Workplace bullying is a serious psychosocial occupational hazard. Despite a wealth of empirical study, research has rarely examined the mechanisms through which bullying has its negative effects. Accordingly, using both between- and within-person approaches, we investigated the erosion of job (Study 1) and personal (Study 2) resources following workplace bullying, mediated by the depletion of emotional energy. In Study 1, self-report survey data were collected from 221 retail workers at 2 time-points spaced 6 months apart. Structural equation modeling revealed that over time bullying depletes coworker support, partially mediated by emotional exhaustion. In Study 2, a 6-week diary was completed by a separate sample of 45 workers employed in various occupations. Within-person weekly variability in bullying exposure was 34%. Hierarchical linear modeling showed that weekly emotional exhaustion partially mediated the negative effects of weekly workplace bullying on both optimism and self-efficacy. The consistent pattern across both studies supports the idea of a resource loss process whereby exposure to bullying at work erodes job and personal resources by depleting energy. Future research should clarify the role of exhaustion in utilizing resources to respond to bullying, focus on predictors of within-person variability in bullying exposure, and more explicitly model the resource loss spiral following workplace bullying.
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