How do you know if you or a colleague are victim of workplace bullying? What should you look for? Since definitions of workplace bullying vary so widely, there’s no single great answer to that question. However, a good place to start when considering the characteristics of workplace bullying is the Negative Acts Questionnaire – Revised (NAQ-R) developed by Einarsen, Raknes, Matthiesen, Hellesøy and Hoel. Designed to measure the perceived exposure to bullying and victimization at work, this is the standard tool for measuring the phenomenon and is used in a significant amount of the research surrounding the topic.
The NAQ-R lists the following characteristics and asks respondents to assess if they experience these elements daily, weekly, monthly, now and then, or never:
- Someone withholding information which affects your performance
- Being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with your work
- Being ordered to do work below your level of competence
- Having key areas of responsibility removed or replace with more trivial or unpleasant tasks
- Spreading of gossip and rumors about you
- Being ignored or excluded
- Having insulting or offensive remarks made about your person (i.e. habits and background), your attitudes or your private life.
- Being shouted at or being the target of spontaneous anger (or rage)
- Intimidating behavior such as finger-pointing, invasion of personal space, shoving, blocking/barring the way
- Hints or signals from others that you should quit your job
- Repeated reminders of your errors or mistakes
- Being ignored or facing hostile reaction when you approach
- Persistent criticism of your work and effort
- Having your opinions and views ignored
- Practical jokes carried out by people you don’t get on with
- Being given tasks of unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines
- Having allegations made against you
- Excessive monitoring of your work
- Pressure not to claim something which by right you are entitled (e.g. sick leave, holiday entitlement, travel expenses).
- Being the subject of excessive teasing and sarcasm
- Being exposed to an unmanageable workload
- Threats of violence or physical abuse or actual abuse.
Now, just because you experience any of these elements every once in a while, that does not mean that you are the target of workplace bullying. The authors of the instrument go on to define the concept as the following
“A situation where one or several individuals persistently over a period of time perceive themselves to be on the receiving end of negative actions from one or several persons, in a situation where the target of bullying has difficulty in defending him or herself against these actions. We will not refer to a one-off incident as bullying.“
Those who identify themselves as bullied are significantly more likely to experience several of the above items at least weekly over an extended period of time that those who do not identify themselves as being bullied.
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Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., & Notelaers, G. (2009). Measuring bullying and harassment at work: Validity, factor structure, and psychometric properties of the Negative Acts Questionnaire – Revised. Work & Stress, 23(1), 24-44.