'In the Family Way:' Linking Dynamics From Family of Origin With Subsequent Workplace Bullying Experiences
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Session presented on Friday, July 22, 2016: Purpose: Our early family experiences follow us throughout life, influencing our beliefs and values in the long term. As Heidegger intimated, we are our histories. In the context of the workplace, memories of early family experiences--still active in our day-to-day thought processes and emotions--are melded with experiences taking place in real time, yielding a sense of self-as-coworker that incorporates both past and present. Confidence, interpersonal comfort, and feelings of safety and of support from peers and administrators thus evolve as functions of the commingling of personal history and workplace engagement (Anda et al., 2004; Frone et al., 1992a, 1992b, 1994; Lindy & Schaefer, 2010). The purpose of the study described in this presentation was to investigate the commingling of personal history and workplace engagement as these factors conjoin to influence employee perceptions about workplace bullying (WPB) experiences. Despite a growing body of research on workplace bullying characteristics, antecedents and outcomes, and despite the widespread promulgation of anti-bullying campaigns, WPB's incidence is on the rise, internationally. To date, efforts to stem WPB have failed to fully address the levels of complexity inherent within it; thus, to date, there appear to be no successful interventions to deter WPB. This presentation conveys new findings related to factors that influence targeted victims' perceptions of workplace bullying. It focuses primarily on worker perceptions of 'family-like' roles in the workplace and the interplay of those roles with worker perceptions about the occurrence of workplace bullying. Our goal, ultimately, is to more fully describe the kinds of factors that render bullies' intended targets vulnerable to workplace bullying affronts, despite the primarily trivial nature of those affronts, generally. Methods: The study we report here represents phase two of an ongoing multi-phase study, the goal of which is to investigate how perception of family-like roles in the workplace links with perceptions of bullying for workplace employees. With permission from one of the FES authors (R. Moos), we modified the Family Relationships Index (FRI) of the Family Environment Scale (FES) (Moos & Moos, 1981, 1986) to operationalize family-oriented roles (i.e., styles of communicating, supporting, nurturing). Following IRB approval and using e-mail, we recruited nursing faculty members (total n=3274) teaching in any one of three U.S. states, asking them to complete the modified FRI and to provide some demographic information about themselves. Participation was voluntary and anonymous, and the sample was one of convenience. Data analysis involved conduct of an Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) specific to the response structure of the modified FRI. We examined psychometric properties of the individual factors and the total modified FRI, as well as examining correlations between and among factors of the modified FRI and participants' demographic variables. Results: A total of 291 respondents (8.8%) completed the survey. The median age of respondents was 54 years, and the vast majority, 95%, were female. Most respondents identified teaching, as opposed to research or administration, as their current primary role in the workplace, and the median academic rank of respondents was assistant professor. When asked "How frequently have you observed workplace bullying?," 53% indicated that they observed WPB monthly, weekly or daily. Of that group, 27% identified themselves as bullying victims (rather than observers) sometimes, almost always, or always. Findings of the EFA revealed overlaps in work- and family-oriented roles in the workplace, suggesting patterns, by which those overlaps influenced participant perceptions of bully-victim encounters. Conclusion: Workplace bullying has been and remains a complex phenomenon. By understanding how individuals are influenced by bullies' trivial affronts, we may be better able to define appropriate approaches to addressing and stemming the deleterious effects of workplace bullying. Clearly, perception of family-like dynamics has some role to play in targeted bullying victims' subsequent perceptions of the influence of workplace bullying.