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Caring for those in your charge: the role of servant leadership and compassion in managing bullying in the workplace

Saima Ahmad (Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Talat Islam (Institute of Business Administration, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan)
Premilla D'Cruz (Organizational Behaviour Area, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India)
Ernesto Noronha (Organizational Behaviour Area, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 5 September 2022

Issue publication date: 6 January 2023




Adapting a positive business ethics framework, the purpose of this paper is to offer a new perspective to manage bullying at work. Specifically, this paper reports an empirical study which examines how the good work of servant leadership may lower employees’ exposure to workplace bullying, with compassion as a mediator and social cynicism beliefs (SCBs) as a moderator.


Survey data were gathered from 337 essential health professionals working in various public and private health-care organisations in Pakistan. Structural equation modelling was used to test the research model.


This study found that perceived servant leadership helps in lessening employee exposure to workplace bullying by strengthening their compassion. However, SCBs moderate the mediating role of compassion in employees’ perceptions of the servant leadership–bullying relationship.

Research limitations/implications

This study has implications in developing models of leadership to build employees’ empathetic resources to combat workplace bullying. The authors found that servant leadership and workplace compassion, embodying positive, ethical and sustainable attributes, play a crucial role in managing bullying at work by promoting relational dignity.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that examines the relationships between employee perceptions of servant leadership, workplace bullying and employee compassion while considering SCBs as a boundary condition.



Ethical considerations.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

Ethics approval: All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Participant consent: Participation in the survey was voluntary, and study participants were first given details of the project and assured that their responses would be strictly anonymous and reported as aggregate results.


Ahmad, S., Islam, T., D'Cruz, P. and Noronha, E. (2023), "Caring for those in your charge: the role of servant leadership and compassion in managing bullying in the workplace", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 125-149.



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