such a situation, social interactions and relationships are of great importance to the function of the organizational structure and in pursuing goals. The emotional consequences of bullying put an organization at risk of losing victimized employees. Bullying also contributes to a negative work environment, is not conducive to necessary cooperation and can lessen productivity at various levels. Bullying in the workplace is associated with negative responses to stress. The ability to manage emotions, especially emotional stress, seems to be a consistently important factor in different types of bullying. The workplace in general can be a stressful environment, so a negative way of coping with stress or an inability to do so can be particularly damning. Workplace bullies may have high social intelligence and low emotional intelligence (EI). In this context, bullies tend to rank high on the social ladder and are adept at influencing others. The combination of high social intelligence and low empathy is conducive to manipulative behavior, such that Hutchinson (2013) describes workplace bullying to be. In working groups where employees have low EI, workers can be persuaded to engage in unethical behavior. With the bullies' persuasion, the work group is socialized in a way that rationalizes the behavior, and makes the group tolerant or supportive of the bullying. Hutchinson & Hurley (2013) make the case that EI and leadership skills are both necessary to bullying intervention in the workplace, and illustrates the relationship between EI, leadership and reductions in bullying. EI and ethical behavior among other members of the work team have been shown to have a significant impact on ethical behavior of nursing teams. Higher EI is linked to improvements in the work environment and is an important moderator between conflict and reactions to conflict in the workplace. The self-awareness and self-management dimensions of EI have both been illustrated to have strong positive correlations with effective leadership and the specific leadership ability to build healthy work environments and work culture.
Abusive supervision overlaps with workplace bullying in the workplace context. Research suggests that 75% of workplace bullying incidents are perpetrated by hierarchically superior agents. Abusive supervision differs from related constructs such as supervisor bullying and undermining in that it does not describe the intentions or objectives of the supervisor.
Workplace mobbing overlaps with workplace bullying. The concept originated from the study of animal behavior. It concentrates on bullying by a group.
Workplace bullying overlaps to some degree with workplace incivility but tends to encompass more intense and typically repeated acts of disregard and rudeness. Negative spirals of increasing incivility between organizational members can result in bullying, but isolated acts of incivility are not conceptually bullying despite the apparent similarity in their form and content. In case of bullying, the intent of harm is less ambiguous, an unequal balance of power (both formal and informal) is more salient, and the target of bullying feels threatened, vulnerable and unable to defend himself or herself against negative recurring actions.
In 2005, psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, UK, interviewed and gave personality tests to high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminal psychiatric patients at Broadmoor Hospital in the UK. They found that three out of eleven personality disorders were actually more common in executives than in the disturbed criminals. They were:
Industrial/organizational psychology research has also examined the types of bullying that exist among business professionals and the prevalence of this form of bullying in the workplace as well as ways to measure bullying empirically.
Narcissism, lack of self-regulation, lack of remorse and lack of conscience have been identified as traits displayed by bullies. These traits are shared with psychopaths, indicating that there is some theoretical cross-over between bullies and psychopaths. Bullying is used by corporate psychopaths as a tactic to humiliate subordinates. Bullying is also used as a tactic to scare, confuse and disorient those who may be a threat to the activities of the corporate psychopath Using meta data analysis on hundred of UK research papers, Boddy concluded that 36% of bullying incidents was caused by the presence of corporate psychopaths. According to Boddy there are two types of bullying:
A corporate psychopath uses instrumental bullying to further his goals of promotion and power as the result of causing confusion and divide and rule.
People with high scores on a psychopathy rating scale are more likely to engage in bullying, crime and drug use than other people. Hare and Babiak noted that about 29 per cent of corporate psychopaths are also bullies. Other research has also shown that people with high scores on a psychopathy rating scale were more likely to engage in bullying, again indicating that psychopaths tend to be bullies in the workplace.
A workplace bully or abuser will often have issues with social functioning. These types of people often have psychopathic traits that are difficult to identify in the hiring and promotion process. These individuals often lack anger management skills and have a distorted sense of reality. Consequently, when confronted with the accusation of abuse, the abuser is not aware that any harm was done.
In 2007, researchers Catherine Mattice and Brian Spitzberg at San Diego State University, USA, found that narcissism revealed a positive relationship with bullying. Narcissists were found to prefer indirect bullying tactics (such as withholding information that affects others' performance, ignoring others, spreading gossip, constantly reminding others of mistakes, ordering others to do work below their competence level, and excessively monitoring others' work) rather than direct tactics (such as making threats, shouting, persistently criticizing, or making false allegations). The research also revealed that narcissists are highly motivated to bully, and that to some extent, they are left with feelings of satisfaction after a bullying incident occurs.
According to Namie, Machiavellians manipulate and exploit others to advance their perceived personal agendas but he emphasizes that they are not mentally ill. They do not have a personality disorder, schizophrenia and neither are they psychopaths. In his view, Machiavellianism represents the core of workplace bullying.
According to Gary and Ruth Namie, as well as Tracy, et al., workplace bullying can harm the health of the targets of bullying. Organizations are beginning to take note of workplace bullying because of the costs to the organization in terms of the health of their employees.
According to scholars at The Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University, "workplace bullying is linked to a host of physical, psychological, organizational, and social costs." Stress is the most predominant health effect associated with bullying in the workplace. Research indicates that workplace stress has significant negative effects that are correlated to poor mental health and poor physical health, resulting in an increase in the use of "sick days" or time off from work (Farrell & Geist-Martin, 2005).
The negative effects of bullying are so severe that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even suicide are not uncommon. Tehrani found that 1 in 10 targets experience PTSD, and that 44% of her respondents experienced PTSD similar to that of battered women and victims of child abuse. Matthiesen and Einarsen found that up to 77% of targets experience PTSD.
In addition, co-workers who witness workplace bullying can also have negative effects, such as fear, stress, and emotional exhaustion. Those who witness repetitive workplace abuse often choose to leave the place of employment where the abuse took place. Workplace bullying can also hinder the organizational dynamics such as group cohesion, peer communication, and overall performance.
According to the 2012 survey conducted by Workplace Bullying Institute(516 respondents), Anticipation of next negative event is the most common psychological symptom of workplace bullying reported by 80%. Panic attacks afflict 52%. Half (49%) of targets reported being diagnosed with clinical depression. Sleep disruption, loss of concentration, mood swings, and pervasive sadness and insomnia were more common (ranging from 77% to 50%). Nearly three-quarters (71%) of targets sought treatment from a physician. Over half (63%) saw a mental health professional for their work-related symptoms. Respondents reported other symptoms that can be exacerbated by stress: Migraine headaches (48%), Irritable bowel disorder (37%), Chronic fatigue syndrome (33%) and Sexual dysfunction (27%).
Several studies have attempted to quantify the cost of bullying to an organization.
Research by Dr Dan Dana has shown organizations suffer a large financial cost by not accurately managing conflict and bullying type behaviors. He has developed a tool to assist with calculating the cost of conflict. In addition, researcher Tamara Parris discusses how employers need to be more attentive in managing various discordant behaviors in the workplace, such as, bullying, as it not only creates a financial cost to the organization, but also erodes the company's human resources assets.