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Colleagues unlikely to intervene in online workplace bullying

06 January 2017

Work colleagues are less likely to intervene in workplace bullying if it takes place online.

This is one of the key findings of research led by Dr Iain Coyne, senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Loughborough University's School of Business and Economics, that is being presented at the Division of Occupational Psychology's annual conference in Liverpool today.

Dr Coyne said:

“Bystanders are people who witness bullying but are not involved directly. These individuals can discourage or escalate bullying by speaking up on the victim’s behalf, or supporting the bully either actively or passively."

A total of 110 participants were given examples of four different types of workplace bullying (personal vs work-related; offline vs online) that was perpetrated by a supervisor on a subordinate.

Analysis of the results showed that colleagues were significantly more likely to intervene in scenarios that took place offline and when the bullying was personal as opposed to being work-related, with an increase in support for the supervisor's bullying also being observed when the behaviour was online.

Dr Coyne commented:

“Our study illustrates that online forms of abuse can change the behaviour of bystanders – even to the point that they are more likely to agree with the actions of a perpetrator."

In addition to being an active researcher, Dr Coyne is also programme director for the School's Work Psychology MSc and Business Psychology MSc.

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