Original Research

The impact of workplace bullying on individual wellbeing: The moderating role of coping

Colleen Bernstein, Leanne Trimm
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 14, No 1 | a792 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v14i1.792 | © 2016 Colleen Bernstein, Leanne Trimm | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 January 2016 | Published: 31 October 2016

About the author(s)

Colleen Bernstein, Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Leanne Trimm, Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: Workplace bullying has deleterious effects on individual well-being and various organisational outcomes. Different coping styles may moderate the relationship between workplace bullying and individual and organisational outcomes.

Research purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the moderating role of four coping styles – seeking help, assertiveness, avoidance and doing nothing – in the relationship between workplace bullying and individual and organisational outcomes.

Motivation for the study: There is a lack of South African research exploring the moderating role of different coping styles in the relationship between workplace bullying and individual and organisational outcomes.

Research design, approach and method: The study used a cross-sectional design, quantitative approach and a convenience sampling method. One hundred white-collar respondents from a construction organisation in South Africa participated in this research. Moderated multiple regression (MMR) was used to analyse the data.

Main findings: Results of the MMR indicated a direct negative impact of workplace bullying on psychological well-being, self-esteem, job satisfaction and intention to leave. Seeking help and assertiveness moderated the relationship between bullying and psychological well-being. Avoidance and doing nothing also moderated the relationship between bullying and psychological well-being but in a counterintuitive manner, exacerbating the negative impact of bullying on psychological well-being. Similarly, avoidance exacerbated the negative impact of bullying on self-esteem. Direct effects were also found for the coping strategy of seeking help on psychological well-being and for avoidance on job satisfaction. However, while seeking help improved psychological well-being, avoidance had a negative impact on job satisfaction.

Practical/managerial implications: Different coping strategies may have different effects. Some may be productive in terms of leading to improved outcomes, while others may not. These findings have particular relevance for human resource departments and practitioners.

Contribution/value-add: The findings of this research contribute to the limited body of South African research investigating different types of coping in moderating the bullying–well-being relationship.


Keywords

workplace bullying; coping; individual wellbeing; organisational wellbeing

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