One of my M-students (Heine Engelbrecht) just completed his dissertation with the following title:
"The relationship between workplace bullying, job satisfaction and the intention to quit in an IT company"
Globally, workplace bullying is a growing phenomenon which affects millions of employees. It is characterised by frequency of incidence, duration and reaction on the side of both the perpetrator and victim, ultimately caused by power struggles in ineffective working environments. The impact on both the company and employee is significant and there is a negative impact on the employment relationship. It may lead to reduced performance and productivity, individual health problems, impact on job satisfaction and foster intentions to quit.
The primary objective of this research was to determine the prevalence of workplace bullying in a South African Information Technology (IT) company, and determine the impact of this construct on job satisfaction and intention to quit. A cross-sectional survey design was used. The constructs were measured by means of a biographical questionnaire, The Negative Acts Questionnaire Revised, a Job Satisfaction Questionnaire and an Intention to Quit Questionnaire. Cronbach's Alpha coefficients were used to assess the validity and reliability of the measuring instruments.
This research indicated that although the perception of the majority of the respondents is that they have never been bullied (self-reported based on the definitions of bullying), the frequency analysis of the negative actions that bullying is indeed prevalent in the company and thus poses a threat to both the company and the employees. Bullying did not just affect the victim but also observers/witnesses of this occurrence. The research also indicates that the perpetrators of bullying are mostly managers, followed by colleagues and then customers. The findings also suggest that victims are bullied in work groups based on the victims' perception which further support the fact that managers are more often than not the perpetrator.
The characteristics of the participants indicated that the workforce is relatively young with the majority younger than thirty and more than half the study population employed for less that two years. The findings further suggests that it may well be this young workforce that is prone to bullying.
The majority of bullying behaviour is related to the job itself and refers to more subtle forms of abuse including high frequencies of negative acts such as "someone withholding information that affects your performance", "having your views and opinions ignored", "being ordered to do below your level of competence" and "having key areas of responsibility removed or replaced with more trivial or unpleasant tasks".
Bullying behaviour experienced least in the company, is more related to verbal abuse and violence and includes being "threatened with violence or physical abuse", "hints or signals from others that they should quit their job", "being the subject of excessive teasing and sarcasm", "experienced practical jokes carried out by people they did not get on with" and "experienced intimidating behaviour such as finger pointing, invasion of personal space, shoving, blocking/barring the way" which support the findings that bullying in this company is more task-related than person-orientated.
A once-off study is not sufficient to understand this phenomenon, and continual studies to monitor and manage incidence and awareness of this construct are recommended and to determine the impact on of workplace bullying on both the company and individual in the South African context.