Work bullying leads to poor behaviour from victims

11 Jul 2019 By Maggie Baska

Being harassed at work has multiple knock-on effect on victims, research has found

Being the target of workplace bullying can not only lead to health-related problems, but also causes victims to behave badly themselves, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The study, conducted in collaboration with Uninettuno Telematic International University in Italy, revealed such bullying can bring about poor behaviour characterised by a lack of problem-solving skills and causes frequent negative emotions like anger or sadness, as well as increased “moral disengagement”, where individuals fail to take responsibility for their actions.

Researchers looked at 1,019 Italian employees and identified five groups of workers with varying experiences of work-related and personal bullying, and subsequent ill-health.

But examination of all the groups in relation to the study’s individual dimensions highlighted that negative emotions and emotional regulation play just as important a role as being a victim of workplace bullying, suggesting these employees are less able to regulate their behaviour.

Dr Roberta Fida, senior lecturer in work psychology at UEA’s Norwich Business School, said the results show the need to consider not only types of bullying but also their consequences. 

In particular, she pointed to the findings that victimisation is associated with ill-health and greater likelihood of an employee not being able to regulate their behaviour. She said more HR policies needed to consider the importance of emotions.

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