The Theory of Bullying Conflict Cultures

Developing a New Explanation for Workplace Bullying

Authored by: Nathalie Desrayaud , Fran C. Dickson , Lynne M. Webb

The Routledge Handbook of Communication and Bullying

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138552357
eBook ISBN: 9781315148113
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter offers a fresh perspective on bullying in the workplace by proposing the application of Gelfand, Leslie, and Keller’s (2008) Theory of Conflict Cultures to the communicative behavior of bullying. Gelfand et al. proposed a typology of four conflict cultures. We argue that bullying more likely emerges in certain conflict cultures, especially those that actively address conflict and that tolerate disagreeable conflict behaviors. In such conflict cultures, bullying can become socialized, normalized, and widely tolerated. We discuss the veracity of our proposed theory of Bullying Conflict Cultures using the academic workplace as an exemplar. Finally, we explain how conceptualizing bullying as a conflict behavior that occurs in organizational conflict cultures allows for new ideas about the etiology of workplace bullying, new strategies for diminishing bullying in the workplace, and new directions for future research.

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