The Effects of Ethical Climates on Bullying Behaviour in the Workplace

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Journal of Business Ethics (2009) 86:273–295 DOI 10.1007/s10551-008-9847-4

Ó Springer 2008

The Effects of Ethical Climates on Bullying Behaviour in the Workplace

¨ Fusun Bulutlar ¨ ¨ Ela Unler Oz

ABSTRACT. Various aspects of the relationship between ethical climate types and organizational commitment have been examined, although a relationship with the concept of bullying, which may be very detrimental to an organization, has not attracted significant attention. This study contributes to the existing research by taking the effects of bullying behaviour into consideration. The aim of this study is to explore the effects of bullying behaviour upon the relationship between ethical climate types and organizational commitment. It will be noted that work-related bullying behaviour significantly mediated the relationship between instrumentality climate and two of the dimensions of organizational commitment. Significant relationships between ethical climate dimensions and organizational commitment can also be detected. By emphasizing a required ethical climate dimension for organizations this study therefore presents in outline a partial strategy to reduce bullying behaviour and to increase organizational commitment. KEY WORDS: bullying, mobbing, ethical climate, organizational commitment, supervisory support

Introduction Within the last decade, researchers have started to emphasize the importance of aggressive behaviour at workplace. The scope of aggressiveness is a broad one, ranging from violence at one end to incivility at the other. Aggressiveness in the workplace is a very important subject, however, and although violence attracts immediate attention because it is more readily visible and evident, subtler forms of unwelcome behaviour like bullying/mobbing or general incivility might be underestimated despite the harm they cause to both organizations and individuals. There is considerable research for identifying bullying as an extreme form of stress (Bjorkqvist et al., ¨ 1994; Groeblinghoff and Becker, 1996; Leymann

and Gustaffson, 1996; Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2001, 2002). In addition to producing organizational outcomes like absenteeism, and decreases in turnover, commitment, job satisfaction, productivity and efficiency (Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2001; Salin, 2003), bullying at work has also been observed to lead to reduced psychological and physical health, as well as greater anxiety and depression (Hoel et al., 2004; Mayhew et al., 2004; Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2001, 2002; Sparks et al., 2001). Leymann (1996) who laid the theoretical foundations for mobbing/ bullying research, highlighted the fact that in prolonged cases of bullying the damage to the victim would be so severe that the individual might even be forced to withdraw from the labour market. Organizational commitment is a multidimensional construct that reflects employees’ psychological states, which in turn defines their relationships with the organization (Glazer et al., 2004; Wasti, 2003). As mentioned above, bullying is detrimental to both organizational outcomes and the psychological state of individuals. Therefore, it is accepted that bullying will have a negative effect on all three components (normative, continuance and affective) of organizational commitment. On the other hand, the prevailing ethical climate type within an organization determines employees’ decisions about what is right or wrong, and has an influence on employee behaviour (Cowie et al., 2002). As a result, the ethical climate is expected to affect both organizational commitment and the bullying behaviour of the employees (Hoel and Cooper, 2000; McCormack et al., 2006; Wimbush and Shepard, 1994; Wimbush et al., 1997b; Wornham, 2003). Hence the primary aim of this study is to explore the effects of ethical climate types on bullying behaviour and the impact of bullying on the relationship between ethical climate types and organizational commitment.


¨ ¨ ¨ Fusun...
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