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Workplace bullying among employees in Germany: prevalence estimates and the role of the perpetrator

Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of workplace bullying in Germany while also taking the perpetrator and severity level (measured by frequency) into account and considering the role of gender, age and socio-economic status.

Methods: We used data from a large representative sample (N = 4143) of employees in Germany subject to social security contributions. Self-reported bullying was assessed for different combinations of perpetrators (co-workers, superiors) and according to severity, i.e., being exposed at all and to severe bullying (at least weekly).

Results: Prevalence estimates varied from 2.9% for severe bullying by co-workers to 17.1% for overall bullying (i.e., without distinguishing by perpetrator, less severe bullying also included). Unskilled workers reported more bullying by both perpetrators than academics/managers. We also observed an age trend for severe bullying by superiors (i.e., bossing), with younger employees being more affected from bossing than elder. No gender differences were detected.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that it is crucial to consider type of perpetrator and severity of the behaviors when examining the prevalence of workplace bullying. The way bullying is defined and operationalized strongly contributes to the prevalence estimates. Differences between subgroups and associations or cause–effect relationships should be analyzed with these variations in mind.

This article is published in the Journal "International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health" (Volume 92, Issue 2, pp. 237-247).

First Online: 2 November 2018

Bibliographic information

S. Lange, H. Burr, P. M. Conway, U. Rose:
Workplace bullying among employees in Germany: prevalence estimates and the role of the perpetrator. 
in: International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, Volume 92, Issue 2 2019. pages 237-247, Project number: F 2384, DOI: 10.1007/s00420-018-1366-8

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Research Project

Project numberF 2384 StatusCompleted Project Project bundle: Longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA II) - Project component 1: Preparation of questionnaire and conduction of the second wave of S-MGA II

Find out more : Project bundle: Longitudinal study of mental health at work (S-MGA II) - Project component 1: Preparation of questionnaire and conduction of the second wave of S-MGA II …