The Role of Bystanders in Workplace Bullying: An Overview of Theories and Empirical Research

  • Mieneke Pouwelse
  • Roelie Mulder
  • Eva Gemzøe Mikkelsen
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbooks of Workplace Bullying, Emotional Abuse and Harassment book series (HWBEAH, volume 2)


This chapter gives a contemporary overview of extant international research focusing on issues related to bystanders in workplace bullying. First, the chapter introduces concepts and typologies of bystanders as found in the literature, after which follows a presentation of the early and later studies on bystanders and bystander behaviour. While the early studies mainly focused on the prevalence of observing bullying, later studies explored typologies of bystanders, consequences of being a bystander as well as the antecedents of bystander behaviour. As such, there has been a paradigmatic shift within the field of workplace bullying with bystanders now being seen as part of the problem and therefore as a possible part of the solution. The small but expanding body of bystander research has employed a surprisingly wide range of complementary methodologies which shows promising and consistent findings and enhances the robustness of the research. The chapter also elaborates on possible interventions and on a model of intervention building from theory and empirical findings. Finally, the chapter concludes with practical implications and future research.


Bystanders Observers Workplace bullying Prevention Intervention 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Work and Organizational Psychologist, Department of Psychology and Educational SciencesOpen University of the NetherlandsHeerlenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Work and Organizational Psychologist, Zeeland County CouncilMiddelburgThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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