Bullying in the Military: Do the Effects on Mental Health and Wellbeing Depend on the Source?

Nicole M. Steele*, Gerard J. Fogarty, Bryan Rodgers

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The current study explored the prevalence and consequences of being bullied by coworkers, subordinates, and/or superiors within 21 Australian Defence Force units (N = 2,960). Data were collected as part of an organizational climate survey administered to each unit at the request of the unit commander. Bullying from multiple sources was more common than bullying from a single source, indicating climates of workplace bullying. Of the 945 respondents (31.9%) who reported experiencing workplace bullying, coworkers and superiors were the main sources either in isolation or in combination with other levels in the organization. Furthermore, there was evidence that the impact varied according to source. Compared to bullying from coworkers or subordinates, more detrimental effects were experienced when superiors were the sole source of workplace bullying; 23.6% of respondents in this situation reported ongoing distress or having to seek medical/mental health care. The associations between experiencing bullying and psychological distress, affective commitment, and job satisfaction were also stronger when superiors were the source of bullying. These results emphasize the importance of supervisors showing respect to all employees. Bullying behaviors are likely to be copied, creating climates where bullying can come from multiple sources, with consequent negative effects on the targets of these behaviors.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalMilitary Behavioral Health
    Publication statusPublished - 2023


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