The purpose of the paper is to identify how the intersection of power, context, subjectivity and directionality makes it possible for the targets of workplace bullying to deflate power imbalance between them and the perpetrators. The paper is based on nine in-depth interviews with self-reported targets from different public sector organizations in India. The targets were purposively selected keeping in mind that they made deliberate attempts to counter bullying. Constructivist grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data. Six themes emerged as sources of power imbalance and eight themes as the way of deflating power imbalance. The core category that emerged was “enhancing personal identity”, which was the underlying phenomenon leading to deflation of power imbalance, through the intersection of power, context, subjectivity and directionality. The study indicates that power, context, subjectivity and directionality of bullying help the targets to identify effective strategies of deflating power imbalance. In the process, the targets indulge in personal identity enhancement. It further reinforces the understanding that power does not remain static and may shift from the perpetrator to the target of bullying. The study provides various tactics that targets can use to counter workplace bullying. It implies that targets need not always leave the organization or succumb to the situation in order to deal with bullying. It encourages the targets of bullying and those who deal with bullying targets to indulge in personal identity enhancement through problem-focused strategies of tackling workplace bullying. It also furthers our understanding of workplace bullying from the point of intersection of the four aspects of the phenomenon – power, context, subjectivity and directionality – which allows the targets of bullying to enhance their personal identity.
Published in: Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management