WORKPLACE BULLYING: BEHAVIOURS, DYNAMICS AND RELATED ISSUES

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CHAPTER 3 WORKPLACE BULLYING: BEHAVIOURS, DYNAMICS AND RELATED ISSUES

 INTRODUCTION

Bullying in the places of work in South Africa and other countries is not new. Workplace bullying is prevalent and a problematic phenomenon not confined to any organisation, sector or industry (Agtervold, 2007; Pearson & Porath, 2009) and stems from multiple causes that are linked to targets, bullies or organisations (Ashforth, 1997; Zapf, Einarsen, Hoel & Vartia, 2003; Namie & Namie 2003). For this reason both employees and organisations can be negatively affected if bullying is rife and not effectively addressed (Smit, 2014). This chapter aims to discuss the background of workplace bullying, previous and recent literature, including a review of existing definitions of workplace bullying, followed by a discussion of the focal points pertaining to workplace bullying, and the antecedents of workplace bullying. It concludes with a conclusion and summary.

BACKGROUND OF WORKPLACE BULLYING

Systematic research into workplace bullying began in the 1970s, most notably in Scandinavia, Australia, Japan, United States of America (USA) and other countries (Adams, 2000; Bjorkqvist et al., 1994; Leymann, 1996; McCarthy & Mayhew, 2004; Namie & Namie, 1999; Olweus, 1978; Zapf & Einarsen, 2010). Dan Olweus, was one of the first researchers to systematically study school bullying behaviour among children and adults in the 1970s (Olweus, 1978) in Sweden and Norway. Olweus’s studies examined possible long-term consequences of regular bullying or victimisation by peers in school, to explain why some schoolchildren were bullied and others victimised. His studies focused exclusively on a victim’s perspective and did not indicate that bullying was intentional harm-doing, according to Rigby (2002). Based on the conclusion that bullying could be significantly reduced in schools through an anti-bullying intervention programme, Olweus (1999) developed the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme (OBPP) model, endorsed by the Norwegian government in the 1980s as a blueprint or evidence-based approach to addressing bullying in Norway (Jimerson, Swearer & Espelage, 2010). Rigby (2011, p. 282) maintained that the model could be offered on a large-scale basis as a “foundation of epidemiological, basic, and applied research in which theory and practical application are thoughtfully integrated”.
In the early 1980s, Heinz Leymann began studying bullying amongst schoolchildren in Sweden, focusing on aggressive behaviour of learners in traditional schoolyard bullying. Later he focused on the context of human beings at work, moving his perspective to adult bullying (Leymann, 1990). The literature reveals that adult bullying in the workplace was compared to the act of mobbing, a term coined by Leymann (1990), defining bullying of an employee by a group of employees in the workplace (Duffy & Sperry, 2012; Farmer, 2011).
A decade later the term ‘adult bullying at work’ was formulated as ‘workplace bullying’ by Andrea Adams in 1990, a British broadcaster with the BBC and freelance journalist in the UK who died in November 1995. Adams is revealed by studies as the first person to identify, label and publicise the significance of bullying at work and its hostile influence on people’s lives and personalities (Fisher-Blando, 2008; Lutgen-Sandvik et al., 2009). In 1992, Adams and Crawford co-wrote the insightful book titled Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome, to help many men and women overcome this stressful isolating experience or situation at work and outside work (Fisher-Blando, 2008; Rigby, 2002). Since then, bullying was no longer perceived as a problem for schools and for learners only, but the perspective was extended to the workplace.
The phenomenon has generated interest among academics, practitioners and professionals in quite different ways, some aim at understanding its underlying causes (Aquino, 2000; Hoel & Salin, 2003; Skogstad, Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2007; Zapf, Einarsen, Hoel & Vartia, 2003); at the destructive effects it has on both organisations’ and individuals’ wellbeing (Agtervold, 2007; Djurkovic, McCormack & Casimir, 2004; Hoel, Einarsen & Cooper, 2003; Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002); at the direct and indirect financial costs thereof (McCormack, Casimir, Djurkovic & Yang, 2009); at relevant education (Blase & Blase, 2004); at antecedents to violence such as perceived injustice (Price-Spratlen, 1995); at the bullying phenomenon itself (Einarsen et al., 2003; Namie & Namie, 2003; Rigby, 2002); at related constructs such as mobbing and psychological terror (Adams, 1992; Davenport, Schwartz & Elliott, 2002; Field 1996; Leymann, 1990, 1996); at workplace victimisation and harassment (Aquino, 2000; Aquino & Thau, 2009; Einarsen & Rakens, 1997); at workplace violence or harassment (Cunniff & Mostert, 2012; Hockey, 2002; Momberg, 2011; Pietersen, 2007); at workplace incivility, aggression or victimisation (Andersson & Pearson, 1999; Pearson, Andersson & Porath, 2000); at psychological harassment (Salin & Hoel, 2010); at personality traits of the individuals (Adams, 2000; Balducci, Fraccaroli, & Schaufeli, 2011); at workplace aggression (Baron & Neuman, 1998; Pearson et al., 2000); and at emotional abuse (Koonin & Green, 2005; Lutgen-Sandvik, 2003). Despite different constructs used to describe workplace bullying, the number of studies reiterated that targets10 or victims11 are humiliated and demotivated, and that productivity and the organisation bottom-line suffers (Davenport et al., 2002; Pearson et al., 2000; Namie & Namie, 2003). Others have indicated an increase in the likelihood of depression and cardiovascular diseases as a result of bullying behaviour at work (Juvoven & Gross, 2008; Kivimäki et al., 2003; Moayed, Daraiseh, Shell & Salem, 2006).
The awareness of workplace bullying in South Africa was first created by Susan Marais-Steinman in July 1994, considered a pioneer in the field for identifying it in various occupational sectors in 1998 and in the health sector in 2003 (see Cunniff & Mostert, 2012). Subsequently, the phenomenon began to gain attention of scholars, as discussed below. Naidoo (2000 in De Wet, 2010, p. 1450) explored the “symptoms of victims of workplace bullying and suggested guidelines for addressing the problem on a personal and organisational level”. Burton (2001) described workplace bullying as a subset of workplace violence whilst Rothmann and Rothmann (2006) explored it as a form of employee health and wellness in a private organisation. Pietersen (2007) examined it from academic perspectives whilst Momberg (2011) investigated the reliability of using grievance reporting as an indication of workplace bullying trends in the South African public service. Cunniff and Mostert (2012) and Denton and Van Lill (2007) investigated the prevalence of workplace bullying among employees from industry’s perspective whilst Botha (2008) developed an understanding of bullying targets’ experience of and coping with abusive workplace situations. Cilliers (2012) examined organisational bullying experiences from the system psychodynamic perspective and De Wet and Jacobs (2013) explored workplace bullying from teachers’ or educators’ perspectives. Smit (2014) investigated the legal phenomenon of bullying in the workplace and the existing potential legal avenues available to protect victims in South Africa from this conduct.
These studies emphasise that in the South African work context, workplace bullying is a contentious phenomenon and costly for an individual and organisation with negative consequences for work performance, employee and organisational wellbeing, and workplace relations as well as personal life. Pietersen (2007) believes that the significance of bullying is not yet fully realised in South Africa. The prevalence of bullying and its grave consequences necessitate increased awareness and it is evident from newspaper reports and popular magazines that there is increasing awareness about bullying in the workplace. For example, City Press (2011) reported that 37% of South Africans had experienced some form of bullying during their careers, You (2010), reported 55% and Worktrauma (2011) 77.8%. Steinman (2009b) points out that the ILO published a report on workplace violence (physical and emotional), indicating that this phenomenon was one of the most serious problems that had to be confronted in the workplace in the new millennium. South Africa has been referred to “as a society, which endorses and accepts violence as an acceptable and legitimate means to resolve problems and achieve goals” (Momberg, 2011, p. 45), whilst Cunniff and Mostert (2012, p. 1) found that over 31.1% of South African employees had experienced more workplace bullying and “the phenomenon has negative physical and psychological effects on employees and several negative effects on organisations”.
It should be noted that the terms ‘victim’ and ‘target’ are used interchangeably throughout this study. In the next section, I present several definitions of workplace bullying12 in a table format and discuss the focal points identified in the definitions to enhance an integrated understanding of workplace bullying.

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 DEFINING WORKPLACE BULLYING

A number of definitions are presented in Table 3.1 to afford the reader the opportunity to fully understand the phenomenon of workplace bullying, as an attempt to achieve a common understanding of the phenomenon.

CHAPTER 1  INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION OF THE RESEARCH
1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.4 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.6 ENVISAGED CONTRIBUTION OF THE STUDY
1.7 CHAPTER DIVISION
CHAPTER 2  PLANNING THE RESEARCH JOURNEY
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE DISCIPLINARY RELATIONSHIP
2.3 RESEARCH DESIGN
2.4 CONTINUING ON THE ROADMAP THAT GUIDED MY RESEARCH JOURNEY
2.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3  WORKPLACE BULLYING: BEHAVIOURS, DYNAMICS AND RELATED ISSUES
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 BACKGROUND OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
3.3 DEFINING WORKPLACE BULLYING
3.4 FOCAL POINTS OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
3.5 ANTECEDENTS OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
3.6 CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4  HUMAN RESOURCE PRACTITIONERS IN THE ORGANISATION: THE CONTEXT FOR MANAGING WORKPLACE BULLYING
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 THE HUMAN RESOURCE FUNCTION
4.3 HR PRACTITIONERS’ ROLE DYNAMICS IN RELATION TO MANAGING WORKPLACE BULLYING
4.4 HR PRACTITIONERS’ WELLBEING AT WORK
4.5 MANAGEMENT OF WORKPLACE BULLYING IN THE ORGANISATION
4.6 CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5  FINDINGS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THEME 1: THE MANIFESTATION OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
5.3 THEME 2: POWER RELATIONS
5.4 THEME 3: THE ELEMENTS OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
5.5 THEME 4: ORGANISATIONAL CONTEXT
5.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6  TOWARDS A SUBSTANTIVE THEORY ON WORKPLACE BULLYING: AN HR PERSPECTIVE
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 SIGNIFICANCE OF A SUBSTANTIVE THEORY
6.3 AN INTEGRATIVE FRAMEWORK OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
6.4 AN INTEGRATIVE EXPLICATION OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
6.5 A SUBSTANTIVE THEORY OF WORKPLACE BULLYING FROM AN HR PERPSEPCTIVE
6.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 7  CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 PRECIS
7.3 CONCLUSIONS
7.4 IMPLICATIONS AND POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE STUDY
7.5 CONSIDERING POSSIBLE LIMITATIONS
7.6 RECOMMENDATIONS
7.7 SELF-REFLECTION ON THE RESEARCH JOURNEY
7.8 CONCLUDING NOTE
REFERENCE LIST
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