WORKPLACE PSYCHOLOGICAL AGGRESSION: RESOLVING THE BATTLE OF COMPETING CONSTRUCTS
Benson, Wendi Lee
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Current research on workplace psychological aggression (WPA) is fragmented, with some researchers stressing the importance of studying unique constructs and others emphasizing the similarities among constructs and the need to unify the theory of WPA. To date, no research has empirically examined the similarities and uniqueness of WPA constructs. This study addressed the current gap in research by examining the overlap of commonly studied WPA constructs (i.e., bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision) in terms of factor structure, outcomes, and context. Results from this cross-sectional survey study using a sample of n = 750 working college students suggest there is a substantial degree of overlap among measures of bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision (with the supervisor referent removed). Specifically, results indicated a single higher order factor accounted for a significant and substantial proportion of the variance in measures of bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision. There was a similar pattern of relationships between each WPA construct and job related attitudes and perceptions. The commonly cited contextual differences among bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision (i.e., perceived harmful intent, duration, and primary perpetrator status) were similar across constructs and did not consistently moderate the relationships between each WPA construct and job related attitudes and perceptions.Current research on WPA is also fragmented with regards to the direct and indirect effect of WPA on job related outcomes. Although many theoretical models of WPA suggest that affect is a mediator of the relationship between WPA and job related outcomes, the majority of empirical studies only examine direct effects. This study empirically examined affective reactions to bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision as a mediator of the relationship between these WPA constructs and job related attitudes and perceptions. Results indicated affective reactions to WPA were a mediator of all significant relationships between WPA constructs and job related attitudes and perceptions. Further, affective reactions were a more consistent predictor of job related attitudes and perceptions than bullying, incivility, and abusive supervision.