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Contributors to perceived bullying behaviours in the workplace: A managerial perspective

Managers are frequently cited as the perpetrators of workplace bullying, however it has been the recipient perspective which has informed much of the current descriptions of workplace bullying, the perceived use of bullying behaviours and the design of interventions to reduce bullying. It is important to consider the perspective of those who might use these behaviours because if their perspective differs substantially from the recipient perspective, then current interventions may not be optimal. This research examined the use of workplace bullying behaviours from a managerial perspective, using the 22 behaviours of the Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ) as its starting point. The research was conducted in three parts. Study 1 utilised an online survey with 102 New Zealand managers. Results from Study 1 showed that some behaviours were more commonly reported than others and the behaviours could be divided into two groups. Group A consisted of nine behaviours which were reported most often by respondents and were also perceived as having work related reasons for use. Group B consisted of 13 behaviours which fewer respondents had engaged in or believed might have work related reasons for use. Study 2 consisted of interviews with 31 New Zealand managers and focussed on the use of the Group A behaviours. Study 2 produced several findings. Different behaviours were likely to have different precipitating circumstances, and the management of unsatisfactory performance was a major reason why managers reported the use of these behaviours with subordinates. Participants described the acceptable versus unacceptable use of the behaviours differently to that reported in the literature on workplace bullying. The quality of the relationship between the managers and their subordinates (assessed using the LMX measure) did not appear to be an influencing factor in the use of a negative behaviour but did appear to suffer as a result of the use of the behaviour. Study 3 consisted of interviews with eight senior managers and focussed on their ‘organisational perception’ of the reasons given by managers in Study 2 and the context of the situations and actions taken when they felt uncomfortable with the use of a behaviour by a manager. Study 3 results indicated that the use of the Group A behaviours was deemed reasonable if used within appropriate circumstances. The context of the situation was important in the choice of intervention and coaching was a common intervention choice. The findings have multiple practical and theoretical implications. The difference in description between acceptable and unacceptable use of the behaviours has implications for the assessment of workplace bullying. The differentiation between the Group A and B behaviours also has multiple implications for recipients, managers, organisational representatives and HR policy, especially with regard to interventions and organisational responses. A key strength of this research is that it provides a managerial perspective of the use of bullying behaviours in the workplace. Limitations of the research and implications for further research are discussed.
Type of thesis
Deacon, N. (2014). Contributors to perceived bullying behaviours in the workplace: A managerial perspective (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8845
University of Waikato
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