Fighting Bullies Beyond the Schoolyard: Bullying in the Workplace as a Competition for Resources

Topic: Conflict, Work Environment, 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 thoworkse things that workers need in order to perform their jobs–social relationships, job-skill set match, and a positive environment in which to work among them.  In order to attain these resources, workers sometimes act in a counterproductive manner, psychologically or physically abusing those co-workers that seem to have the resources in their possession.  This behavior is also known as bullying, and it is a serious problem facing organizations the world over.

This article not only asserts the belief 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 assert that being a bully is not a disposition of one’s personality, 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 such activity.  This can include better designing jobs so that available resources match job requirements and implementing zero-tolerance policies for bullying behavior. 

The article at hand 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.

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 also cost the organization in terms of absentee days taken by threatened victims, among other costs.  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).