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02.11.2018 | Original Article Open Access

Workplace bullying among employees in Germany: prevalence estimates and the role of the perpetrator

Zeitschrift:
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Autoren:
Stefanie Lange, Hermann Burr, Paul Maurice Conway, Uwe Rose

Abstract

Objectives

The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of workplace bullying in Germany while also taking the perpetrator and severity level (measured by frequency) into account and considering the role of gender, age and socio-economic status.

Methods

We used data from a large representative sample (N = 4143) of employees in Germany subject to social security contributions. Self-reported bullying was assessed for different combinations of perpetrators (co-workers, superiors) and according to severity, i.e., being exposed at all and to severe bullying (at least weekly).

Results

Prevalence estimates varied from 2.9% for severe bullying by co-workers to 17.1% for overall bullying (i.e., without distinguishing by perpetrator, less severe bullying also included). Unskilled workers reported more bullying by both perpetrators than academics/managers. We also observed an age trend for severe bullying by superiors (i.e., bossing), with younger employees being more affected from bossing than elder. No gender differences were detected.

Conclusions

The findings indicate that it is crucial to consider type of perpetrator and severity of the behaviors when examining the prevalence of workplace bullying. The way bullying is defined and operationalized strongly contributes to the prevalence estimates. Differences between subgroups and associations or cause–effect relationships should be analyzed with these variations in mind.

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