Bergen Bullying Research Group

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Cultures in Combat: Mission Command in the Arctic

PhD Candidate: Johannes Kibsgaard

Supervisors: Prof. Olav Kjellevold Olsen (UiB), Assocoate prof. Øystein Løvvik Hoprekstad (BI Norwegian Business School)

Project funding: The Norwegian Defence University College

Project period: May 2023 - May 2027


NATO countries and partners such as Sweden have adopted mission command as their leadership philosophy. All nations pretty much describe mission command the same way; however, they practice it differently.

Everyone belongs to several cultures, which can be based on where you live, what organization you work for etc. One's national culture is believed to be more salient than any other of these cultures. As leadership is quite culturally contingent, it is not surprising that mission command would be understood and practiced differently in different nations.

The project wants to increase our understanding of how these cultural differences impact multinational military teamwork when it comes to mission command. This knowledge can be used to inform leaders and team members about how they can leverage the opportunities diversity offers and avoid potential disruptive effects.

The project will focus on nations that are believed to be key participants in any Arctic campaign involving Norway. The primary nations of interest are Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Studying Canada, Belgium Denmark, France, Germany, and the Netherlands is also of interest.

Protection against insider threats

PhD Candidate: Tarald Slåttebrekk

Supervisors: Prof. Olav Kjellevold Olsen (UiB), prof. Brita Bjørkelo (PHS) and associate Prof. Kari Wik Ågotnes (UiB)

Project funding: The Norwegian Research Council and The Norwegian Ministry of Defense.

Project period: January 2023- january 2027

Insider threats can manifest in various forms, ranging from accidental (Hadlington, 2021) to self-motivated (Duncan et al, 2012), or recruited by being exploited or convinced by a third party (Cole & Ring, 2005). Globally, the prevalence and cost of insider threats are increasing (Ponemon, 2022), making protection relevant for an expanding number of organizations.

The intention of this project is to contribute to research-based knowledge regarding factors that can explain an organization's ability to protect itself against insider threat, as well as exploring the phenomenon itself. Specifically, the project involves a focus on leadership, as well as individual and contextual factors that can explain variation in security behavior and practices related to protection against insider threats.

In study I the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) is applied on an insider threat case recently processed in the Norwegian legal system. The study explores factors that may reduce human vulnerability in an adverse recruitment process. The results can contribute to increased understanding of a complex phenomenon and provide practical insights into how organizations can protect themselves against threats. Studies II and III dissect facets of this complexity, operationalizing them as characteristics of leaders and employees in quantitative diary studies

Empowering leadership in a military context

PhD Candidate: Hans-Christian Knevelsrud

Supervisors: Jørn Hetland (UiB),  Arnold B. Bakker (UiB, EUR) and Tommy Krabberød (SKSK)

Project funding: The Norwegian Defence University College

Project period: January 2023 - December 2025

Empowering leadership can play a crucial role in stimulating proactive behavior among employees. Most Western militaries have adopted a leadership philosophy emphasizing decentralized decision-making and execution. This approach promotes flexibility and speed by fostering initiative and allowing subordinates to use their competence, creativity, and situational understanding. Although empowering leadership is considered a desirable leadership style in dynamic environments, research has revealed mixed results regarding its effectiveness.

The aim of this study is to enhance our understanding of the significance of empowering leadership in military contexts. The project will assess how various factors moderate its effectiveness and explore how daily leadership behaviors influence employee proactivity, motivation, work engagement, and performance.

Employing a quantitative diary approach, the project will capture thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in real-world military work settings. This methodology allows for an in-depth analysis of the outcomes associated with empowering leadership and the factors affecting its impact on a day-to-day basis.

The findings are expected to inform and enhance leadership development and training programs. They will provide insight into the dynamics of empowering leadership, particularly its effects on employee motivation, proactivity, engagement, and performance. Furthermore, the study will explore the effects of situational factors and individual differences in shaping the effectiveness of this leadership style. Collectively, these insights can contribute to advancing leadership practices within the mission command philosophy framework.

Destructive leadership in a military context

PhD Candidate: Thomas Hol Fosse

Supervisors: Prof. Ståle Valvatne Einarsen (UiB), Prof. Anders Skogstad (UiB), and Monica Martinussen (UiT)

Project funding: The Norwegian Defence University College

Over the last decades, researchers and practitioners have become interested in studying destructive forms of organisational leadership. However, destructive leadership in a military context remains relatively unexplored, even though inherent factors of this context (hierarchy, discipline and frame of high and cost) may render military personnel particularly exposed to consequences of destructive leadership.

This PhD project will first (paper I) provide a systematic review and meta-analysis of research concerning active and passive forms of destructive leadership in a military context (e.g. abusive supervision and laissez-faire). The review will summarize findings related to prevalence, measurement, antecedents, and consequences of this type of leadership behavior. A systematic literature search will identify relevant papers, and the meta-analysis will estimate mean effect sizes of the different forms of destructive leadership behavior and compare it with constructive forms of leadership. Further, the analysis will estimate the effect of possible moderators like level of rank and operational settings.

Paper II and III will analyze data from a longitudinal study in the Norwegian Armed Forces based on questionnaire data, test results and performance data. Previous studies indicate that destructive leadership behavior may be associated with a number of antecedents. In a broader perspective both supervisor characteristics and organizational factors may contribute to explaining the occurrence of destructive leadership behavior.

Paper II will investigate to which extent criteria used in a military selection process may predict future destructive leadership behaviour. General mental ability, personality, interviews, and other test are currently used to select candidates, based on their ability to predict both academic performance and efficient leader performance. Unwanted and destructive leader behavior has received less attention in selection processes. To address this knowledge gap, paper II will examine if destructive leader behavior can be predicted by leader characteristics at the time of selection.

In paper III, we will examine the influence of conducive environments on destructive leadership behavior. We will examine the moderating role of contextual variables (workload, predictability, role ambiguity) on the relationship between destructive forms of leadership and followers work engagement and military leader performance.

This Phd project will provide a systematic examination of different forms of destructive leadership in a military context, and bring forth new knowledge of how different factors may contribute to unwanted destructive leadership behavior. This information is required to introduce and implement evidence-based strategies to prevent and manage such unwanted psychosocial risks in the work place. Indeed, applied knowledge and the implementation of appropriate measures in the organization often represent the difference between efficient handling of the situation and non-intervention with detrimental outcomes.

Motivation in military selection

PhD Candidate: Henrik Sørlie

Supervisors: Associate Prof. Jørn Hetland (UiB) and Prof. Anders Dysvik (BI)

Project funding: The Norwegian Defence University College

The goal of personnel selection is the prediction of future job performance, or other desired future outcomes, before a hiring decision is made. Important predictors that are commonly used by organizations for this purpose are intelligence and personality, both of which are relatively stable traits of a person and that are indicative of performance across a range of professions. However, motivation also plays an important part in employees’ performance and well being at work. For this reason motivation is also sometimes attempted assessed by recruiters and hiring managers during a hiring process, with little research showing that this can be expected to lead to better employees and a range of difficulties relating to measuring motivation reliably in a selection context.

The problem with this is that motivation is situational, and not a stable trait of a person. Thus, it can vary wildly depending on other factors. An applicant for a position might for instance feel very motivated during the application process, but situational characteristics of the organization might make this motivation decline rapidly after onboarding.

The PhD project explores motivation as it relates to personnel selection in a military context. Among other things, it investigates whether we can predict job motivation in a selection process. That is, can we, based exclusively on data available before a hiring decision is made, predict who is most likely to be highly motivated in the specific position? Different theories relating to motivation are used to explore this. A central concept in the project is Person-Organization Fit (P-O Fit), or value congruence between a person and an organization. P-O Fit is interesting because it is neither a characteristic of the person or the organization, but rather of the relationship between them. P-O Fit has been shown to be related to a range of attitudinal and behavioral outcomes that are beneficial to an organization, but its potential for selection has not been investigated extensively despite the fact that it can be measured reliably before organizational entry and without the applicant having any knowledge of the organization in question.

The project uses longitudinal data collected in the Norwegian Armed Forces, among applicants for leadership education, with follow-up surveys during their education and again during service as young leaders in the different branches.

The theoretical contributions of the project are more knowledge about the way individual and situational factors interact and contribute to work motivation and performance. Among the possible practical implications are methods that might be utilized for personnel selection to increase the degree to which new employees feel at home in their organizations and are motivated for their work.

The role of psychological safety climate for the prevention of workplace bullying: A multilevel model

PhD Candidate: Kristina Vaktskjold Hamre

Supervisors: Prof. Guy Notelaers (UiB) and Prof. Ståle Einarsen (UiB)

Project funding: University of Bergen

Project period: August 2022 - July 2026

Workplace bullying may be defined as a systematic form of aggression and social exclusion, happening persistently and over a period of time, and where the negative actions from superiors or co-workers are challenging to defend oneself against for those targeted (Einarsen et al., 2020). Empirical findings also show extensive detrimental effects for the targets both mentally and physically (Mikkelsen et al., 2020; Nielsen & Einarsen, 2012; Schütte et al., 2014). Empirical research has further shown that both design of work and the characteristics of persons involved may account for the occurrence of workplace bullying (Nielsen & Einarsen, 2018). Although the context wherein bullying unfolds, for instance the organizational climate, have been central in accounts of bullying, little empirical research (Gillen et al., 2017) has been published. Building upon the job demand-resources model (JDR) and the Conservation of Resources (COR) model our overall aim is to investigate whether the psychosocial safety climate (PSC) in an organization, functions as a resource that may prevent workplace bullying from happening and hinder its risk factors. Psychosocial safety climate is the employee’s perceived quality of the organizational policies and procedures designed for the protection of the health and safety of employees.