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Managing Conflict Escalation in the Workplace Dieter Zapf 13th September 2006 South Australian College of Organisational Psychologists Adelaide, Australia.

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Presentation on theme: "Managing Conflict Escalation in the Workplace Dieter Zapf 13th September 2006 South Australian College of Organisational Psychologists Adelaide, Australia."— Presentation transcript:

1 Managing Conflict Escalation in the Workplace Dieter Zapf 13th September 2006 South Australian College of Organisational Psychologists Adelaide, Australia

2 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 2 Work & Organizational Psychology Overview 1) Introduction: The concept of mobbing/bullying 2) Some empirical results 3) The causes of mobbing/bullying 4) Mobbing/bullying and health: Does the definition of mobbing/bullying make a difference? 5) Conflict escalation and coping with mobbing/bullying 6) Intervention

3 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 3 Work & Organizational Psychology 1) Introduction: The Concept of Mobbing/Bullying

4 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 4 Work & Organizational Psychology A Case – Assistant Nurse Ms. S.  Ms. S. worked in a small hospital for several years; strong hierarchy  She was an assistant nurse with less education than her colleagues  But had a lot of job experience and most of the time did the same work as did her colleagues  However, if everybody was on board, she had to carry out lower level tasks  She also had to do more night shifts and shifts at weekends  She thought that this was unfair, and one day in a meeting she addressed this issue  Now she had a problem with the other nurses and the medical doctors.  She was accused of disturbing the good climate in the group,  and, of course challenged informal privileges of others  She was exposed to minor aggressive verbal acts; people went silent when she entered the room  By and by the situation got worse  She was recommended to sign off by her supervisor, because nobody wanted to work with her anymore  Her work was manipulated and mistakes of others were assigned to her.  She got more and more isolated because others were afraid to receive a similar treatment  In the beginning she strongly tried to defend herself. However, this led to even more harassment  After a while she got seriously sick. She became very anxious when thinking about going to work again  This anxiety generalized and led to more and more isolation  Panic attacks, suicide thoughts, psychopharmacological treatment  After 2 years psychotherapy and  Because of a major change in management she had a chance to go back to work  She had good luck and everything went well

5 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 5 Work & Organizational Psychology Concepts related to Negative Social Behaviour  Workplace Bullying  Workplace Mobbing  Workplace Aggression  Workplace Incivility  Workplace Harassment  Workplace Deviance  Social Undermining  Emotional Abuse  Abusive Supervision  Antisocial Behavior  Counterproductive Behavior Relationship between Negative Social Behaviour and Health c.f. Keashly & Jagatic (2003)

6 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 6 Work & Organizational Psychology Negative Social Behaviour at Work Rumours Assigning senseless tasks Assigning degrading tasks Refusal to be talked to Being treated like air Making fun of a person’s private life Shouting at or cursing loud at a person

7 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 7 Work & Organizational Psychology Negative Social Behaviour at Work Rumours Assigning senseless tasks Assigning degrading tasks Refusal to be talked to Being treated like air Making fun of a person’s private life Shouting at or cursing loud at a person However: Not every negative social behaviour at work is Bullying or Mobbing !

8 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 8 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying and related Concepts Bullying (Mobbing, emotional abuse) Relationship Conflicts Workplace Aggression Social Undermining Incivility at Work Organizational Injustice, Lack of Reciprocity Escalation - Escalation -Escalation - Escalation Negative social behaviour at work

9 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 9 Work & Organizational Psychology Negative Social Behaviour and Bullying  Everybody is affected  Unsystematic  Occasional or prolonging  Seldom or frequent  (Un-) equal power structure  Targeted at a particular person  Systematic  Prolonging (1/2 year)  Frequent (once a week)  Unequal power structure Negative Social Behaviour Bullying/Mobbing

10 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 10 Work & Organizational Psychology Definition of Mobbing/Bullying Mobbing/Bullying occurs, if  somebody becomes a target and  is systematically harassed, offended, socially excluded or has to carry out humiliating tasks and  the person concerned gets into an inferior position with difficulties to defend him/herself.  Mobbing/bullying behaviour must occur repeatedly (e.g., at least once a week)  and for a long time (e.g., at least six months).  It is not mobbing/bullying if it is a single event or occasional event.  It is also not mobbing/bullying if two equally strong parties are in conflict (cf. Einarsen, 2000; Einarsen et al., 2003; Hoel, Rayner & Cooper, 1999; Leymann, 1993; Zapf, 1999a).

11 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 11 Work & Organizational Psychology Different Perspectives of Harassment and Bullying/Mobbing at Work Bullying/Mobbing: The victim oriented perspective V B B B B B B

12 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 12 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying/Mobbing: The bully oriented perspective B V V V V V V Different Perspectives of Harassment and Bullying/Mobbing at Work

13 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 13 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying/Mobbing: The bully’s perspective B V V V V V V Different Perspectives of Harassment and Bullying/Mobbing at Work - less intensity for the victims - supportive social network possible

14 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 14 Work & Organizational Psychology Different Perspectives of Harassment and Bullying/Mobbing at Work Harassment/Negative Social Behaviour: Everybody might be affected

15 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 15 Work & Organizational Psychology 2) Some Empirical Results

16 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 16 Work & Organizational Psychology Prevalence of Intimidation at Work in the European Union Member States (Paoli & Merllié, 2001) Over the past 12 months, have you been subjected to intimidation? Yes – no % yes

17 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 17 Work & Organizational Psychology Prevalence of Intimidation at Work in the European Union Member States (Paoli & Merllié, 2001) Over the past 12 months, have you been subjected to intimidation? Yes – no % yes The prevalence of harassment: - a question of culture - a question of measurement

18 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 18 Work & Organizational Psychology The Frequency of Bullying/Mobbing Depending on how it is Measured 1) Direct question: ”Have you been bullied during the last 6 months?” (10 – 25% mobbing) 2) Leymann criterion: Administering a questionnaire; response to at least one item should be: happens at least once a week, and for at least 6 months (3 – 7 % mobbing) (occasionally been bullied: 7 – 10 %) 3) Presentation of a precise definition and instruction (1- 4% mobbing) (occasionally been bullied: 7 – 10 %)

19 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 19 Work & Organizational Psychology Frequency of Bullying/ Mobbing in Europe

20 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 20 Work & Organizational Psychology Average Duration of Bullying in Months

21 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 21 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying/Mobbing and Organisational Position of the Perpetrators

22 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 22 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying/Mobbing Strategies 1. Organisational measures Ex.: - Forcing sb. to carry out tasks affecting his/her self-consciousness - Assigning senseless tasks to the person concerned 2. Social isolation Ex.: - Refusal to talk to the person concerned 3. Attacking the victim’s private life Ex.: - Imitating a person’s gait, voice or gestures to make him/her look stupid - Making fun of a person’s private life 4. Verbal aggression Ex.: - Shouting at or cursing loud at a person - Permanently criticising a person’s work 5. Rumours Ex.: - Saying nasty things about a person behind his/her back 6. Physical aggression Ex.: - Sexual approaches and sexual offers - Minor use of violence From Zapf, Knorz & Kulla, (1996) European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology Not typical for bullying/mobbing

23 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 23 Work & Organizational Psychology Overview 3) The Causes of Mobbing/Bullying

24 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 24 Work & Organizational Psychology Zapf (1999). International Journal of Manpower

25 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 25 Work & Organizational Psychology Causes of Bullying/Mobbing from the Victims' Perspective

26 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 26 Work & Organizational Psychology Causes of Bullying/Mobbing in the Perpetrator  Threat of self-esteem  Low social competence  Micro-political mobbing  Sociopathic Personality  Personal motives (e.g. love affair)  Personal problems (e.g. alcohol)

27 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 27 Work & Organizational Psychology Causes of Bullying/Mobbing in the Perpetrator - Threat of self- esteem Positive self concept: High self-esteem (Threat of) Negative evaluations from others Direct and indirect aggression Unstable self-esteem Self-esteem: synonyms & related concepts: - self-worth - Respect- Reputation - dignity- honour Stucke (2002) Baumeister et al. Reassure yourself and demonstrate to others how great you are

28 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 28 Work & Organizational Psychology Causes of Bullying/Mobbing in the Perpetrator - Low social competence  Individuals low in social competence  Produce conflicts  Are bad conflict managers  Are not good in perspective taking  Do not recognise that single actions of several perpetrators are perceived as frequent and systematic from the victim‘s point of view

29 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 29 Work & Organizational Psychology Different Perspectives of Bullying/Mobbing Isolated independent eventsEvents related and intentional

30 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 30 Work & Organizational Psychology From Zapf (1999). Zeitschrift für Arbeits- & Organisationspsychologie Mobbing in Different Branches in Germany

31 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 31 Work & Organizational Psychology From Zapf (1999). Zeitschrift für Arbeits- & Organisationspsychologie Mobbing in Different Branches in Germany More mobbing/bullying in organizations where jobs are secure Less mobbing/bullying in organizations with a hire and fire mentality

32 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 32 Work & Organizational Psychology Organisational Causes of Bullying/Mobbing

33 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 33 Work & Organizational Psychology After Zapf (1999). Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie Causes of Mobbing in the Victim and in the Social Group

34 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 34 Work & Organizational Psychology Causes of Mobbing in the Victim and in the Social Group - Risk Factors  Social Exclusion - Deviating characteristics; outsider position - Devaluation, scapegoat phenomenon  Low in Emotional Stability - Neuroticism, anxious and depressive  Low Social Competence and Self-esteem - Producing conflicts; anxious and depressive behaviour - Poor conflict handling skills, conflict avoidance - Poor in perspective taking  Achievement Orientation clashing with Group Norms - Employees high in achievement orientation clash with group norms - opinionated individuals, rigid behaviour - seek outsider position

35 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 35 Work & Organizational Psychology 4) Mobbing/Bullying and Health: Does the definition of mobbing/bullying make a difference?

36 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 36 Work & Organizational Psychology Does the Definition of Mobbing/Bullying Matter? High Levels of Negative Social Acts NSA  escalated relationship conflicts  High workplace aggression  High incivility or social undermining  High organizational injustice and  Wider definitions of bullying/mobbing and Bullying/mobbing according to a restrictive definition:  at least 6 months,  at least once a week  self-labelling  Systematically aimed at a particular person  Powerlessness – No-control situation Are any high levels of NSA the same as bullying? Do victimization and powerlessness matter?

37 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 37 Work & Organizational Psychology Psychosomatic Complaints depending on Nega- tive Social Acts (NSA) and Bullying/Mobbing Overall mean of psychosomatic complaints 2.10 – 2.20 NSA > 97%: 2,68

38 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 38 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying as an Extreme Stress Situation Zapf & Einarsen (2005)

39 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 39 Work & Organizational Psychology 5) Conflict Escalation and Coping with Mobbing/Bullying

40 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 40 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying as a Conflict Definition of Conflict: Conflict is a process that begins when one party perceives that the other has negatively affected or is about to negatively affect, something that he or she cares about Thomas (1992)

41 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 41 Work & Organizational Psychology Conflict Behaviour of Bullying Victims Qualitative Study From Zapf & Gross (2001). European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology refers to individuals' attempts to raise the alarm within the organization or air grievance Doing nothing with regard to the conflict but actively demon- strating one's commit- ment points to removal or withdrawal of commitment person decides to leave the organization

42 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 42 Work & Organizational Psychology Conflict Behaviour of Bullying Victims Qualitative Study From Zapf & Gross (2001). European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology refers to individuals' attempts to raise the alarm within the organization or air grievance Doing nothing with regard to the conflict but actively demon- strating one's commit- ment points to removal or withdrawal of commitment person decides to leave the organization Bullying/Mobbing can be characterised as a series of failed conflict management trials There are no simple solutions!

43 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 43 Work & Organizational Psychology Conflict Behaviour of Bullying Victims Results of a Diary Study (N=1618 conflicts) (Groß, 2003)  In average, 72 bullying victims answered the diary  Victims reported 13,5 social conflicts occurring in a period of 2 months  2 conflicts per week  conflicts in 36% of all working days  In average, 87 non- victims answered the diary  Non-Victims reported 7,6 social conflicts occurring in a period of 2 months  1 conflict per week  conflicts in 20% of all working days

44 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 44 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying - Conflict - Conflict Handling I Results of a Diary Study (N=512 conflicts of victims; 262 conflicts of control group) (Groß, 2003)

45 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 45 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying - Conflict - Conflict Handling II Results of a Diary Study (Groß, 2003) Social conflicts at work of the bullying victim are characterised by  a lower overall manageability (d=.55), in detail by a  higher probability of reoccurrence (d=.28)  less chance of spontaneous improvement of the situation (d=.36)  less influence/controllability(d=.44)  higher inferiority of the victim(d=.54) Supports the “difficulties to defend themselves“ element of the bullying definition

46 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 46 Work & Organizational Psychology Glas‘s (1982) Model of Conflict Escalation Only one party will survive

47 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 47 Work & Organizational Psychology Glas‘s Model of Conflict Escalation Restrictive definition Wider definition Economically “unreasonable“ Economically “reasonable“

48 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 48 Work & Organizational Psychology Why the Conflicts Occurred – Diary Study

49 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 49 Work & Organizational Psychology Extreme Bullying is Destructive for both Parties Questionnaire study of Meschkutat et al. (2002):  11,1% of the victims reported that the bullies were transferred within the company  8,2% of the victims reported that the bullies were dismissed negative consequences for at least 20% of the bullies  This does not include other disadvantages such worse career perspectives, loss of reputation, loss of influence, etc.

50 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 50 Work & Organizational Psychology From Zapf & Gross (2001). European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology Level of Conflict Escalation and Intervention Strategies Process Assistance Sociotherapeutic Process Assistance

51 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 51 Work & Organizational Psychology Level of Conflict Escalation and Coping Strategies Glasl: Conflict management has to take the level of escalation into consideration! Talking to the bullies is a useless strategy for the victim, because it is a phase 1 strategy  The strategy was more often used by the unsuccessful victims in the study of Zapf and Groß (2001) (82% vs. 53%)  83% of participants in the study of Meschkutat et al. (2002) report that trials to clarify and solve conflicts by talking to the bullies were unsuccessful, whereas only 7,7% were successful.  Victims use less often problem solving (integrating) in the study of Groß (2003), but used more often avoidance strategies

52 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 52 Work & Organizational Psychology Level of Conflict Escalation and Coping Strategies Active strategies which are normally useful, do not work anymore or are even counterproductive in phase 3  The conflict management strategy ‘integrating’ was positively correlated with victimization when the individual held a lower power position (Aquino, 2000)  After putting forward a group complaint, the majority (93%) of those currently bullied reported having been threatened with dismissal (Rayner, 1997).

53 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 53 Work & Organizational Psychology Bullying at Various Levels of Conflict Escalation Phase 2: Relationship conflicts  Mediation techniques or socio-therapeutic process intervention may help to overcome bullying Phase 3: Aggression and destruction  12,6%: Defence strategies brought bullying to an end (Meschkutat et al., (2002), but  81%: Separation of bullies and victims brought bullying to an end (Meschkutat et al., (2002)  Separation most reasonable solution in Zapf & Groß (2001) and Knorz & Zapf (1996) Separation of bullies and victims the only reasonable solution

54 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 54 Work & Organizational Psychology Coping with Bullying – the Successful Victims 6 out of 50 participants maintain that their situation has improved again. Qualitative interview data available of 4 persons. These cases agree in showing the following characteristics  Define a Clear Boundary, decision to get out of the bad game  Personal Stabilisation e.g., by longer ”time out” (sick leave) and psychotherapy  Objective Changes of the Work Situation by Intervention of a Third Party (usually higher management) From Knorz & Zapf (1996). Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie

55 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 55 Work & Organizational Psychology After Zapf & Gross (2001). European Journal of Work & Organizational Psychology Coping with Bullying/Mobbing

56 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 56 Work & Organizational Psychology Coping with Bullying Empirical studies of successful bullying/mobbing victims show:  they do their best at work  they try to avoid errors  they are sensitive with regard to which behaviour further escalates or de-escalates the conflict  They need support to get separated from the bullies

57 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 57 Work & Organizational Psychology 6) Intervention

58 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 58 Work & Organizational Psychology Intervention Find out level of escalation Lower levelHigher level Help to find new organization Help victim to make decision Change organization Try a variety of conflict solution techniques: e.g., Mediation, Team development Conflict management training

59 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 59 Work & Organizational Psychology Intervention Find out level of escalation Lower levelHigher level Point of no return Crucial question: Can the social situation at work be “repaired”? A “no” could mean to leave the organization

60 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 60 Work & Organizational Psychology Intervention Find out level of escalation Lower level Try a variety of conflict solution techniques: e.g., Mediation, Team development Conflict management training Higher level Help to find new organization Help victim to make decision Change organization Be aware of the power imbalance!

61 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 61 Work & Organizational Psychology Intervention Find out level of escalation Lower levelHigher level Help to find new organization Help victim to make decision Change organization Try a variety of conflict solution techniques: e.g., Mediation, Team development Conflict management training Problem: External attribution of the victim One-sided view of the conflict Learn to consider his/her own part in the conflict

62 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 62 Work & Organizational Psychology Intervention Find out level of escalation Lower levelHigher level Help to find new organization Help victim to make decision Change organization Try a variety of conflict solution techniques: e.g., Mediation, Team development Conflict management training Outplacement strategies The victim might need time for recovery Learn to cope with the injustice experienced Stabilization period Learn to trust others again

63 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 63 Work & Organizational Psychology Intervention Find out level of escalation Lower levelHigher level Help to find new organization Help victim to make decision Change organization Try a variety of conflict solution techniques: e.g., Mediation, Team development Conflict management training Separate bullies and victims Consider informal networks Anti-bullying policies Supportive management

64 J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt Dieter Zapf 64 Work & Organizational Psychology Thank You for Your Attention! Currently at: University of South Australia School of Psychology Occupational Health Psychology Unit


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