Tuesday, 16 April 2013

“Is this bullying?” Understanding target and witness reactions

an article by Al-Karim Samnani, (York University, Toronto, Canada) published in Journal of Managerial Psychology Volume 28 Issue 3 (2013)


This paper seeks to theorize the interpretations and reactions of targets and witnesses to subtle forms of bullying.

A theoretical approach was used to understand target and witness interpretations and reactions. Learned helplessness theory and social influence theory are drawn upon.

This paper revealed that subtle forms of bullying behaviors will be more likely to induce confusion from both targets and witnesses. Targets will tend to be more confused in response to subtle bullying and attribute environmental factors for the behaviors. This will decrease their likelihood to react against the bullying. Witnesses will also experience greater confusion and will tend to side with the perpetrator, particularly when the perpetrator is an important organizational member (e.g. supervisor). Witnesses may internalize the behaviors, leading to greater permeability of the bullying through the organization.

This paper sheds light on two important and under-researched aspects of workplace bullying, i.e. subtle bullying behaviors and witnesses of bullying. This paper counter-intuitively suggests that subtle bullying behaviors may in fact be more harmful to targets than explicit bullying behaviors. Also, witnesses may represent a “dark side” of bullying in which they enable the bullying to be increasingly difficult to defend against. This contributes to our understanding of the intensification of bullying.

No comments: