Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 17, Iss. 4, October, 2013, pp. 493-515
@2013 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Modeling Workplace Bullying Using Catastrophe Theory

J. Escartin, University of Barcelona, Spain
L. Ceja, University of Navarra, Spain
J. Navarro, University of Barcelona, Spain
D. Zapf, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Abstract: Workplace bullying is defined as negative behaviors directed at organizational members or their work context that occur regularly and repeatedly over a period of time. Employees’ perceptions of psychosocial safety climate, workplace bullying victimization, and workplace bullying perpetration were assessed within a sample of nearly 5,000 workers. Linear and nonlinear approaches were applied in order to model both continuous and sudden changes in workplace bullying. More specifically, the present study examines whether a nonlinear dynamical systems model (i.e., a cusp catastrophe model) is superior to the linear combination of variables for predicting the effect of psychosocial safety climate and workplace bullying victimization on workplace bullying perpetration. According to the AICc, and BIC indices, the linear regression model fits the data better than the cusp catastrophe model. The study concludes that some phenomena, especially unhealthy behaviors at work (like workplace bullying), may be better studied using linear approaches as opposed to nonlinear dynamical systems models. This can be explained through the healthy variability hypothesis, which argues that positive organizational behavior is likely to present nonlinear behavior, while a decrease in such variability may indicate the occurrence of negative behaviors at work.

Keywords: cusp catastrophe model, nonlinear changes, workplace aggression, workplace bullying, organizational climate, healthy variability hypothesis