Lessons from Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiments: Leadership’s Deliberate Indifference Exacerbates Workplace Bullying in Higher Education

Leah P Hollis
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 4  •  2019  •  pp. 085-102

The purpose of this paper is to apply Albert Bandura’s findings of the Bobo Doll experiments to organizational behavior and workplace bullying in higher education. The Bandura social psychological experiments confirm that people who see aggression also need to witness an intervention to aggression to learn that the organization does not welcome aggression in their work environment.

By applying the Bandura experiment, the researcher shows how leadership can intervene to stop organizational aggression and abuse. Without leadership intervention, workplace bullying continues in higher education.

The researcher used a data set of 730 higher education professionals. The central research question: RQ Which personnel, bullied or not bullied, are more likely to report that no intervention was demonstrated in the organization’s response to reports of workplace bullying on campus? A chi-square analysis was used to examine if organizational inaction was more likely to lead to workplace bullying.

The application of the Bobo Doll experiments confirms that workplace aggression is either curtailed or proliferates based on leadership’s intervention to stop aggression in higher education. This social psychology approach contributes to the literature on workplace bullying in higher education about the need for leadership to intervene and stop bullying behaviors.

Those who reported organizational apathy, that is the “organization did nothing” were more likely to face workplace bullying in higher education at a statistically significant level, .05 level (χ2 (1, n = 522) = 5.293, P = 0.021). These findings align with Bandura’s theoretical approach that an intervention is needed to curtail aggression and workplace bullying.

Organizational leadership should consider 360 evaluations, ombudsmen, and faculty oversight committees to collect data and intervene in workplace bullying problems on campus.

Researchers can further examine how leadership engagement and intervention can curtail costly and corrosive workplace bullying in higher education.

These findings confirm that workplace bullying will not just disappear if left unattended. Empirical data confirms that leadership apathy, or deliberate indifference, to interventions only enable aggression and bullying in the workplace.

Future research projects can include qualitative approaches to discover what values encourage leaders to intervene in workplace bullying.

workplace bullying, Bobo Doll, laissez-faire leadership, deliberate indifference
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