The AMA defines ‘workplace bullying’ as repeated, emotionally or physically abusive, disrespectful, disruptive, inappropriate, insulting, intimidating, and/or threatening behavior targeted at a specific individual or a group of individuals that manifests from a real or perceived power imbalance and is often, but not always, intended to control, embarrass, undermine, threaten, or otherwise harm the target.
We encourage you to read one of the most cited research articles on workplace bullying, including a comprehensive glossary of terms based on an extensive literature review, here:
Einarsen, S. (2000). Harassment and Bullying at Work: A Review of the Scandinavian Approach. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 5(4), 379–401. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1359-1789(98)00043-3
Beginning in January 2021, a research workgroup at Michigan State University will conduct IRB-approved study STUDY00005030: Positive Work Environments. Team members include:
- Ann Marie Ryan, PI
- Jo Alanis
- Judith Arnetz
- Bengt Arnetz
- Claudia Finkelstein
- Morteza Mahmoudi
- Barbara Roberts
- Academic bullying: Desperate for data and solutions. (2020, January 16). Science | AAAS. https://www.sciencemag.org/features/2020/01/academic-bullying-desperate-data-and-solutions
- Else, H. (2018). Top geneticist loses £3.5-million grant in first test of landmark bullying policy. Nature, 560(7719), 420–420. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-06009-9
- Mahmoudi, M. (2018). Improve reporting systems for academic bullying. Nature, 562(7728), 494–494. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07154-x
- Mahmoudi, M. (2019). The need for a global committee on academic behaviour ethics. The Lancet, 394(10207), 1410. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31361-3
- Mahmoudi, M. (2020). A survivor’s guide to academic bullying. Nature Human Behaviour, 4(11), 1091–1091. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-00937-1
- Mahmoudi, M., & Moss, S. E. (2019). Tie institutions’ reputations to their anti-bullying record. Nature, 572(7770), 439–439. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-02493-9
- Moss, S. (2018). Research is set up for bullies to thrive. Nature, 560(7720), 529–529. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-06040-w
- Osuch, J. R. (2009). Legacy of Abuse in a Sacred Profession: Another Call for Change. AMA Journal of Ethics, 11(2), 161–166.
- Postdocs need urgent financial support amid COVID conditions. (2020). Nature, 588(7836), 8–8. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03377-z
- Woolston, C. (2020). Uncertain prospects for postdoctoral researchers. Nature, 588(7836), 181–184. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03381-3
Who is likely to be targeted?
- Coyne, I., Seigne, E., & Randall, P. (2000). Predicting Workplace Victim Status from Personality. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 9(3), 335–349. https://doi.org/10.1080/135943200417957
- Nielsen, M. B., & Knardahl, S. (2015). Is Workplace Bullying Related to the Personality Traits of Victims? A Two-Year Prospective Study. Work & Stress, 29(2), 128–149. https://doi.org/10.1080/02678373.2015.1032383
- Norman, W. T. (1963). Toward an Adequate Taxonomy of Personality Attributes: Replicated Factor Structure in Peer Nomination Personality Ratings. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66(6), 574–583. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0040291
How do MSU employees perceive a toxic workplace?
During our 2020 MSU WorkLife Conference, we asked attendees to anonymously tell us: What word describes a toxic work environment? The image below shows the results of that informal poll in the form of a word cloud.
We are currently reviewing the literature for peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles that address these descriptions. Here is what we have so far:
Ellen, B. P., Kiewitz, C., Garcia, P. R. J. M., & Hochwarter, W. A. (2019). Dealing with the Full-of-Self-Boss: Interactive Effects of Supervisor Narcissism and Subordinate Resource Management Ability on Work Outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 157(3), 847–864. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3666-4
Manipulation and exploitation thrive in environments that are ambiguous.
Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2010). Faculty experiences with bullying in higher education: Causes, consequences, and management. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 32(1), 48-70. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.2753/ATP1084-1806320103
Faculty (tenured) who provide performance feedback to non-tenured faculty may believe the feedback process interferes with their own autonomy and the autonomy of other non-tenured faculty members.
Nevicka, B., Hoogh, A. H. B. D., Hartog, D. N. D., & Belschak, F. D. (2018). Narcissistic Leaders and Their Victims: Followers Low on Self-Esteem and Low on Core Self-Evaluations Suffer Most. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00422
[Employees] low on self-esteem or low on core self-evaluations seem to suffer most from narcissistic leaders as they perceive them to be abusive and, in turn, these [employees] show reduced performance and more burnout symptoms when working for such leaders.
New UW-Madison website to help faculty, staff cope with workplace bullying. (2018, January 29). UWIRE Text, 1. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A525491745/AONE?u=msu_main&sid=AONE&xid=2
This study found 35% of faculty reported personally experiencing ‘hostile and intimidating’ behavior, a figure significantly higher for those who witnessed bullying, which was 42%.
Hodson, R., Roscigno, V. J., & Lopez, S. H. (2006). Chaos and the Abuse of Power: Workplace Bullying in Organizational and Interactional Context. Work and Occupations, 33(4), 382–416. https://doi.org/10.1177/0730888406292885
The most common path to bullying is through job insecurity and organizational chaos.
Judge, T. A., LePine, J. A., & Rich, B. L. (2006). Loving Yourself Abundantly: Relationship of the Narcissistic Personality to Self- and Other Perceptions of Workplace Deviance, Leadership, and Task and Contextual Performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 762–776. http://dx.doi.org.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.762
Given the social undesirability of narcissism (few would wish to be described as vain, self-absorbed, egotistical, selfish, conceited, and grandiose), and its clinical lineage, organizations might be expected to screen out narcissists, at least implicitly, in hiring decisions… [N]arcissism may be detrimental in team contexts that require cooperation and a positive social-psychological climate.
Roscigno, V. J., Lopez, S. H., & Hodson, R. (2009). Supervisory Bullying, Status Inequalities and Organizational Context. Social Forces, 87(3), 1561+. Gale General OneFile.
Poor workplace organization, we show, creates positive motivations for supervisory bullying. Workplaces without capable guardians create further vulnerabilities to bullying as a managerial control tactic.
Menendez, C. C., & Whitaker, T. (2012). Social Workers and Workplace Bullying: Perceptions, Responses and Implications. Work, 42(1), 115–123.
Nearly three of five social workers (58%) in the sample reported being the targets of demeaning, rude, and hostile workplace interactions more than once in the previous year.
Hollis, L. P. (2015). Bully University? The Cost of Workplace Bullying and Employee Disengagement in American Higher Education. SAGE Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244015589997
Staff in particular, who experience consistent bullying either mentally check out or leave the institution.
Draining and Depressing
Allen, J. A., Yoerger, M. A., Lehmann-Willenbrock, N., & Jones, J. (2015). Would You Please Stop That!? The Relationship Between Counterproductive Meeting Behaviors, Employee Voice, and Trust. Journal of Management Development, 34(10), 1272–1287. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-02-2015-0032
[C]ounterproductive meeting behaviors (CMBs) include engaging in irrelevant discussion, complaining about other attendees, arriving to the meeting late, and other similar, disruptive behaviors… [M]eeting attendees experience others’ CMBs as draining the finite amount of time and resources they have, and this perception results in reduced feelings that their thoughts and ideas they communicate are seriously considered.
Tokarev, A., Phillips, A. R., Hughes, D. J., & Irwing, P. (2017). Leader Dark Traits, Workplace Bullying, and Employee Depression: Exploring Mediation and the Role of the Dark Core. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(7), 911–920. http://dx.doi.org.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/10.1037/abn0000299
[L]eader narcissism predicted workplace bullying, and indirectly predicted employee depression.
Pilch, I., & Turska, E. (2015). Relationships Between Machiavellianism, Organizational Culture, and Workplace Bullying: Emotional Abuse from the Target’s and the Perpetrator’s Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(1), 83–93. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2081-3
[E]mployees who were high in Machiavellianism exhibited higher levels of bullying behavior… [T]he culture of hierarchy may be conducive to workplace bullying… Machiavellian employees will bully others when they come to a conclusion that they may benefit from bullying.
Nelson, E. D., & Lambert, R. D. (2001). Sticks, stones and semantics: The ivory tower bully’s vocabulary of motives. Qualitative Sociology, 24(1), 83-106. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/10.1023/A:1026695430820
‘Labeling’ forms of bullying can neutralize the impact and seriousness of bullying behavior.
Mather, K., & Seifert, R. (2014). The Close Supervision of Further Education Lecturers: “You Have Been Weighed, Measured and Found Wanting.” Work, Employment & Society, 28(1), 95–111.
[T]his set of lecturers resented measures that purported to enhance their professionalism but which they regarded as intrusive and oppressive. The target group reported being ‘watched’ and ‘checked’ [by] such close supervision and judgements.
Check back for more soon!