[We’re please to welcome author David Dryden Henningsen of Northern Illinois University. Henningsen recently published an article in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled, “Nuanced Aggression in Group Decision Making” co-authored by Mary Lynn Miller Henningsen, also of Northern Illinois University. The article is currently free to read for a limited time. From D. Henningsen:]
What inspired you to be interested in this topic? Reflecting on our experiences in meetings, my co-author and I both noted the presence of people who rely on bullying or whining as their preferred influence style. It occurred to us that this is likely a common experience. Everyone probably knows a whiner and/or a bully. Examining the literature on group decision-making revealed that this is an area that has been largely unaddressed by scholars. We decided to conduct this study as a preliminary test of the effects of whining and bullying in organizations. It was the insights of one of the reviewers which helped us to frame both bullying and whining as aggressive behavior, but that offers an intriguing perspective on how submissive behaviors (i.e., whining) need not be passive behaviors.
Were there findings that were surprising to you? The findings were largely consistent with our belief that whining and bullying would be detrimental in the workplace. There is an interesting sex difference that emerges with regard to effectiveness. Whereas women tend to feel effectiveness is hurt by the presence of whining, bullying, or both, men tend to feel effectiveness is really only hurt when both whining and bullying occur.
How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice Although this is an exploratory study, it provides important insights into the use of aggressive tactics to gain influence. There is a lot of research on informational and normative influence. However, we suspect that non-rational forms of influence are fairly common in the workplace. We hope to further explore how those tactics may offset more rational approaches.
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