Helge Hoel, Ståle Einarsen, Loraleigh Keashly, Dieter Zapf and Cary L. Cooper
Over the preceding twenty-four chapters, the results of fewer than ten years of research and practical intervention into bullying and abuse in the workplace have been explored. In what, by most accounts, must be considered a remarkably short timeframe, these issues have emerged from relative obscurity, to move rapidly up the organisational agenda in many Western countries. Moreover, stimulated by the initiative of individual researchers and campaigners, the issue of bullying is currently widening its scope to encompass developing countries, demonstrating that the phenomenon has a resonance with working people across the world.
Whilst the problem has only come to the fore in the last few years, there is no reason to believe that the issue is new. In the same way as children have been bullied and abused by their fellow pupils for generations, there have always been workers who have suffered persecution and victimisation at the hands of abusive managers or fellow workers. However, whilst the present interest in the issue may reflect different factors and antecedents in different countries, the greater role of work in most people's lives with respect to personal status and self-image may have contributed to bullying becoming a serious issue for an increasing number of people. Similarly, the combination of greater emphasis on individualism and a general weakening of the trade union movement in Western countries may have led to behaviours and acts, previously understood and interpreted in an 'us and them' framework reflecting conflicts of interest between manager and workers, taking on new meanings with connotations of blame and victimisation.
One express objective of this book has been to contribute to bridging the gap between two research traditions; the Scandinavian, or European, concept of bullying and mobbing, on the one hand, and the US tradition of emotional abuse and related concepts, on the other. It is our belief that academics and practitioners alike would benefit from shared insight into key aspects of the issues, despite these being a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. The alternative would be to allow this area of research to drift into further divisions, with the development of numerous concepts which, to all intents and purposes, cover the same or, indeed, very similar