To Avoid Bullying Bosses, Head South of the Border, Says New Audencia Nantes Study

Jun 20, 2013, 09:30 ET from Audencia Nantes School of Management

NANTES, France, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new global study of workplace bullying, co-authored by Audencia Nantes School of Management Professor Nikos Bozionelos, shows that in Anglo countries like the U.S. or the UK bullying bosses are more accepted than in many other countries. By contrast, Latin America is the best place to work if you seek bosses who are culturally inclined to kindness. The findings are published in the current issue of the Journal of Business Research.

"Our study shows that while industry type, salary and gender all influence acceptability of workplace bullying, the country's culture of work is the biggest factor," says Bozionelos. "This is vital for multi-national corporations setting global HR policies and for employees considering out of country assignments. Both management and employees must realize that acceptance of employee abuse depends on location."

Anglo countries were among those with a "high performance orientation" valuing accomplishments, a sense of urgency, and explicit communication. These countries may tolerate bullying if it is seen as a means to achieve better results. In contrast, countries such as Argentina, Mexico and Colombia value humane treatment of individuals as opposed to economic performance and thus do not condone workplace bullying. In Confucian Asia, it appears that a culture that demands a person to submit to the interests of the group, and that also has a strong acceptance of hierarchy, views workplace bullying as more acceptable. 

The research implies that bullying might bring greater productivity in certain cases but at a cost. In extreme cases, yelling, unfair division of labor or employee segregation can cause physical trauma. As a result, workers can feel trapped, developing anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. 

The study notes that in Asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan supervisors' large degree of power means employees are more likely to accept bullying. Meanwhile, workers in countries such as the US may fall victim to bullying at the same rate as Asians but suffer more because of their belief in an ideal of fairness.

Prof. Bozionelos and his co-authors surveyed 1484 alumni and current MBA students from 14 countries. Respondents were white collar with similar educational levels. Keeping these variable characteristics constant across respondents allowed the researchers to conclude that the differences of workplace bullying acceptability by country are distinct.

SOURCE Audencia Nantes School of Management