Monday, 9 March 2009

Thoughts of revenge can backfire

Who doesn't indulge in a few revenge fantasies from time to time? Unfortunately, when it comes to a dastardly colleague bullying you at work, the temptation to plot revenge, though irresistible, may well backfire.

Bernardo Moreno-Jiménez and colleagues surveyed 511 employees at three telecommunications firms in Madrid. Other researchers have tended to focus on organisational and situational factors that increase the likelihood of workplace bullying. Moreno-Jiménez's team took a different approach - they were interested in how the same bullying situations can affect people differently depending on their traits.

The surveys showed that stress at work, for example induced through having a conflict of roles, was related to a greater likelihood of being bullied, but that this association was reduced among people who were able to detach themselves from work, and those who reported spending less time thinking about revenge.

It was a similar story for the link between being bullied and suffering psychological strain, with those employees who were able to detach themselves, and those who spent less time fantasising about revenge, also tending to report less psychological strain in response to bullying.

As well as considering situational factors, Moreno-Jiménez and his colleagues said firms should also consider ways to help individuals deal with bullying at work, for example by encouraging them to avoid negative thoughts, such as of revenge.

Although there may be wisdom in the researchers' conclusions, this research is seriously hampered by its correlational design. It's perfectly feasible, for example, that thoughts of revenge are a consequence of bullying-induced psychological strain rather than a cause of it.

ResearchBlogging.orgB MORENOJIMENEZ, A RODRIGUEZMUNOZ, J PASTOR, A SANZVERGEL, E GARROSA (2009). The moderating effects of psychological detachment and thoughts of revenge in workplace bullying. Personality and Individual Differences, 46 (3), 359-364 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2008.10.031

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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