Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Social Work

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. David Royse

Abstract

Workplace bullying (WPB) is a pervasive problem in contemporary society, inflicting detrimental repercussions upon employees, employers, and organizations alike. It affects the physical, psychological, and financial wellbeing not only of its victims, but also their families, their communities, and society as a whole.

Research into this phenomenon has evolved significantly over the past two decades. While related to the physically violent phenomenon of schoolyard bullying, WPB is primarily a psychological phenomenon, manifesting as abusive power in workplace relationships, rather than as interpersonal conflict. Bullying at work comes in many forms, has many faces, and occurs in many places. It ranges from subtle to overt acts, with subtle forms occurring more regularly. The rubric of bullying can include: harassment, mobbing, scapegoating, social exclusion, repudiation, humiliation, and/or workplace mistreatment or abuse. Corresponding to a lack of attention on bullying among adults, WPB seems to occur everywhere—from businesses and factories to colleges and hospitals.

To address this phenomenon, this study a) explored the prevalence of WPB in Kuwait and its association with employee demographics, b) evaluated the sample’s views regarding professional social workers in the workplace, and c) explored the relationship between these variables and absenteeism. This non-experimental, quantitative study employed a cross-sectional survey with correlational analyses and prediction research designs.

Using the snowball sampling method via social media platforms, the researcher distributed the Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised (NAQ-R) survey and a demographic questionnaire to an anonymous, non-randomized sample of employees. The target sample included any adult, volunteer participant who was working in Kuwait for at least six months before receiving the survey. From a total of 8,531 recorded surveys, 3,725 surveys with missing data and 119 surveys that did not meet the inclusion criteria were excluded, leaving 4,687 (53.9%) complete surveys used for the analysis.

The majority of participants were males ranging between 30-39 years old. The vast majority were Kuwaiti, married, bachelor degree graduates, employed in lower-level positions within the governmental sector, earning 800-1,399 KD monthly income. Seventy percent of targets were dissatisfied with management, compared to 50% of the general participants. Similarly, 50% of targets were dissatisfied with their daily supervisors, compared to 35% of the general participants. Around two-thirds of both targets and general participants agreed with the importance of having a social worker or psychologist at the workplace to address WPB. The vast majority of targets were bullied by their immediate superiors (50%) or other superiors (45%).

Based on a criterion of a minimum of three negative acts monthly, the results of this study indicated a 39% prevalence rate of WPB in Kuwait. This percentage corresponded with the percentage of the targets who labeled themselves as victims. Regarding demographics, a large majority of targets reported being bullied by someone of the opposite gender. Among female targets, 92.7% were bullied by male perpetrators, and among male targets, 82.8% were bullied by female perpetrators. Females were more often reported as perpetrators, and males more often as targets. Non-Kuwaiti employees, the young, the divorced, those working in low-level positions, and those earning low income had the highest rate of exposure to WPB. Regarding prediction, those more likely to experience WPB included: females, the young, non-Kuwaiti employees, and workers in middle-level positions with low education or low income, who were dissatisfied with management, their daily supervisors, or their own jobs, and those who expressed a need for a counselor in the workplace. In terms of predicting WPB-related absenteeism, males, the divorced, and those working in lower-level positions with low income, low education, dissatisfaction with their job, or dissatisfaction with their daily supervisors were more likely to report high absenteeism.

The high rate of WPB has implications in the workplace, calling for concerted efforts to identify the elements that trigger and escalate WPB. This study was the first of its kind to measure such elements of WPB in Kuwait. By using the NAQ-R scale, the demographic questionnaire, and a modified operational definition of WPB, this study has provided a template for needed research in the Arabian Gulf region.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.443

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