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Perpetrators and Targets of Bullying at Work: Role Stress and Individual Differences

NCJ Number
Violence and Victims Volume: 22 Issue: 6 Dated: 2007 Pages: 735-753
Stig Berge Matthiesen Ph.D.; Stale Einarsen Ph.D.
Date Published
19 pages
This Norwegian study examined whether victims and perpetrators of bullying at work had distinctive personality characteristics, the proportion of "provocative victims" (victims who had also bullied coworkers), the number of self-reported perpetrators of bullying in a diverse sample of leaders and employees, and whether role stress and role ambiguity characterized workplaces where bullying was prevalent.
The survey of 2,215 Norwegian workers showed that approximately 16 percent could be categorized as either perpetrators (5.4 percent), provocative victims (2.1 percent), or as targets of bullying (8.3 percent). Perpetrators were found to have a higher level of aggression than did targets and the comparison group (the 84 percent who did not report any involvement in bullying as perpetrators or victims). Provocative victims were characterized by a low level of self-esteem and social competency, combined with a high level of aggressiveness. Targets of bullying had low levels of self-esteem and social competency. Targets, provocative victims, and perpetrators reported elevated levels of role stress in the form of unclear or conflicting demands and expectations regarding work tasks and responsibilities. This supports previous findings that have found bullying to occur in stressful, competitive, and negative working environments. Survey respondents were randomly selected members of six Norwegian labor unions and members of the Norwegian employers' Federation. The participating unions, which were all located in the area around the city of Bergen, represented a convenient sample that reflected a diversity of work environments. The questionnaire obtained data on demographic variables, health-related variables, scales on psychological traits, single questions and scales on harassment and bullying, and scales and questions that measured the perceived quality of the work environment. 2 tables, 2 figures, and 80 references