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Workplace Bullying & Cultural Differences

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According to a new global study about workplace bullying, bullying bosses are more accepted in Anglo countries such as the U.S. or the U.K than they are in many other countries.

The study was recently published in the Journal or Business Research and is co-authored by Nikos Bozionelos, who is a Professor at the Audencia Nantes School of Management.

The research also revealed that the kindest bosses reside in Latin America.

Bozionelos: “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.”

He continues: “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.”

The research revealed that Anglo countries have a “high performance orientation.” This means accomplishments and explicit communication are valued and the sense of urgency is high. Bullying is tolerated if this leads to better results.

Contrastingly, Latin American countries such as Argentina, Colombia and Mexico feel very strongly about a humane treatment of their employees and favour this over economic performance. As a result, bullying is a no-go. Bullying is also more acceptable in Confucian Asia, where the individual serves the greater whole.

According to the research, bullying on the work floor might pay off, but it definitely comes at a price: in extreme cases, it can lead to physical trauma. Bullied employees can feel trapped, which and can result in anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

The study reveals that the large degree of power supervisors in Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Taiwan have mean that employees are more likely to accept the fact that they are bullied. The number of bullied employees in the U.S. equals that of Asia, but American employees are more likely to suffer from their oppressing bosses as their culture highly values fairness.

The study was conducted among 1484 alumni and MBA students in fourteen different countries. The participants all had white-collar jobs and their educational level was more or less the same. As the variants were constant, researchers were able to find distinct differences in the acceptance of bullying per country.


If you'd like to find out more about culture in business, then enrol on our online Cultural Competenc Training course. Designed for business professionals, this online course will equip you with the skills needed to understand and navigate cultural differences wtih confidence and credibility. 


Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash


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