Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Beyond Blaming the Victim: Toward a More Progressive Understanding of Workplace Mistreatment

  • Lilia M. Cortina (a1), Verónica Caridad Rabelo (a2) and Kathryn J. Holland (a3)
Abstract

Theories of human aggression can inform research, policy, and practice in organizations. One such theory, victim precipitation, originated in the field of criminology. According to this perspective, some victims invite abuse through their personalities, styles of speech or dress, actions, and even their inactions. That is, they are partly at fault for the wrongdoing of others. This notion is gaining purchase in industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology as an explanation for workplace mistreatment. The first half of our article provides an overview and critique of the victim precipitation hypothesis. After tracing its history, we review the flaws of victim precipitation as catalogued by scientists and practitioners over several decades. We also consider real-world implications of victim precipitation thinking, such as the exoneration of violent criminals. Confident that I-O can do better, the second half of this article highlights alternative frameworks for researching and redressing hostile work behavior. In addition, we discuss a broad analytic paradigm—perpetrator predation—as a way to understand workplace abuse without blaming the abused. We take the position that these alternative perspectives offer stronger, more practical, and more progressive explanations for workplace mistreatment. Victim precipitation, we conclude, is an archaic ideology. Criminologists have long since abandoned it, and so should we.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lilia M. Cortina, University of Michigan, Department of Psychology, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail: lilia@umich.edu
Footnotes
Hide All

This article extends arguments appearing in the following chapter: Cortina, L. M. (2017). From victim precipitation to perpetrator predation: Toward a new paradigm for understanding workplace aggression. In N. Bowling & M. S. Hershcovis (Eds.), Research and theory on workplace aggression (pp. 121–135). New York: Cambridge University Press. Many thanks to Sandy Hershcovis, Mindy Bergman, Kim Lonsway, Abby Stewart, Rita Seabrook, and Jennifer Freyd for their feedback on earlier versions of this article.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Amir, M. (1967). Victim precipitated forcible rape. Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 58, 493502.
Aquino, K. (2000). Structural and individual determinants of workplace victimization: The effects of hierarchical status and conflict management style. Journal of Management, 26 (2), 171193. doi:10.1177/014920630002600201
Aquino, K., & Bradfield, M. (2000). Perceived victimization in the workplace: The role of situational factors and victim characteristics. Organization Science, 11 (5), 525537. doi:10.1287/orsc.11.5.525.15205
Aquino, K., & Byron, K. (2002). Dominating interpersonal behavior and perceived victimization in groups: Evidence for a curvilinear relationship. Journal of Management, 28 (1), 6987. doi:10.1177/014920630202800105
Aquino, K., Grover, S. L., Bradfield, M., & Allen, D. G. (1999). The effects of negative affectivity, hierarchical status, and self-determination on workplace victimization. Academy of Management Journal, 42 (3), 260272.
Aquino, K., & Lamertz, K. (2004). A relational model of workplace victimization: Social roles and patterns of victimization in dyadic relationships. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89 (6), 10231034. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.89.6.1023
Basford, T. E, Offermann, L. R. & Behrend, T. S. (2014). Do you see what I see? Perceptions of gender microaggressions in the workplace. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38 (3), 340349.
Bateson, R. (2012). Crime victimization and political participation. American Political Science Review, 106 (3), 570587.
Berdahl, J. L. (2007a). Harassment based on sex: Protecting social status in the context of gender hierarchy. Academy of Management Review, 32 (2), 641658. doi:10.5465/AMR.2007.24351879
Berdahl, J. L. (2007b). The sexual harassment of uppity women. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92 (2), 425437.
Berger, R. J., & Searles, P. (1985). Victim-offender interaction in rape: Victimological, situational, and feminist perspectives. Women's Studies Quarterly, 13 (3/4), 915.
Brekke, N., & Borgida, E. (1988). Expert psychological testimony in rape trials: A social-cognitive analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55 (3), 372386. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.55.3.372
Brownmiller, S. (1975). Against our will: Women and rape. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38 (2), 217230. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.38.2.217
Campbell, R., Fehler Cabral, G., Pierce, S. J., Sharma, D. B., Bybee, D., Shaw, J., . . . Feeney, H. (2015). The Detroit Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) Action Research Project (ARP), Final report. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248680.pdf
Chan, M. E., & McAllister, D. J. (2014). Abusive supervision through the lens of employee state paranoia. Academy of Management Review, 39 (1), 4466. doi:10.5465/amr.2011.0419
Coates, L., & Wade, A. (2004). Telling it like it isn't: Obscuring perpetrator responsibility for violent crime. Discourse & Society, 15 (5), 499526. doi:10.1177/0957926504045031
Cohn, E. G., & Farrington, D. P. (1994). Who are the most influential criminologists in the English-speaking world. British Journal of Criminology, 34 (2), 204225.
Cortina, L. M. (2008). Unseen injustice: Incivility as modern discrimination in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 33 (1), 5575. doi:10.5465/amr.2008.27745097
Cortina, L. M. (2017). From victim precipitation to perpetrator predation: Toward a new paradigm for understanding workplace aggression. In Bowling, N. & Hershcovis, M. S. (Eds.), Research and theory on workplace aggression (pp. 121135). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Cortina, L. M., & Berdahl, J. L. (2008). Sexual harassment in organizations: A decade of research in review. In Barling, C. C. J. (Ed.), Handbook of organizational behavior: Micro perspectives (pp. 469497). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cortina, L. M., Kabat-Farr, D., Leskinen, E. A., Huerta, M., & Magley, V. J. (2013). Selective incivility as modern discrimination in organizations: Evidence and impact. Journal of Management, 39 (6), 15791605. doi:10.1177/0149206311418835
Cowan, G. (2000). Beliefs about the causes of four types of rape. Sex Roles, 42 (9), 807823. doi:10.1023/a:1007042215614
Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: The automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 518.
Eigenberg, H., & Garland, T. (2003). Victim blaming. In Moriarty, L. J. (Ed.), Controversies in victimology (pp. 1524). Newark, NJ: Routledge.
Elias, R. (1986). The politics of victimization: Victims, victimology, and human rights. New York: Oxford University Press.
Escamilla v. SMS Holdings Corp ., 2011, WL 5025254 (D. Minn. Oct. 21, 2011).
Franklin, C. W., & Franklin, A. P. (1976). Victimology revisited: A critique and suggestions for future direction. Criminology, 14 (1), 125136. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1976.tb00008.x
Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteeem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102, 427.
Henle, C. A., & Gross, M. A. (2014). What have I done to deserve this? Effects of employee personality and emotion on abusive supervision. Journal of Business Ethics, 122 (3), 461474.
Human Rights Watch. (2010). “I used to think the law would protect me”: Illinois's failure to test rape kits. New York: Author.
International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). (2005). Sexual assault incident reports: Investigative strategies. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Kabat-Farr, D., & Cortina, L. M. (2012). Selective incivility: Gender, race, and the discriminatory workplace. In Fox, S. & Lituchy, T. (Eds.), Gender and the dysfunctional workplace (pp. 107119). Northhampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Kim, E., & Glomb, T. M. (2014). Victimization of high performers: The roles of envy and work group identification. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99 (4), 619634. doi:10.1037/a0035789
King, E. B., Dunleavy, D. G., Dunleavy, E. M., Jaffer, S., Morgan, W. B., Elder, K., & Graebner, R. (2011). Discrimination in the 21st century: Are science and the law aligned? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 17 (1), 5475.
Konik, J., & Cortina, L. M. (2008). Policing gender at work: Intersections of harassment based on sex and sexuality. Social Justice Research, 21 (3), 313337.
Kutash, I. L. (1978). Treating the victim of aggression. In Kutash, I. L., Kutash, S. B., & Schlesinger, L. B. (Eds.), Violence: Perspectives on murder and aggression (pp. 446461). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kutash, I. L. (1984). Aggression victimology: Treatment of the victim. In Strean, H. S., (Ed.), Psychoanalytic approaches with the hostile and violent patient (pp. 4764). New York: Routledge.
Laschinger, H. K. S., Leiter, M. P., Day, A., Gilin-Oore, D., & Mackinnon, S. P. (2012). Building empowering work environments that foster civility and organizational trust: Testing an intervention. Nursing Research, 61 (5), 316325.
LeGrand, C. E. (1973). Rape and rape laws: Sexism in society and law. California Law Review, 61, 919941. doi:10.15779/Z384B4V
Leiter, M. P., Laschinger, H. K. S., Day, A., & Oore, D. G. (2011). The impact of civility interventions on employee social behavior, distress, and attitudes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96 (6), 12581274. doi:10.1037/a0024442
Leskinen, E. A., Rabelo, V. C., & Cortina, L. M. (2015). Gender stereotyping and harassment: A “catch-22” for women in the workplace. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 21 (2), 192204.
Lonsway, K. A., Cortina, L. M., & Magley, V. J. (2008). Sexual harassment mythology: Definition, conceptualization, and measurement. Sex Roles, 58 (9), 599615. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9367-1
Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1994). Rape myths: In review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18 (2), 133164. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1994.tb00448.x
Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1995). Attitudinal antecedents of rape myth acceptance: A theoretical and empirical reexamination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68 (4), 704711.
Lopez, S. H., Hodson, R., & Roscigno, V. J. (2009). Power, status, and abuse at work: General and sexual harassment compared. Sociological Quarterly, 50 (1), 327. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2008.01131.x
MacKinnon, C. A. (1979). Sexual harassment of working women: A case of sex discrimination. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Meloy, M. L., & Miller, S. L. (2010). The victimization of women: Law, policies, and politics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mendelsohn, B. (1956). The victimology. Etudes Internationale de Psycho-Sociologie Criminell, (July–September), 2326.
Mendelsohn, B. (1958). La victimologie. Revue Française de Psychanalyse, 22 (1), 95120.
Milam, A. C., Spitzmueller, C., & Penney, L. M. (2009). Investigating individual differences among targets of workplace incivility. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14 (1), 5869. doi:10.1037/a0012683
O'Connell, C. E., & Korabik, K. (2000). Sexual harassment: The relationship of personal vulnerability, work context, perpetrator status, and type of harassment to outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 56 (3), 299329. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1999.1717
Offermann, L. R., Basford, T. E., Graebner, R., Jaffer, S., De Graaf, S. B., & Kaminsky, S. E. (2014). See no evil: Color blindness and perceptions of subtle racial discrimination in the workplace. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20 (4), 499507. doi:10.1037/a0037237
Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services , 523 U.S. 75 (1998)
Olweus, D. (1978). Aggression in the schools: Bullies and whipping boys. New York: Wiley.
Osatuke, K., Moore, S. C., Ward, C., Dyrenforth, S. R., & Belton, L. (2009). Civility, Respect, Engagement in the Workforce (CREW): Nationwide organization development intervention at Veterans Health Administration. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 45 (3), 384410. doi:10.1177/0021886309335067
Payne, D. L., Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1999). Rape myth acceptance: Exploration of its structure and its measurement using the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 33 (1), 2768. doi:10.1006/jrpe.1998.2238
Pryor, J. B. (1987). Sexual harassment proclivities in men. Sex Roles, 17 (5), 269290. doi:10.1007/bf00288453
Ressler, R. K., Burgess, A. W., Douglas, J. E., Hartman, C. R., & D'Agostino, R. B. (1986). Sexual killers and their victims identifying patterns through crime scene analysis. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1 (3), 288308. doi:10.1177/088626086001003003
Samnani, A. K. (2013). “Is this bullying?” Understanding target and witness reactions. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28 (3), 290305. doi:10.1108/02683941311321196
Samnani, A. K., & Singh, P. (2016). Workplace bullying: Considering the interaction between individual and work environment. Journal of Business Ethics, 139 (3), 537549.
Scott, K. L., Restubog, S. L. D., & Zagenczyk, T. J. (2013). A social exchange-based model of the antecedents of workplace exclusion. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98 (1), 3748. doi:10.1037/a0030135
Schwendinger, J. R., & Schwendinger, H. (1974). Rape myths: In legal, theoretical, and everyday practice. Crime and Social Justice, 1, 1826.
Settles, I. H., & O'Connor, R. C. (2014). Incivility at academic conferences: Gender differences and the mediating role of climate. Sex Roles, 71 (1–2), 7182.
Sojo, V. E., Wood, R. E., & Genat, A. E. (2016). Harmful workplace experiences and women's occupational well-being: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 40 (1), 1040. doi:10.1177/0361684315599346
Tepper, B. J., Duffy, M. K., Henle, C. A., & Lambert, L. S. (2006). Procedural injustice, victim precipitation, and abusive supervision. Personnel Psychology, 59 (1), 101123. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.2006.00725.x
Tepper, B. J., Moss, S. E., & Duffy, M. K. (2011). Predictors of abusive supervision: Supervisor perceptions of deep-level dissimilarity, relationship conflict, and subordinate performance. Academy of Management Journal, 54 (2), 279294. doi:10.5465/amj.2011.60263085
Tetreault, P. A. (1989). Rape myth acceptance: A case for providing educational expert testimony in rape jury trials. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 7 (2), 243257. doi:10.1002/bsl.2370070208
The Weiner Report. (2002). DNA justice: Cases solved at last. New York: Author.
Timmer, D. A., & Norman, W. H. (1984). Ideology of victim precipitation. Criminal Justice Review, 9 (2), 6368. doi:10.1177/073401688400900209
von Hentig, H. (1940). Remarks on the interaction of perpetrator and victim. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 31 (3), 303309. doi:10.2307/1137415
von Hentig, H. (1948). The criminal & his victim: Studies in the sociobiology of crime. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Weis, K., & Borges, S. S. (1973). Victimology and rape: The case of the legitimate victim. Issues in Criminology, 8 (2), 71115.
Wiederspahn, A. (2013, September 12). Military catches flak for poster that warns of sexual assaults. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/jansing-co/military-catches-flak-poster-warns
Wolfgang, M. F. (1957). Victim precipitated criminal homicide. Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, 48 (1), 111. doi:10.2307/1140160
Wu, L. Z., Birtch, T. A., Chiang, F. F., & Zhang, H. (In press). Perceptions of negative workplace gossip: A self-consistency theory framework. Journal of Management. doi: 10.1177/0149206316632057.
Wu, L., Wei, L., & Hui, C. (2011). Dispositional antecedents and consequences of workplace ostracism: An empirical examination. Frontiers of Business Research in China, 5 (1), 2344.
Zurbrügg, L., & Miner, K. N. (2016). Gender, sexual orientation, and workplace incivility: Who is most targeted and who is most harmed? Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 112. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00565
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • ISSN: 1754-9426
  • EISSN: 1754-9434
  • URL: /core/journals/industrial-and-organizational-psychology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed