Article: a PhD thesis.
Observer reactions to workplace mistreatment
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des hautes études commerciales
Faculté des hautes études commerciales (HEC)Université de LausanneCH-1015 LausanneSUISSE
Number of pages
This study explored observer reactions to workplace interpersonal mistreatment using an inductive analysis approach. I conducted 32 interviews with a wide sample of working professionals from various backgrounds and industries to examine how observers react to the unfolding process of workplace interpersonal mistreatment incidents. Specifically, the goal of this study was to gain a deeper and closer understanding of observer reaction processes by examining first-hand accounts of employees who have witnessed co-workers being mistreated by others. I generated typologies of reported observer affective, cognitive, and behavioral reactions that emerged from their stories, and I identified what employees believe are important factors that inhibit or enable intervention. Results reveal that a majority of employees are not inclined to intervene during an ongoing mistreatment incident, and that observers who intervened during the incident reported different appraisal processes than observers who only intervened afterwards, or who did not intervene at all. From these personal accounts of observing workplace mistreatment, I interpreted that observers generally react to interpersonal mistreatment incidents in two phases, and that how targets reacted after an incident was an important trigger that propelled observers to become involved afterwards, even if they did not have the desire or the intention to do so. These findings have implications for current theories on observer intervention to mistreatment in the workplace.
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