9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN11 Sociology of Emotions

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Work Organisations & Emotions I Building II, C6.06

Bullying, bystanders, emotions and ethics

Bullying, bystanders, emotions and ethics

Bullying at the workplace has got increased attention during the last decades. Bullying is a specific interactional process between perpetrators, bystanders and victims. Research of bullying from the perspective of the bystander is rather limited. Bystanders, however, play a crucial role in bullying because they in a complex way contribute to the construction of a social reality that allows processes of bullying.
The purpose of the paper is to present the preliminary results of a qualitative analysis of bystander's experiences of bullying at the work place. The study was based on qualitative interviews with 45 employees. The interviewees were selected according to criteria of being witnesses, perpetrators and victims. All the interviewees, however, were asked to reconstruct experiences of processes of negative interactions from the above mentioned three different perspectives. They were also asked to reconstruct episodes in which they have felt different social emotions such as anger, shame, pride, fear, depressions, joy etc. and they were asked how they managed these emotions.
The purpose of the analysis is to explore the complex relationship between aroused emotions such as fear, shame, guilt, anger, ways of interpreting the social reality, ways of take or deny moral responsibility and different ways of acting as bystander. In the analysis I draw on Scheff's theory on shame and social bond, Collins' theory of interaction ritual, emotional energy and morality, Clark's theory of emotional experienced social place and Cohen's theory about denial and cognitive distortions. I also draw on general sociological literature about morality and ethics in modern society.