Research at Webster Vienna
Leading the Fight against Workplace Bullying
Dr. Eva Zedlacher, Assistant Professor of Management, works on two grants from the Lower Austria Chamber of Labor (AK NÖ) to address “third-party action” in preventing workplace bullying. She sat down with our team to discuss her work.
Dr. Zedlacher’s research in third-party awareness and intervention, so called “third-party action”, could be effective at fighting workplace bullying at its core. She has found that in order to make a difference, third parties must first be aware of the dynamics of workplace bullying and their own responsibility to stop it.
Workplace bullying is often subtle and not easy to identify for third parties, but even when bullying escalates and becomes more visible, it has been found that peers and organizations often do nothing about it, or even blame the target’s personality or behavior for what has happened. This lack of support often leads to further escalation and detrimental health consequences. The “failure to intervene” is not just a moral issue; organizations in Austria also have the legal “duty of care” (“Fürsorgepflicht”) to provide a harassment-free workplace.
WVPU: Dr. Zedlacher, you have now received two grants from the Lower Austria Chamber of Labor for two separate projects. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
Dr. Zedlacher: For the first, smaller project supported by the Chamber of Labor (AK NÖ) , I was particularly interested in whether prior work performance ratings (e.g. high or low) of the targets affected the helping intentions of the third parties, and whether/how third parties attribute blame to a single (f)actor; or whether they engage in so-called “multiblaming.” We know from previous research that HR professionals in particular often consider bullying complaints as stemming from negative performance feedback. In turn, these complaints are often trivialized and the targets are blamed for what happened to them (“victim blaming”). The problem with that is that ignorance or trivialization of a complaint may escalate the problem, as targets may feel even more bullied due to the lack of support.
Allison Snowden, a recent MBA graduate, was an integral part of my work in determining the effect of performance ratings and blame patterns on the perception of bullying. She used much of our research in her own thesis, which I am happy to report she successfully defended this past year. We have presented preliminary results at various conferences. We can show that people often engage in blaming different (f)actors for a negative and complex event, and that victim blaming is still very prevalent among third parties. One of the implications of our findings for organizational practice is that any training should make people reflect and question their (immediate) blaming tendencies. Rather than individualizing the problem, practitioners as experts should also point to structural causes and measures that might be a cause or a solution to the problem.
The second, larger project with the AK NÖ is ongoing. Here the focus lies more on intervention by direct bystanders in workplace bullying incidents, including electronic media. We will conduct video experiments with fictional scenarios to investigate how direct bystanders respond to different forms of misconduct at work, in particular when the interaction takes place via emails on smartphones. The final goal of this project is to produce an interactive video training tool for workforce members and trainers to become more aware of the (negative) effects of new forms of interactions, including ways to intervene effectively. I am working with two great film producers who support me with casting of actors/actresses and the plot for the final movie. They will also program the final interactive training.
Anastasiia Hizenko, an excellent undergraduate Management student, has been assisting in this project. She has been with me since last year her support in literature research, administration and pre-testing is invaluable. Reza Noori Khoondabi, a graduate Psychology student, recently joined our team in January. He will be an additional help for implementing the experiments into the final survey and will also assist with preliminary data analysis. I am very happy to have both of these great students in my project.
I am very thankful that Webster Vienna supports faculty research through scholarships for research assistants! I believe it’s also important to recognize the effort and dedication of AK NÖ of not only supporting work force services, but also for investing into employment relationships. Without their grant funding, such research designs with video experiments would not be possible.
WVPU: Your research touches on cyberbullying as a new theme in workplace harassment. In the digital age and with more work conducted online, it is easy to see how this can become problematic. What are some of the qualities of cyberbullying that make it different from other types of workplace bullying?
Dr. Zedlacher: Cyberbullying in particular can be detrimental because victims can be haunted by attacks. For instance, a single harassing message on Instagram is posted only once, but can be shared with a diverse mass and read repeatedly. Less dramatic and very, generally speaking, the digitalization of our work interactions may provide grounds for misbehavior and misunderstandings, which might require some ethics guidelines. Imagine you receive a late-night email from your boss on your work smartphone with some new urgent tasks. Some might feel harassed and wonder, “Why can’t s/he wait till the next day with the new tasks”; some might simply ignore the late mail anyway.
WVPU: This is fascinating work and obviously can be applied to real-world scenarios. Where could one learn more about your work before you finish these two projects?
Dr. Zedlacher: My latest book chapter in the “Handbook of Research on Cyberbullying and Online Harassment in the Workplace” is a good place to start. There my co-author Martina Hartner-Tiefenthaler from TU Wien and I discuss more about whether the digitalization of work is dangerous for ethical climates at work and how to prevent cyberbullying in the digital workspace.
Civility Values and Cyberbullying Prevention in the Digital Workspace: How to Foster an Ethical Climate of Respect
Eva Zedlacher (Webster Vienna Private University, Austria) and Martina Hartner-Tiefenthaler
(Vienna University of Technology, Austria)
Handbook of Research on Cyberbullying and Online Harassment in the Workplace
Faculty - Business and Management
Dr. Nikolaos Antonakakis
Head of Department and Associate Professor and Area Coordinator for Economics
Dr. Pernille Eskerod
Full Professor and Area Coordinator for Management and Organizational Behavior
Dr. Maria Madlberger
Full Professor and Area Coordinator for Marketing
Dr. Menbere Workie Tiruneh
Finance and Economics
Dr. Ronald Hochreiter
Dr. Maria-Teresa Punzi
Dr. Eva Zedlacher
Mr. Adam Louis Troldahl, MA
Ms. Dorothy Kishbaugh, LMSW
Active in 2020-2021
Dr. Florin Abazi
Dr. Mehdi Ali
Dr. Maximilian Benner, M.Sc.
Mr. Alfred Dolecek, MSc.
Accounting and Marketing
Univ.-Doz. Dr. Claus Ebster
Marketing & Management
Mag. Alexandra Federer, MBA
Mr. Massimiliano Falcinelli, MS
Dr. Paul Fischer, LLM
Dr. Andrea Gaal
Dr. Hossein Hassani
Ms. Casandra Hutchinson, MSc
Math & Statistics
Prof. Mag. Dr. Dr. Petra Inwinkl
Mr. Michael Kapfer, MBA
Marketing & Public Relations
Dr. Christian Kreuzer
Dr. Christopher Kronenberg
Management & Entrepreneurship
Mr. Charles La Fond, MBA
Dr. Xavier Matteucci
Mr. Alan Noble, MA
Dr. Heinz Palasser, MBA, MSc
Mag. Svetla Pehlivanova-Porenta
Dr. Hanno Poeschl, MSc, MBA
Finance & Management
Dr. Rudolf Rössel, MBA
Dr. Roman G. Seligo
Mr. Robert Senz
Dr. A. Nicholas Simon
Dr. Christian Steineder
Mr. Miguel Suarez Vasquez, PhD, MSc, MBA
Business & Accounting
Dr. Owat Sunanta
Math & Statistics
Mr. William Tippin, DM, CMC
Management [Fall 2020 Visiting Sverdrup Fellow]
Mr. Emil Tsenov, MA
Dipl.Kfm. Norbert Wetzel, MBA
Finance & Human Resources Management
Mag. Christian Wozabal, MBA
Anatoly Reshetnikov, Assistant Professor at WVPU’s International Relations Department, has contributed an article to a yearly forum that facilitates scholarly exchange between Russian and Western research institutions and is published by a SAGE journal New Perspectives. Every year, the journal invites several leading academics from outside Russia to respond to the yearly forecast “Russia and the World” prepared by a collective of authors from the Moscow-based Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).
This year’s pool of contributors to the forum include Richard Sakwa (University of Kent), Ruth Deyermond (King’s College London), Elizaveta Gaufman (University of Groningen), and other notable scholars. In his contribution titled “A country for old men: The pitfalls of conservative political analysis during crises”, Reshetnikov is pondering on several surprising parallels and contrasts between IMEMO’s forecast within the context of the current global crisis and W.B Yeats’ poetry within the context of its time.
To read the full issue of the journal, please, click here.
Faculty - International Relations
Active in 2020 - 2021
Aner Barzilay, PhD
Topics in Modern European History
Dr. Elina Brutschin
Methods of Political Inquiry
Advanced Research Methods
Dr. J. Werner Druml
Univ.-Ass. Mag. Dr. Marcel Fink
Dr. Eric Frey
International Political Economy
Mag. Gerlad Garber
Introduction to Political Argumentation and Debate
Dr. Sandra Goldstein
Middle East Area Studies
MMag. Dr. iur. Ralph Janik, LL.M.
Dr. Monika Mokre
Politics of Development
Refugee and Migration Movements
Prof. Iver B. Neumann, PhD
War and Diplomacy
Mag. Dr Dieter Reinisch MRes
The Age of Total War: Europe 1890-1945
Contemporary Europe: 1945-Present
Dr. Astrid Reisinger Coracini
Dr. Wiggins' monograph, The Discursive Power of Memes in Digital Culture, published by Routledge in March 2019, has been re-issued in paperback and e-book form as of September 2020. In a humorous series of events, Dr. Wiggins only became aware of this good news as of mid-January 2021.
Additionally, his article entitled #CivilWar2: Instagram Posts During COVID-19 has been accepted for publication by the competitive journal Social Semiotics(impact factor approx. 1.2). Once the final editorial processes are over, a link to the full article will be provided.
The abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely represents an unprecedented health crisis that has permeated all aspects of human society. Given the technological affordances of social media to disseminate fact-based as well as purposefully misinformed and/or conspiratorial information, this paper examines the serious and strategic messaging on Instagram posts tagged with #civilwar2. Results from a critical discourse analysis show that within modern American conspiratorial thinking and given the problematic politicization of COVID-19, healthy skepticism is replaced with conspiracy absent of theory. When extreme political and socio-cultural polarization occurs, this tendency is exacerbated by the bifurcation of meaning as expressed by those who seek to promote a particular angle of a given story or event. While this may be somewhat common in so-called old media, online in discursive spaces such as Instagram, the challenge to understand the mediated message is compounded by visual referents which are often remixed to include adjunct information, such as mashups, hashtags, inserted text, or images, etc. Results include the identification of two main categories of Instagram memes tagged with #civilwar2. These categories are analyzed following three primary characteristics of discourse: genre, discourse/representation, and style.
Faculty - Media Communications
Bradley E. Wiggins, Ph.D
Associate Professor and Head of Department
Meng Chen, Ph.D
Anthony Löwstedt, Ph.D
Mag. Daniela Machian
Phil Moran, PhD
Rafal Morusiewicz, PhD
Seth Weiner, BFA, M.Arch
Digital production tools
The Relaxing Effect of Binaural Beats
Brainwave entrainment (BWE) studies have measured the effectiveness of manipulating brainwave frequencies as an alternative to medicinal therapy. Binaural beats (BB) are created by producing two sounds of different frequencies delivered individually to each ear; this is used to entrain, through monotonous, repetitive, pulse-like qualities. This study used a within-subject’-s, double-blind design to compare the effectiveness of binaural beats of the alpha frequency (10Hz) on reducing stress compared to other acoustic stimuli.
A total of four conditions followed a short audio-visual presentation to induce stress/arousal: A music condition (ambient rain), a sound condition (one sound at a constant frequency, 400Hz), a binaural beats condition (10Hz binaural beat), and a music plus BB condition (10Hz binaural beats integrated with rain). Arousal level was measured using biofeedback measures of skin conductance and heart rate.
It was hypothesized that following the short audio-visual stressor, the BB conditions (Binaural Beats & Music plus BB) would have decreased arousal and a lower level of arousal than the other two conditions. The results of this experiment partially supported the hypothesis. On average, all four experimental conditions resulted in increased relaxation through a decrease in the skin-conductance measures.
With regard to heart rate, except for binaural beats, participants experienced higher heart rates after being exposed to other stimuli. There was a significant difference between the effect of BB and the effect of music on relaxation. The effect of binaural beats on relaxation compared to the sound of rain also significantly differed between female and male participants.
Additionally, the results show that when binaural beats are combined with music (sound of rain) then their effect on the extent of relaxation is significantly different than merely binaural beats. Considering prior research and the results of this study, the benefits of brainwave entrainment cannot be overlooked. The ease at which these methods of induction can be created or developed, as well as administered, contributes to making BWE an accessible and cost effective alternative to medicinal therapy.
This research was conducted by Kamran Cooper as part of a MA thesis, supervised by Prof. Peter Walla.
Faculty - Psychology
Marc Mehu, PhD Associate
Professor / Interim Head of the Psychology Department
Ms. Chryssi Tsounta, MSc
Psychology Department Coordinator
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