Asymmetric intergroup bullying: The enactment and maintenance of societal inequality at work

Soydan Soylu, Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What does inequality mean for dysfunctional organizational behaviours, such as workplace bullying? This article argues that workplace bullying can be understood as a manifestation of intergroup dynamics originating beyond the organization. We introduce the construct of asymmetric intergroup bullying: the disproportionate mistreatment of members of low status groups, with the intended effect of enhancing the subordination of that group in society at large. Analysis of data from 38 interviews with public and private sector workers in Turkey depicts a pattern of asymmetric intergroup bullying, undertaken to achieve organizational and broader sociopolitical goals. Respondents reported bullying acts used to get rid of unwanted personnel, with the goal of avoiding severance pay, or of removing supporters of the former government from positions of political and economic influence. Bullying was also described as working towards the dominance of the sociocultural worldview of one political group over another. We discuss asymmetric intergroup bullying as one mechanism through which acute intergroup hierarchy in the broader society corrupts management practice and employee interactions, in turn exacerbating economic inequality along group lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1099-1129
Number of pages31
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 8 2015


  • bullying
  • inequality
  • intergroup relations
  • management
  • qualitative
  • social dominance theory
  • Turkey
  • workplace

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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