Contribution of personality factors to bullying in the workplace
Although many studies have investigated the contributing factors of workplace bullying, most have focussed on organisational factors, and few have explored the notion of personality as a contributory factor. This thesis represents an attempt to remedy this deficiency and to throw some light on the role played by personality. This thesis is based on three main studies and is divided into six main sections: The first explores the literature of bullying behaviour and personality; the second examines the antecedents of workplace bullying; the third and fourth sections explore the notion of a victim and bully profile respectively; the fifth section examines bullying at an organisational level, and the sixth section includes a final discussion of findings in this thesis. Chapter One of the literature review is divided into three parts, with the first part concerned with the various definitions of the behaviour, the second part surveys what is known about bullying in schools for the light it might throw on adult bullying practices, and the third part examines earlier work on bullying in the workplace. Chapter Two is concerned with the literature on personality variables in connection with bullying, and whether it is possible to find a personality profile for victims and for bullies. In the third chapter the results from a pilot study are presented, the first to be conducted in Ireland. It examines results obtained from 30 self-selected victims, who were interviewed and given a personality test (Cattells' 16PF5). Factors contributing to bullying and the effects of bullying were explored, as were the victims' personality and their perception of the situation. Organisational factors such as stressful and hostile working environments, also the senior position of bullies, their aggressive behaviour and personality were cited by victims as reasons for being bullied. Most victims reported psychological effects ranging from anxiety to fear, and physical effects ranging from disturbed sleep to behavioural effects such as eating disorders. In relation to personality, many victims felt they were different, and were found to be anxious, apprehensive, sensitive, and emotionally unstable. Action taken by victims ranged from consulting personnel to taking early retirement. The aim of the investigation reported in Chapter Four was to extend the pilot study and to attempt to make up for its limitations. Thus, a control group of non-victims was employed, the number of respondents was increased, interviews were conducted in the workplace, and a revised interview schedule and a more appropriate personality test was included. The sample comprised 60 victims and 60 non-victims, employees from two large organisations in Dublin. Both samples responded to a semi-structured questionnaire and completed the ICES Personality inventory (Bartram, 1994; 1998). Results showed that victims were less independent and extraverted, more unstable and more conscientious than non-victims. The results strongly suggested that personality does play a role in workplace bullying and that personality traits may give an indication of those in an organisation who are most likely to be bullied. In an extension to the main enquiry, the history of respondents with regard to their experience of bullying at school was examined. Four groups were formed: (1) those who had been bullied both at school and at work, (2) those who had been bullied at work, but not at school (3) those who had been bullied at school but not at work, and (4) those who had not been bullied at school or at work. The test results from each group showed that the victim profile was most marked for Group One; Group Four were nonvictims throughout their lives; Group Three also produced non-victim profiles; Group Two were most similar to Group One. In interpreting these findings it is tentatively suggested that Group Three (those without the typical personality characteristics of a victim) were able to shrug off the bullying they experienced at school, whilst Group Two had possibly escaped bullying at school because of the support available to them from family and friends, and from being team members of school debating societies and sports teams, support that was no longer available when they were adults. A subsidiary pilot study of Chapter Four re-assessed victims with additional tests of the Interpersonal Behavioural Survey (IBS) (Manger, Adkinson, Zoss, Firestone & Hook, 1980) and the Culture-Free Self-Esteem Inventories, second edition (CFSEI-2) (Battle, 1992). Results indicated that again, victims had high dependency and in addition, low self-esteem and direct aggression, poor assertiveness, and a tendency to denial and to avoiding conflict. Chapter Five represents an attempt to examine the personality characteristics of bullies, using the ICES and ms and a behavioural workplace questionnaire (BWQ). Although it proved difficult to obtain a large enough sample of bullies, findings were encouraging. Bullies proved to be aggressive hostile individuals, high in extraversion and independence. They were egocentric and selfish, without much concern for other's opinions. Most bullies said that they themselves had been bullied at work. Chapter Six extends the personality profiles of bullies and victims to consider their behaviour at an organisational level. Central to this chapter is an analysis of three case studies that serve to illustrate the view that it is a combination of personality and factors peculiar to the organisation that leads to institutional bullying. Case analyses revealed that hostile working environments tend to act as a trigger to release, for example, inherent aggression in bullies and inherent anxiety in victims. Findings suggest that bullying can be tolerated in organisations as long as it helps to achieve one or more goals of that organisation. Chapter Seven is devoted to a final discussion of the main findings, to suggest areas forfurther research, and to recommend policies to deal with bullying.