Workplace Bullying May Be a Competition for Resources

Topic(s): conflict, discrimination, workplace deviance
Publication: Business Horizons
Article: Eating their cake and everyone else’s cake, too: Resources as the main ingredient to work  place bullying
Authors: A.R. Wheeler, J.R.B. Halbesleben, and K. Shanine
Reviewed by: Allison B. Siminovsky

It is a basic tenet of economics that there are limited resources for infinite demand, and the workplace is no exception to this rule. Resources in the organizational context are those things that workers need in order to perform their jobs, among them are social relationships, job-skillset match, and a positive work environment.  In order to attain these resources, workers sometimes act in a counterproductive manner, psychologically or physically abusing those co-workers who possess those resources. This behavior is also known as bullying, and it is a serious problem facing organizations the world over.


This article (Wheeler et al., 2010) not only asserts that organizational policies on bullying should be proactive, preventing maltreatment from occurring in the first place, but that such policies should focus on environmental causes of bullying rather than personal qualities. That is, the authors say that being a bully is not a personality disposition, but rather a defensive response to an unsupportive work environment. If the bullying begins as a means to attain and protect one’s resources, then companies can prevent bullying by reinforcing their environments against this type of activity. This can include designing jobs so that available resources match job requirements and implementing zero-tolerance policies for bullying behavior.


This article suggests that a company can begin to eradicate bullying by supporting workers in their day-to-day tasks and providing a safe business environment for employees. But why is it to the organization’s benefit to prevent bullying, even if there is no threat of formal litigation? Bullying is associated with lower job satisfaction and organizational commitment in victims, which increases staffing costs and takes a toll on organizational culture. Additionally, bullying can cost the organization, for example, through the unnecessary absenteeism of threated employees. It is therefore crucial that organizations foster supportive, resource-rich environments to stop bullying from ever starting and protect the welfare of their employees and companies as a whole.


Wheeler, A.R., Halbesleben, J.B., and Shanine, K. (2010). Eating their cake and everyone else’s cake, too: resources as the main ingredient to workplace bullying. Business Horizons, 53(6), 553-560.