Workplace Bullying: A Review and Future Research Directions

By Rai, Arpana; Agarwal, Upasna A. | South Asian Journal of Management, July-September 2016 | Go to article overview

Workplace Bullying: A Review and Future Research Directions


Rai, Arpana, Agarwal, Upasna A., South Asian Journal of Management


INTRODUCTION

Workplace bullying is a form of interpersonal mistreatment that goes beyond mere incivility and comprises of deliberate and repetitive derogatory acts towards individual(s) and creates oppressive work environments (Salin, 2003). The first study on workplace bullying by Leymann (1990) laid the foundation of subsequent research on this topic. Research into workplace bullying which has now crossed the 25-year mark, has grown significantly (Samnani and Singh, 2012; and Branch, Ramsay and Barker, 2013) and there is an extensive body of research findings in relation to its prevalence, antecedents and outcomes (Branch, Ramsay and Barker, 2013). However, the extant bullying literature has many shortcomings, particularly in relation to its conceptual clarity, process, theoretical underpinnings, underlying and intervening mechanisms (Wheeler, Halbesleben and Shanine, 2010; Branch, Ramsay and Barker, 2013; and Tuckey and Neall, 2014).

Workplace bullying is found to have a global prevalence as over a 5-year period, 95 per cent of employees have reported being subjected to bullying behaviors in the workplace (Fox and Stallworth, 2005; and Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, and Cooper, 2011). In academic literature, workplace bullying has been found in varying degrees in different countries: United States-46.8 per cent (Lutgen-Sandvik, Tracy and Alberts, 2007); India-44 per cent (D'Cruz and Rayner, 2013; and Rai and Agarwal in press); Turkey40 per cent (Bilgel, Aytac, and Bayram, 2006; and Yildiz, Tuzunturk, and Giorgi, 2008); Italy-16 per cent (Giorgi, Arenas, and Leon-Perez, 2011); and Scandinavia and other parts of Europe-3.5 to 10 per cent (Leymann, 1996; and Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, and Cooper, 2011). Likewise, an enormous amount of literature is also available on enablers and consequences of workplace bullying. Personality, job characteristics, poor psychosocial work environment and leadership styles are the most widely studied antecedents of workplace bullying, whereas, intention to quit, low job satisfaction, lowered work engagement, low performance, low physical and psychological wellbeing and stress are the most studied outcomes of workplace bullying (Nielsen and Einarsen, 2012; and Samnani and Singh, 2012).

Very limited research efforts have been directed towards exploring process, theoretical underpinnings, underlying and intervening mechanisms in bullying phenomenon. Research suggests that it is very crucial to study process, theoretical underpinnings, underlying (mediators) and intervening (moderators) mechanisms as they have potential to bring in more explanatory power into research (Frazier, Tix, and Barron, 2004; and Ireland and Webb, 2007). In the light of aforementioned limitations in the extant literature, the aim of this paper is to present a review on the less studied aspects of workplace bullying; process, theoretical underpinnings, mediators and moderators of workplace bullying. The structure of this paper is as follows. The paper begins with summarizing the key distinguishing features that differentiate workplace bullying from other related constructs. Next, the conceptualization, process and theoretical underpinnings of workplace bullying have been discussed. The mediators and moderators of workplace bullying from extant literature have been tabulated. The future research directions for workplace bullying based on the review of literature have subsequently been outlined.

METHODOLOGY USED

To assess the existing body of literature on workplace bullying, an information search was made on popular databases (e.g., Google Scholar, Research Gate, Academia.edu, Kinmbus, Scopus, PubMed, EBSCO, Proquest, Emerald-insight, Science Direct, etc.) together covering the majority of the literature in organizational and management research. The keywords (or, a combination of keywords) used for the search were "bullying", "definitions", "process", "theories", "antecedents", "outcomes", "mediators", "moderators", "underlying mechanisms" and "intervening factors". …

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