Special Issue "Challenging Assumptions about Bullying and Incivility: The Importance of Strong Ethical Climate"

A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Margaret Hodgins
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Discipline of Health Promotion, National University of Ireland, Galway H91 CF50, Ireland
Interests: workplace health promotion; workplace ill treatment: bullying, incivility and violence; work life balance
Prof. Dr. Patricia Mannix McNamara
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Education, University of Limerick, Limerick V94 T9PX, Ireland
Interests: leadership; organizational culture; toxic leadership; workplace bullying; relationships and sexuality education (RSE); social personal and health education (SPHE); lifeskills

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Concerns about rudeness, incivility, abrasive and disrespectful behaviour are commonly articulated, and not without cause. At least one quarter of adults report experience of incivility either as an employee or as a customer, or just in the street [1–4]. Hostile and humiliating behaviour is not only tolerated but is feted, even glorified, on reality TV shows that celebrate the humiliation and rejection of others. Societal appetite for such denigration has become voracious, and is now practically de rigueur for reality television and on social media channels [5]. Sexual harassment in public spaces is widespread and often normalised, frequently reinforced by cultural values which celebrate a hypermasculinity. [6] Abuse has become alarmingly normalised.

It is little surprise then, that bullying, harassment and incivility are pervasive problems in today’s workplaces. Incivility refers to verbally abusive behaviour with ambiguous intent regarding harm to the target. [7] The normalisation of bullying and harassment in workplaces is well documented in the literature, with little if any solutions offered. It is linked to other ‘normalisations’ such as the normalisation of entitlement, i.e., the entitlement to exercise power, even when that exercise borders on brutal behaviour, or manifest as coercive control, and/or the common normalisation as ‘tough’ management. Bullying in voluntary organisations, (i.e., organisations founded on the basis of a civic good), is relatively understudied, yet there has been some alarming evidence of normative abuse in such organisations, which society has heretofore considered to have been moral cornerstones. Recent decades have seen the disintegration of societal confidence in organisations previously held in collective regard for their civic, ethical and spiritual leadership due to exposures of inordinate abuse, bullying and harassment that has wreaked havoc on people’s lives.

This Special Issue aims to explore the normalisation of incivility, hostility, harassment and bullying in wider society and in particular in workplaces with a view to understanding the origins and motivations behind societal deterioration where abuse and humiliation of others has become acceptable, or worse still, where it has become desired entertainment.

We argue that these behaviours stem from a culture that permits abusive behaviour to be enacted and where redress has become utopian, despite the proliferation of policy and legislation to the contrary. We consider all negative behaviours that travel under the banner of bullying, harassment incivility and ill-treatment to be inherently unethical. We are interested in ethical climate and how this can be recovered so that the dignity of human beings and indeed of society itself can flourish. Papers are invited across the range of ideas contained here and explorations of what ethical climate looks like in workplaces and wider afield; submissions addressing how ethical climates are created and maintained are particularly invited [8].

Contributions have to follow one of the three categories of papers (article, conceptual paper or review) of the journal and address the topic of the Special Issue.

Dr. Margaret Hodgins
Prof. Dr. Patricia Mannix McNamara
Guest Editors

References

  1. Hodgins M, Pursell L, Hogan V, MacCurtain S, Mannix-McNamara P. Irish Workplace Behaviour Study. Galway: IOSH 2018.
  2. Porath, Pearson CM. The Costs of Bad Behaviour. Organisational Dynamics 2010, 39, 64–71.
  3. Phillips T, Smith. P. Rethinking Urban Incivility Research: Strangers, Bodies and Circulations. Urban Studies 2006, 43, 879–901.
  4. Fevre R, Lewis D, Robinson A, Jones T. Trouble at Work; Bloomsbury Academic: London, UK, 2012.
  5. Chatzakou D, Kourtellis N, Blackburn J, De Cristofaro E, Stringhini G, Vakali A, editors. Mean Birds: Detecting Aggression and Bullying on Twitter. CM on Web Science Conference (WebSci ’17), Association for Computing Machinery; 2017; New York: Association for Computing Machinery.
  6. Hoel H, Vartia M. Bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace, in public spaces, and in political life in the EU. European Parliment, Brussels, Belgium, 2018.
  7. Anderssen LM, Pearson CM. Tit for Tat? The Spiraling Effect of Incivility in the Workplace. The Academy of Management Review 1999, 24.
  8. Pearson CM, Andersson L, Porath CL. Assessing and attacking workplace incivility. Organisational Dynamics 2000, 29, 123–37.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as conceptual papers are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Societies is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Article
Acceptable Behavior or Workplace Bullying?—How Perpetrator Gender and Hierarchical Status Affect Third Parties’ Attributions and Moral Judgments of Negative Behaviors
Societies 2021, 11(2), 62; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020062 - 16 Jun 2021
Viewed by 462
Abstract
Workplace bullying consists of repeated, long-term exposure to a variety of negative behaviors. However, it remains unclear when behaviors are seen as morally acceptable vs. become bullying. Moral judgments affect whether third parties deem it necessary to intervene. In this qualitative study, we [...] Read more.
Workplace bullying consists of repeated, long-term exposure to a variety of negative behaviors. However, it remains unclear when behaviors are seen as morally acceptable vs. become bullying. Moral judgments affect whether third parties deem it necessary to intervene. In this qualitative study, we first conceptualize and then explore via 27 interviews with Austrian HR professionals and employee representatives whether twelve diverse negative behaviors elicit distinct causal attributions and moral judgments. In particular, we examine how a perpetrator’s hierarchical position and gender shape the third parties’ evaluations. A qualitative content analysis reveals the behaviors vary in their perceived acceptability and associations with workplace bullying. Ambiguous behaviors require specific cues such a perpetrator’s malicious intent to be labeled workplace bullying. Overall, third parties judge behaviors by supervisors more harshly, particularly when managerial role expectations are violated. The majority of informants reject the notion that their perceptions are affected by perpetrator gender. Still, women who engage in behaviors associated with anger or a lack of empathy are often perceived as acting with intent. The findings suggest that the violation of social role expectations amplifies the attribution of dispositional causes (e.g., malicious intent). We discuss the relevance of perpetrator intent for research and practice. Full article
Article
Incivility in Higher Education: Challenges of Inclusion for Neurodiverse Students with Traumatic Brain Injury in Ireland
Societies 2021, 11(2), 60; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020060 - 13 Jun 2021
Viewed by 661
Abstract
This paper explores the lived experience of incivility for neurodiverse students with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Ireland. The higher education (HE) environment can be challenging for students with TBI. Incivility is common in higher education, and students with disabilities such as TBI [...] Read more.
This paper explores the lived experience of incivility for neurodiverse students with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Ireland. The higher education (HE) environment can be challenging for students with TBI. Incivility is common in higher education, and students with disabilities such as TBI are often marginalized within academia, making them more vulnerable to incivility. For this paper, data are drawn from the first author’s autoethnographic study, and is supplemented with semi-structured interviews from a sample of HE seven students also with TBI. Results revealed that participants’ experiences of incivility were common and were linked to the organizational culture of higher education. Our experiences point to a need for better responsiveness when interactions are frequently uncivil, despite there being policies that recognize diversity and equality. This is the first paper of its kind to explore this particular experience in Ireland and the purpose of this paper is to raise awareness of the challenges of neurodiverse students and how they are exacerbated by organizational and interpersonal incivility. Full article
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Article
“It’s Not Us, It’s You!”: Extending Managerial Control through Coercion and Internalisation in the Context of Workplace Bullying amongst Nurses in Ireland
Societies 2021, 11(2), 55; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020055 - 04 Jun 2021
Viewed by 458
Abstract
This article investigates why workers submit to managerial bullying and, in doing so, we extend the growing research on managerial control and workplace bullying. We employ a labour process lens to explore the rationality of management both engaging in and perpetuating bullying. Labour [...] Read more.
This article investigates why workers submit to managerial bullying and, in doing so, we extend the growing research on managerial control and workplace bullying. We employ a labour process lens to explore the rationality of management both engaging in and perpetuating bullying. Labour process theory posits that employee submission to workplace bullying can be a valuable method of managerial control and this article examines this assertion. Based on the qualitative feedback in a large-scale survey of nurses in Ireland, we find that management reframed bullying complaints as deficiencies in the competency and citizenship of employees. Such reframing took place at various critical junctures such as when employees resisted extremely pressurized environments and when they resisted bullying behaviours. We find that such reframing succeeds in suppressing resistance and elicits compliance in achieving organisational objectives. We demonstrate how a pervasive bullying culture oriented towards expanding management control weakens an ethical climate conducive to collegiality and the exercise of voice, and strengthens a more instrumental climate. Whilst such a climate can have negative outcomes for individuals, it may achieve desired organisational outcomes for management. Full article
Article
An Exploration of Leadership in Post-Primary Schools: The Emergence of Toxic Leadership
Societies 2021, 11(2), 54; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020054 - 03 Jun 2021
Viewed by 715
Abstract
The focus of this research was to explore school leadership in post-primary schools using an adapted Schmidt Toxic Leadership Scale ©, which the authors recalibrated to examine both constructive and destructive leadership, the impact on individuals professional and personal lives, and on staff [...] Read more.
The focus of this research was to explore school leadership in post-primary schools using an adapted Schmidt Toxic Leadership Scale ©, which the authors recalibrated to examine both constructive and destructive leadership, the impact on individuals professional and personal lives, and on staff morale. Using a mixed methods approach, data were collected from 111 teaching professionals via online survey. Findings indicated a notable emergence of toxic leadership experiences which is reported in this paper. In addition, participants reported various and concerning negative consequences including: decreased job satisfaction, professional agency, and staff morale; reduced performance; increased attrition; increased negative behaviours including incivility; stifled career development; reduced self-confidence; depression; stress and anxiety; fear; tearfulness; humiliation; anger; mistrust; exhaustion; burnout; health issues; migraines; weight gain; substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, as well as, negative consequences on personal/home life. The results indicate that the quality of leadership was perceived to influence the health of respondents and had a bearing on their occupational wellbeing. Further research is needed to understand the nature of toxic leadership in education and its effects on organisational members. Full article
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Article
Cultivating a Safer Organizational Climate in the Public Sector: Mistreatment Intervention Using the Four Pillars of Lifelong Learning
Societies 2021, 11(2), 48; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020048 - 18 May 2021
Viewed by 462
Abstract
Workplace mistreatment damages employees and organizations and should be mitigated. Thus, the present study’s primary goal was to develop, employ, and evaluate an intervention program to promote a safer organizational climate in a public sector organization. In this study, UNESCO’s four pillars of [...] Read more.
Workplace mistreatment damages employees and organizations and should be mitigated. Thus, the present study’s primary goal was to develop, employ, and evaluate an intervention program to promote a safer organizational climate in a public sector organization. In this study, UNESCO’s four pillars of lifelong learning were applied to alleviate mistreatment and promote a sustainable and safer climate. Using a qualitative research method, employees were interviewed once before a sequence of two workshops to capture their experiences and perceptions regarding mistreatment, and again a few weeks after completing the intervention to exemine its impact. The first workshop raised an awareness of mistreatment, and the second provided the participants with practical and personal tools to cope with mistreatment. The intervention was found to increase knowledge and understanding and allowed for the acquisition of competencies and tools that enhanced employees’ ability to spend time together, improve their social climate, and flourish personally and professionally. Limitations and implications for future research are also discussed. Full article
Article
Community Belonging and Values-Based Leadership as the Antidote to Bullying and Incivility
Societies 2021, 11(2), 29; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020029 - 29 Mar 2021
Viewed by 738
Abstract
This article examines the role of community as an antidote to bullying and incivility. The question we ask our readers to consider is: Does cultivating a culture of belonging for all acknowledge a most basic human need that members of organizations seek to [...] Read more.
This article examines the role of community as an antidote to bullying and incivility. The question we ask our readers to consider is: Does cultivating a culture of belonging for all acknowledge a most basic human need that members of organizations seek to meet during their day-to-day work lives? Belonging can serve as an antidote to feeling othered, which sows the seeds of separateness, isolation, absence of community, bullying, and incivility. Examples of othering behavior operate along a continuum that normalizes bullying, incivility and can escalate to include racism, sexism, classism, and a range of other non-inclusive behaviors. This conceptual article draws on our collective experience as educators in leadership. With humility, we rely on our efforts to amplify values-based leadership, community belonging, and ways of knowing from long ago wisdom. We seek to cultivate communities of belonging among leaders in education and ultimately in organizations and communities that exist beyond the classroom. We advocate belonging as an antidote to othering behaviors that can include bullying and incivility and draw on literature to support our approach. Full article
Article
Standing by or Standing Up?—How Philosophy Can (In)form Our Understanding of Bystander Behaviours in Workplace Bullying Dynamics
Societies 2021, 11(2), 28; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020028 - 25 Mar 2021
Viewed by 827
Abstract
There is increasing awareness of the value of interdisciplinary collaboration within academia. Scholars argue that by drawing upon the conceptual, methodological, and interrogative paradigms of at least two disparate disciplines, researchers are challenged to re-evaluate and reconsider their own discipline-centric assumptions. A consequence [...] Read more.
There is increasing awareness of the value of interdisciplinary collaboration within academia. Scholars argue that by drawing upon the conceptual, methodological, and interrogative paradigms of at least two disparate disciplines, researchers are challenged to re-evaluate and reconsider their own discipline-centric assumptions. A consequence of such purposeful boundary-blurring is an increased rigour and richness in the analysis of raw data, as well as the development of revealing insights through the novel application of discrete conceptual perspectives and theories. In such a way, dominant, taken-for-granted methodological and analytical assumptions are destabilised, as researchers are obliged to embrace contrasting perspectives while reassessing the epistemological foundations of their work. This paper focuses on the phenomenon of bystander responses to workplace bullying dynamics. While traditional scholarship into workplace bullying emanates from disciplines such as business, psychology, law, medicine and sociology, for example, this paper argues that philosophy, as a subject/field, may provide the researcher with a fresh interrogative lens through which to (re)view the phenomenon of workplace bullying, along with the consequential response of bystanders to such noxious behaviours. It suggests that, by drawing upon the philosophical concept of virtue ethics—which posits the question “What would a good or virtuous person do?”—we are afforded a robust theoretical framework to support a thoughtful and reasoned destabilization of contemporary perspectives on bystander behaviours and motivations. Full article

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Concept Paper
The Neoliberal University in Ireland: Institutional Bullying by Another Name?
Societies 2021, 11(2), 52; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/soc11020052 - 31 May 2021
Viewed by 1694
Abstract
New managerialism and the pervasive neoliberalisation of universities is by now a well-established phenomenon. Commentaries explore the political and economic drivers and effects of neoliberal ideology, and critique the impact on higher education and academic work. The impact on the health and well-being [...] Read more.
New managerialism and the pervasive neoliberalisation of universities is by now a well-established phenomenon. Commentaries explore the political and economic drivers and effects of neoliberal ideology, and critique the impact on higher education and academic work. The impact on the health and well-being of academic staff has had less attention, and it is to that we turn in this paper. Much academic interest in neoliberalism stems from the UK, Australia and the United States. We draw particularly on studies of public Irish universities, where neoliberalism, now well entrenched, but something of a late-comer to the new public management party, is making its presence felt. This conceptual paper explores the concept of neoliberalism in higher education, arguing that the policies and practices of new public management as exercised in universities are a form of bullying; what we term institutional bullying. The authors are researchers of workplace culture, workplace bullying and incivility. Irish universities are increasingly challenged in delivering the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles of decent work, i.e., dignity, equity, fair income and safe working conditions. They have become exposed in terms of gender imbalance in senior positions, precariat workforce, excessive workload and diminishing levels of control. Irish universities are suffering in terms of both the health and well-being of staff and organisational vibrancy. The authors conclude by cautioning against potential neoliberal intensification as universities grapple with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper reviews neoliberalism in higher education and concludes with insight as to how the current pandemic could act as a necessary catalyst to stem the tide and ‘call out’ bullying at the institutional level. Full article
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