Individual and Situational Predictors of Workplace Bullying: Why Do Perpetrators Engage in the Bullying of Others?

In the Study of Individual and Situational Predictors of Workplace Bullying, Hauge, Skogstad, and Einarsen (2009) reviewed 31 pieces of literature on the topic of workplace bullying. Most of the studies emphasized how working environments are related to workplace bullying but few studies have investigated factors triggering perpetrators to engage in bullying.  This study identified a gap in the research of workplace bullying: There is a lack of understanding about why perpetrators engage in bullying.  Research on perpetrator characteristics is scarce.

Authors of this Study reviewed the stressor-emotion model (Spector & Fox, 2005). This model postulates that work-related stress leads to aggressive behavior towards others. On the basis of this model, authors of this study predicted that situational factors such as decision authority, role ambiguity, role conflict, and interpersonal conflicts may impel predictors to bully others. The authors also proposed personal factors of bullying others such as being a victim of workplace bullying, lack of social competencies, protecting one's self-esteem, and personality factors.  The authors argued against a simplistic explanation of predictors' motivation to bullying others.

In this Study, the researchers conducted an empirical research on individual and situational predictors of workplace bullying in Norway.  This study aims to examine why perpetrators engage in bullying of others in the workplace. The research question addressed in the study is: What are the individual and situational variables that predict bullying of others in the workplace?  To answer this question, researchers studied situational variables such as decision authority, role ambiguity, and interpersonal conflicts.  Individual variables including age, gender, status, and hierarchical position were also analyzed.

This study used the data sample from an anterior research conducted in 2007 by the same researchers.  The sample population for the new research consisted of 2,539 Norwegian workers. The returned questionnaires yielded a response rate of 56.4%. This sample contained 48.5% male and 51.5% female.  Supervisors yielded 19.8% of the sample.  The mean age was 43.7 (M=43.7).

The findings of the study showed 2.9% of the sample reported that they had been a bully in the workplace (perpetrators) while 1.9% reported being bullied themselves (target).  Most of the variables showed moderate to weak relationships with being a perpetrator.  This study revealed a significant relationship between being a perpetrator and a target of bullying.  Role conflict and interpersonal conflicts showed weak, but significant correlations with bullying (perpetrator).  Target status (being a victim of bullying) was the best predictor of being a perpetrator of bullying.  Males were also more likely than females to bully in the workplace.

This research concluded that stress experienced at work predicts bullying behavior.  Role conflict and interpersonal conflict can cause frustration in the workplace which may be projected onto co-workers and lead to bullying behavior.  This study answered the research question by identifying important factors related to engaging in the bullying of others in the workplace.

This research exerted self-reporting questionnaires for data collection.  This was the common limitation in similar studies using survey instruments.  The main concern on self-report methodology is the accuracy of the sample data. In this study, the occurrence of workplace bullying might have been under-reported because respondents were less likely telling the truth when they were asked to report themselves for a destructive behavior. 


Hauge, L., Skogstad, A., & Einarsen, S. (2009). Individual and situational predictors of workplace bullying: Why do perpetrators engage in the bullying of others?. Work & Stress, 23(4), 349-358. doi:10.1080/02678370903395568

No comments:

Post a Comment