The role of hardiness in the bullying–mental health relationship

The role of hardiness in the bullying–mental health relationship Abstract Background Workplace bullying has consistently been found to predict mental health problems among those affected. However, less attention has been given to personal dispositions as possible moderators in this relationship. Aims To investigate the moderating role of individual hardiness in the relationship between exposure to bullying behaviours and symptoms of anxiety and depression, respectively, assuming that high hardiness, being an individual stress resilience factor, acts as a buffer in these relationships. Methods Survey data were gathered in 2016–17, among land-based employees in a Norwegian oil and gas company. Participants completed a questionnaire electronically via a link sent to their work e-mail. The PROCESS macro SPSS supplement was used to analyse the proposed relationships, with mean-centred variables. Results Altogether, 275 participated in the study (46% response rate). High hardiness acted as a buffer in the bullying–anxiety relationship, in that hardy individuals did not experience increased levels of anxiety when facing bullying behaviours. Low levels of hardiness, on the other hand, acted as an enhancement factor, in that the bullying–anxiety relationship was strengthened for this group. Contrary to expectations, hardiness did not act as a buffer in the bullying–depression relationship. Conclusions Hardy individuals were less likely to report anxiety in response to bullying than non-hardy workers, a finding with important practical implications. Yet, regardless of who is affected, managers should focus on good strategies to intervene when bullying is detected, and stress resilience training should be considered as part of these strategies. Hardiness, stress resilience, symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of depression, workplace bullying Introduction Workplace bullying is about systematic exposure to negative behaviours at work, with a perceived or real power imbalance between target and perpetrator, in which the target ends up in an inferior position [1]. The bullying–mental health relationship is well-documented in the literature, while research has paid less attention to personal disposition as an explanation for when and for whom bullying has the most negative effects. Hardiness is a personality disposition that acts as a resilience resource when encountering stressful events. Hardy individuals involve themselves in the activities of life, believe they can influence events, and see change as something normal and a stimulus to development [2]. This generalized way of functioning serves to mitigate the negative effects of stress [3], and has been found to moderate stress–health relationships [4]. It therefore follows that hardy individuals may be more skilled in handling bullying situations. The role of hardiness in reducing negative health consequences of bullying has, however, been ignored. Yet, similar constructs, like individual coping styles, have acted as moderators in the bullying–health relationship, although not always as expected when experiencing higher levels of bullying [5]. More research on how bullying is experienced and reacted to is therefore warranted. Based on this theory, we put forward the following hypotheses. Hardiness, being an individual resilience factor, acts as a buffer in the relationship between bullying and symptoms of anxiety (H1) and depression (H2), respectively, so that the bullying–mental health relationships are weaker for hardy targets. Methods A questionnaire survey was distributed electronically to land-based employees in a Norwegian oil and gas company. Exposure to bullying behaviours was measured with the short Negative Acts Questionnaire [6], assessing exposure to nine specific negative acts in the last 6 months (e.g. ‘Being ignored or excluded’). Responses were given from 1 = ‘Never’ to 5 = ‘About daily’. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.71. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were measured with two single items from the Subjective Health Complaints (SHC) inventory [7], used to assess health complaints (i.e. ‘To what extent have you been affected during the last month’: ‘anxiety’, ‘sad, depressed’). Responses were given from 0 = ‘Not at all’ to 3 = ‘Serious’. These single SHC measures are found to be equal to or better than longer questionnaires (e.g. the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) in identifying anxiety and depression [8]. Hardiness was measured with the revised Norwegian dispositional resilience scale (DRS-15) [3], assessing general stress resilience (e.g. ‘How things go in life depends on my own actions’). Responses were given from 0 = ‘Not at all true’ to 3 = ‘Completely true’. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.82. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) 23.0, with the PROCESS macro SPSS supplement [9] and mean-centred variables, was used to analyse data. The study was approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD, ID 50335). Principles of the Helsinki declaration were followed. Results Response rate was 46% (275), mean age was 45 years (SD = 8.48), 77% were men and 60% had higher education. Exposure to bullying behaviours was positively related to symptoms of anxiety (r = 0.35, P < 0.01) and depression (r = 0.33, P < 0.01) (Table 1). Age was related to depression only (r = −0.15, P < 0.05), while gender was unrelated to the study’s measures. Table 1. Means (M), standard deviations (SDs) and inter-correlations for the included variables Variables  M  SD  Range  1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  1. Gender  –  –  –  –            2. Age  45.24  8.48  28–66  −0.13*  –          3. Exposure to bullying behaviours  1.26  0.29  1–5  0.00  −0.07  –        4. Symptoms of anxiety  0.33  0.64  0–3  −0.03  −0.03  0.35**  –      5. Symptoms of depression  0.50  0.73  0–3  0.05  −0.15*  0.33**  0.64**  –    6. Hardiness  2.02  0.38  0–3  0.10  0.06  −0.26**  −0.45**  −0.55**  –  Variables  M  SD  Range  1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  1. Gender  –  –  –  –            2. Age  45.24  8.48  28–66  −0.13*  –          3. Exposure to bullying behaviours  1.26  0.29  1–5  0.00  −0.07  –        4. Symptoms of anxiety  0.33  0.64  0–3  −0.03  −0.03  0.35**  –      5. Symptoms of depression  0.50  0.73  0–3  0.05  −0.15*  0.33**  0.64**  –    6. Hardiness  2.02  0.38  0–3  0.10  0.06  −0.26**  −0.45**  −0.55**  –  * P < 0.05 ** P < 0.01. View Large For anxiety, the variance explained by the full moderation model was 30% (F(5, 228) = 19.17, P < 0.001), of which the interaction term (bullying by hardiness) explained 3% of the variance (F(1, 228) = 9.51, P < 0.01). The bullying–anxiety relationship was only significant for those scoring low (1 SD below mean) on hardiness (θ = 0.73, t(228) = 5.37, P < 0.001), as opposed to those with a high score (1 SD above mean; θ = 0.04, t(228) = 0.21, NS). Hence, high hardiness acted as a buffer in the bullying–anxiety relationship, supporting H1 (Figure 1). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Hardiness as a moderator in the bullying–anxiety relationship. Low = 1 SD below the mean. High = 1 SD above the mean. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Hardiness as a moderator in the bullying–anxiety relationship. Low = 1 SD below the mean. High = 1 SD above the mean. For depression, the variance explained by the full moderation model was 37% (F(5, 228) = 26.67, P < 0.001). Yet, the interaction term (bullying by hardiness) was not significant (F(1, 228) = 3.47, NS), and H2 was thereby not supported. Discussion The assumption that high hardiness acts as a buffer in the bullying–mental health relationship was met for anxiety. Hence, hardy employees’ anxiety levels remained the same regardless of the bullying exposure, supporting hardiness being a stress resilience factor. However, non-hardy employees reported increased anxiety levels when exposed to bullying behaviours. Hence, the combination of low situational control (i.e. bullying) and low general control (i.e. low hardiness) increased the targets’ symptoms of anxiety. According to the conservation of resources model [10] individuals strive to build and maintain valued resources in their lives, including personal characteristics. Stress is thus regarded as a reaction to situations where a threat of a loss of resources, an actual loss of resources or lack of an expected gain in resources is present. Non-hardy employees, generally low in control, may be in even less control when bullied at work, and as a result experience anxiety due to the lack of available resources or a gain in resources. Non-hardy employees may also experience anxiety symptoms due to a low threshold for perceiving situational stimulus (i.e. exposure to negative acts) as threatening [2]. Hardy individuals, on the other hand, reported lower anxiety levels than those of non-hardy individuals, regardless of bullying exposure. Hence, hardy individuals seem to have a higher threshold for perceiving situational threats, or at least to be better equipped to cope with such threats when exposed. Yet, this buffering effect was not found for depression, indicating that personal resources do not easily alleviate the detrimental outcomes of bullying. Our cross-sectional data decreases the possibility of causal explanations for the findings. Yet, the results suggest that there needs to be awareness that certain employees are more vulnerable than others when bullied. Organizations should, however, intervene regardless of who is being bullied, and focus on maintaining a good psychosocial work environment for all employees with a zero tolerance for bullying. Key points Individual hardiness levels seemed to affect whether employees experienced negative health effects from bullying. High hardiness was found to be a resilience factor which protected against increased anxiety symptoms when exposed to bullying behaviours at work. More research on the role of personal dispositions in the bullying–mental health relationship is warranted. Funding The present study is incorporated in the project ‘Workplace Bullying: From Mechanisms and Moderators to Problem Treatment’ (250127), financed by the Research Council of Norway. Conflicts of interest None declared. References 1. Einarsen S, Hoel H, Zapf D, Cooper CL. The concept of bullying and harassment at work: the European tradition. In: Einarsen S, Hoel H, Zapf D, Cooper CL, eds. Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace. Developments in Theory, Research and Practice . 2nd edn. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2011; 3– 39. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   2. Kobasa SC. Stressful life events, personality, and health: an inquiry into hardiness. J Pers Soc Psychol  1979; 37: 1– 11. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  3. Hystad SW, Eid J, Johnsen BH, Laberg JC, Thomas Bartone P. Psychometric properties of the revised Norwegian dispositional resilience (hardiness) scale. Scand J Psychol  2010; 51: 237– 245. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  4. Eschleman KJ, Bowling NA, Alarcon GM. A meta-analytic examination of hardiness. Int J Stress Manage  2010; 17: 277– 307. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   5. Hewett R, Liefooghe A, Visockaite G, Roongrerngsuke S. Bullying at work; cognitive appraisal of negative acts, coping, wellbeing and performance. J Occup Health Psychol  2016. doi:10.1037/ocp0000064. 6. Notelaers G, Einarsen S. The construction and validity of the Short-Negative Acts Questionnaire. 6th International Conference on Workplace Bullying: Sharing our Knowledge. Montreal, Canada: Ecole des sciences de la gestion; Université du Québec à Montréal, 2008. 7. Eriksen HR, Ihlebaek C, Ursin H. A scoring system for subjective health complaints (SHC). Scand J Public Health  1999; 27: 63– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  8. Reme SE, Lie SA, Eriksen HR. Are 2 questions enough to screen for depression and anxiety in patients with chronic low back pain? Spine (Phila Pa 1976)  2014; 39: E455– E462. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  9. Hayes AF. Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis. A Regression-Based Approach . New York: The Guilford Press, 2013. 10. Hobfoll SE. Conservation of resources. a new attempt at conceptualizing stress. Am Psychol  1989; 44: 513– 524. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Occupational Medicine Oxford University Press

The role of hardiness in the bullying–mental health relationship

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Abstract

Abstract Background Workplace bullying has consistently been found to predict mental health problems among those affected. However, less attention has been given to personal dispositions as possible moderators in this relationship. Aims To investigate the moderating role of individual hardiness in the relationship between exposure to bullying behaviours and symptoms of anxiety and depression, respectively, assuming that high hardiness, being an individual stress resilience factor, acts as a buffer in these relationships. Methods Survey data were gathered in 2016–17, among land-based employees in a Norwegian oil and gas company. Participants completed a questionnaire electronically via a link sent to their work e-mail. The PROCESS macro SPSS supplement was used to analyse the proposed relationships, with mean-centred variables. Results Altogether, 275 participated in the study (46% response rate). High hardiness acted as a buffer in the bullying–anxiety relationship, in that hardy individuals did not experience increased levels of anxiety when facing bullying behaviours. Low levels of hardiness, on the other hand, acted as an enhancement factor, in that the bullying–anxiety relationship was strengthened for this group. Contrary to expectations, hardiness did not act as a buffer in the bullying–depression relationship. Conclusions Hardy individuals were less likely to report anxiety in response to bullying than non-hardy workers, a finding with important practical implications. Yet, regardless of who is affected, managers should focus on good strategies to intervene when bullying is detected, and stress resilience training should be considered as part of these strategies. Hardiness, stress resilience, symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of depression, workplace bullying Introduction Workplace bullying is about systematic exposure to negative behaviours at work, with a perceived or real power imbalance between target and perpetrator, in which the target ends up in an inferior position [1]. The bullying–mental health relationship is well-documented in the literature, while research has paid less attention to personal disposition as an explanation for when and for whom bullying has the most negative effects. Hardiness is a personality disposition that acts as a resilience resource when encountering stressful events. Hardy individuals involve themselves in the activities of life, believe they can influence events, and see change as something normal and a stimulus to development [2]. This generalized way of functioning serves to mitigate the negative effects of stress [3], and has been found to moderate stress–health relationships [4]. It therefore follows that hardy individuals may be more skilled in handling bullying situations. The role of hardiness in reducing negative health consequences of bullying has, however, been ignored. Yet, similar constructs, like individual coping styles, have acted as moderators in the bullying–health relationship, although not always as expected when experiencing higher levels of bullying [5]. More research on how bullying is experienced and reacted to is therefore warranted. Based on this theory, we put forward the following hypotheses. Hardiness, being an individual resilience factor, acts as a buffer in the relationship between bullying and symptoms of anxiety (H1) and depression (H2), respectively, so that the bullying–mental health relationships are weaker for hardy targets. Methods A questionnaire survey was distributed electronically to land-based employees in a Norwegian oil and gas company. Exposure to bullying behaviours was measured with the short Negative Acts Questionnaire [6], assessing exposure to nine specific negative acts in the last 6 months (e.g. ‘Being ignored or excluded’). Responses were given from 1 = ‘Never’ to 5 = ‘About daily’. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.71. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were measured with two single items from the Subjective Health Complaints (SHC) inventory [7], used to assess health complaints (i.e. ‘To what extent have you been affected during the last month’: ‘anxiety’, ‘sad, depressed’). Responses were given from 0 = ‘Not at all’ to 3 = ‘Serious’. These single SHC measures are found to be equal to or better than longer questionnaires (e.g. the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) in identifying anxiety and depression [8]. Hardiness was measured with the revised Norwegian dispositional resilience scale (DRS-15) [3], assessing general stress resilience (e.g. ‘How things go in life depends on my own actions’). Responses were given from 0 = ‘Not at all true’ to 3 = ‘Completely true’. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.82. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) 23.0, with the PROCESS macro SPSS supplement [9] and mean-centred variables, was used to analyse data. The study was approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD, ID 50335). Principles of the Helsinki declaration were followed. Results Response rate was 46% (275), mean age was 45 years (SD = 8.48), 77% were men and 60% had higher education. Exposure to bullying behaviours was positively related to symptoms of anxiety (r = 0.35, P < 0.01) and depression (r = 0.33, P < 0.01) (Table 1). Age was related to depression only (r = −0.15, P < 0.05), while gender was unrelated to the study’s measures. Table 1. Means (M), standard deviations (SDs) and inter-correlations for the included variables Variables  M  SD  Range  1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  1. Gender  –  –  –  –            2. Age  45.24  8.48  28–66  −0.13*  –          3. Exposure to bullying behaviours  1.26  0.29  1–5  0.00  −0.07  –        4. Symptoms of anxiety  0.33  0.64  0–3  −0.03  −0.03  0.35**  –      5. Symptoms of depression  0.50  0.73  0–3  0.05  −0.15*  0.33**  0.64**  –    6. Hardiness  2.02  0.38  0–3  0.10  0.06  −0.26**  −0.45**  −0.55**  –  Variables  M  SD  Range  1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  1. Gender  –  –  –  –            2. Age  45.24  8.48  28–66  −0.13*  –          3. Exposure to bullying behaviours  1.26  0.29  1–5  0.00  −0.07  –        4. Symptoms of anxiety  0.33  0.64  0–3  −0.03  −0.03  0.35**  –      5. Symptoms of depression  0.50  0.73  0–3  0.05  −0.15*  0.33**  0.64**  –    6. Hardiness  2.02  0.38  0–3  0.10  0.06  −0.26**  −0.45**  −0.55**  –  * P < 0.05 ** P < 0.01. View Large For anxiety, the variance explained by the full moderation model was 30% (F(5, 228) = 19.17, P < 0.001), of which the interaction term (bullying by hardiness) explained 3% of the variance (F(1, 228) = 9.51, P < 0.01). The bullying–anxiety relationship was only significant for those scoring low (1 SD below mean) on hardiness (θ = 0.73, t(228) = 5.37, P < 0.001), as opposed to those with a high score (1 SD above mean; θ = 0.04, t(228) = 0.21, NS). Hence, high hardiness acted as a buffer in the bullying–anxiety relationship, supporting H1 (Figure 1). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Hardiness as a moderator in the bullying–anxiety relationship. Low = 1 SD below the mean. High = 1 SD above the mean. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Hardiness as a moderator in the bullying–anxiety relationship. Low = 1 SD below the mean. High = 1 SD above the mean. For depression, the variance explained by the full moderation model was 37% (F(5, 228) = 26.67, P < 0.001). Yet, the interaction term (bullying by hardiness) was not significant (F(1, 228) = 3.47, NS), and H2 was thereby not supported. Discussion The assumption that high hardiness acts as a buffer in the bullying–mental health relationship was met for anxiety. Hence, hardy employees’ anxiety levels remained the same regardless of the bullying exposure, supporting hardiness being a stress resilience factor. However, non-hardy employees reported increased anxiety levels when exposed to bullying behaviours. Hence, the combination of low situational control (i.e. bullying) and low general control (i.e. low hardiness) increased the targets’ symptoms of anxiety. According to the conservation of resources model [10] individuals strive to build and maintain valued resources in their lives, including personal characteristics. Stress is thus regarded as a reaction to situations where a threat of a loss of resources, an actual loss of resources or lack of an expected gain in resources is present. Non-hardy employees, generally low in control, may be in even less control when bullied at work, and as a result experience anxiety due to the lack of available resources or a gain in resources. Non-hardy employees may also experience anxiety symptoms due to a low threshold for perceiving situational stimulus (i.e. exposure to negative acts) as threatening [2]. Hardy individuals, on the other hand, reported lower anxiety levels than those of non-hardy individuals, regardless of bullying exposure. Hence, hardy individuals seem to have a higher threshold for perceiving situational threats, or at least to be better equipped to cope with such threats when exposed. Yet, this buffering effect was not found for depression, indicating that personal resources do not easily alleviate the detrimental outcomes of bullying. Our cross-sectional data decreases the possibility of causal explanations for the findings. Yet, the results suggest that there needs to be awareness that certain employees are more vulnerable than others when bullied. Organizations should, however, intervene regardless of who is being bullied, and focus on maintaining a good psychosocial work environment for all employees with a zero tolerance for bullying. Key points Individual hardiness levels seemed to affect whether employees experienced negative health effects from bullying. High hardiness was found to be a resilience factor which protected against increased anxiety symptoms when exposed to bullying behaviours at work. More research on the role of personal dispositions in the bullying–mental health relationship is warranted. Funding The present study is incorporated in the project ‘Workplace Bullying: From Mechanisms and Moderators to Problem Treatment’ (250127), financed by the Research Council of Norway. Conflicts of interest None declared. References 1. Einarsen S, Hoel H, Zapf D, Cooper CL. The concept of bullying and harassment at work: the European tradition. In: Einarsen S, Hoel H, Zapf D, Cooper CL, eds. Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace. Developments in Theory, Research and Practice . 2nd edn. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2011; 3– 39. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   2. Kobasa SC. Stressful life events, personality, and health: an inquiry into hardiness. J Pers Soc Psychol  1979; 37: 1– 11. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  3. Hystad SW, Eid J, Johnsen BH, Laberg JC, Thomas Bartone P. Psychometric properties of the revised Norwegian dispositional resilience (hardiness) scale. Scand J Psychol  2010; 51: 237– 245. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  4. Eschleman KJ, Bowling NA, Alarcon GM. A meta-analytic examination of hardiness. Int J Stress Manage  2010; 17: 277– 307. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   5. Hewett R, Liefooghe A, Visockaite G, Roongrerngsuke S. Bullying at work; cognitive appraisal of negative acts, coping, wellbeing and performance. J Occup Health Psychol  2016. doi:10.1037/ocp0000064. 6. Notelaers G, Einarsen S. The construction and validity of the Short-Negative Acts Questionnaire. 6th International Conference on Workplace Bullying: Sharing our Knowledge. Montreal, Canada: Ecole des sciences de la gestion; Université du Québec à Montréal, 2008. 7. Eriksen HR, Ihlebaek C, Ursin H. A scoring system for subjective health complaints (SHC). Scand J Public Health  1999; 27: 63– 72. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  8. Reme SE, Lie SA, Eriksen HR. Are 2 questions enough to screen for depression and anxiety in patients with chronic low back pain? Spine (Phila Pa 1976)  2014; 39: E455– E462. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  9. Hayes AF. Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis. A Regression-Based Approach . New York: The Guilford Press, 2013. 10. Hobfoll SE. Conservation of resources. a new attempt at conceptualizing stress. Am Psychol  1989; 44: 513– 524. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed  © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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Occupational MedicineOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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