Victimization from workplace bullying after a traumatic event: time-lagged relationships with symptoms of posttraumatic stress

  • Morten Birkeland Nielsen
  • Marianne Skogbrott Birkeland
  • Marianne Bang Hansen
  • Stein Knardahl
  • Trond Heir
Original Article



This study examined relationships between victimization from bullying and symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSS) after exposure to a terror attack at the workplace. It was hypothesized that (1) victims of bullying report higher and more stable levels of PTSS over time compared to their non-bullied colleagues and (2) that PTSS provides an increased risk of subsequent victimization from bullying.


The hypotheses were tested in a two-wave prospective sample comprising 2337 employees from Norwegian governmental ministries who were exposed to the 2011 Oslo terror attack. The two waves of data collection were conducted 10 and 22 months after the terror attack.


Hypothesis 1 was partially supported: victims of bullying reported significantly higher levels of PTSS than non-bullied employees at both measurement points, but bullying was not related to the stability in PTSS over time. In support of hypothesis 2, PTSS at 10 months was significantly associated with an increased risk of feeling victimized by bullying 1 year later.


The results indicate that victimization from bullying is associated with elevated levels of PTSS in the aftermath of a workplace terror attack, but that bullying does not have any impact on the long-term development of PTSS. PTSS may be a potential antecedent of bullying. These findings suggest that organizations must give high priority to the psychosocial work environment of traumatized employees to prevent further detrimental health consequences.


Aggression Trauma PTSD Longitudinal Polyvictimization 



The authors thank the participating governmental departments and employees for their willingness to participate.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morten Birkeland Nielsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marianne Skogbrott Birkeland
    • 3
  • Marianne Bang Hansen
    • 3
  • Stein Knardahl
    • 1
  • Trond Heir
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.National Institute of Occupational HealthOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Psychosocial ScienceUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress StudiesOsloNorway
  4. 4.Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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