Author(s), Title and Publication

Goodboy, A. K., Martin, M. M., Knight, J. M., & Long, Z. (2015). Creating the Boiler Room Environment The Job Demand-Control-Support Model as an Explanation for Workplace Bullying. Communication Research. DOI: 0093650215614365.


Bullying, messaging characterized by power imbalance that creates harm is a relevant and increasing concern in organizations. Yet, most organizations do nothing in response to reported bullying. Examined from a job-demands perspective, this study assesses bullying as a coping strategy and reciprocal cause of “boiler room,” or high-strain, high-stress work environments. This study explores relationships between bullying and work-related stress, job satisfaction, and anxiety at work. Additionally, this study explores the impact of coworker and supervisor social support, and control on job stress, satisfaction, and anxiety.

A questionnaire about bullying experiences, working environments, and occupational outcomes was given to 314 full-time American employees working in various organizations. Results showed workplace bullying was correlated with negative outcomes at work (i.e., job dissatisfaction, job stress, anxiety). Further, respondents who worked at organizations characterized by high psychological demands, low control, and low supervisor social support indicated higher occurrences of bullying. Additionally, the findings showed that even if employees work for an unsupportive supervisor, there is significantly less bullying at work due to excessive job demands when employees have control over how they complete their demands at work. Although a significant relationship between psychological demands and workplace bullying remains, allowing employee control buffers the negative effect in workplaces when there is low supervisor social support.

Implications for Practice

These results suggest supervisors should: (1) promote employee autonomy, sense of personal choice, and participative decision-making, (2) lessen psychological work demands in a pressured working environment, (3) consider how to be supportive of their employees in ways that alleviate strain and deter workplace bullying and interpersonal mistreatment, (4) be aware that specific occupations might require more supervisor social support because they are high-strain (e.g., freight handler) versus low-strain (e.g., natural scientist) jobs, and (2) communicate social support to employees, which may ultimately serve to mitigate workplace bullying.

Location of Article

This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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