Thinking Strategically about Workplace Bullying in Organizations
McKay, Ruth, Ciocirlan, Cristina E., Chung, Ed, Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship
Extensive research across many industries and countries has been conducted on the prevalence of workplace bullying. A survey conducted by the employment site CareerOne in Australia found that 74 per cent of respondents have been bullied (CareerOne, 2007). A recent U.S. survey of more than 7,700 employees found that 49 per cent of working people have suffered or witnessed bullying. The most frequently reported bullying behaviours were verbal abuse (53 percent), intimidation and humiliation (53 per cent), abuse of authority (47 per cent) and sabotage and undermining (45 per cent). A significant amount of turnover in organization is due to bullying. 21-28 million workers, or 40 per cent of victims, voluntarily leave their organizations annually because of bullying (Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby International, 2007).
Consistent with the resource-based view of the firm (Barney, 1986; Wernerfelt, 1984), it has been argued that human resources and human resource practices can yield sustained competitive advantage to the organization (Chan, Shaffer and Snape 2004; Collins and Clark 2003; Kamoche 1996; Michie and Sheehan 2005; Roepke, Agarwal and Ferrati 2000; SanzValle, Sabater-Sánchez and Aragón-Sánchez 1999; Schuler and MacMillan 1984; Subba 2000; Treven and Mulej 2005; Ulrich 1991; Wright, McMahan and McWilliams 1994). This paper makes a unique contribution to the literature, in that it situates a specific outcome of human resource efforts, the bully-free environment (BFE), in a strategic context. Thinking strategically about bullying involves integrating it in the core values, mission and vision of the organization, addressing it in a proactive manner and exemplifying it through management behaviour.
Creating a BFE becomes an intangible resource which adds value, is rare, inimitable and nonsubstitutable and thus generates a sustained competitive advantage to organizations, especially those facing chronic difficulties in recruiting and retention of employees.
We first define bullying and examine its scope as a worldwide phenomenon. Next, we examine the impact that bullying, if not controlled, will have on individuals and organizations. To illustrate, we discuss two case examples of bullying in organizations: public school teaching and law enforcement. These case examples illustrate the 'casual' approach to bullying and its detrimental effects for organizations that face chronic difficulties in recruitment and retention of employees. Next, we bring theoretical concepts from the resource-based view of the firm to illustrate how a BFE can generate sustained competitive advantage for the organization. Then, we provide an overview of what we consider a strategic approach to addressing workplace bullying and contrast this approach to the existing, casual approach towards bullying. The last section provides conclusions and final thoughts.
Namie (2003: ppl-2) defines workplace bullying as "interpersonal hostility that is deliberate, repeated and sufficiently severe as to harm the targeted person's health or economic status. It is driven by perpetrators' need to control another individual, often undermining legitimate business interests in the process." It is driven by a perpetrators' need to control another individual, often undermining legitimate business interests in the process. There is a fine line of distinction between bullying and harassment. Harassment can be viewed as a subset of bullying or at the extreme end of the bullying continuum. While both types of behaviour involve degrading, intimidating and insulting the victim, harassment is discriminatory behaviour that targets demographics such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. While bullying sometimes is conducted on such demographic grounds, bullying is primarily aimed at intimidating victims on the basis of the latter 's workplace abilities but it may include discriminatory behaviour. …