Workplace bullying, chronic health issues, legal issues, civilization


According to Freud, civilization is meant to protect humans from the forces of nature, to protect human frailty; but then, paradoxically, it falls short of such protection by its lack of concomitant regulation (1991). In fact, civilized service to society, delivered via organizations, creates strife and anxiety. While civilization is a structure created to protect people from nature and to support a frail humanity, its rules and power structures yield aggression, spawning the need for people to control each other (Freud & Strachey, 1991).

Such control and the power structures that arise within organizations can be considered the root of workplace bullying, aggression, and incivility in our putatively civilized structures of work. Consequently, global researchers strive to make sense of incivility within civilization, a structure that generates aggravation although it was originally developed to provide protection.

Northern Europeans have led research efforts to analyze the psychological impact of workplace bullying for employees, observing the protection of human frailty as described by Freud. While researchers in the United States over the last twenty years have also paid considerable attention to workplace bullying, within the legal lexicon of the United States many consider workplace bullying as a status-free harassment, and other researchers consider bullying as but another form of harassment. The American approach aligns with Freud’s assertion that civilization ̶ with its “sum of achievement and regulations” ̶ still yields unhappiness among mankind.

Thus, there are different approaches to considering workplace bullying. Methodologically, this article utilizes a content analysis of sixty articles to present some differences in how two civilizations analyze workplace bullying. The content analysis reveals that European researchers are more likely to discuss workplace bullying as a health and wellness issue, while United States researchers tend to focus on organizational policies and legal issues.

While this content analysis presents a difference in approaches, it is not intended to establish that a mutually exclusive approach to workplace bullying exists between these two cultures.