Bullying and Emotional Abuse in the Workplace: International Perspectives in Research and Practice

By Ståle Einarsen; Helge Hoel et al. | Go to book overview

9

Social antecedents of bullying

A social interactionist perspective

Joel H. Neuman and Robert A. Baron

As described in previous chapters, workplace bullying involves persistent patterns of behaviour in which one or more individuals engage in actions intended to harm others (e.g. Hoel et al., 1999). It is our contention that bullying, although not identified as such, involves acts of interpersonal aggression - any form of behaviour directed towards the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment (Baron and Richardson, 1994). While both phenomena involve actions that are intentional in nature, the persistence of aggression over time, evidenced in episodes of bullying, serves as a distinguishing characteristic. That is, while a single act of intentional harm-doing constitutes an act of aggression, it would not, by definition, constitute bullying. In short, and of central importance to the present chapter, we believe that workplace bullying involves repeated acts of interpersonal aggression directed against specific targets in work settings, or what we would refer to as workplace aggression - efforts by individuals to harm others with whom they work (Neuman and Baron, 1997a). Furthermore, we propose that anything that serves as an antecedent to aggression may contribute to - and increase the likelihood of - workplace bullying.

Having said all this, we do recognise that bullying in workplaces, like bullying in other contexts, represents a special or unique form of aggression in certain respects. For instance, the persons involved in bullying episodes are generally participants in ongoing, long-term relationships: they may work together for months, years or even decades. Second, since bullying often occurs openly, in front of many observers, it is clear that norms concerning such behaviour differ from the societal norms that regulate aggression generally, and - in most instances - condemn aggression, and especially repeated aggression against weak or helpless victims, as inappropriate. Thus, a key question to be addressed is: why do societal norms against aggression fail to apply, or apply only weakly, where workplace bullying is concerned? Related to this, we also ask: in what additional ways is workplace bullying different from aggression in many other contexts, and why is this so?

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Bullying and Emotional Abuse in the Workplace: International Perspectives in Research and Practice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Part 1 - The Problem 1
  • 1 - The European Tradition 3
  • 2 - American Perspectives on Workplace Bullying 31
  • 3 - Basic Facts and an Effective Intervention Programme 62
  • 4 - What is Sexual Harassment? 79
  • Part 2 - The Evidence 101
  • 5 - Introduction 103
  • 6 - Introduction 127
  • 7 - Introduction 145
  • Part 3 - Explaining the Problem 163
  • 8 - Victims and Perpetrators 165
  • 9 - A Social Interactionist Perspective 185
  • 10 - Introduction 203
  • 11 - Why Should We Listen to Employee Accounts? 219
  • 12 - A Postmodern Experience 231
  • 13 - Development, Implementation and Monitoring 247
  • 14 - Introduction 259
  • 15 - Introduction 270
  • 16 - The Role of Occupational Health Services 285
  • 17 - A Systematic Approach Model 299
  • 18 - The Example of South Africa 312
  • 19 - Introduction 327
  • 20 - Introduction 339
  • 21 - Introduction 359
  • 22 - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? 370
  • 23 - The Collective Dimension 383
  • 24 - Towards a Transnational Consensus? 399
  • 25 - The Way Forward 412
  • Subject Index 417
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