[en] Workplace bullying, mobbing or harassment describe a situation where an employee is the target of systematic mistreatment by other organizational members (i.e., colleagues, supervisors, subordinates) that may cause severe social, psychological and psychosomatic problems in the targeted employee. Since the appearance of the book “The harassed worker” by Brodsky (1976) and initial studies by Heinz Leymann (1986, 1990), workplace bullying research has developed into a huge and still massively growing research area that is conducted all over the globe. Especially, when related concepts are considered, a vast amount of studies have researched prevalence, risk factors, consequences, and, very recently, psychological mechanisms of workplace bullying exposure.
A literature review revealed that existing workplace bullying exposure self-report inventories exhibit some weaknesses. Therefore, the first study (Chapter 2) aimed to develop a new short scale, the Luxembourg Workplace Mobbing Scale (LWMS) in three different language versions (i.e., Luxembourgish, French, German). Furthermore, it investigated the psychometric properties and the validity of this scale and examined if the three language versions exhibit measurement invariance. The LWMS revealed good psychometric properties in terms of its internal consistency and its factor structure. Furthermore, metric and partial scalar invariance across the three language versions could be established. Initial validation tests revealed high criterion validity of the LWMS. In line with recent workplace bullying exposure research, the LWMS was meaningfully linked with other working factors and measures of psychological health.
The second study (Chapter 3) aimed to test the LWMS’s factor structure and measurement invariance across possible risk groups of bullying exposure (i.e., gender, age, and occupational groups). Moreover, based on recent theories and findings on workplace bullying the study aimed to further elucidate the LWMS’s nomological net with relevant psychological (i.e., psychological well-being, work engagement, sleeping hours, suicidal thoughts) and physiological health measures (i.e., physiological health problems, alcohol and smoking consumption, body mass index) as well as with important organizational criteria (i.e., work performance, turnover intention, absenteeism) and with self-labeling victim status. Evaluation of different measurement invariance models confirm metric and (partial) scalar invariance across all compared groups. Neither age, gender, nor the most frequent areas of occupation in Luxembourg represent important risk factors for workplace bullying exposure. Regarding criterion validity, with the exceptions of alcohol and smoking consumption, all proposed psychological and physiological health measures as well as organizational criteria are meaningfully associated with the LWMS. In summary, the LWMS is especially useful, when the identification of workplace bullying exposure risk groups or cross-cultural research is of concern.
The third study (Chapter 4) aimed to test specific organizational risk factors of the occurrence of workplace bullying. Specifically, competition and passive avoidant leadership style were tested as risk factors of workplace bullying (exposure and perpetration) assessed with two assessment methods (behavioral experience and self-labeling method). Consistent with theoretical reasoning and prior research, results demonstrated that competition as well as passive avoidant leadership style are important risk factors of workplace bullying exposure. Moreover, results showed that the same effects showed up for perpetration. Even more interesting, passive avoidant leadership style acted as a moderator on the effect of competition on workplace bullying exposure. In line with theory, competition is stronger related to workplace bullying exposure, when passive avoidant leadership is high. Thus, passive avoidant leadership style can be considered a disruptive factor reinforcing the negative association with competition. Regarding workplace bullying perpetration the same moderation effect was only found for the self-labeled assessment method.
The fourth study (Chapter 5) aimed to identify different psychological mechanisms (i.e., psychological contract violation and frustration of basic needs) that link being target of workplace bullying and health, attitudinal and behavioral outcomes. Furthermore, their relative impact and importance on different outcomes were highlighted. Psychological contract violation was an important mediator for decreased job satisfaction and higher turnover intentions, whereas frustration of autonomy mediated the effect between workplace bullying exposure and increased levels of burnout, frustration of competence mediated the effect of bullying exposure on decreased work performance and frustration of relatedness was strongly associated with decreased well-being and vigor. Results showed that feelings of psychological contract violation and frustration of basic needs accounted for unique variation in many outcome variables, pointing to the individual contribution of both psychological mechanisms.
The present thesis deepens our understanding of the organizational circumstances under which workplace bullying is more likely and the psychological mechanisms that link the bullying exposure with several outcomes. These results can guide possible prevention and intervention strategies.