The Concept of Bullying and Harassment at Work: The European Tradition

Stale Valvatne Einarsen, Helge Hoel,

Dieter Zapfand Cary L. Cooper

Introduction 3

The Development of a New Concept: Some

Historical Notes 6

The Concept of Bullying at Work 10

Target Orientation 10

The Frequency of Negative Behaviours 11

The Duration of Bullying 13

The Nature of Behaviours Involved 14

The Imbalance of Power Between the Parties 17

Subjective versus Objective Bullying 18

Intentionality of Bullying 21

Interpersonal Versus Organizational Bullying 23

Bullying as a Process 24

A Definition of Bullying at Work 26

Bullying—A Phenomenon in Its Own Right? 26

Conceptual Models of Bullying at Work 29

The Work Environment Hypothesis 29

Predatory Bullying 32

Dispute-Related Bullying 33

A Theoretical Framework 36

Conclusions 40

Bibliography 41


During the 1990s, the concept of bullying or mobbing at work found a first resonance within European working populations as well as in the academic community. A wide range of popular as well as academic books and articles were published in many European languages (e.g., Ege, 1996; Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Field, 1996; Niedl, 1995; Leymann, 1993; Rayner et al., 2002), and public interest spread from country to country. From being a taboo in both organizational research and in organizational life, the issue of bullying and harassment at work became what was called the ‘research topic of the 1990s’ (Hoel et al., 1999). Yet, such a conclusion seems somewhat hasty in hindsight, as the sheer number of publications on workplace bullying annually after the turn of the millennium by far outnumbers those published during the entire 1990s, with an explosion in research output from all over the globe from 2010 onwards (see also Nielsen and Einarsen, 2018 for an overview). In an early meta-analysis on the effects of methodological moderators on the observed prevalence of workplace bullying, Nielsen et al. (2010) noted that of the 91 studies identified, the majority (81.3%) of the studies included were published in the period 2000-2008, 16% in the 1990s, and only two (2.7%) in the 1980s. The identified studies included samples from more than 20 countries across all continents, yet with more than 60% originating in Europe. In a later literature overview of studies on bullying and sickness absence, 11 out of 17 studies had been published between 2011 and 2016 (Nielsen et al., 2016).

The issue of bullying in the workplace is a complex one. It comes in many shapes and shades, with multiple causes on many levels, and with diverging views on its very nature (see also Bail lien et al., 2017; Notelaers et al., 2018). Yet, at a basic level, it is about the systematic mistreatment of a subordinate, a colleague or a superior, which, if continued and long-lasting, may cause severe social, psychological and psychosomatic problems in the target. Exposure to such treatment was early on claimed to be a more crippling and devastating problem for employees than all other kinds of work-related stress put together, and seen by many researchers and targets alike as an extreme type of social stress at work (Zapf et al., 1996) or even as a traumatic event (Nielsen and Einarsen, 2012; Tehrani, 2004).

While this phenomenon is usually referred to as workplace bullying in English-speaking countries and as 'harassment' (harcèlement) in the French-speaking world, it has mainly been termed ‘mobbing’ in many European countries, although other national specific terms continue to live on side by side, e.g., 'Pesten (the Netherlands) and ‘acoso’ or ‘maltrato psicológico”

(Spain) (Di Martino et al., 2003). The term ‘mobbing’ was coined from the English word ‘mob’ and was originally used to describe animal aggression and herd behaviour (Munthe. 1989). Heinemann (1972) originally adopted the term from the Swedish translation of Konrad Lorenz’s (1968) book 'On aggression' to describe victimization of individual children by a group of peers in a school setting (see also Munthe, 1989; Olweus, 1991, 2003). Later on, Leymann (1986, 1990) bor-row'ed the term ‘mobbing’ from the research on bullying in the schoolyard (see Olweus, 1991, 1994) to describe the systematic mistreatment of organization members, which, if continued, could cause severe social, psychological and psychosomatic problems in the target. From Scandinavia, the concept spread to other European countries during the late 1990s and further on to become an issue of global concern with interest arising at all continents after the turn of the millennium.

Yet, even with different labels in use in different languages, the European research tradition has been characterized by a high degree of consensus regarding concepts and features. Hence, Europe has avoided the trap often observed in the social sciences, where new issues are coming into focus and a plethora of competing terms and concepts are introduced. In this respect, the European scene has been quite different from what has happened in the US, where a range of overlapping constructs falling under a rubric of ‘hostile relations at work’ has been introduced (see Chapter 2, Keashly et al., this volume).

In practice, only minor differences exist between the concepts of bullying, harassment and mobbing (Zapf and Einarsen, 2005). The term bully may more easily lend itself to descriptions of the perpetrator who behaves aggressively in many situations and possibly acts aggressively towards more than one target. The concept of mobbing, however, is more attuned to the experiences of targets who are systematically exposed to harassment, mistreatment and social exclusion by one or more perpetrators and who over time may become severely victimized by this treatment (see also Zapf and Einarsen, 2005). The concept of harassment is also more attuned to the perpetrator and is a broader concept, encompassing sexual harassment as well as single episodes of more severe mistreatment and violations. Hence, the concepts of bullying and harassment seem to focus on the two different but interrelated sides of the same phenomenon, the perpetrators and the targets. According to Leymann (1996), the choice of the term ‘mobbing’ in preference to ‘bullying’ was a conscious decision on his part, reflecting the fact that the phenomenon among adults often refers to subtle. less direct forms of aggression as opposed to the more physical forms of aggression that may be associated with the term ‘bullying'. Yet, even among those who use the term bullying, empirical evidence suggests that the behaviours involved are often of a verbal, passive and indirect nature (Einarsen, 1999; Keashly and Harvey, 2005; Rosander and Blomberg, 2019). The common stereotype of a bully as a dominant, rude and aggressive figure is probably not typical for many bullying cases, at least as seen in most European countries. Hence, in the present chapter, the terms ‘harassment’, ‘bullying’ and ‘mobbing’ will be used interchangeably to refer to both these phenomena, namely as the systematic display of aggressive behaviour and social exclusion at work directed towards a subordinate, a coworker or even a superior, as well as the perception of being systematically exposed to such mistreatment while at work.

The purpose of this chapter is then to present and discuss the European perspective on bullying, harassment and mobbing at work. We will start with some historical notes and will then discuss various key characteristics of bullying such as the frequency, duration, power balance, quality and content of bullying behaviour, objective versus subjective bullying, intentionality of bullying, interpersonal versus organizational bullying, and bullying as a process. A formal definition of the concept will then be proposed and we will discuss and present various conceptual models of such bullying at work.

The Development of a New Concept: Some Historical Notes

The interest in the issue of workplace bullying originated in Scandinavia in the 1980s, partly inspired by ongoing research and focus on bullying among school children (see also Olweus, 1991, 1994, 2003). The late Professor Heinz Leymann, during his work within the Swedish labor inspectorate, came across a series of incidents of systematic mistreatment and social exclusion not previously described in the literature which he evidenced in the first Swedish book on the subject in 1986, entitled Mobbing—Psychological Violence at Work. Leymann soon became convinced that this problem had less to do with those involved, but rather was deeply rooted within the working environment, being the product of various organizational factors and specific qualities of the psychosocial work environment, including work design and leadership practices. Inspired by Leymann and much public interest and debate, large-scale research projects were initiated in Norway (Einarsen and Raknes, 1991; Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Matthiesen et al., 1989), Sweden (Leymann, 1990, 1996) and Finland (Bjorkqvist etal., 1994; Vartia, 1991, 1996), documenting the existence of this phenomenon, and the severe negative effects such treatment and these experiences had on both targets as well as observers. The seemingly ‘new’ phenomenon of bullying, or ‘mobbing’ as it was referred to, also attracted growing interest from the public, from those responsible for health and safety in the workplace and from union representatives with regard to legal changes securing workers the right to a work environment free of harassment (see also Hoel and Einarsen, 2010).

Yet, the very phenomenon of bullying at work had been thoroughly described already in 1976 by the American Psychiatrist Carroll M. Brodsky in an intriguing book entitled The Harassed Worker. Brodsky was inspired by hundreds of years of literature on the cruelty and brutality human beings sometimes show towards both enemies and friends, sometimes even for no apparent reason. In his qualitative study. Brodsky described a range of cases where employees at all organizational levels claimed to have been systematically mistreated and abused by their superiors or coworkers while at work with devastating effects on their productivity, health and well-being. The mistreatment described by the informants of the study was mainly of a psychological and non-sexual nature, characterized by rather subtle and discrete actions, yet causing severe and traumatic effects in the targets by being repeatedly and persistently aimed at employees who felt unable to retaliate. Brodsky described five main types of harassment: Sexual harassment, scapegoating, name-calling, physical abuse and work pressure. Yet, Brodsky’s pioneering work did not receive much attention at the time it was published, being brought to life and rediscovered many years later (Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994), long after the first works of Heinz Leymann in Sweden.

How'ever, until the early 1990s, the interest in this subject was largely limited to the Nordic countries, with only a few publications available in English (e.g., Leymann. 1990). Yet, seemingly in parallel with the development in the Nordic countries, UK journalist Andrea Adams in collaboration with the psychologist Neil Crawford, put the issue of bullying at work firmly on the UK agenda through radio appearances followed by a popular book (Adams, 1992). Many radio listeners apparently saw this as an opportunity to make sense of their own experience and many were willing to come forward and bring their experience into the public domain, as had happened in Scandinavia some years earlier. This was later on followed up by several large-scale national surveys which clearly documented the presence of the problem in the UK (Hoel and Cooper, 2000; Unison, 1997).

Heinz Leymann also published a book aimed at a wider readership in German in 1993, which disseminated awareness of the concept of mobbing through the media within a year. Likewise, the concern about the issue of adult bullying soon spread from Scandinavia to other countries such as Austria (Kirchler and Lang, 1998; Niedl, 1995), The Netherlands (Hubert and van Veldhoven, 2001), Italy (Ege, 1996) and as far afield as Australia (McCarthy et al., 1996). Later on, interest was also sparked in countries such as Spain (Moreno-Jimenez and Rodrigues-Munos, 2006), Lithuania (Malinauskiene et al. (2005) and Turkey (Demierel and Yoldas, 2008; Yiicetiirk and Oke, 2005). More recently, interest in the issue also emerged in certain Asian countries, e.g., India (D'Cruz, 2014), Pakistan (Ahmer et al., 2008), Japan (Tsuno et al., 2010) and Malaysia (Yusop et al., 2014), and in South and Central America, e.g., Mexico and Brazil, largely following the European approach to workplace bullying (e.g.. Nelson et al., 2014).

Again, seemingly in parallel, interest was boosted in France in the late 1990s thanks to the bestseller book by Marie France Hirigoyen (1998) entitled Le harcelement moral, la violence perverse an quotidien with interest rapidly spreading throughout the French speaking world, e.g., to Quebec in Canada (Soares, 2003). Although workplace bullying has slowly and much later become a concept used in the US, important empirical, theoretical and legal contributions in line with this European tradition have come from US researchers such as Keashly (1998, 2001), Lutgen-Sandvik (2007) and Yamada (2004) among others). Again, the very same phenomenon is described, and again, the message is the same: 1) many employees suffer from severe on-going mistreatment at work by superiors or coworkers in the form of systematic exposure to sometimes flagrant as well as subtle forms of aggression, mainly characterized by persistency and longterm duration; 2) the effects on the targets are devastating and even traumatic, with negative effects also found on the health, motivation and well-being of those who witness it, with potential major cost implications for employers; 3) managers and employers, including public-sector or Government bodies, are often unwilling to accept the very existence of the problem, much less prevent it and manage fairly those cases that come to the fore. Fortunately, this last situation has since dramatically changed as bullying and harassment have increasingly become an global issue acknowledged by researchers, practitioners, labour unions, governmental bodies, employers and politicians alike (e.g., the European framework agreement on harassment and violence at work, 2007).

Interestingly, the introduction of and public interest in the concept of bullying or mobbing at work emerged in a similar pattern across many countries in the late 1990s and early in the new millennium (Rayner et al., 2002). Such ‘waves of interest’ (Einarsen, 1998) were typically instigated by press reports on high-profile court cases, or otherwise reported incidents where one (or more) employee(s) publicly claim(s) to have been subjected to extreme mistreatment at work. Such public attention was then followed by studies of the magnitude of the problem and the consequences of such experiences. Such, often preliminary, research findings generated further publicity and public attention. The actions and determination of articulate and high-profile victims fuelled public debate. By exercising continuous pressure on the media in the broadest sense, and through numerous innovative initiatives utilising conference appearances, publications and the world-wide web, these activists (e.g.. Field, 1996) contributed to informing and educating the public, and effectively preventing the issue from disappearing from public view (see also Namie et al., 2011). Research-wise, this development led to the publication of numerous studies on the prevalence of bullying, primarily of interest and importance to a national audience (e.g., Moster and Cunniff, 2012; Petrovic et al., 2017; Yildiz et al., 2008), and an abundance of studies documenting the detrimental effects of bullying on targets’ health and well-being (see Nielsen and Einarsen, 2012).

In line with this, the issue of bullying at work was in the beginning mainly investigated from a psychological perspective, and particularly so by work and organizational psychologists. Hence, the focus of research in the 1990s was very much about ‘who does what to whom; when, where, why; and with what kinds of consequences for the organization and for those targeted’. As interest grew and spread, the focus of research has spread and diverged into domains such as sociology, law, industrial relations, epidemiology and medicine, lately also including the role of genetics in determining the effects of such exposure (Jacobsen et al., 2018). This development has seen the field blossomed and contributed to an extensive and varied body of literature, as evident in the present volume.

The Concept of Bullying at Work

Bullying at work is about repeated actions and practices that are directed against one or more workers, that are unwanted by the target, that may be carried out deliberately or unconsciously, but clearly cause humiliation, offense and distress, and that may interfere with work performance and/or cause an unpleasant working environment (Einarsen and Raknes, 1997). Hence, the concept of bullying at work relates to persistent exposure of one or more employees to negative and aggressive behaviours of a primarily psychological nature (Leymann, 1996; Olweus, 1991). The exposure to negative social behaviour is a key definitional criterion of bullying and it describes situations where hostile behaviours that are directed systematically at one or more colleagues or subordinates lead to a stigmatization and victimization of the recipient(s) (Bjorkqvist et al., 1994; Leymann, 1996).

Target Orientation

From the beginning, the Scandinavian public debate had a target or victim perspective on bullying (Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Leymann, 1993, 1996). People were more alarmed by the serious damage to health reported by the victims than by the often unethical behaviour of the perpetrators. Consequently, bullying or mobbing was originally seen from a stress perspective (Einarsen and Raknes, 1991; Leymann, 1996; Zapf et al., 1996), being understood as a subset of social stressors at work (Zapf and Einarsen, 2005), even as a social trauma (Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2001; Nielsen and Einarsen, 2012). Applying concepts used in stress research, bullying episodes can manifest themselves in various forms ranging from daily hassles (Kanner et al., 1981; Hoprekstad et al., 2018) to critical life events (Dohrenwend and Dohrenwend, 1974). Examples of the latter include episodes where someone is threatened physically, threatened with dismissal or their career prospects are destroyed.

If ‘normal’ social stressors such as demanding customers or role stressors occur in a department, it can be assumed that almost everybody will be negatively affected after some time. In a study by Frese and Zapf (1987), members of the same workgroup reported more similar levels of social stressors compared with members of other groups. Bullying, however, is targeted at particular individuals. These individuals will normally show-severe health consequences after some time, whereas the perpetrators, observers or neutral bystanders may not be affected at all (Nielsen and Einarsen, 2013). Being singled out and stigmatized has been considered a key characteristic of bullying (Leymann, 1993, 1996; Zapf, 1999a). Furthermore, bullying not only acts as a stressor in its own right but it may also lead to the loss of resources for the target, including the loss of social support and the ability to control their own situation (see Zapf and Einarsen, 2005). Studies have, for instance, shown that ordinary coping strategies such as actively tackling the problem do not necessarily work for targets of bullying (e.g., Reknes et al.. 2016; Zapf and Gross, 2001). On the contrary, a range of studies show that high exposure to bullying has detrimental outcomes for those targeted, irrespective of their personal resources and individual dispositions (see Nielsen and Einarsen, 2018 and Nielsen et al., this volume, for overviews). Taken together, these factors may explain the major detrimental effects bullying may have on the target, even if the behaviours themselves are often seen as rather subtle and indirect by nonaffected observers.

This is in contrast to approaches which focus on the aggressive behaviour of perpetrators. An aggressive perpetrator can frequently harass other persons; however, if this behaviour is, in the case of an abusive supervisor, distributed across several persons, this is clearly different from a victim or a few targeted victims being the focus of aggressive acts on the part of one or more other persons. Although the concept of bullying is used both to describe the aggressive behaviour of certain perpetrators as well as the victimization process of particular targets, the latter has traditionally been the main focus of the European perspective. Yet, in the UK, bullying has been proven to be so closely related to the behaviours of managers and leaders that the term has a connotation more or less synonymous with the term destructive or highly aggressive leadership (see also Hoel et al., 2010).

The Frequency of Negative Behaviours

Definitions of bullying at work further emphasize two main features: repeated and enduring aggressive behaviours that are intended to be hostile and/or that reasonably may be perceived as hostile by the recipient (Olweus, 1991; Leymann, 1990; Zapf et al., 1996). In other words, bullying is normally not about single and isolated events, but rather about behaviours that are repeatedly and persistently directed towards one or more employees. Leymann (1990, 1996) suggested that to be termed ‘mobbing’ or bullying, such events should occur at least once a week, which characterizes bullying as a severe form of social stress. In many cases, this criterion is difficult to apply because not all bullying behaviours are strictly episodic in nature. For example, a rumour can circulate that may be harmful or even threaten to destroy the victim’s career or reputation. However, it does not have to be repeated every week. In cases brought to our attention, victims had to work in basement rooms without windows and telephones. Here, bullying consists of a permanent state rather than a series of episodic events. Hence, the main criterion is that the behaviours or their consequences are repeated on a regular basis. In a study by Notelaers and colleagues (2006), based on a sample of 6.175 Belgian workers who had responded to an 18-item version of the Negative Acts Questionnaire employing latent class cluster analysis, six main clusters of respondents were identified regarding their exposure to bullying behaviours. While only 35% did not experience any kind of bullying behaviours during the preceding six months, some respondents (28%) experienced some negative work-related behaviours now and then without seeing that as bullying. Yet another group of 16% experienced bullying behaviours now and then during the preceding six months that were of a more person-related nature. Hence, some 80% reported either no or only marginal exposure to systematic bullying behaviours. However, one group of respondents, labeled latent victims and comprising 9% of the total sample, reported exposure to a range of bullying behaviours although each type of behaviour occurred only now and then. Another group (8%), labeled ‘Work-related bullying’, reported high exposure to a few kinds of behaviours; their work-situation was manipulated in a negative way combined with social exclusion from the work group. Lastly, 3% of the respondents reported a high exposure to many different kinds of bullying behaviours and with severe symptoms of reduced health and well-being, and were, therefore, labeled the ‘victims’. This pattern has since been replicated in studies from the UK (Einarsen et al., 2009), Norway (Nielsen et al., 2009) and Greece (Galanaki and Papalexandris, 2013). Similar results have been provided by Notelaers and Einarsen (2013) employing a so-called ROC analysis, showing that exposure to bullying seems to come in two levels of intensity.

Following these studies, a majority of workers may be exposed to some acts of social stress and/or negative social acts once in a while. Others, however, are more severely affected by systematic, long-term and frequent acts of bullying which over time may even escalate and intensify. With regard to the occasional exposure to such negative social behaviours, this may also resemble what some US researchers have labeled ‘incivility’ or mistreatment at work (Cortina et al., 2001). Andersson and Pearson (1999) defined workplace incivility as ‘low-intensity deviant behaviour with ambiguous intent to harm the target, in violation of workplace norms for mutual respect. Uncivil behaviours are characteristically rude and discourteous, displaying a lack of regard for others’ (p. 457). Yet, when developing their scale measuring ‘incivility’, Cortina et al. (2001) pinpointed that the items were consistent with those in the already established NAQ (Einarsen and Raknes, 1997; Einarsen etal., 2009), which on a global scale is the most used inventory to measure exposure to bullying at work. Even if the behaviours involved with incivility are largely the same as those resembling bullying, bullying is about the systematic, frequent and ongoing exposure to such negative treatment. In addition, there are other criteria discussed below which also apply to bullying and which may differentiate bullying from other related concepts such as mere single acts of workplace incivility (Cortina et al., 2017) or social undermining (Duffy et al., 2002).

The Duration of Bullying

A number of studies have shown the prolonged nature of the bullying experience, with a majority of targets reporting an exposure time greater than 12 months (e.g., Leymann, 1992; UNISON, 1997; Zapf, 1999a; Zapf et al., this volume). Leymann (1990, 1996) suggested exposure for more than six months as an operational definition of bullying at work. Others have used repeated exposure to negative behaviours within a six-month period as the proposed timeframe (Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996). Leymann’s strict criterion has been argued to be somewhat arbitrary, as bullying seems to exist on a continuum from occasional exposure to negative behaviours to severe victimization resulting from frequent and long-lasting exposure to negative behaviours at work (Notelaers and Einarsen, 2013). Yet, the criterion of about six months has been used in many studies in order to differentiate between exposure to negative social behaviours and social stress at work, on the one hand, and severe victimization from bullying on the other (e.g., Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996; Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2001; Niedl, 1995; Vartia, 1996; Zapf et al., 1996). The reason why Leymann chose the six months criterion (1993, 1996) was to argue that mobbing leads to severe psychiatric and psychosomatic impairment, stress effects which would not be expected to occur as a result of normal occupational stressors such as time-pressure, role-conflicts or everyday social stressors. The period of six months was chosen by Leymann because it is frequently used in the assessment of various psychiatric disorders. However, in practice, victims feel bullied after a much shorter time. From a theoretical perspective, it is also reasonable that exposure to systematic negative treatment may be observed within shorter timeframes and. empirically, many studies do not define a specific timeframe (see Zapf et al., this volume). In particular, when dealing with victims of bullying in organizations, a criterion of six months might not be very helpful.

Nevertheless, the mean duration of bullying in the various empirical studies is relatively high (see Zapf et al., this volume, Table 3.1), ranging from six to 62 months. Even without a concrete timeframe, there is consensus among researchers that severe bullying is a matter of months and years rather than days and weeks.

The duration of the bullying also seems to be closely related to the frequency of bullying, with those bullied frequently reporting a longer duration of their experience than those bullied less frequently (Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996). This seems to be in line with a model of bullying highlighting the importance of escalation, with the situation becoming more intense and more personalised over time (Zapf and Gross, 2001; Agotnes et al., 2018). Based on these findings, we suggest defining a situation as exposure to bullying if somebody is exposed to systematic and prolonged negative and unwanted behaviour, and to speak of severe bullying or victimization from bullying, if the duration is at least six months. Whether or not it is advisable to use a minimum duration criterion (e.g., six months) depends on the practical context. In some research, e.g., when a group of bullying targets is compared to a group of non-targets, it may be necessary to apply such a duration criterion (e.g.. Baillien et al., 2017). Independently of which definition of bullying is used, one important implication of such a definition is that based on the observation of a single negative act, it is impossible to decide whether or not this is bullying. Rather, the bullying process has to be taken into account.

The Nature

of Behaviours


The negative and unwanted nature of the behaviour involved is essential to the concept of bullying. Victims are exposed to persistent insults or offensive remarks, persistent criticism, personal or, even in a few cases, physical abuse (Einarsen, 2000b). Others experience social exclusion and isolation; that is they are given the ‘silent treatment’ or being ‘sent to Coventry’ (Williams, 1997). These behaviours are ‘used with the aim or at least the effect of persistently humiliating, intimidating, frightening or punishing the victim’ (Einarsen, 2000b, p. 8).

The following types of bullying behaviours are repeatedly distinguished by researchers (e.g., Einarsen et al., 2009; Escartin et al., 2010; Leymann, 1996; Zapf et al., 1996):

  • (1) Work-related as opposed to person-related bullying. The former refers to the victim’s work tasks and includes behaviours such as giving unreasonable deadlines or unmanageable workloads, excessive monitoring of work, being assigned to meaningless tasks or even no tasks given. Empirical studies show that it is often difficult to decide if somebody is bullied based on work-related behaviours alone. The reason is that there are also employees who report suffering from unmanageable workload or excessive monitoring who would not consider themselves victims of bullying. Yet, the most frequently reported negative act among targets of workplace bullying is that they are restrained from information which makes it difficult to perform their work. Although this is also reported by many other workers, this still distinguishes well between targets and non-targets when happening on a frequent basis. Person-related bullying consists of behaviours such as making insulting personal remarks, excessive teasing, spreading gossip or rumours, persistent criticism, playing practical jokes and intimidation. These behaviours are, by and large, independent of the context of the workplace.
  • (2) Both passive and active. In line with research into school bullying (Olweus, 1991; see also Buss, 1961), bullying behaviours have repeatedly been defined on a scale ranging from passive and indirect to active and direct. Social isolation (e.g., not communicating with somebody or excluding someone from social events), gossiping and spreading rumours (e.g., Einarsen et al., 2009; Escartin et al., 2010; Yildirim and Yildiritn, 2007; Zapf et al., 1996) are on the passive and indirect end of this dimension. In the middle are behaviours such as belittling, insulting remarks, making jokes or other forms of humiliation (e.g., Einarsen and Raknes, 1997; Escartin et al., 2010; Moreno-Jimenez et al., 2007; Zapf et al., 1996). At the active and direct end of the dimension are verbal threats and verbal aggression (e.g., Zapf etal., 1996).
  • (3) Psychological versus physical. With regard to Buss’ (1961) differentiation between psychological and physical aggression, aggressive acts related to person-related bullying are clearly psychological in nature. Many early studies (e.g.. Einarsen. 1999; Leymann, 1996; Niedl, 1995; Vartia, 1991; Zapf et al., 1996) included physical abuse or threats of such in their categorization of bullying. However, there appears to be consensus that the behaviours involved in workplace bullying are mainly of a psychological rather than a physical nature. In an early study among male Norwegian shipyard workers, where 88% had experienced some form of bullying behaviours during the preceding six months, only 2.4% reported physical abuse or threats of such abuse (Einarsen and Raknes, 1997). In Zapf’s (1999a) study in Germany, only about 10% of the bullying victims reported physical violence or the threat of physical violence. There may. however, be differences linked to industry or work sector as well as national culture in this respect. Hoel and Cooper (2000) in their early British study of bullying, reported a national average of 10.4% for exposure to threats of violence or physical abuse, the equivalent figure for prison staff being 31.6%. Similarly, in a study comparing Southern European and Latin-American cultures, employees from Latin America more often considered the physical component to be central to workplace bullying than did the Southern European employees (Escartin et al., 2011).
  • (4) One or more kinds of bullying? Factor analyzing bullying items in different inventories designed to measure exposure to such bullying behaviours often leads to a ‘one-factor solution’ or to only a couple of highly related factors (e.g., Einarsen et al., 2009; Notelaers et al., 2018). That means, in large samples, people usually differ on a scale from ‘not being bullied’ to ‘being bullied’, where those bullied usually being exposed to many kinds of bullying behaviours. Nevertheless, when victim samples are analyzed (e.g., Zapf et al., 1996) or when more sophisticated methods such as latent cluster analysis are used (e.g.. Einarsen et al., 2009; Notelaers et al., 2018), it is possible to identify groups of targets who are exposed to specific configurations of bullying behaviours, which may also change over time as the process of bullying unfolds (see also Rosander and Blomberg, 2019, for a particularly nuanced analysis in this regard).

The basic tenet of the bullying concepts is that although many of the acts described above may be relatively common in the workplace (Leymann, 1996), when frequently and persistently directed towards the same individual, they may be considered an extreme social source of stress (Zapf et al., 1996) causing severe harm and damage (Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2002). The persistency of these behaviours also seems to drain the coping resources of the victim (Leymann, 1990; Zapf and Einarsen, 2005). The stigmatizing effects of these activities, and their escalating frequency and intensity, make the victims constantly less able to cope with their daily tasks and collaborative requirements of the job. thus leading them to become ever more vulnerable and ‘a deserving target’ (Einarsen, 2000b, p. 8). Hence, the frequency and duration of unwanted behaviours seem to be as important as the actual nature of the behaviours involved.

The Imbalance of Power Between the Parties

A central feature of many definitions of workplace bullying is the imbalance of power between the parties (Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Leymann, 1996; Niedl, 1995; Zapf et al., 1996), a feature in common with mainstream definitions of school bullying (Olweus, 1991, 2003). Typically, a victim is constantly teased, badgered and insulted and perceives that he or she has little recourse to retaliate in kind (Einarsen, 1999). In many cases, it is a supervisor or manager who systematically. and over time, subjects subordinates to highly aggressive or demeaning behaviour (Rayner et al.. 2002). In other cases, a group of colleagues bully a single individual, who for obvious reasons finds it difficult to defend him- or herself against this ‘overwhelming’ group of opponents.

The imbalance of power often may mirror the formal power structure of the organizational context in which the bullying scenario unfolds. This would be the case when someone is on the receiving end of negative acts from a person in a superior position in the organizational hierarchy. Alternatively, the source of power may be informal, based on knowledge and experience as well as access to support from influential persons (Hoel and Cooper, 2000). The imbalance of power may also be reflected in the target’s dependence on the perpetrator(s), which may be of a social, physical, economic or even psychological nature (Niedl. 1995). An employee will in most cases be more dependent on his supervisor than vice versa. A single individual will be more dependent on the work group than the other way around. Thus, at times the perceptions of targets may be more dependent upon the actual instigator of a negative act than the act itself (Einarsen, 2000a). Einarsen (1999) argued that knowledge of someone’s ‘weak point’ may become a source of power in a conflict situation. Bullies typically exploit the perceived inadequacies of the victim's personality or work performance, which in itself indicate powerlessness on the part of the victim (see Zapf and Einarsen, 2005 for more lengthy discussion).

However, one may argue that in a conflict situation, some individuals may initially feel that they are as strong as their opponent, but gradually come to realize that their first impression was wrong, or that their own or their opponent’s moves have placed them in a weaker position. In other words, and at least from the point of view of targets, a power deficit has emerged. Equal balance of power in a harsh conflict may, therefore, be considered hypothetical, as the balance of power in such situations is unlikely to remain stable for any length of time. Anyhow, bullying may result from the exploitation of power by an individual or by a group, as well as from taking advantage of a power deficit on the part of the target.

The imbalance of power, being a key characteristic of bullying, goes along with a loss of control, and, most importantly, it limits the coping possibilities of the less powerful person, especially by making it (almost) impossible to terminate the underlying conflict in a reasonable way (Baillien et al., 2017; Zapf and Einarsen, 2005).

Subjective versus Objective Bullying

The distinction between subjective and objective experiences of bullying was first made by Brodsky (1976) and has been an important part of the discussion about the definition of bullying at work. Although most studies theoretically seem to regard bullying as an objective and observable phenomenon, which is not entirely in the ‘eye of the beholder’, with only a few exceptions the empirical data have so far been gathered by the use of self-report (Einarsen, Raknes et al., 1994; Vartia, 1996). So far, little is known about the ‘interrater reliability’ with regard to bullying, that is the agreement of the target with some external observers. There are two things that should be considered in the debate on subjective versus objective bullying: (1) the dependency on subjective appraisal and (2) the observability of bullying.

(1) Subjective appraisal. According to Niedl (1995), the ‘definitional core of bullying at work rests on the subjective perception made by the victim that these repeated acts are hostile, humiliating and intimidating and that they are directed at himself/herself’ (p. 49). Yet, situations where one person offends, provokes or otherwise angers another person often involve substantial discrepancies between the subjective perceptions and interpretations of the conflicting participants. Incidences that may be considered mildly offensive by one individual might be seen as serious enough to warrant a formal complaint by others (Terpstra and Baker, 1991). This reflects the discussion on the role of subjective appraisal in psychological stress theories (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Frese and Zapf (1988) defined a subjective stressor as an event that is highly influenced by an individual’s cognitive and emotional appraisal and suggested speaking of an objective stressor only if it can be observed independently of an individual’s cognitive and emotional appraisals. In this sense, there are some behaviours, such as offending or threatening somebody, that can be judged as negative without knowing the subjective appraisals of the target person because such behaviours would be experienced as negative by almost everyone. In contrast, it is more difficult to judge behaviours (such as not greeting somebody, making a joke or criticizing someone) as negative independent of all the contextual information that would lead a victim to judge a particular behaviour as harassment. Yet, in US court cases regarding sexual harassment, a reasonable person standard, is often used to warrant if something is to be seen as harassment or not (see also Hoel and Einarsen, this volume, regarding investigations into actual complaints of bullying). Semmer and Zapf (2019) argued that individuals are embedded in cultures, and culture can be considered a ‘shared meaning system' (Erez, 2010). Culture involves many levels, including organizations, professions, and teams. They shape individual appraisal processes. Thus, individual appraisals are not only idiosyncratic but to some extent based on ‘shared rules of interpretation’. Semmer and Zapf, conclude that we are not simply dealing with ‘objective reality’ versus ‘individual subjectivity’ but rather with a social reality that is shared by individuals in a given context. Although there will always be a certain level of idiosyncrasy in subjective appraisals, such appraisals are culturally shaped and therefore shared to some degree. That is, many negative acts will likely be appraised similarly by people belonging to one cultural group. There may be a higher level of idiosyncrasy in the appraisal of single negative acts. A social group may however, to a large extent, agree in their appraisal of a series of negative behaviours.

(2) Observability. The second issue is observability. We propose that single episodes of harassment and mistreatment may be more observable to third-parties or observers being present, than any on-going bullying and victimization where acts happen in different settings over time, thus much less observable by others. The problem is that the process of workplace bullying at work is often difficult to observe for a particular observer. They may occasionally be witnesses of single and more severe negative acts, but they will seldom ‘see it all'. Those who observe only some of the incidents but not all may, therefore, be less inclined to see patterns and any interrelationship between events in the same way as targets do. Also, some single episodes may be ambiguous and more prone to subjective appraisal processes than others, e.g., in light of previous experiences and events.

For empirical and practical purposes, Bjbrkqvist et al. (1994) argue, therefore, strongly against an approach where peer nominations are used as an objective and sole measure of bullying. Even more, it may be difficult for an observer to stay neutral in cases of bullying (Einarsen. 1996; Neuberger, 1999; Niven et al., this volume). In the course of time, social perceptions of the victim seem to change, turning the situation gradually into one where even third parties may perceive it as a no more than fair treatment of a neurotic and difficult person (Einarsen. Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Leymann, 1992). As the behaviours involved in bullying are often of a subtle and discrete nature (e.g., not greeting, leaving the table when the victim arrives, not passing on information, gossiping, etc.), often exhibited in private (Einarsen, 1999; Neuberger, 1999), they are not necessarily observable to others. Bullying is, therefore, often a subjective process of social reconstruction, and not always easy to prove. Imbalances of power are also more evident from the perspective of those experiencing a lack of power, (see Hofstede, 1980).

On the whole, we tend to agree with Lengnick-Hall (1995), who, in the case of sexual harassment, argued that an objective conceptualization is, of course, necessary in connection with legal issues and cases of internal organizational investigations and hearings (see also Hoel and Einarsen, this volume). Subjective conceptualizations are, however, better predictors of victims’ responses and reactions, organizational outcomes such as turnover and absenteeism, as well as organizational responses. Hence, these may well be used in research and for clinical purposes. However, when subjective conceptualizations exist at a workplace, procedures for complaint handling, including procedures for the investigation of the complaint, must be evoked securing a fair hearing for both parties with conclusions drawn on an objective basis.

Intentionality of Bullying

Considerable disagreement exists with regard to the issue of intent in the definition of bullying (see Hoel et al., 1999, for an early discussion of this issue). Some researchers, notably those whose approach is anchored in aggression theory, tend to consider intent to cause harm on the part of the perpetrator as a key feature of bullying (Olweus, 2003; Bjorkqvist et al., 1994). A study of lay, i.e., non-academic, definitions of bullying also pinpointed intent as an important feature of the definition (Saunders etal., 2007). In other words, where there is no intention to cause harm, there is no bullying. From this perspective, including intent in the definition of bullying will make it distinguishable from other forms of unpleasant behaviours such as incivility at work. It will also distinguish it from episodes of thoughtlessness or from the misperception of innocent or even fairly legitimate behaviours. Theoretically, aggression research has built on the notion that aggression is intentional behaviour carried out to cause harm to another person and that one must distinguish between accidental and intended harm (Allen and Anderson, 2017).

Yet, intent is generally not considered an essential element in most European research on workplace bullying. Furthermore, in empirical studies, it is very rare that one actually measures actual intent or even perceived intent. It is normally impossible to verify the presence of intent in cases of bullying (Hoel etal., 1999). The only one who can actually verify the presence of intent is the alleged perpetrator, creating a situation where the perpetrator in fact has a veto over the decision of whether or not something is to be regarded as bullying. For these reasons, intent is also excluded from most definitions of sexual harassment (e.g., Fitzgerald and Shullman, 1993).

To consider intent as a constituent part of the bullying definition, it would be necessary to clarify to what ‘intent’ refers to, as there are several possibilities. 1) Intent may refer to the intent of each single act. That is, every single act occurring in bullying may be considered as intended or not intended. 2) Intent may refer to the bullying process: It is intended to expose somebody to repeated and systematic acts over time, hence there is a plan to act over time. 3) Intent may refer to the will and plan to victimize the target, that is bringing the target into an inferior and defenseless position. 4) Intent may refer to the extent one has an explicit and conscious plan of harming the victim. Sometimes, as in the case of repeatedly making a fool of someone, the single acts might be intended, but not the victimization or the harm done. In other cases, a group might want to expel a person from the team or the organization through exhibiting continuous negative behaviours, but they may not intend or understand the psychological harm they are causing. Furthermore, the issue of intent may change over time as the process unfolds.

There may also be cases where negative behaviours continuously affect a particular person without any intention to inflict harm on this person. One example might be the case of an arrogant and self-aggrandizing person who continuously exhibits behaviours to protect and enhance their self-esteem. Unwittingly, such behaviours may humiliate or ridicule the other person. Such a person may constantly criticize the other person to demonstrate their own superiority rather than with aim to bully someone. In another case, the bullying might be a by-product of micro-political behaviour (see Zapf and Einarsen, this volume). The intention here is to protect and increase one’s own power and bullying is then more a matter of ‘collateral damage’ rather than intended behaviour. The negative effects for the victim might be accepted or even justified in the aftermath, but in such cases, harming the victim might not be a primary intention.

The point is that the lack of intent to harm someone does not change the situation for the target. In the context of bullying and harassment, research which takes the perspective of the target, actual repeated exposure to actual exhibited behaviours that would be seen as inappropriate, unwanted, harmful or unpleasant by any reasonable person exposed to them, must be deemed inappropriate independently of any kind of intent in the perpetrator. In his classic work ‘The psychology of aggression’, Buss (1961) himself argued against intent even in one-off incidents of aggression, due to the difficulty of including this term in the analysis of any behavioural event. Buss (p. 2) even claimed that including intent in the definition of aggression is both ‘awkward and unnecessary’ as, among other things, ‘intent is a private event that may or may not be capable of verbalization, may or may not be accurately reflected in a verbal statement’.

Hence, intent is a problem both from a theoretical, methodological and an applied perspective. Though both single acts, process and outcomes may, in parts, not be intentional in the sense described above, we can assume that perpetrators will, after some time, gain knowledge about the effects of their behaviour. If they continue, one must presume that their behaviour is deliberate and that they find personal justifications for doing so.

However, whereas there are good reasons not to use intent as a definitional criterion of bullying, the perception of intent may be important as to whether or not an individual decides to label their experience as bullying (see also Keashly, 2001). A targeted person may wonder what to think after being exposed to a negative act for the first time. However, when one is repeatedly exposed to such behaviour, the assumption that this behaviour is intentional appears to be the only reasonable explanation.

Interpersonal Versus Organizational Bullying

Following on from the above line of reasoning, bullying is an interpersonal phenomenon that evolves from a dynamic interaction between at least two parties. Bullying is exhibited by one or more persons, directed towards another individual, and perceived and reacted to by this individual. However, from the early work of Liefooghe and Mackenzie Davey (2001) and the subsequent work by D'Cruz and Noronha (2009) the concept has been argued to also refer to what we may call ‘organizational bullying’ (Liefooghe and Mackenzie Davey, 2001), ‘depersonalized bullying’ (D’Cruz and Noronha, 2009), ‘oppressive work regimes’ (Hoel and Beale, 2006) or ‘structural mobbing’ (Neuberger, 1999). These concepts refer to situations in which organizational practices and procedures, perceived to be oppressive, demeaning and humiliating, are employed so frequently and persistently that many employees feel victimized by them. However, in these situations, managers individually or collectively enforce organizational structures and procedures that may torment, abuse or exploit employees. Hence, bullying in these cases does not strictly refer to interpersonal interactions, but rather to indirect interactions between the individual and management, per se in terms of various institutional arrangements. In a pioneering study in a UK telecommunications company employing focus group methodology Liefooghe and Mackenzie Davey (2001) found that employees did use the term bullying to account for grievances and discontent with the organization and its procedures (Liefooghe and Mackenzie Davey, 2001). Examples of such kinds of procedures were the excessive use of statistics (such as performance targets), rules regarding call-handling times, penalties for not hitting targets (such as withdrawing possibilities for overtime) and use of sickness policy. These employees acknowledged the existence of bullying as an interpersonal phenomenon, but also used the term as an emotive and highly charged term, which helped them to highlight their discontent at what they perceived to be increasingly difficult work situations.

However, one may question the fruitfulness of such a use of the bullying concept, especially since most authors see bullying as an interpersonal phenomenon. Furthermore, we have elsewhere argued that the term ‘bullying’ is easily misused (Einarsen, 1998; Hoel and Beale, 2006; Zapf, 1999a). Therefore, whilst applying the rhetoric of bullying as a political act to draw attention to oppressive work practices (Liefooghe, 2003) may be understandable, any gains might be shortsighted, contributing to dilute the power of the bullying term altogether (Hoel and Beale, 2006).

Bullying as a Process

Early works concluded that bullying is, in most of the cases, not an ‘either/or’ phenomenon but rather a result of gradually evolving process (Bjorkqvist, 1992; Einarsen, 2000b; Hoel et al., 2003; Rosander and Blomberg, 2019; Zapf and Gross, 2001). During the early phases of the bullying process, victims are typically subjected to aggressive behaviour that is difficult to pin down because of its indirect and discrete nature. Later on, more direct aggressive acts appear (Bjorqkvist, 1992). The victims are isolated and avoided, humiliated in public by excessive criticism or by being made a laughing-stock. In the end, both physical and psychological means of violence may be used.

In line with Leymann (1990), Einarsen (1999) identified four stages of process development and referred to them as aggressive behaviours, bullying, stigmatization and severe trauma. In many cases, the negative behaviours in the first phase may be characterized as indirect aggression. They may be ‘subtle, devious and immensely difficult to confront’ (Adams, 1992, p. 17) and sometimes difficult to recognize for the persons being targeted (Leymann, 1996). Where bullying evolves out of a dispute or a conflict, it may even at times be difficult to tell who may turn out to be the victim (Leymann. 1990). The initial phase, which in some cases can be very brief, tends to be followed by a stage of more direct negative behaviours, often leaving the target humiliated, ridiculed and increasingly isolated (Leymann, 1990, 1996). As a result, the targets become stigmatized and find it more and more difficult to defend themselves (Einarsen, 1999). At this point in the process the victims may suffer from a wide range of stress symptoms. According to Field, himself a victim of bullying;

the person becomes withdrawn, reluctant to communicate for fear of further criticism. This results in accusations of ‘withdrawal’, ‘sullenness’, ‘not co-operating or communicating’, ‘lack of team spirit’, etc. Dependence on alcohol, or other substances can then lead to impoverished performance, poor concentration and failing memory, which brings accusations of ‘poor performance’.

(Field, 1996, p. 128)

It has also been noted that the erratic and obsessive behaviour of many victims in this phase may frequently cut them off from support within their own working environment, exacerbating their isolation and the victimization process (Leymann, 1986). The situation is frequently marked by helplessness, and, for many, lengthy sickness absences may be necessary to cope with the situation (Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Zapf and Gross, 2001). When the case reaches this stage, victims are also often left with no role in the workplace, or provided with little or no meaningful work.

Leymann (1990;1996) refers to this last stage as ‘expulsion’, where victims are either forced out of the workplace directly, by means of dismissal or redundancy, or indirectly, when the victims consider their work situation so impossible that they may decide to leave ‘voluntarily’ (constructive dismissal). This assumption has much later been supported by empirical data, showing that victims of bullying are at greater risk of being unemployed, being on long term sick leave, receiving disability pension or having changed their employment two to five years later (Berthelsen et al., 2011; Glambek et al., 2014). In a study among German victims of severe bullying. Zapf and Gross (2001) revealed that victims of such bullying strongly advised other victims to leave the organization and seek support elsewhere.

Despite the severity of the situation, neither management nor work colleagues are likely to interfere or take action in support of the victim (see also Niven et al., this volume). The victims themselves usually make repeated futile attempts to become active and to stop the process (Zapf and Gross, 2001), though intervention by management or colleagues, as well as a successful conflict management could end the process at an earlier stage (see also Âgotnes et al.. 2018).

The prejudices against the victim produced by the bullying process may also create the risk that the organization treats the victim as the source of the problem (Einarsen. 1999). When the case comes to their attention, senior management, union representatives or personnel administrations may accept the prejudices espoused by the offenders, thus blaming victims for their own misfortune.

A Definition of Bullying at Work

Building on this line of argument we suggest the following definition of bullying (cf. Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996; Leymann, 1996; Olweus, 1991, 1994; Zapf. 1999b);

Bullying at work means harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work. In order for the label bullying (or mobbing) to be applied to a particular activity, interaction or process it has to occur repeatedly and regularly (e.g. weekly) and over a period of time (e.g. about six months). Bullying is an escalating process in the course of which the person confronted may end up in an inferior position becoming the target of systematic negative social acts. A conflict cannot be called bullying if the incident is an isolated event or if two parties of approximately equal ‘strength’ are in conflict.

Bullying—A Phenomenon in Its Own Right?

Seeing bullying as a subset of social stressors, often triggered by social conflicts and consisting of a series of aggressive outlet, raises the issue of whether or not workplace bullying is a phenomenon in its own right, or whether it is to be seen as a (highly escalated) personal conflict or as a mere sub-facet under the rubric of aggression at work. Sandy Hershcovis (2011) claimed that the rapid development of research on workplace aggression and related fields has led to an abundance of overlapping constructs such as abuse, harassment, incivility, social undermining or bullying, claiming that although these constructs may be distinguishable, in reality these concepts overlap substantially and are nothing else than what has always been discussed under the label ‘aggression in the workplace'. Hershcovis’s arguments are based on two observations: First, instruments measuring these constructs use similar items. Second, the constructs showsimilar relationships with dependent variables such as health, job satisfaction and turnover intention. For our part, we could add a third observation that it would be superfluous to differentiate between constructs if practical implications of them were the same.

It is true that definitions of conflict (see also Keashly et al., this volume. Chapter 9) would apply to bullying, and that many negative social behaviours reported in the bullying literature overlap with that of other constructs. However, it should be noted that the bullying phenomenon did neither come to the fore as part of mainstream research into conflicts nor from mainstream research into aggression, but was rather discovered by people looking at stress, psychosocial working conditions and bullying in schools.

From a conflict perspective, one might be tempted to see bullying as a form of personal conflicts. There is, however, empirical evidence against such a view. Leon-Perez et al. (2015) showed for instance that exposure to bullying as measured by the Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ-R), constituted a separate and independent factor when analyzed together with responses from Jehn's (1995) questionnaire on task and person- related conflict. Employing a short version of the very same questionnaire (NAQ-S), Baillien and colleagues (2016, 2017) distinguished exposure to such bullying behaviours from the occurrence of both conflict and conflict management styles.

From a practical point of view it is crucial to differentiate bullying from task-related or personal conflicts for two reasons: First, favoured constructive conflict management strategies such as collaboration/problem solving and compromising (van der Vliert, 1998) do usually not work in the case of bullying (Zapf and Gross, 2001). Second, mediation which is often recommended for personal conflicts in organizations (Saam, 2010) may not work for escalated bullying conflicts because of the imbalance of power (Ferris, 2004; Jenkins, 2011; Keashly et al., this volume. Chapter 9).

Regarding the argument that bullying is just another form of aggression and indistinguishable from other concepts because of the use of similar items and the same relational patterns, the first point is that most instruments of bullying also contain items on ostracism and social exclusion, which may not necessarily be part of instruments measuring aggression. Second, many studies, which claim to study bullying employ convenience samples and use measures of negative social behaviours, ignore the other definitional criteria central to the bullying concept. Based on this argument, it is true that some studies of bullying could often not be differentiated from repeated instances of incivility. Relating to this, some studies employ the concept of ‘exposure to bullying behaviours’ to indicate that one measures all levels of exposure from occasional exposure to negative social acts all the way up to full blown cases of workplace bullying (e.g., Reknes, Einarsen, et al., 2019). Yet, there are other empirical studies identifying bullying as a separate phenomenon from conflict and aggression. Baillien

et al. (2017) analyzed data from an event-based quantitative diary study, contrasting the characteristics of conflict incidents in a group of 47 victims of workplace bullying and a group of 62 non-victims. Respondents completed the diary during two periods of 20 working days each, with a four-month break in between. In this diary study, the control group (persons not being bullied) also reported a high number of conflict episodes involving negative social behaviours, although significantly less so than the bullying victims. The results of the study further showed that characteristics of specific conflict incidents differed between victims and non-victims in line with theoretical and conceptual differences between the concepts of conflict and bullying, as victims reports of conflict episodes related more to the actual work context, and included more negative behaviours of a person-related and work-related nature. Furthermore, victims of bullying perceived themselves to have less power and less control in the conflict episodes they were involved in than did non-victims, indicating that a given conflict episode was more related to previous conflict episodes. They also reported more negative intentions from their opponent than did non-victims. Moreover, if one looks at the single criteria of exposure to negative behaviours, there are already substantial differences between victims and non-victims with victims reporting twice as many conflicts with colleagues and supervisors and almost twice as many conflicts including negative social behaviour compared to non-victims. However, when the authors combined all the accepted criteria of the bullying definition (negative social behaviours, continuation of a former conflict episode, conflict not solved during the conflict episode or at the same day, reported inferiority, perceived malicious intent), the victims of bullying reported 35 times more such bullying conflicts compared to the non-victims. The study clearly demonstrates that all the criteria of the bullying definition have to be taken into account and not just the frequency of negative social behaviours when looking at well-advanced cases of bullying. In a national probability study, Nielsen and colleagues (2017) investigated if the perceived ability to defend oneself against a given exposure to negative acts moderated the relationship between such exposure and symptoms of anxiety. Results showed that the ability to defend oneself moderated the negative acts—anxiety relationship. For low levels of exposure to negative behaviours, anxiety was low when the ability to defend was high, and high when the ability to defend was low. However, when exposure to negative behaviours was high, the felt ability to defend did not matter, indicating that high exposure over longer time in itself indicates a lack of ability to defend oneself. Also, note that the sole focus on negative behaviours does not exclude situations where targets are retaliating with equal force, suggesting a more equal or similar level of power, that is situations which will not fall under the stricter bullying definition. Finally, some researchers have empirically calculated cut-off scores for when a given exposure is indicating a fully developed case of bullying (Notelaers and Einarsen, 2013; Gupta et al., 2018).

In line with the above findings and conducting a latent class factor analysis based on data obtained from over 6,000 Belgian workers, Notelaers and colleagues (2018) found that the best fit of the data emerged when treating exposure to bullying as a separate factor from conflicts and aggression. Their findings indicated that while conflict and aggression emerged as a common factor, exposure to bullying constituted a separate factor with distinct relationships with other measures of stress and well-being. Yet, the study also showed that while severely bullied individuals clearly distinguished between bullying and the two former categories, conflict and aggression, those with low exposure to conflict, aggression and workplace bullying saw these factors as largely overlapping. Hence, these empirical findings validate our conceptual approach as outlined in this chapter, viewing bullying as a separate concept, a phenomenon in its own right although related to interpersonal conflict and aggression at work, and which may be difficult to distinguish from these phenomena in early phases.

Conceptual Models of Bullying at Work

The Work Environment Hypothesis

Heinz Leymann (1990, 1993, 1996), who was influential in many European countries, argued strongly against individual factors as antecedents of bullying, especially when related to issues of victim personality. Instead, he advocated a situational outlook, where organizational factors relating to leadership, work design and the morale of management and workforce are seen as the main antecedents of bullying. He asserted that four factors are prominent in eliciting bullying behaviours at work (Leymann. 1993): (1) Deficiencies in work-design, (2) deficiencies in leadership behaviour, (3) the victim’s socially exposed position, and (4) low departmental morale. Leymann (1996) also acknowledged that poor conflict management might be a source of bullying, but in combination with inadequate organization of work. However, he again strongly advocated that conflict management is an organizational issue and not an individual one. Conflicts only escalate into bullying when the managers or supervisors either neglect or deny the issue, or if they themselves are involved in the group dynamics, thereby fuelling the conflict. Since bullying takes place within a situation regulated by formal behavioural rules and responsibilities, it is always (and by definition) the responsibility of the organization and its management.

Much research has since supported this so-called ‘workenvironment hypothesis’, employing a range of research designs, such as cross sectional questionnaire studies (e.g., Hauge et al., 2007), studies employing longitudinal designs (Baillien et al., 2011; Reknes etal., 2013; Agotnes et al., 2018) and studies conducted at a group or unit/departmental level (Skogstad et al., 2011; Hauge et al., 2011). Support of the work-environment hypothesis has also come from qualitative studies (Baillien et al., 2009) and from data obtained from targets, observers and even perpetrators (Hauge et al., 2011). An early qualitative study among some 30 Irish victims of bullying revealed that the workplace where these targets worked were perceived as highly stressful and competitive, plagued with interpersonal conflicts, lacking a friendly and supportive atmosphere, undergoing organizational changes and managed by means of an authoritarian leadership style (O’Moore et al., 1998). A few studies have also shown a link between organizational changes and bullying at work (e.g., Baillien and colleagues, 2019; Skogstad et al., 2007), with empirical support even stronger for role stressors and interpersonal conflicts as antecedents of bullying (Baillien etal., 2016; Reknes etal., 2013, 2019).

Based on analysis of bullying cases collected from informants such as HR managers, union representatives or organizational consultants. Baillien et al. (2009), developed the so-called ‘three-way model’ proposing that bullying may develop from work-related factors in three different ways:

  • 1) As a result of escalating interpersonal conflicts: A high base-rate of conflicts may increase the likelihood of a conflict escalating and turning into bullying. Various job characteristics such as role conflicts or organizational constraints increase the likelihood of conflicts and, thus, the likelihood of conflict escalation.
  • 2) As a result of ineffective coping with stress and frustration created by problems in work designs affecting both perpetrators and targets. A lack of job resources such as job control or social support may then interfere with one’s coping efforts. Moreover, job stressors such as time pressure may drain personal resources (Muraven and Baumeister, 2000) which are then no longer available for effective conflict management. In other words, the presence of stressors and a lack of resources impair constructive conflict management and. as a result, contribute to conflict escalation and finally bullying.
  • 3) From destructive team or organizational cultures. Such cultures could suggest that bullying is accepted within the organization or within the team, as it is not being punished.

In an early meta-analytical study. Bowling and Behr (2006) showed that studies tend to support a strong relationship between harassment, on the one hand, and role conflict and role ambiguity on the other. Hauge and colleagues (2007). employing a representative sample of the Norwegian population, showed that the lack of leadership in the form of laissez-faire leadership moderated the relationship between role conflicts and exposure to bullying, as hypothesized by Leymann. In a follow-up study employing a longitudinal design with a two-year time lag, an observed relationship between being in a conflict with colleagues at T1 and subsequent new reports of being bullied at T2, was only present when respondents worked under a laissez-faire leadership (Agotnes et al., 2018). Hence, deficiencies in leadership practices seem to create fertile grounds for problems in the working environment and conflicts to escalate into bullying in cases where managers and supervisors are not bullies themselves (see also Hoel et al., 2010). In the study of Jenkins etal. (2012) on bullying complaints, many of the alleged bullies claimed stress and corresponding frustration and anger to be a cause of their behaviour.

It should be noted, however, that most results in this field are based on cross-sectional studies that do not allow us to interpret relations as cause and effect. Although we believe that in many cases organizational deficiencies contribute substantially to the development of bullying as indicated by some newly published studies, it is plausible that severe social conflicts at work may be the cause rather than the effect of organizational problems (Zapf. 1999b). Conflicts may, for example, negatively affect the information flow and thus impair ‘leader-member’ relationships.

Yet, bullying is neither the product of chance nor of destiny (Einarsen, Raknes et al., 1994). Instead, bullying should be understood primarily as a dyadic interplay between people. where such situational factors may act as predisposing factors, yet often influenced by both individual factors such as neuroticism (Reknes et al., 2019) or conflict management style (Baillien et al., 2016), or by prevailing leadership styles (Agotnes et al., 2018). Although one may agree that the organization and its management are responsible for intervening in cases of interpersonal conflict and bullying, they may still be caused by a wide range of factors, both on an individual level, and on dyadic, group, organizational and societal levels (Hoel and Cooper, 2001; Zapf, 1999b; van de Vliert et al., 2013).

Assuming that the concept of bullying at work refers to a range of situations and contexts where repeated negative acts may occur and where the targets are unable to defend themselves, Einarsen (1999) introduced the concepts of dispute-related and predatory bullying to broaden the perspectives and to account for the two main types of situations where bullying may happen.

Predatory Bullying

In cases of ‘predatory bullying’, the victim has personally done nothing provocative that may reasonably justify the behaviour of the bully. In such cases, the victim is accidentally in a situation where a predator is demonstrating power or is exploiting the weakness of someone who may become a victim by mere ‘accident’. The concepts of petty tyranny proposed by Ashforth (1994) and abusive supervision (Tepper et al., 2017) seem to refer to such kinds of bullying. Petty tyranny refers to leaders who lord their power over others through arbitrariness and self-aggrandizement, the belittling of subordinates, lack of consideration and the use of an authoritarian style of conflict management. In some organizations, bullying is more or less institutionalized as part of the leadership and managerial practice, sometimes in the guise of ‘firm and fair’ management (Brodsky, 1976). However, ‘firm and fair’ may easily turn into ‘harsh and unfair' management, which again may turn into bullying and the victimization of subordinates.

A person may also be singled out and bullied due to the fact that they belong to a certain outsider group, for instance by being the first woman in a local fire brigade. If perceived as a representative of a group or a category of people who are not approved by the dominant organizational culture, such employees may indeed be bullied without doing anything other than merely showing up at work (Archer, 1999). A pioneering study in UK fire brigades indeed revealed an environment where bullying of women, non-whites and non-conforming whites prevailed as a mechanism to ensure the preservation and dominance of the white male culture (Archer. 1999). As such, the individual victim of bullying was in fact a coincidental target. As a parallel, men working in social and health-related occupations where women numerically overwhelmingly dominate accounting for 95% of the employees, men reported three times more exposure to bullying than did women (Eriksen and Einarsen. 2004). Similarly, drawing upon a representative British survey of 1.200 face-to-face structural interviews, Hoel et al. (2014) found that lesbian, gay and bisexual employees were twice as likely to be bullied than heterosexual employees. A study among 494 employees nested within 17 teams showed that employees with a weak identification with their team were much more likely to be a target of bullying (Escartin et al., 2013). Yet, the study showed that bullying happened less frequently in groups with a strong team identification.

An employee may also be bullied by being an easy target of frustration and stress caused by other factors, as also pinpointed above. In situations where stress and frustration are caused by a source that is difficult to define, inaccessible or too powerful or respected to be attacked, the group may turn its hostility towards a suitable scapegoat (Thylefors, 1987). Bjorkqvist (1992) argued that such displaced aggressiveness may act as a collective defence mechanism in groups where much unstructured aggression and hostility prevails.



‘Dispute-related bullying’, on the other hand, occurs as a result of highly escalated interpersonal conflicts (Einarsen, 1999; Zapf and Gross, 2001), as described in the three-way model of Baillien et al. (2009). Although interpersonal struggles and conflicts are a natural part of all human interaction and must not be considered bullying, they may be a starting point of more severe and negative social processes leading up to instances of workplace bullying (see also Baillien et al., 2017; Zapf and Gross, 2001). As discussed above, the difference between interpersonal conflicts and bullying is not to be found in what is done or how it is done but rather in the frequency and repeated and long lasting nature, as well as the inability of the parties to defend themselves in this situation (Baillien et al., 2017; Zapf. 1999a). In some instances, the social climate at work turns sour and creates differences that may escalate into harsh personalized conflicts and even ‘office wars’, where the total annihilation of the opponent is seen as the ultimate goal to be gained by the parties (van de Vliert, 1998).

In highly escalated conflicts, both parties may deny their opponent any human value, thus clearing the way for highly aggressive behaviours. If one of the parties is placed at a disadvantage in this struggle and happens to manage the situation in a less than optimal way, or the conflict unfolds in a department with a laissez-faire leader (Agotnes et al., 2018). they may over time become a victim of bullying (Zapf, 1999b). It may also be the case that one of the parties exploits his or her own power or a potential power imbalance, leading to a situation where one of the parties is unable to defend itself or retaliate against increasingly aggressive behaviours. The defenceless position will then lead to a victimization of one of the parties.

Interpersonal conflicts where the identity of the protagonists is at stake—for instance when one of the parties attacks the self-esteem or self-image of the other—are often characterized by intense emotional involvement (Glasl, 1994). The latter includes feelings of being insulted, fear, suspicion, resentment, contempt, anger and so forth (van de Vliert, 1998). In such cases, people may subject each other to bullying behaviour or resent the behaviour of their opponent to a degree where they feel harassed and victimized even though there are few observable signs of bullying behaviour by the alleged offender. It may also be true that claiming to be a victim of bullying may be a very effective strategy in interpersonal conflicts, in some cases even used by both parties.

The conflict escalation model of Glasl (1982, 1994) has been proposed as a model suitable to explain how conflicts may escalate into bullying (Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Neuberger, 1999; Zapf and Gross, 2001). The model differentiates between three phases and nine stages (Figure 1.1). According to this model, conflicts are inevitable in organizations, and under certain circumstances even fruitful, contributing to innovation, performance and learning (Jehn, 1995). However, if allowed to escalate (see Agotnes et al., 2018; Glambek etal., 2018), conflicts may turn into ‘office wars’ and become extremely harmful and destructive both on an individual as well as an organizational level (see Figure 1.1). In the first stages of a conflict, the parties are still interested in a reasonable resolution of conflict about tasks or issues. Although they may experience and acknowledge interpersonal tension, they mainly focus on co-operation to solve the problems in a controlled and rational manner. However, this becomes increasingly more difficult as the interpersonal tensions escalate (Zapf and Gross, 2001). The second phase is characterized by a situation where the original issue of the conflict has largely vanished, while the

^X xv 9 1g

Total destruction and suicide

Attacks against the power nerves of the enemy

  • 7 (Systematic destructive campaigns against the sanction potential of the other party Dominance of strategies of threat Loss of face (and moral outrage)
  • 4 I Concern for reputation and coalition

Vo- 3 I interaction through deeds, not words

2 I Polarisation and debating style

1 | Attempts to cooperate and incidental slips into tensions


X 5

The conflict escalation model of Glasl (1994)

FIGURE 1.1 The conflict escalation model of Glasl (1994).

Source: After Zapf and Gross (2001, p. 501)

interpersonal tension between the parties and their increasingly difficult relationship becomes the heart of the problem. Now the issue of the conflict is more to do with ‘who is the problem' than ‘what is the problem’. The parties cease to communicate and start to seek allies and support from others. They become increasingly more concerned about their own reputation and about ‘losing face’ and they experience moral outrage against their opponent(s), perceiving them as immoral, as having a personality deficit or as being plain stupid. At this point, disrespect, lack of trust and finally overt hostility evolve. Ultimately, the interaction is dominated by threat as well as openly hostile and aggressive behaviour. In the following phase the confrontations become increasingly more destructive, until the total annihilation of the opponent is the sole aim of the parties. In this struggle both the parties are willing to risk their own welfare, even their own ‘existence’, in order to annihilate the opponent.

Zapf and Gross (2001) argue that bullying may evolve at the boundary between phases two and three, an assumption that seems to be in line with the above mentioned study of Notelaers and colleagues (2018) showing that while perceptions of bullying, conflict and aggression tend to overlap when the issues are in a low intensity, at some point of intensity and escalation, people tend to see bullying as something else than a mere escalated conflict. In Zapf and Gross’ (2001) interview study of nineteen German victims of bullying, fourteen victims reported a continuously escalating situation, in which the situation became worse over the course of time. Almost 50% of the victims described a sequence of escalation resembling Glasl’s (1994) model. Note, however, that the imbalance of power, which is a main characteristic of bullying, is not at the core of Glasl’s model.

A Theoretical Framework

In the following section, we will argue that a complex social phenomenon such as bullying is characterized by multi-causality, involving a range of factors found at many explanatory levels, depending on whether we focus on the behaviour of the actor or on the perceptions, reactions and responses of the target. On an individual level, both the personality of the perpetrator as well as the victim may be involved as antecedents and risk factor of both bullying behaviour and perceptions of being bullied. Individual factors may also contribute to a potential lack of coping strategies on the part of the victim as well as other emotional and behavioural reactions to the perceived treatment. On a dyadic level, the focus is on the relationship and the interaction between the alleged perpetrator and the alleged victim. Since a power differential between the parties is central to the definition of bullying, a dyadic perspective is vital to the understanding of the concept of bullying at work. According to Brodsky (1976), many cases in his material of bullying involved an artless teaser who meets a humourless target. Also, to focus on a potential clash or mismatch in terms of personalities and power may be as relevant as to focus on the pathological and deviant personality of the perpetrator or the victim (e.g., Kant et al., 2013). On a dyadic level, we may also focus on the dynamics of conflict escalation and the dynamic transaction between the perpetrator and the victim in the course of the conflict (Glasl, 1994; Zapf and Gross, 2001). In most cases, and especially those involving disputes, the victim is not an entirely passive recipient of negative acts and behaviours (Hoel and Cooper, 2001). The responses by the victims are likely to impinge upon the further responses of the perpetrator. As shown by Zapf and Gross (2001), those victims who successfully coped with bullying fought back with similar means less often and avoided further escalation of the conflict. Less successful victims in terms of coping often contributed to the escalation of the bullying by their aggressive counterattacks and ‘fights for justice’ (p. 497).

On a social group level, bullying may be explained in terms of ‘scapegoating’ processes in groups and organizations (see Coyne et al., 2010) Such ‘witch-hunting’ processes arise when groups displace their frustration and aggression onto a suitable and less powerful group member. Being seen as an outsider or part of a minority may be one criterion for this choice (Schuster, 1996), as discussed above (see also Lewis et al., this volume). Also, being too honest or unwilling to compromise may also contribute to being put into the role of a scapegoat (Thylefors, 1987). On the organizational level, many factors may contribute to explain cases of bullying at work (Hoel and Cooper, 2001). The already mentioned study by Archer (1999), showed how bullying may become an integrated part of an organizational culture, while Zapf et al. (1996) have shown that requirements for a high degree of co-operation combined with restricted control over one’s own time, may contribute to someone becoming a victim of bullying. This situation may lead to many minor interpersonal conflicts and may simultaneously undermine the possibilities for conflict resolution. As outlined above, a range of studies show how features of work design and the psychosocial work environment predict subsequent exposure to bullying.

In Figure 1.2, we present a theoretical framework that identifies the main classes of variables to guide research and organizational prevention programmes. This model pinpoints another level of explanation, the societal level, consisting of national culture, and historical, legal and socio-economic factors (see also Hoel and Cooper, 2001; van de Vliert et al., 2013). Although it has not been much studied yet, the occurrence of bullying must always be seen against such a background (see also Beale and Hoel, 2010; Salin, 2019). The high pace of change, the intensifying workloads, increasing working hours and uncertainty with regard to future employment that characterize contemporary working life in many countries influence the level of stress of both perpetrator and victim (Hutchinson, 2012). Hence, both the level of aggression and coping resources may be influenced by such factors. In addition, the tolerance of organizations and their management of cases of bullying must also to some extent be seen in light of prevailing societal factors. The national legal frameworks may in this respect also play a role (see Cox and Lippel, this volume; Yamada, this volume).

Following on from the debate on objective and subjective bullying, this model distinguishes between the nature and causes of bullying behaviour as exhibited by the alleged offender, and the nature and causes of the perceptions of the target of these behaviours. Furthermore, it distinguishes between the perceived exposure to bullying behaviours, and the reactions to these kinds of behaviour.

Cultural and socio-economical factors

Organisational factors inhibiting

aggressive behaviour

Individual, social, and contextual antecedents of aggressive behaviour


FIGURE 1.2 A theoretical framework for the study and management of bullying at work.

Looking at the behaviour of the perpetrator first, Brodsky (1976) claimed that although bullies may suffer from personality disorders, they will only act as bullies when the organizational culture permits or even rewards this kind of misbehaviour. Although there may be situational, contextual as well as personal factors that may cause a manager or an employee to act aggressively towards subordinates or colleagues, such behaviour will not be exhibited systematically if there are factors in the organization that hinder or inhibit such behaviours (Einarsen et al., 2018; Zahlquist et al., 2019). On the basis of survey data on the experiences and attitudes of British union members, Rayner (1998) concluded that bullying prevails due to an organizational tolerance of such behaviour. Ninety-five percent of the respondents in her study claimed that bullying was caused by the fact that ‘bullies can get away with it’ and ‘victims are too scared to report it’. Hence, bullying behaviour may be a result of the combination of a propensity to bully due to either personal or situational factors, and the lack of organizational inhibitors of bullying behaviour (see also Pryor et al., 1993 in the case of sexual harassment).

Furthermore, the model proposes that such organizational factors, as well as an effective support system for victims, are key factors that may moderate the perceptions and reactions of the victim as well as helping employers in managing specific cases (Einarsen et al., 2017). The presented model argues that attention to such organizational response patterns and other contextual issues within the organization are highly important when understanding the many different aspects of bullying at work. The latter part of the model has clearly an individual, subjective and, most of all, a reactive focus (Einarsen, 2000b). Although bullying at work may to some degree be a subjectively experienced situation in which the meaning assigned to an incident will differ, depending on both the persons and the circumstances involved, this part of the model highlights the necessity for any strategy against bullying to take the perceptions and reactions of the victims seriously and functions as a real description of how they at least experience their work environment. Second, this part of the model argues for inclusion of a rehabilitation programme in an effective organizational strategy against bullying.

This theoretical framework also gives some credit to the dynamic process involved in the interaction between perpetrator, victim and organization (see above). Even Leymann (1986, 1992) argued that the stress reaction of the victim to the perceived bullying, and the consequential effects on the victim. may backfire and justify the treatment of the victim. The process of stigmatization may also alter the perception of the victim, which again may change how an organization tolerates, reacts to and manages a particular case of bullying. Hence, the behaviour of the perpetrator, the personal characteristics of the victim as well as responses of the organization to bullying may be altered in the course of the process. We believe that knowledge of the escalation and the dynamics of interaction involved in the victimization process is essential to the understanding of this phenomenon.


In spite of the cultural diversity in Europe and the evolving multidisciplinary approach to the study of bullying and harassment in organizations, the European tradition in this field of research has succeeded in developing and maintaining a shared conceptual understanding of the underlying phenomenon, even if the phenomena of bullying do come in many shades and forms. Some authors have argued that there is, in fact, a difference between the UK concept of bullying and the Scandinavian and German concept of mobbing at work (Leymann, 1996). According to Leymann (1996) the choice of the term ‘mobbing at work’ in preference to ‘bullying’ was a conscious decision. It reflected the fact that the phenomenon in question very often refers to subtle, less direct aggression as opposed to the more physical aggression commonly identified with the term ‘bullying’, but with the same debilitating and stigmatising effects. By contrast, the term ‘bullying’ may have the connotations of aggression exhibited from someone in a managerial or supervisory position (Zapf, 1999b).

Although the concept of ‘bullying’ as used in English-speaking countries and the term ‘mobbing’ as used in many other European countries may have semantic nuances and different connotations depending on where they are used, to all intents and purposes they refer to the same complex phenomenon. Any differences in the use of the terms may be concerned as much with cultural differences related to the phenomenon in the different countries than to real differences in the concepts themselves. While the term ‘bullying’ may better fit predatory kinds of situations, the term ‘mobbing’ may be more attuned to dispute-related scenarios. Then again, Scandinavian and German cases of bullying seemed from the start mainly to be of a dispute-related kind (Einarsen. Raknes, Matthiesen et al., 1994; Leymann, 1996; Zapf and Gross, 2001). In any case, the nature of the bullying situation seems to be the same—the persistent and systematic victimization of a colleague or a subordinate through repeated use of various kinds of aggressive behaviours over a long period of time and in a situation where victims have difficulty in defending themselves.

Since much of the data on the process of bullying still stems from the victims of long-lasting bullying, the processes described in this chapter may seem more deterministic than they are in real life. Most conflicts in organizations do not escalate into bullying (Âgotnes et al., 2018). Not all cases of bullying will prevail for years, resulting in severe trauma in the victim. Besides, so far we still know little of the processes and factors involved w'hen cases of bullying and potential bullying veer off in a new direction and develop in a different way. Research efforts must therefore still be directed at such issues (see also Nielsen and Einarsen, 2018; Rai and Agarwal, 2018).


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