Bullying is a significant workplace problem—a fact highlighted by a grow- ing body of social science literature. Its causes, however, have received little systematic attention beyond analyses of the personality attributes of bullies. This article explores the roles of relational power and organizational chaos in the emergence of workplace bullying. The analysis of content-coded organi- zational ethnographies integrates quantitative and qualitative techniques and draws heavily from the ethnographies themselves. Results suggest that the interplay of relational powerlessness and organizational chaos gives rise to bullying. In contrast, where there is a disjuncture between organizational and relational factors, the extent of bullying is determined by underlying, context- specific aspects of power. These results suggest a need for organizations not only to protect the weak, but also to eliminate chaos—chaos that creates openings for the abuse of power.
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