Employee turnover has adverse consequences for effective organizational functioning. The time and energy devoted to find suitable new employees and the time required for new employees to reach maximum level of productivity may sometimes result in difficulties in achieving organizational objectives (Waldman, Kelly, Arora & Smith, 2004).
Because of the important practical implications of turnover, much research attention has been devoted to identifying the correlates of employees‟ intention to leave the organization. The results of these studies have shown that intention to leave is positively correlated with many job stressors (Ngo, Foley & Loi, 2005; Podsakof, LePine, LePine, 2007). Workplace bullying is one job stressor that has been studied in relation to intention to leave. Some investigators have examined the main effects of bullying whereas others have examined the interactive effects of individual differences variables and being bullied on intention to leave (Djurkovic, McCormack & Casimir, 2008; Nishii & Mayer, 2009).
The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether belief in a just world moderates the effects of being bullied on turnover intention. Although previous research conducted in Europe and North America has shown that belief in a just world moderates the effects of workplace stressors, there is a paucity of research concerning the mediating or moderating role of BJW in countries with different cultural and religious background such as Turkey. This paper, therefore contributes to the literature by examining the extent to which the concept of BJW can be applicable to organizational behavior in a non- western country.
Although many different definitions of workplace bullying have been proposed ( e.g. Di Martino, Hoel, & Cooper, 2003; Keashly & Jagatic, 2003) and different acts have been considered as bullying some consensus on what constitute bullying have been emerged in recent years (Notelaers, Einarsen, De Witte & Vermunt, 2006).
Workplace bullying comprise hostile verbal and nonverbal acts such as harassing, offending, socially excluding or intimidating an organizational member (Di Martino, Hoel, & Cooper, 2003; Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf & Cooper, 2003). For a hostile act to qualify as bullying (1) it must be displayed in a systematic manner for a period of time; (2) the target must experience difficulty in defending himself or herself against this act and (3) it must be perceived by the target as oppressive, unfair, humiliating, undermining. “A conflict cannot be called bullying if the incident is an isolated event or if two parties of approximately equal „„strength‟‟ are in conflict” (Einarsen et al., 2003, p. 15).
Bullying encompasses a wide range of hostile behaviours. These behaviours may be overtly or covertly expressed and may be targeted at the work or at the personal characteristic of the victim (Djurkovic, McCormack & Casimir, 2008). Withholding information, setting impossible deadlines for the victim, removing key areas of responsibility from the victim, permanent criticism of the victim‟s work, socially isolating the victim, spreading rumours about the victim, detrimental comments, attacks on the victims personal characteristics and threats of physical violence are examples of bullying behaviours (Einarsen, 2000).
Bullying has adverse consequences for the target. Many investigators have reported that to be a target of bullying lowers self-esteem (Mathiesen and Einarsen, 2007; Vartia, 2003) and produce psychological problems such as fear, anxiety, helplessness, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (Mathiesen and Einarsen, 2004; Mikkelsen and Einarsen, 2002). Workplace bullying has also widespread negative effects on the organization as a whole. It has been reported that victims of bullying display less organizational citizenship (Constantino, Domingez & Galan, 2006) and more counterproductive work behavior (Einarsen et al., 2003).
Being victim of bullying at work also reduces the organizational satisfaction and commitment (Hoel & Cooper, 2000), decreases productivity (Hoel, Einarsen & Cooper, 2003; Keashly & Jagatic, 2003), increases absenteeism (Vartia, 2001), sickness absence (Kivimaki, Elovainio, and Vahtera, 2000), also propensity to leave and turnover (McCormack, Casimir, Djurkovic & Yang, 2009; Quine, 1999).
Many researchers have provided evidence suggesting a significant relationship between being subject to bullying and intention to leave (Quine, 1999, 2001; Simons, 2008). It has been reported that as compared with employees who have not been subjected to bullying, the targets of bullying have higher intentions to leave (Quine, 1999, 2001) and make threat to quit (Liefooghe, 2003) or actually quit their jobs more often (Rayner, 1999).
Therefore literally leaving or thinking of leaving the organization may be seen as a coping strategy used by targets of bullying (Hoel & Cooper, 2000; Zapf & Gross, 2001). Being subject to bullying obviously play an important role in determining an employees intention or decision to leave. However, it has also been shown that some victims of bullying may be more vulnerable than others (Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2001, 2004). This indicate that responses to workplace bullying are mediated or moderated by employees‟ personal characteristics. Some authors called attention to a need to examine the potential mediators or moderators impact on the relationship between bullying and intention to leave (e.g. Hoel, Einarsen, Keashly, Zapf, & Cooper, 2003). Research has shown that factors such as effective commitment and perceived organizational support mediates or moderates the relationship between bullying and intention to leave (McCormack et al., 2009; Djurkovic et al. 2008).
From the just world hypothesis perspective experiences of unfairness in the workplace is crucial for the employees because such experiences threaten their belief in a just world for immediate and long-term work life at workplace (Cubela Adoric & Kvartuc, 2007; Dzuka & Dalbert, 2007). Therefore when they experience injustice they try to assimilate it to their BJW. The stronger employees‟ beliefs in a just world, the more likely they will be to try to reinterpret unpleasant events in their workplace so as to protect their belief in a just world. Therefore they will be more confident in being treated justly by coworkers, instructors, superiors, and the organization as a whole (Otto, Glaser & Dalbert, 2009). In line with this view, just-world research has evidenced that employees with strong BJW are more satisfied with their jobs and more committed to the organization (Otto, Glaser and Dalbert, 2009), and experience less negative emotions under stressful work conditions such as low job control, job insecurity, work overload (Cubela Adoric and Kvartuc, 2007; Dzuka and Dalbert, 2007; Otto and Schmidt, 2007).
Since turnover intention is positively correlated with job stressors (Carlson & Thompson, 1995) and negatively correlated with job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Glazer & Beehr 2005), it is reasonable to assume that the relationship between workplace bullying and intention to leave the organization is moderated by BJW. Hence the present study was carried out to investigate whether personal and general belief in a just world moderates the effects of being bullied on turnover intentions. Based on the above mentioned characteristic of individual with strong BJW and the results of previous studies the following hypotheses were proposed:
Hypothesis 1: Personal belief in a just world moderates the relationship between bullying and turnover intention such that the relationship is stronger when personal BJW is low and weaker when personal BWJ is high.
Hypothesis 2: The relationship between bullying and turnover will not be moderated by the general BJW.