The characterization of dark leadership : workplace bullying, psychological harassment, or office politics?
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Negative behaviour by leaders’ costs organizations around the globe billions of dollars a year in turnover and lost productivity, despite workplace conduct policies and government legislation. This study explored how negative leader behaviour, or dark leadership (DL), is characterized in the organizational setting. The term Workplace Bullying is well known; however Psychological Harassment is overlooked, and Office Politics is often used to justify negative behaviour. In a qualitative design, semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore three perspectives on the issue, those of leaders, human resources practitioners and employees. Thematic Analysis identified similarities and differences between groups in how the terms Workplace Bullying, Psychological Harassment and Office Politics were characterized, the challenges in dealing with DL and where improvements can be made in managing and reducing the behaviour. DL is about power, maintaining or gaining it through self-serving game-playing and managing up, using power over others to intimidate and manipulate. It thrives in environments where negative behaviour is normalized through a focus on bottom line results and a lack of accountability for leader behaviour. The systemic nature of this damaging behaviour results in both human resources practitioners and employees facing the paradoxical challenge of an issue caused by leaders yet requiring leadership to address.