Theoretical Frameworks That Have Explained Workplace Bullying: Retracing Contributions Across the Decades

  • Sara BranchEmail author
  • Linda Shallcross
  • Michelle Barker
  • Sheryl Ramsay
  • Jane P Murray
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbooks of Workplace Bullying, Emotional Abuse and Harassment book series (HWBEAH, volume 1)


It has been suggested that the workplace bullying field is atheoretical in its orientation, which accords with the assertion that applied disciplines often focus on parts of the phenomenon rather than the development of a guiding comprehensive theory. Indeed, across the decades, research on the workplace bullying phenomenon and its impacts has provided important theoretical and applied insights, as opposed to a single theory. A literature review revealed several conceptualizations that have been used to explain how workplace bullying develops and is enabled. Theories comprise those that focus on how bullying behaviours are learnt by an individual, the interactions between the main actors (i.e. perpetrator, target, bystanders), the role of group dynamics in the assignment of in- and out-group categorizations, the importance of the work environment and its interaction with individuals and groups as well as the overarching influence of contemporary society. Thus, a multidimensional ecological framework is considered appropriate to encompass the myriad ways by which individuals, groups and organizational and societal systems interact to influence the instigation and perpetuation of workplace bullying. The systems framework proposed by Branch, Ramsay and Barker (2013) guides the exploration in this chapter of theories, including multidisciplinary theories, that inform our past, current and emergent understanding of workplace bullying.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Branch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Linda Shallcross
    • 2
  • Michelle Barker
    • 3
  • Sheryl Ramsay
    • 1
  • Jane P Murray
    • 4
  1. 1.Griffith Criminology InstituteGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Workplace Mobbing AustraliaBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Business Strategy and InnovationGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Bond UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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