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Bullying and Harassment in Kuwait Airways

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"A mobbing is like a tornado spun off from a spring rainstorm- a fervent, collective assault that escalates from an ordinary conflict." (Kenneth Westhues), "this phenomenon has been referred to as "mobbing", "ganging up on someone", "bullying" or "psychological terror". In this type of conflict, the victim is subjected to a systematic, stigmatizing process and encroachment of his or her civil rights (2011), Available from: http:// [Accessed: December 22, 2012]

The present study examined the frequency of such behavior in an organization in Kuwait drawing the conclusion from a random sample of 266 employees. Moreover the present study scrutinized the role of work environment hypothesis as a main inducer of bullying behaviors and identified the best precautionary actions against them.

Among the findings 28.6% of key informants identified themselves as workplace bullying victims, and the majority of the cases related to stigmatizing forms of bullying scoring a mean of 3.35 out of a 5 point scale.

Furthermore, according to the participant in the semi-structured questionnaire the organization in study was labeled as a nurturing climate for abuse where no form of reprimand is taken against aggressors as well as no policy banning such behavior was present in most of the cases.

These findings back up the necessity to improve managerial practices and the existence of law banning mobbing in workplace, not to mention the implications for future research regarding this construct.


Mobbing is defined usually as "a prolonged exposure to interpersonal acts of a negative nature, with which the target is unable to cope (Einarsen, S., Hoel, H. & Zapf, D.(2010), Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace : Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice, 2nd ed, Taylor and Francis Group, London), well known worldwide by workplace bullying however still hardly discussed in many countries, especially in the gulf area where the bully is always defended and sometimes rewarded over the victim.

Workplace bullying when left unresolved can convert into a disease that can harm the entire organization. To cure it many leaders in this domain investigated to discover the antecedent of the problem, and many soon became convinced that mobbing is deeply rooted with certain environmental factor and deficiencies in particular those related to leadership practices, work design and lack of protective rules. In fact many agree that bullying occurs and sustains only because the management accept and tolerate such behavior.

According to Heinz Leymann one of the pioneers in the harassment constructs, mobbing can be caused by poor management styles that are nourished by a scarce work environment and he summed the reasons behind such behavior in four factors:

• "Deficiencies in work design.

• Deficiencies in leadership behavior.

• The victim socially exposed position.

• Low department morale". (Einarsen 2010).

However Leymann thoughts about the correlation between bullying and certain environmental factors remained unclear and up to now studies failed to determine which of these factors constitute the trigger for such violent conducts.

As it becomes apparent, bullying is a complex pattern and an etiological explanation is needed to understand what elements contribute to it. Hence, the principal focus of the study is to:

• Analyze the causative forces behind the abuse with a concentration on organizational practices that are domineering, coercive and encouraging for aggressive behaviors, or nonchalant and indifferent of staff conducts giving therefore the green light for perpetrators to continue with the mistreatment as no actions will be taken against them.

• As important are the antecedents, however are the consequences, so it is important to investigate the ramification on actors as well as the organization.

Having acquired the theoretical perspective of workplace bullying, the second aim of the study will be to provide some empirical evidence by conducting an organizational research where information will be obtained through interviews and questionnaires.

The organization in study is Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) the national airline of Kuwait that started in 1954 however as a result of an unstable political situation was declared a private shareholding company in 2008. To date the plan to privatize KAC is not fully implemented, due to the many beneficiaries who are constantly resisting the change fearing to affect their financial privileges.

Furthermore the company's operation has been affected, so as its reputation as reliable airline. As a result the Chairman of KAC decided to lay off a huge percentage of its staff and to go with a military management system.

Autocratic leadership was the new trend, and no policies banning psychical terror were available, in fact the organization adopted a strong discipline code which led to the higher rank personnel constantly bullying those of lower rank. The approach became highly aggressive; and management is either fostering this kind of communication or ignoring it.

This study will therefore will use quantitative techniques to measure the rate of bullying in KAC by the means of a survey using a single instrument The Revised Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ-R), and complete the exploratory part by conducting semi-structured interviews to create a better understanding of the features of their negative experience, why it happened and how.

At last, through this research, this study aims to advance the understanding of the bullying construct in order to provide the organization with empirical references for preventing and prevailing bullying problems that became over time a part of KAC's culture and norms.

II-Literature Review:

The issue of workplace bullying has been increasingly grabbing the attention of researchers, who studied it under different terms such as mobbing, harassment, emotional abuse, victimization, psychological terror however all agreed on its magnitude and alarming effects. "Mobbing is a serious form of nonsexual, nonracial harassment. It has been legally described as a status-blind harassment; Mobbing affects the mental and physical health of victims to a great extent. It extracts staggering emotional and economic costs from victims, their families, their organizations, and society." (2011), Available from: http:// [Accessed: December 22, 2012], "it is a silent epidemic, that when left unchecked can escalate into abusive, toxic workplaces where everyone suffers" (Namie, G., Namie, R. & (2009), The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job, 2nd ed, Sourcebooks, Naperville).

To illustrate that "Workplace bullying is not a "tempest in a tea pot but a real endemic cancer" (Glendenning, P.M. (2011), "Workplace Bullying: Curing the Cancer of the American Workplace", Public Personnel Management, vol. 30, no. 03, pp. 286), this study will touch on the following concepts:

• What is bullying / characteristics?

• Why does bullying occur?

• Consequences of bullying

• Available solutions.

1-Definition of workplace bullying

Whilst there is some convergence that bullying is an egregious phenomenon however till now there no agreed upon definition for workplace bullying.

According to Heinz Leyman "Psychical terror or mobbing in working life means hostile and unethical communication which is directed in a systematic way by one or a number of persons mainly toward one individual" (Zapf, D. & Leymann, H.(1996), Mobbing and Victimization at Work. A Special Issue of The European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Taylor & Francis Group, UK), it differs from temporary conflicts by its continuous and persistent nature in addition to the existence of the element of intent.

Ambivalent towards the intention feature, Einarsen et al asserted that "bullying at work is about repeated actions and practices that are directed against one or more workers; that are unwanted by the victim, that may be carried out deliberately or unconsciously but clearly cause humiliation, offense and distress; and that may interfere with work performance and/or cause an unpleasant working environment (Einarsen, S., Hoel, H. & Cooper, C.(2002), Bullying and Emotional Abuse in the Workplace: International Perspectives in Research and Practice [, Taylor & Francis, USA) .Einarsen considered that "bullying is normally not about single and isolated events, but rather about behaviors that are repeatedly and persistently directed towards one or more employees (Einarsen 2002) , which in fact can take many forms but mostly designed to cause a lingering psychological stress and rarely physical. Leymann shows in his studies the four phases of this aggressive social stress:

• Phase 1 : The original critical incident

It describes the spark that leads to the act of mobbing, which can be a conflict over work, envy…

• Phase


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