Dick, Gavin P.M. and Rayner, Charlotte
Exploring the Bullying Construct: An Evidence Based Approach.
University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent
(Full text available)
Negative interpersonal behaviour at work has been researched as ‘bullying’ in Europe, and explored under wider headings in the USA (e.g. ‘counter-productive’, ‘antisocial’ or ‘deviant’). The first aim of this paper is progress the concept of bullying by identifying and validating the latent variables that constitute bullying. Confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling of two large UK data sets were used to test different construct models (from the literature) against each another. Four behaviour groupings were found to provide best fit i.e. personal attack, task attack, verbal attack as well as stigmatization (isolation). Testing disconfirmed the crude stereotype of bullying at work as being characterized by verbal abuse; instead, verbal attack was the least reported of the constructs. The literatures’ model suggesting the sequence of bullying attacks was also tested and support was found for the earlier stages of task attack being followed by personal attack. However, it was found that this was typically followed by stigmatism (isolation) which is in contrast to the verbal abuse stage suggested in the literature.
The second aim was to interpret the constructs found in terms of actionable knowledge for the practitioner. For the practitioner, it revealed the need to stress the subtle forms of bullying rather than the stereotypical yelling and shouting in identifying bullying in the workplace. In addition, a case is made that anyone reporting bullying behaviours should be considered at risk whether or not they have self labelled themselves as bullied as this provides a window of opportunity for intervention before an individual is damaged by their experience of being bullied.
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