Linkages among workplace negative behavioral incidents

Publication Date06 August 2018
AuthorIsmatilla Mardanov,John Cherry
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Global HRM
Linkages among workplace
negative behavioral incidents
Ismatilla Mardanov and John Cherry
Department of Management and Marketing,
Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide empirical evidence of the linkages between such negative
workplace behaviors as abusive supervision and coworker bullying (CB)/mobbing; also, the study explores
the linkages between such negative behaviors and work-life outcomes.
Design/methodology/approach The authors use negative acts,abusive supervision, and workplace
bullying/mobbing and develop work-life outcomes scales to test a data set collected from randomly selected
respondents in the Midwest of the USA. The two-stage data collection offsets common method variance.
Findings The authors find evidence that American supervisors and employees commit negative
behavioral acts rarely. However, the data analyses indicate that many significant relationships exist among
negative acts, abusive supervision, CB/mobbing, and employee well-being.
Research limitations/implications Companies are reluctant to allow surveying their employees on the
subject of negative acts. Therefore, respondents in this study are a random sample. Many statistically
significant interrelationships were detected.
Practical implications This study will reinvigorate discussion on workplace negative behaviors,
bullying, and their effects on employee well-being.
Social implications Addressing and reducing negative workplace behaviors will reduce employee stress
and anxiety and improve the quality of employeeswork and life.
Originality/value The scales were selected and developed, and the data set was constructed specifically
for this study; the interactions of negative acts, abusive supervision, CB and mobbing, and work-life outcomes
are tested together in a workplace scenario for the first time.
Keywords Well-being, Bullying, Mobbing, Abusive supervision, Negative acts
Paper type Research paper
Past research made recommendations for dealing with workplace victimization, not all of
which are covered by current laws. Many managers are not aware of the findings of the
academic research, and in many cases, top management has no means of rooting out
employee abuse by supervisors and coworkers. Reports indicate that in the USA, between
38 and 90 percent of employees have experienced bullying at some point in their work lives
(Glendinning, 2001). The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) indicates that 33 percent of
American employees were bullied by their coworkers in 2014 (Namie, 2014). Insofar as
reports indicate that harassment and victimization exist, research should continue
analyzing and explaining such negative acts.
Negative actsrefers to abusive behavior that occurs in the workplace whether it is a
verbal assault or the threat of violence against targets (Einarsen and Höel, 2001). The term
negative actsoriginates from the Negative Acts Questionnaire(NAQ) introduced by
these authors and used to measure bullying. Bullying itself is defined as a situation in which
an employee is persistently exposed to negative and aggressive behaviors at work,
primarily of a psychological nature (Leymann, 1996), with the effect of humiliating,
frightening, or punishing the target (Einarsen et al., 2009). In this study, we differentiate
coworker bullying (CB) from group mobbing (GM) because they differ regarding the
severity of humiliation and disorientation. Mobbing is bullying executed by a group of
coworkers that has far graver consequences (Zapf, 1999) for the victims well-being. Abusive
supervision is defined as supervisory verbal and non-verbal hostile behaviors, excluding
physical abuse, against subordinates (Tepper, 2000; Lian et al., 2014). We consider negative
Evidence-based HRM: a Global
Forum for Empirical Scholarship
Vol. 6 No. 2, 2018
pp. 221-240
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/EBHRM-01-2018-0006
Received 23 January 2018
Revised 27 February 2018
Accepted 1 March 2018
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
acts, abusive supervision, CB, and mobbing as perceived by the victims because only they
can tell the truth about their feelings.
The purpose of this study is to analyze direct and reciprocal effects of negative acts (NAQ in
Einarsen and Höel, 2001), abusive supervision (Abusive Supervision Questionnaire (ASQ) in
Tepper, 2000), CB (Coworker Bullying Questionnaire in Zapf, 1999), and GM (Coworker
Bullying Questionnaire in Zapf, 1999). Also, we test the moderating effects of abusive
supervision in coworker-on-CB and group-on-coworker mobbing. Additionally, we examine the
impact of these kinds of victimization on work-life outcomes and victim demographics.
Theoretical framework
Workplace negative behavioral incidents
Workplace events occur in human-to-human interrelations that are mostly positive.
However, some more or less negative interactions take place depending on organizational
settings and managerial culture. We identify those interactions as negative workplace
incidents. We consider them regarding perpetratorsactions, victim feelings, and victim
reactions. Such harassment as sexual abuse and racial, gender, and age discrimination are
covered by Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act while no legislation covers workplace
incivility (Andersson and Pearson, 1999), mobbing and bullying (Einarsen, 1999; Zapf,
1999), and abusive supervision (Tepper, 2000). Victim reaction is mainly the stress that
causes poor work-life outcomes (Figure 1).
Workplace Negative Events
Harassment (Bowling and Beehr, 2006)
Interactional and Procedural Injustice
Covered by Title VIIa
Sexual Abuse Negative Work/life Outcomes
Racial Discrimination Absenteeism
Gender Discrimination Job Dissatisfaction
Age Discrimination
Stress Poor Performance
Not covered by Title VIIaVoluntary Quitting
Workplace Incivility
(Andersson and Pearson, 1999) Other
Abusive supervision
(Tapper, 2000)
(Einarsen, 1999; Zapf, 1999) Victimization (Aquino and Byron, 2000)
Coworker bullying
Group mobbing
Distributive Injustice
Perpetrators’ actions
Note: aTitle VII of US Civil Rights Law
Intention to Quit
Victims’ reactionsVictims’
Workplace Bullying
Figure 1.
Negative workplace
behavioral incidents
model: logical-
sequential model

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