SA Journal of Industrial Psychology
On-line version ISSN 2071-0763
Print version ISSN 0258-5200
CILLIERS, Frans. A systems psychodynamic description of organisational bullying experiences. SA j. ind. Psychol. [online]. 2012, vol.38, n.2, pp.44-55. ISSN 2071-0763.
ORIENTATION: Organisational bullying experiences manifest themselves as an intense unconscious systemic dynamic involving the bully, the victim and the organisational culture. The relatedness between the objects is characterised by valences and mutual defence mechanisms such as splitting, projection and projective identification. RESEARCH PURPOSE: The purpose of this research was to describe organisational bullying experiences from the system psychodynamic perspective. MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY: Individual psychology tends to simplify organisational bullying by focussing on the bully's symptomatic behaviour. Systems psychodynamic thinking focuses on the behavioural dynamics in the relationship between the bully and victim, and the relatedness of both with the organisational system. RESEARCH DESIGN, APPROACH AND METHOD: Qualitative and descriptive research, using six participants as case studies, was undertaken. Data was gathered through Free Association Narrative Interviewing and analysed using discourse analysis. MAIN FINDINGS: Three themes manifested themselves, namely, snakes and hyenas, a complex interconnected dyad, and the institutionalisation of bullying. The research hypothesis integrating these three themes was presented. PRACTICAL/MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS: In resolving organisational bullying Industrial Organisational psychologists need to pursue this phenomenon not only in terms of its symptoms, but in a holistic, systemic and role related manner addressing all of its parts. CONTRIBUTION/VALUE-ADD: The systemic understanding of organisational bullying implies the complexity of studying the behaviour of all parts - the bully, the victim, their dyadic relationship as well as how bullying is institutionalised in the organisational setting, climate and culture.