PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to report a study of targets’ experiences of cyberbullying on online labour markets (OLMs). In addition to highlighting the link between targets’ coping and power and control, the paper compares conventional and digital workplaces.Design/methodology/approachThe method of critical hermeneutic phenomenology is used in the inquiry, bringing political and applied dimensions into the study. Targets’ lived experiences, developed as case studies, were explored via conversational interviews. Thematic analysis was undertaken ideographically, followed by ideology-critique at a nomothetic level. Adopting the psychological/behavioural lens of coping theory, ideology-critique identified micro-level schemas and macro-level ideologies that perpetuate target disenfranchisement. Critical hermeneutic phenomenology illuminates the mutuality between individual and social processes, opening new doors to address power inequities through emancipation.FindingsHermeneutic phenomenology uncovered the core theme of “pursuing holistic and long-term well-being”, capturing targets’ attempts at working through their experiences of bullying without jeopardising their position on the OLM. Ideology-critique went beyond highlighting problem-focussed and emotion-focussed coping strategies that empowered targets to indicate how participants’ mindsets, anchored in ongoing circumstantial discourses and long-standing social cognitions, inhibited them from questioning the status quo and exploring alternative coping strategies like legislation and collectivisation, thereby curbing their agency. The findings were theorised in terms of power and control vis-à-vis the unique attributes of workplace cyberbullying, comparing and contrasting conventional and virtual workplaces.Research limitations/implicationsThe inquiry is limited to the Upwork platform. Including other OLMs will enhance theoretical generalisability.Practical implicationsThe study feeds into praxis by alerting digital workers in general and targets in particular about their circumstances, setting the stage for mobilisation.Originality/valueThe study makes several pioneering contributions. First, it reports the first empirical inquiry examining bullying in digital workplaces, importantly, also extending knowledge on cyberbullying across conventional versus digital workplaces. Moreover, OLM research on abuse and harassment has not been undertaken so far. Second, methodologically, the inquiry illustrates the combination of hermeneutic phenomenology with ideology-critique, taking the rare steps of joining ontological perspectives conventionally viewed as divergent and of incorporating a largely neglected micro-level focus into ideology-critique. Third, it furthers theoretical insights into power and control in workplace bullying while drawing links with coping.
Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 12, 2018
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