Michael J. Sheehan and Peter J. Jordan
Existing research into workplace bullying has dealt with the legal implications of bullying (Yamada, this volume), the costs of bullying to the organisation (Hoel et al., this volume) and to society (Sheehan et al., 2001). There also has been a focus on the characteristics exhibited by bullies and victims (O'Moore et al., 1998), the psychological consequences of bullying (Leymann, 1996), the physical and work-related consequences of bullying (McCarthy et al., 1995) and the initial and long-term effects of being bullied (Einarsen and Mikkelsen, this volume). Whereas this research has mostly focused on the cognitive aspects of bullying and the consequences for individuals and organisations, we argue in this chapter that to develop workplace remedies to bullying, managers need to understand the emotional aspects of bullying.
A central tenet of this chapter is that bullying emerges from emotional as well as cognitive processes. From an individual perspective, Goleman (1998) argues that personal behaviour is more of a function of emotional regulation than of rational or cognitive processes. Ashforth and Humphrey (1995) and Fineman (2000) offer a similar view at the organisational level, arguing that work life is intrinsically emotional and value-based, and that ostensibly rational organisational behaviour reflects the extent to which organisational members are able to reconcile emotional issues in the workplace. We propose that understanding the emotional elements involved in bullying expands the number of potential remedies which may ameliorate the incidence of bullying in organisations. This approach is consistent with Ashforth and Humphrey's (1995) call for the incorporation of emotional variables in organisational behaviour research. We argue, first of all, that emotionally driven actions and reactions contribute to bullying. Second, we suggest that the principles that underpin an understanding of organisations as learning organisations may be used to address these emotional actions and reactions, and to ameliorate the prevalence and severity of bullying.