Workplace bullying: Causes, consequences, and intervention strategies.

M. S. Hershcovis, T. C. Reich, K. Niven

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Workplace bullying is detrimental to employees and organizations, yet in a meta-analytic review of studies representing a range of countries (North America, Scandinavian, and other European), approximately 15% of employees report being victimized at work (Nielsen, Matthiesen, & Einarsen, 2010). Workplace bullying is defined as repeated exposure, over a period of time, to negative acts such as abuse, teasing, ridicule, and social exclusion (Einarsen, 2000). Researchers have traditionally conceptualized bullying to involve face-to-face interactions; however, the increasing use of technology in the workplace has seen a rise in “cyberbullying”, whereby employees may be victimized over email or social networking websites (Weatherbee, 2010). Though bullying behaviors can originate from anyone at work (e.g., coworkers, supervisors, or subordinates), more often than not, the perpetrator has more power or perceived power than the target (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002).In addition to research examining workplace bullying, a broad literature has started to develop that examines highly related constructs, including abusive supervision (abusive behavior from supervisors; Tepper, 2000), social undermining (negative behavior that interferes with a target’s abilities to maintain positive relationships at work; Duffy et al., 2002), and incivility (low intensity deviant acts with ambiguous intent to harm the target; Andersson & Pearson, 1999). Although these constructs all differ conceptually, meta-analytic research that compares these constructs against a series of consequences has found that by and large, there is little to no difference in the magnitude of consequences from these different constructs (Hershcovis, 2011). As a result, we use terms like “bullying” and “aggression” interchangeably to refer to the range of aggression constructs studied in this literature. Some common examples of workplace bullying behaviors include:• Taking away responsibility from someone, or replacing it with more unpleasant tasks • Ignoring someone’s opinions • Persistently criticising someone’s work • Spreading gossip or rumours about someone• Ignoring or excluding someone at work• Hinting to someone that they should quit their jobOver the past two decades, researchers have examined extensively the predictors and consequences of workplace bullying. This body of research has found that predictors of workplace bullying typically fall into three broad categories: (1) perpetrator characteristics, (2) target characteristics, and (3) situational characteristics. Similarly, the consequences of workplace bullying have a range of costs including: (1) human costs, (2) organizational costs, and (3) spillover costs.The purpose of this white paper is to examine the key predictors and consequences of workplace bullying within each of the above categories. We will then discuss recommendations aimed to help organizations and individuals prevent and cope with workplace bullying.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSociety for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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