Bullying in the U.S. Workplace: Normative and Process-Oriented Ethical Approaches

Abstract

Bullying is a serious problem in today’s workplace, in that, a large percentage of employees have either been bullied or knows someone who has. There are a variety of ethical concerns dealing with bullying—that is, courses of action to manage the bullying contain serious ethical/legal concerns. The inadequacies of legal protections for bullying in the U.S. workplace also compound the approaches available to deal ethically with bullying. While Schumann (2001, Human Resource Management Review 11, 93–111) does not explicitly examine bullying, the five moral principles that he advocates can be applied to judge the ethics of bullying in the workplace. A possible limitation of this model is that, it is designed to be normative (judgmental), and while it does take into consideration the relationships among the victim, the perpetrator, the groups in the organization, and the organization itself in judging the ethics of bullying, it does not explicitly consider the process by which bullying might develop and persist. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of this process, Nijhof and Rietdijk (1999, Journal of Business Ethics 20(1), 39–50)) suggest applying an A–B–C (antecedents, behaviors, and consequences) model to help understand the dynamics of bullying in the workplace. Formal propositions are offered to guide both academics and practitioners to an enriched understanding of the ethics of workplace bullying.

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Acknowledgments

The support of the Wicklander Fellow in Business Ethics is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Helen LaVan.

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LaVan, H., Martin, W.M. Bullying in the U.S. Workplace: Normative and Process-Oriented Ethical Approaches. J Bus Ethics 83, 147–165 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9608-9

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Keywords

  • A-B-C-model
  • human resource management
  • legal
  • moral principles
  • workplace bullying