Your Rung on the Career Ladder May Influence Bullying

Bullying occurs in nearly every social setting. In the workplace, bullying can take many shapes and forms, resulting in psychological trauma to those being bullied. Researchers from Norway sought to determine if being in a leadership role, or in a more ambiguous role, would increase bullying or the chance of being bullied. “The behavior involved in bullying can be of a work-related nature, such as unduly removing or changing an individual’s work tasks, but can also be of a more personal degrading nature, such as being exposed to persistent insulting criticism and remarks,” said the researchers from  the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health, the Norwegian Work Research Institute, the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics and the University of Bergen. “Workplace bullying can be understood as a gradually evolving process in which targets in the early phases of the process are being exposed to subtle and often disguised forms of mistreatment, whereas, later on, more direct and openly aggressive behavior may occur. Bullying can take the form of direct acts, such as verbal abuse, accusations, and public humiliation, but it can also be of a more subtle and indirect nature in the form of gossiping, rumors, and social exclusion.”

The researchers noted that any form of bullying can create extreme stress in the workplace. For their study, they examined surveys from 10,000 Norwegian employees throughout over 600 different departments within the working population. The surveys measured social and psychological conditions in the work environment. They found that nearly 5% of the respondents reported being bullied while nearly 15% stated that they had observed bullying behavior in the workplace. The researchers said that role conflict between employees predicted bullying most frequently. Additionally, having supportive leadership helped keep bullying to a minimum. The researchers added, “Identifying risk factors for bullying at a higher level of conceptualization yields great potential in terms of preventing bullying from workplaces, and will provide management and practitioners with valuable information of where intervening measures against bullying can be successfully implemented.”

Hauge, L. J., Einarsen, S., Knardahl, S., Lau, B., Notelaers, G., & Skogstad, A. (2011, September 12). Leadership and Role Stressors as Departmental Level Predictors of Workplace Bullying. International Journal of Stress Management. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025396

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • darla


    September 22nd, 2011 at 4:21 AM

    Bullying is wrong in any situation and it hurts no matter where you are or the age that it happens. But just like kids in school of this happens to you you have to stand up for yourself. Tell the boss and tell the co workers and hopefully someone will help you to then stand up to that bullying behavior. I guess bullies do what they do to feel some kind of sense of power that they think they are lacking, but they do not realize ultimately how weak it makes them look in the eyes of most everyone else.

  • Moe


    September 22nd, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    Its hard to believe 5% of the people have bee. Bullied at the work place! That is a big percentage because we are talking about gully grown adults here and not children who cannot stand up to the bullies!

  • Alex


    September 22nd, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    No matter your place in a company, whether the mailroom or the boardroom, you have neither the right to bully someone else or to feel like you have to take being bullied. And it really disturbs me that this is something that seems to be happening more and more often. Once you only saw this kind of thing at school and in the classroom and now it is even pervading the corporate world too. I thought that we moved past all of this at a certain age.

  • barbara


    September 23rd, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    while this could be a guideline-about your standing at the workplace-it cannot be a set rule.I know quite a few cases wherein even subordinate subtly bully their seniors.its not surprising because it happens at a lot of places!

  • Morgan


    September 23rd, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    What about those people at work who totally abuse their power and it is like they beat up on others to make them feel better about their power and position? We have all worked for these kinds of jerks, and I have vowed that I would never work for someone like this again. There is always someone you can tell about someone abusing you like this. I am not saying that the workplace has to be paradise, but it does not have to be a personal hell either. In the work environment we have to be willing to do what we tell our kids to do at school- stand up to those jerks and not create and condone an environment where bullying is condoned!

  • Howie Bambel

    Howie Bambel

    September 24th, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Bullying is no longer grade school exclusive, today everyone has a chance to experience the adverse effects of bullying. I see it all the time at my company’s office. It’s sad really, I thought these adults left bullying back in high school, obviously I was wrong.

    Boss’ with unreasonable expectations and biased attitudes, behind the back gossip and pompous state of minds are all common themes of a work environment. Figures with more authority bully more for two reasons, one is that they are on a power trip or two, they don’t know how to properly manage employees and get frustrated when they’re not obeyed. These two reasons cause 95% of the bullying in the work place.

  • HeatherFrisk


    September 24th, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Workplace bullying is a crime. Someone pushes you? Assault. Spreads lies about you? Slander and libel. Steals your things? Theft. Threatens to report you for something you did wrong? Blackmail. This isn’t a school setting, it’s the real world. If there’s a bully in the workplace, skip the chain of command and have the cops show up if a crime has taken place. That will humilate them to a far greater degree than they did you.

  • CherylRedmond


    September 26th, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    My old boss clamped down on bullying in the workplace almost as soon as he became the branch manager. He also made it mandatory to report workplace harassment or racism. If you didn’t he made it clear that he would consider you “in on it”.

    It was very strict. Because I lived in an area with a lot of racial and religious minorities and had many friends from different cultures I loved him for it. Nobody ever felt they weren’t being treated equally.

  • Andrew D.

    Andrew D.

    September 26th, 2011 at 8:17 PM

    @CherylRedmond: I think that he might have gone overboard with the mandatory reporting. However a man who’s willing to kick you out of the building along with the bully(or at least insinuate that) to ensure all the employees under him are treated respectfully gains my utmost admiration. Many countries and I believe states have laws that make employers and supervisors personally responsible for the safety of their subordinates. Those that allow workplace harassment are in violation of those laws as far as I’m concerned.

  • monica marsh

    monica marsh

    September 27th, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    The people who do the bullying were probably bullies in school with a juvenile criminal record that, for some bizarre reason here in New York, is locked away and never spoken of again once they hit 18. Maybe we should start having those records be open to the public again so that our employers can decide if his thuggery was enough to land him in prison or a case of kids being kids.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.