Leadership Styles as Predictors of Self-Reported and Observed Workplace Bullying

In the study of leadership styles and workplace bullying, Hoel, Glaso, Hetland, Cooper, and Einarsen (2010) cited 76 articles.  Authors of this study explained that bullying happened regularly among 5% to 10% of European workforce at all organizational levels (Einarsen et al., 1996; Hoel et al., 2001; Keashly et al., 2000; Paoli et al., 2001; Zapf et al., 2003).  This study reviewed past research on the negative consequences of workplace bullying for targets, observers, and organizations (Hoel et al., 2004; Leymann, 1996; Zaph, 1999).

In this study, the Bergen Bullying Indicator (Einarsen and Raknes, 1991) was applied to measure observed bullying.  Authors used this five-item instrument to measure the degree to which bullying was perceived to constitute a problem in the workplace. Another key literature was the research by Rayner, Hoel, and Cooper (2002) who stated that bullying is predominantly a downward process from managers to subordinates.  Based on Rayner et al.’s research, this study further examined how managers' leadership styles may predict workplace bullying.  Authors of this study explained four leadership styles, which were autocratic, participative, non-contingent punishment (NCP), and laissez-faire style.  Structural paths from the four leadership styles to the two bullying outcome measures were estimated.

In the literature review, researchers identified the gap that little research was done about situations where subordinates resent the leadership style of their own leader. Also, previous research overlooked detrimental consequences for subordinates by negative leadership. In this study, ten hypotheses were outlined to postulate the correlations of leadership styles with self-reported and observed bullying.

Similar to many studies, this research also investigated predictors of workplace bullying.  This study is focused on leadership styles as predictors of self-reported and observed workplace bullying. Two major research questions asked in the study are:  What leadership styles are associated with observed bullying and self-reported bullying in the workplace?  Is there a relationship between observed bullying and self-reported bullying?  To research the first question, the authors outlined the structural paths from four leadership styles to the two bullying outcome. To answer the second question, authors studied observed bullying which was regressed on self-reported bullying in order to control the prediction of observation of bullying for self-reported bullying.

As part of a nationwide survey of the prevalence of bullying in Great Britain, this study collected the largest sample which contained a total of 5,288 questionnaires filled by employees from 70 organizations within the private, public and voluntary sectors across the country (Hoel et al., 2010).  The response rate was 42.8%.  Of the respondents, 52.4% were men and 47.6% of women.  Supervisors yielded 14.9% of the sample while 43.6% of respondents identified themselves as workers.  The average age for the sample was 40.2 (SD50.84).  The large, random and representative sample was the major strength of this study (Hoel et al., 2010). 

This study showed significant correlations between four leadership styles and two measures of bullying.  All correlation coefficients were significant at the 99% level. This study discovered that autocratic leadership was the strongest predictor for observed bullying.  In this study, a significant positive path was found from self-reported to observed bullying.  The paths from participative and autocratic leadership to self-reported bullying, as well as the paths from participative and NCP leadership to observed bullying were not significant, therefore Hypotheses 1, 2, 4, and 6 were rejected.  This study answered the research questions and confirmed previous findings which associate destructive leadership with workplace bullying.


Hoel, H., Glasø, L., Hetland, J., Cooper, C. L., & Einarsen, S. (2010). Leadership styles as predictors of self-reported and observed workplace bullying. British Journal Of Management, 21(2), 453-468.

Rayner, C., H. Hoel & C. L. Cooper (2002). Workplace bullying. What we know, who is to blame, and what can we do? London: Taylor and Francis.

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