Active and Passive Accomplices: The Communal Character of Workplace Bullying

Gary Namie, Pamela E. Lutgen-Sandvik


When aggressive organizational members bully others, they rarely do so without accomplices. In the current study, bullied workers (targets) and non-bullied bystanders (witnesses) who observed bullying reported that persistent abuse involved either several harassers or support for solitary harassers. Active accomplices were other aggressors; passive accomplices included upper managers, HR staff, the bullies' peers, and, in some cases, even the targeted persons’ peers. Respondents also believed that organizations were complicit in bullying; in over 70% of the cases, upper management took no action or made the situation worse. The study extends bullying research by revealing the involvement of numerous other organizational members, and it bolsters targeted worker accounts by comparing target and witness perceptions and finding extensive convergence regarding others’ involvement in bullying.

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