Study Examines How to Mitigate Workplace Bullying

September 14, 2021by Elise Sanchez0

Summary of:

Hamre, K. V., Fauske, M. R., Reknes, I., Nielsen, M. B., Gjerstad, J., & Einarsen, S. V. (2021). Preventing and neutralizing the escalation of workplace bullying: The role of conflict management climate. International Journal of Bullying Prevention, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-021-00100-y

Background & Theory

Workplace bullying is a gradually escalating process that occurs from psychosocial stressors around the office when there is little or a lack of management intervening within the conflict. Researchers investigated whether or not a strong climate for conflict management will buffer escalations that occur in the workplace. As described by Heinz Leymann, the four stages of bullying are the following:

  1. Triggered critical event
  2. Situation escalates
  3. Personal administrative (measures as “official”)
  4. Severe trauma

Research Question(s)

Research was conducted by Kristian Vaktskjold Hamre, Margrethe Ringen Fauske, Iselin Reknes, Morten Birkeland Nielsen, Johannes Gjerstad, and Ståle Valvatne Einarsen in “Preventing and Neutralizing the Escalation of Workplace Bullying: the Role of Conflict Management Climate” to answer the following question:

    1. Will a strong conflict management climate neutralize the escalation and development of workplace bullying?

Methods

Data was gathered by Statistics Norway Nationwide Survey in a Norwegian workforce. There were 1197 participants with an average baseline age of 45.40 years old of whom 52.1% were women and 47.9% were men. Questionnaires were sent out via email where these 32% responses were the 1197 employees who became a part of the research. These participants were then moved to the T2 sample and given a 5-point scale survey with questions about their workplace conflict ranging from never, occasionally, monthly, weekly, or daily. From there, over the course of a year, a stronger conflict management climate was implemented to see if there was a deescalation in workplace bullying when it was being monitored by higher management.  For the T2 group, only those working in what thought to be a weak conflict management climate were exposed to bullying behavior.

Results

As expected, the data from the research showed that a strong conflict management climate buffers the escalation of workplace bullying and neutralizes the escalation and development of workplace bullying. It was proven that if these behaviors are caught it will prevent further escalations. It was shown that this behavior of bullying will develop from interpersonal conflicts between coworkers and become even more aggressive and escalated if the situation is not stopped or intervened by a manager.

What This Means

  • Strong climate for conflict management (CMC) neutralizes the escalation of workplace bullying over time.
  • Managers and leaders who are motivated, competent, and committed to their jobs to intervene and prevent these interpersonal conflicts from escalating into bigger situations are necessary for cohesive and healthy working environments.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Having motivated and successful managers in the workplace that are committed to conflict resolution is necessary for healthy and cohesive workplace environments. Making sure that departments have this type of care is not only beneficial for an organization but also for the workers within that organization.

For everyone: Bullying in the workplace is not uncommon and is an occurrence that can hinder anyone’s workplace experience. Understanding the importance of these escalated situations and understanding how to approach them is important and easier to do with a better understanding of conflict management.

 

Elise Sanchez

Élise Sanchez is a double alumnus from Pepperdine University where she holds a Masters in Dispute Resolution from the Caruso School of Law and a Bachelors in both International Relations and French from Seaver College. During her time in her studies she found her passion for being an advocate for those who need help amplifying their voices. After finishing her International Relations degree, she decided to go on for her MDR to learn how to be a better advocate and peacekeeper.

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