According to Strauss (2011), bullying is an act aimed at tormenting, frustrating or wearing down to provoke, intimidate or cause discomfort. He observes that bullying is normally frequent in places such as schools, hospitals, prisons and even homes. Evidently, these acts of bullying are a crippling and devastating problem to organizations than work related stress and is seen as a kind of social problem. Because of its complexity, Rigby (2002) suggests that a phenomenal approach is required in order to comprehend all types of bullying behaviors.

However, studies into etiology of bullying have majorly been concerned with issues of personality of the aggressed and the psychosocial factors. Furthermore, it is evident that bullying takes various reasons which may be either predatory or dispute-related. Espelage & Seemlier (2003) argue that since most people do not know when they are bullying others because of their view of their actions as legitimate and moral, there is need to know about the assignment of blame and the accounting for both behaviors of bullying and the victims’ perception of these behaviors. Reportedly, most victims of bullying point to difficult personality of the bully as well as a combination of stress and position of power as causes of bullying in organizations.

According to Strauss (2011), the etiology of bullying should be studied from the perspective that it involves a host of variety behaviors, situations, and contexts which lead to aggressive behaviors of bullying. Strauss further argues that the need for a clear approach to etiology of bullying is necessitated by the fact that there are different forms of bullying i.e. predatory, dispute related, or both. Evidently, all these forms of bullying strives on the facts of demonstration of power or exploitation of the victim into obedient or compliance. In some instances, it is also done to a victim because he/she is viewed as an intruder or out-group.

Various Causes of Bullying

According to Rigby (2002) bullying can be viewed in up to seven different dimensions which has helped shape how bullying is perceived. These dimensions include physical conduct, habit oriented acts, unwelcome and distasteful behavior, the way people see bullying as a violation of rights, the level of harm caused to the victim of bullying, the intention of controlling the actions of bullying, and finally the position invariability between the aggressor and the victim of aggression.

Rigby (2002) observes that bullying may be as a result of competition for power and status among a group which include; job status, one individual becoming envious of the other, and lack of self confidence in one person which leads to uncertainty and low esteem. However, he argues that envy being a perceived cause for bullish behaviors is no more than an individual act of preserving acknowledgment.  Additionally, envy may be as a result of high-esteem which leads to a form of aggression to the victims.  He further, notes that victims of bullying normally attract such behaviors based on their personalities as most were ignorant to the acts of bullying. Rigby (2002) further suggests that weak superior may also cause bullying.

Espelage & Seemlier (2003) suggest that the need to achieve beyond one’s ability with out of reach view of abilities and resources together with burden of work may cause one to become a bully. Reportedly, the aggressors view themselves as more accurate, punctual and honest than their peers hence the need to be patronizing and bullish. For instance, employees who are seen as bullish may aggravate aggressive behaviors in others. Espelage & Seemlier (2003) state that a persistent form of aggression or bullying may cause the victim to be low self-esteemed, oversensitive and suspicious which may aggravate acts of bullying. Furthermore, these behaviors lead to depression assiduous, liberal-minded and naïve.

Rigby (2002) suggests that different factors are outstanding in eliciting bullying at work places. He identifies deficiencies in design of work and leadership behavior as examples of these factors. Others are exposure to social positions of the victim and low morale among the victims. Evidently environmental factors such as competition at work place and working atmosphere contributed to acts of bullying. He argues that unfavorable working environment causes dissatisfaction in the employees hence harassment by the top management. Other factors identified include; lack of possibilities to monitor and control work tasks, incompatible demands and unrealistic roles and tasks which creates frustrations and stress in a work-group. Rigby (2002) concludes that this cause conflicts and poor relationships among workers which in turn necessitate for a scapegoat.

Espelage & Seemlier (2003) observe that bullying may be as result of aggressive behavior being used as a great effort in an interpersonal conflict, indolent and resentment to perceive wrong-doing by ones opponent. They suggest that this may occur when whatever the victim does is seen as offensive to the bully. In certain cases, Espelage & Seemlier (2003) find that lack of trust and respect between the parties causes a recipient to view all forms of behavior from the bully as a sign of hostility.


From the findings above, it is clear that much is to be done in the etiology of bullying at various places. The study on the causes of bullying must continue in specified directions of investigating the factors that influence the views and feelings of being a victim of bullying and also the investigations on what could cause one to become a bully. The nature of bullying calls for an intensive study to address the overt effects to recipients, offenders and the witnesses of bullying. There is also the need to come up with a clear analysis of different perspectives of psychology such as personality of the aggressor and the victim, attributions, working environment, the culture of the organization and organization changes and how each of these perspectives may contribute to the causes of bullying.

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