Prevalence and Forms of Workplace Bullying Among University Employees

  • Katerina ZabrodskaEmail author
  • Petr Kveton


Over the past decade, a growing number of Anglo-American and Scandinavian researchers have documented the extent to which the university environment provides opportunities for workplace bullying. By contrast, there has been a visible lack of similar studies in non-Western national contexts, such as the Czech Republic and other Central Eastern European (CEE) countries. The present article addresses this gap by reporting the findings of the first large-scale study into workplace bullying among university employees in the Czech Republic. The exposure to bullying was assessed with the Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised (NAQ-R) in a sample of 1,533 university employees. The results showed that 13.6 % of the respondents were classified as bullying targets based on an operational definition of bullying (weekly exposure to one negative act), while 7.9 % of the respondents were identified as targets based on self-reports. This prevalence is comparable to bullying rates in Scandinavia but considerably lower than in Anglo-American universities. Differences between Anglo-American and Czech universities were also found with respect to the status of perpetrators (bullying was perpetrated mostly by individual supervisors in the Czech sample), perceived causes of bullying (structural causes perceived as relatively unimportant in the Czech sample), and targets’ responses to bullying (minimal use of formal responses in the Czech sample). The authors propose that cross-cultural differences as well as differences between the Anglo-American model of “neoliberal university” and the Czech model of university governance based on “academic oligarchy” can be used to explain these different findings.

Key words

Workplace bullying Higher education Negative acts questionnaire-revised Prevalence University Cross-cultural differences Czech Republic 


  1. Beale, D., & Hoel, H. (2011). Workplace bullying and the employment relationship: exploring questions of prevention, control and context. Work, Employment and Society, 25, 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Björkqvist, K., Österman, K., & Hjelt-Bäck, M. (1994). Aggression among university employees. Aggressive Behaviour, 20, 173–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, R. H., & Clignet, R. (2000). Democracy and capitalism in the academy: The commercialization of American higher education. In R. H. Brown & J. D. Schubert (Eds.), Knowledge and power in higher education. A Reader (pp. 17–48). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dobbins, M., & Knill, C. (2009). Higher education policies in Central and Eastern Europe: convergence toward a common model? Governance, 22, 397–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Einarsen, S., & Mikkelsen, E. G. (2003). Individual effects of exposure to bullying at work. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 127–144). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  6. Einarsen, S., & Skogstad, A. (1996). Bullying at work: epidemiological findings in public and private organizations. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5, 185–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. L. (2003). The concept of bullying at work: The European tradition. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 3–30). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  8. Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., & Notelaers, G. (2009). Measuring exposure to bullying and harassment at work: validity, factor structure and psychometric properties of the Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised. Work & Stress, 23, 24–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Escartín, J., Zapf, D., Arrieta, C., & Rodríguez-Carballeira, Á. (2011). Workers’ perception of workplace bullying: a cross-cultural study. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 20, 178–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Giorgi, G. (2012). Workplace bullying in academia creates a negative work environment. An Italian study. Employees Rights and Responsibilities Journal. Online First, doi: 10.1007/s10672-012-9193-7
  11. Giorgi, G., Arenas, A., & Leon-Perez, J. M. (2011). An operative measure of workplace bullying: the Negative Acts Questionnaire across Italian companies. Industrial Health, 49, 686–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hewson, C. M., Laurent, D., & Vogel, C. M. (1996). Proper methodologies for psychological studies conducted via the internet. Behavioral Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 28, 186–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hoel, H., & Cooper, C. L. (2000). Destructive conflict and bullying at work. Manchester School of Management, UK: UMIST. Retrieved from
  14. Hoel, H., Einarsen, S., & Cooper, C. (2003). Organizational effects of bullying. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 145–161). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  15. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s consequences. International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Hundlova, L., Provazkova, K., & Pabian, P. (2010). Kdo vladne ceskym vysokym skolam? [Who governs at Czech universities?]. Aula, 18, 2–16.Google Scholar
  17. Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2008). Final report: Workplace behaviour (bullying) project survey. Mankato: Minnesota State University. Retrieved from
  18. Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2010). Faculty experiences with bullying in higher education. Causes, consequences, and management. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 32, 48–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelloway, E. K., Sivanathan, N., Francis, L., & Barling, J. (2004). Poor leadership. In J. Barling, E. K. Kelloway, & M. R. Frone (Eds.), Handbook of workplace stress (pp. 89–112). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Kolman, L., Noorderhaven, N. G., Hofstede, G., & Dienes, E. (2003). Cross-cultural differences in Central Europe. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 18, 76–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lampman, C., Phelps, A., Bancroft, S., & Beneke, M. (2009). Contrapower harassment in academe: a survey of faculty experience with student incivility, bullying, and sexual attention. Sex Roles, 60, 331–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lewis, D. (1999). Workplace bullying—Interim findings of a study in further and higher education in Wales. International Journal of Manpower, 20, 106–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewis, D. (2004). Bullying at work: the impact of shame among university and college lecturers. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 32, 281–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Leymann, H. (1996). The content and development of mobbing at work. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5, 165–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lutgen-Sandvik, P. (2006). ‘Take this job and …’: quitting and other forms of resistance to workplace bullying. Communication Monographs, 73, 406–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lutgen-Sandvik, P. (2007). How employees fight back against workplace bullying. Communication Currents, 2(1). Retrieved from
  27. Mateju, P., & Fischer, J. (2009). Vyzkum akademickych pracovniku vysokych skol. [A survey of academic university employees]. Prague: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.Google Scholar
  28. McCarthy, P., Mayhew, C., Barker, M., & Sheehan, M. (2003). Bullying and occupational violence in tertiary education: risk factors, perpetrators and prevention. Journal of Occupational Health and Safety, 19, 319–326.Google Scholar
  29. McKay, R., Arnold, D. H., Fratzl, J., & Thomas, R. (2008). Workplace bullying in academia: a Canadian study. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 20, 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mikkelsen, E. G., & Einarsen, S. (2001). Bullying in Danish work-life: prevalence and health correlates. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10, 393–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moreno-Jiménez, B., Muñoz, A., Salin, D., & Morante Benadero, M. (2008). Workplace bullying in Southern Europe: prevalence, forms and risk groups in a Spanish sample. International Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 13, 95–109.Google Scholar
  32. Nielsen, M. B., Skogstad, A., Matthiesen, S. B., Glasø, L., Aasland, M. S., Notelaers, G., & Einarsen, S. (2009). Prevalence of workplace bullying in Norway: comparisons across time and estimation methods. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 18, 81–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pabian, P. (2009). Europeanisation of higher education governance in the post-communist context: the case of the Czech Republic. In A. Amaral et al. (Eds.), European integration and the governance of higher education and research (pp. 257–278). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pabian, P. (2012). Proc nevedou reformy vysokych skol k zamyslenym vysledkum? [Why higher education reforms do not lead to intended outcomes?] Paper presented at the workshop Mass higher education in institutional settings: An ethnography of Czech university departments. 6 Sept 2012, Prague, Czech Republic.Google Scholar
  35. Pesik, R., & Gounko, T. (2011). Higher education in the Czech Republic: the pathway to change. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41, 735–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Power, J. L., et al. (2011). Acceptability of workplace bullying: a comparative study on six continents. Journal of Business Research, Online First, doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2011.08.018
  37. Prudky, L., Pabian, P., & Sima, K. (2010). Ceske vysoke skolstvi. Na ceste od elitniho k univerzalnimu vzdelavani 1989–2009 [Czech higher education: From elite to universal education 1989–2009]. Prague: Grada.Google Scholar
  38. Rayner, C. (1997). The incidence of workplace bullying. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 7, 199–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Salin, D. (2001). Prevalence and forms of bullying among business professionals: a comparison of two different strategies for measuring bullying. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10, 425–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simpson, R., & Cohen, C. (2004). Dangerous work: the gendered nature of bullying in the context of higher education. Gender, Work and Organization, 11, 163–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Smith, P. B., Dugan, S., & Trompenaars, F. (1996). National culture and the values of organizational employees. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 231–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Spratlen, L. P. (1995). Interpersonal conflict which includes mistreatment in a university workplace. Violence and Victims, 10, 285–297.Google Scholar
  43. Stockelova, T. (Ed.). (2009). Akademicke poznavani, vykazovani a podnikani. Etnografie menici se ceske vedy [Making, administering and enterprising knowledge in the academy: An ethnography of Czech science in flux]. Prague: SLON.Google Scholar
  44. Suutari, V., & Riusala, K. (2001). Leadership styles in Central Eastern Europe: experiences of Finnish expatriates in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 17, 249–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Thornton, M. (2004). Corrosive leadership (or bullying by another name): A corollary of the corporatized academy? Australian Journal of Labour Law, 17, 161–184. Retrieved from Scholar
  46. Tigrel, Y. E., & Kokolan, O. (2009). Academic mobbing in Turkey. International Journal of Behavioral, Cognitive, Educational and Psychological Sciences, 1, 91–99. Retrieved from Scholar
  47. Tracy, S. J., Lutgen-Sandvik, P., & Alberts, J. K. (2006). Nightmares, demons, and slaves: exploring the painful metaphors of workplace bullying. Management Communication Quarterly, 20, 148–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Twale, D. J., & De Luca, B. M. (2008). Faculty incivility. The rise of the academic bully culture and what to do about it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. A Wiley Imprint.Google Scholar
  49. White paper on tertiary education (2009). Prague, CR: Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Retrieved from
  50. Zabrodska, K., Linnell, S., Laws, C., & Davies, B. (2011). Bullying as intra-active process in neoliberal universities. Qualitative Inquiry, 17, 709–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zapf, D. (1999). Organizational, work group related and personal causes of mobbing/bullying at work. International Journal of Manpower, 20, 70–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zapf, D., & Einarsen, S. (2003). Individual antecedents of bullying: Victims and perpetrators. In Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 165–184). London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  53. Zapf, D., & Gross, C. (2001). Conflict escalation and coping with workplace bullying: a replication and extension. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10, 497–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zapf, D., Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., & Vartia, M. (2003). Empirical findings on bullying in the workplace. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 103–126). London, UK: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPragueCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations