Moderator Effects of Exposure to Negative Acts and Self-Labeling as a Victim of Workplace Bullying

In the study of moderator effects and self-labeling as a victim of workplace bullying, Vie and Einarsen (2010) referenced 33 pieces of literature to examine self-labeling as workplace bullying victim. In the literature review, authors of this study explained that most studies measured bullying by operational method or self-labeling method (Nielsen, Skogstad, Matthiesen et al., 2009) and large discrepancy between the two methods was found (Salin, 2001).  This discrepancy motivated the authors to study which factors predict self-labeling for workplace bullying.

This study identified the gap in current studies as a lack of research on personal and situational variables as potential moderators on the relationship between exposure to negative acts and self-labeling bullying.  By reviewing the research by Matthiesen and Einarsen (2004), authors of the study predicted that highly anxious people are more likely to label themselves as target of bullying when exposed to negative acts at work and the authors further hypothesized that trait anxiety, trait anger, and organizational position might moderate the relationship between exposure to negative acts and self-labeling as a victim of workplace bullying.

Unlike other studies that examine workplace bullying behavior, Vie and Einarsen (2010) focused their research on self-labeling as the victim of workplace bullying. In this study, Vie and Einarsen (2010) presented the research question in the title of their article: “Does trait anger, trait anxiety or organizational position moderate the relationship between exposure to negative acts and self-labeling as a victim of workplace bullying?” (p. 67).  The purpose of this study is to investigate factors that may moderate and predict self-labeling as a victim of workplace bullying.  Three hypotheses were designed to analyze personal or situational variables that "make some individuals more or less likely to label themselves as 'bullied' when facing bullying behavior at work” (Vie and Einarsen, 2010).

This study had a moderate sample size. Respondents returned 466 completed questionnaires with an overall response rate of 55.8 %.  Of this sample, 57.5% were leaders and 42.5% were followers.  Males comprised 86.3% (n = 383) and females comprised 13.7% (n = 61).  The mean age of the sample was 45 years (SD = 11. 77) with age ranging from 17 to 66 years.

The findings showed that exposure to negative act is common in a workplace because 64.4% respondents reported it.  The result of the study revealed that 6.2% of respondents are victims of bullying.  Also, 13.7% of respondents labeled themselves as victims of bullying, which is higher than expected.  This study found significant correlations between self-labeling and all variables of the study.  The logic regression showed that exposure to bullying behaviors acted as a strong predictor of self-labeling.

In this study, all three hypotheses were rejected because this study could not find trait anger, trait anxiety, or organizational position moderated the relationship between exposure to negative acts and self-labeling as a victim of bullying.  This study verified that both trait anxiety and trait anger acted as individual predictors of self-labeling when controlled for NAQ.  This study gave a negative answer to the research question but it confirmed that exposure to negative acts or behavior identified as bullying acts as a strong predictor of labeling oneself as a victim of workplace bullying.

Besides the common limitation of self-reporting, other limitations in the study might include the uneven distribution of gender in the sample; also, this sample did not provide the yield of supervisors. Another limitation could be the research on moderator effects which are difficult to detect in general.  In the study of moderator effects, it is important for researchers to select, oversample, or control the levels of the predictor variables so that they can detect statistically reliable interactions or quadratic effects explaining an appreciable proportion of the variation of the dependent variable (McClelland & Judd, 1993). The not-large-enough sample size has limited the effectiveness of moderator effects research.

References

Matthiesen, S. B. & Einarsen, S. (2004). Psychiatric distress and symptoms of PTSD among victims of bullying at work. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 32, 335-56.

Nielsen, M. B., Skogstad, A. Matthiesen, S. B. Glasø, L., Aasland, M. S., Notelars, G. & Einarsen, S. (2009). Prevalence of workplace bullying in Norway: comparisons across time and estimation methods. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 18(1), 81-101.

Salin, D. (2001). Prevalence and forms of bullying among business professionals. A comparison of two different strategies for measuring bullying. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10, 425-441.

Vie, T., Glasø, L., & Einarsen, S. (2010). Does trait anger, trait anxiety or organisational position moderate the relationship between exposure to negative acts and self-labelling as a victim of workplace bullying?. Nordic Psychology, 62(3), 67-79. doi:10.1027/1901-2276/a000017

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