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The significance of organizational factors for the incidence of bullying


Professor Mogens Agervold, University of Aarhus, Department of Psychology, Jens Chr. Skovsvej 4, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail:


It is frequently assumed that a poor psychosocial working environment will create conditions that encourage bullying. However, few studies have examined this assumption while comparing work environment ratings of bullied and non-bullied employees who work in the same organization and/or department. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between organizational factors and the incidence of acts of bullying based on two different approaches: the first by comparing bullied with no-bullied, the second by comparing departments with widespread bulling with departments with little bulling. The study was a part of a general survey study of the work environment and employee well-being in 12 different local social security offices. A total of 898 persons participated in the study (a response rate of 88%).

First, the results showed a clear relationship between bullying and fear of organizational change; secondly, weak, but significant, correlations between bullying and other organizational factors; thirdly, the subsequent analyses compared departments in which bullying were most widespread with the rest of the departments. The results supported the hypothesis that departments that suffer from much bullying also have a poorer psychosocial work environment, results that support the assumption that organizational factors such as changes in one's position, pressure of work, performance demands, autocratic management and role conflict and lack of role clarity, as well as a poor social climate can contribute to the emergence of higher incidences of bullying.