Bullying culture

Bullying culture is the context or venue in which a bullying pattern of behavior is ordinary or routine. It is about an imbalance of social, physical or other power involving a person or group.[1]

The culture of bullying includes daily activities and the way people relate to each other.[2] A bullying culture emphasizes a winner/loser way of thinking. It also encourages domination and aggression.[3]

In the workplace

Bullying is seen to be prevalent in organisations where employees and managers feel that they have the support, or at least implicitly the blessing, of senior managers to carry on their abusive and bullying behaviour. Furthermore, new managers will quickly come to view this form of behaviour as acceptable and normal if they see others get away with it and are even rewarded for it.[4]

When bullying happens at the highest levels, the effects may be far reaching. That people may be bullied irrespective of their organisational status or rank, including senior managers, indicates the possibility of a negative domino effect, where bullying may be cascaded downwards as the targeted supervisors might offload their own aggression on their subordinates. In such situations, a bullying scenario in the boardroom may actually threaten the productivity of the entire organisation.[5]

Culture of fear

Main article: Culture of fear

Ashforth discussed potentially destructive sides of leadership and identified what he referred to as petty tyrants, i.e.leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear in the workplace.[6] Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt.[7] When employees get the sense that bullies "get away with it", a climate of fear may be the result.[5] Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on the one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflicts or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, where there is little or no room for dialogue and where complaining may be considered futile.[4]

In a study of public-sector union members, approximately one in five workers reported having considered leaving the workplace as a result of witnessing bullying taking place. Rayner explained these figures by pointing to the presence of a climate of fear in which employees considered reporting to be unsafe, where bullies had "got away with it" previously despite management knowing of the presence of bullying.[5]

See also


Newspaper headlines about bullying
  1. Dupper, David R. (2013). School Bullying: New Perspectives on a Growing Problem, p. 5.
  2. Dupper, p. 6.
  3. Lipkins, Susan. "Vulture Culture: How we encourage bullying" at realpsychology.com Archived January 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved 2013-2-20.
  4. 1 2 Salin D, Helge H “Organizational Causes of Workplace Bullying” in Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2010)
  5. 1 2 3 Helge H, Sheehan MJ, Cooper CL, Einarsen S “Organisational Effects of Workplace Bullying” in Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2010)
  6. Ashforth, Blake Petty tyranny in organizations Human Relations, Vol. 47, No. 7, 755-778 (1994)
  7. Braiker, Harriet B. (2004). Who's Pulling Your Strings ? How to Break The Cycle of Manipulation. ISBN 0-07-144672-9.
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