Workplace Bullies May Experience Backlash

Topic(s): workplace deviance
Publication: Group and Organization Management (2022)
Article: What Goes Around Comes Around: How Perpetrators of Workplace Bullying Become Targets Themselves.
Authors: I. Vranjes, T. Vander Elst, Y. Griep, H. De Witte, E. Baillien
Reviewed by: Payge Japp

Workplace bullying has received increased attention over the years. These negative interpersonal interactions can lead to various negative consequences, such as impaired mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, as well as decreased productivity, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. Previous research has focused either on the perpetrator or the target of workplace bullying. However, the current research takes a more dynamic approach, examining how perpetrators may themselves become targets of workplace bullying.


Researchers (Vranjes et al., 2022) recruited a total of 2,374 employees and surveyed them for a period of 18 months. Participants responded to an online survey four times, with approximately 6 months in between each survey. The results indicated that perpetrators of bullying are at increased risk of becoming victims of bullying themselves. Still, this effect did not occur until after 12 months, suggesting that this process might be relatively long. To help explain this, the researchers found that engaging in workplace bullying is associated with experiencing more conflict, which is associated with exposure to bullying later on, thus emphasizing this dynamic relationship.


The results of this study show that individuals who engage in bullying in the workplace can transition to becoming victims themselves. The authors offer various practical applications surrounding these findings. For one, the authors suggest that organizations should consider all aspects and participants of the bullying process – both the victims and and the bullies themselves. This may involve close examination of the factors and dynamics that contribute to the ongoing cycle of workplace bullying. Additionally, the authors suggest breaking the cycle of bullying through organizational interventions, such as conflict resolution training. This may help employees guide challenging interpersonal situations toward more productive outcomes.


Vranjes, I., Elst, T. V., Griep, Y., De Witte, H., & Baillien, E. (2022). What Goes Around Comes Around: How Perpetrators of Workplace Bullying Become Targets Themselves. Group & Organization Management, December.

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