THE FORUM

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workplace bullying

Defining workplace bullying is problematic.


Saunders et al. (2007) argue that researchers and practitioners have struggled to establish any consensus, and in practice definitions vary. Additionally, little is known about how individuals define such behavior, or whether current research and legal definitions coincide with lay definitions of bullying (Saunders et al., 2007). 


The following are examples of different terms currently in use to describe bullying behaviour:

1- ‘Bullying’ (Hutchinson et al., 2005; Johnson and Rea, 2009; Murray, 2009; Bjørkelo, 2013).

2- ‘Incivility’ (Cortina et al., 2001; Laschinger et al., 2009).

3- ‘Harassment’ (Björkqvist et al., 1994).

4- ‘Mobbing’ (Leymann, 1990; Leymann, 1996).

5- ‘Horizontal violence’ (Jackson et al., 2002).

6- ‘Ethical harassment’ (Hoel and Beale, 2006).


Manifestation of bullying behavior: 


The literature identifies a number of features and manifestations of bullying 

behavior. Following a review of the most common terms and characteristics; these will be summarized in tabular form as observable complex behaviors.

Bullying behavior can be difficult to identify, as it may be subtle or hidden, and is often dependent on context. As discussed earlier, for a negative act to be defined as bullying, it must be repetitive and harmful, with a power imbalance between victim and perpetrator (Einarsen, Raknes and Matthiesen, 1994; Einarsen, 1996; Hogh et al., 2011; Wilson et al., 2011). 


Building on these core features, the literature also identifies some other 

common features of bullying behavior. These may be physically or emotionally harmful, or both. Most are overt behaviors, such as verbal remarks and demeaning comments; sabotage; passive-aggressive behavior; eye rolling; and displaying a lack of respect (Wilson et al., 2011). However, severity of effect depends on frequency and duration, and on the ability of the victim to resist the perpetrator’s power.


Power theory explanation of workplace bullying:


The nursing literature repeatedly suggests that workplace bullying relates to an imbalance of power, and that this differential positional power is essential to the definition of bullying (Einarsen et al., 2003). This position is arguable, since the nature and source of power is not only positional but may vary in its nature and source. Agreeing with this, Kubsch (1996) defined power in a nursing context as the capacity to affect others through the possession of knowledge or skills that are useful to others.


Surprisingly, during the search process, the nursing literature revealed a theoretical gap as to the relationship between bullying behaviour and the source of power. Bullying is about exercising power, according to Leymann (1996), Einarsen (2000), and Cowie et al. (2002), who concur that the victim of workplace bullying is unable to defend himself/herself, and is usually placed in a position of powerlessness. It would seem however that the nature and source of this power has not been adequately described or accounted for, as bullying in the workplace can be perpetrated from a position of equality, from a superior position, or indeed from a subordinate position. 


Indeed, little attention has been given to what is actually meant by an equal strength.

Most of the attention has instead focused on characteristics of victims and perpetrators. For example, personality traits such as low self-esteem may place the victim in a situation in which he or she is less likely able to defend himself/herself successfully (Coyne, 2000). 

In most cases, power is understood as the result of individual characteristics and the formal positional power held. In fact, power is not only a positional power. According to social work studies, the source and nature of power varies (Festinger, 1950; Deutsch and Gerard, 1995).

To be continued in part 2 


Wisam kaifi 

Wkaifi@yahoo.com