Review: Workplace bullying: exploring an emerging framework by A. Berlingieri

Review: Workplace bullying: exploring an emerging framework. By Adriana Berlingieri

‘Workplace bullying: exploring an emerging framework’ by Adriana Berlingieri is an academical paper that provides an overview on how bullying in the workplace has been researched and offers a new theoretical perspective. The article wants to achieve a broader theoretical framework for the concept of bullying, specified to bullying in the workplace.

Berlingieri states that until now the focus in literature on workplace bullying has been on gathering empirical data and on individual actors, acts and the consequences of these acts. She argues that this focus causes bullying to be seen as an individualized phenomenon, by which the emphasis is laid on intervention and not on prevention. The author starts by giving an overview of current theorizations of bullying in the workplace. She discusses the psychological perspective and the behaviour science perspective.  The early research on workplace bullying was dominated by the first perspective. More recently, studies have become more interdisciplinary. Then she discusses frameworks that don’t focus on one specific level of analysis. Bronhenbrenner’s (1997) ecological model includes micro, meso and macro influences. Hoel and Cooper (2001) look at the causes and consequences of workplace bullying and examine them on five different levels: individual, dyadic, group, organizational and societal. Berlingieri says that looking at these different areas is a great step, but however there is still a big lack in that the authors don’t fully integrate the relationships between these levels.

Berlingieri proposes an alternative framework of violence, in which bullying is seen in a continuum of violence. This new framework has three interrelated key components. First of all, bullying needs to be seen as an act of violence. This causes an expansion of the definition of violence, making it broader than just physical violence. Then, thanks to this expansion, we can see violence as a continuum. This allows theories to explore how forms of violence can be interrelated. It removes violence from individual actors and acts and looks more at processes and social conditions. Lastly, this expansion of bullying and violence allows the author to also broader the notion of power. In literature imbalanced power is seen as a definitional component of workplace bullying. The continuum includes various forms of violence, including social structured violence, symbolic violence (when social structured violence becomes a part of the unconscious of individuals) and interpersonal violence (the day to day practices and expressions of violence on the micro-level).

The article starts by saying it will provide a different framework in which bullying can be researched  and it does this very clearly. The framework is built on three very distinct, but related pillars. The framework offers a very interesting look on bullying as it sees it as a form of violence. This widens the way we look at it, making it possible to look at from an alternative point of view. Especially the way Berlingieri opens up the concept of violence and sees it as an continuum is of great importance, I think, because it really can change the way we look at it and what types of acts can be seen as violence or, in our particular interest, bullying. The article remains very theoretical, however, it does give a few more specific examples of violence you can find in this continuum. This makes the otherwise maybe abstract paper more accessible.

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Berlingieri, Adriana (2015): Workplace bullying: Exploring an emerging framework. In: Work, employement and society, Vol.29 (2): 342-353.

Bronfenbrenner, Urie (1997): Lewinian space and ecological substance. In: Journal of Social Issues, 33 (4): 199-212

Hoel, Helge and Cooper, Cary (2001): Origins of bullying: theoretical framework for explaining workplace bullying. In: Tehrani N (ed) Building a Culture of Respect: Managing Bullying at Work. New York: Taylor & Francis, 3-19.

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