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Public Management Review
ISSN: 1471-9037 (Print) 1471-9045 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpxm20
Respect, bullying, and public sector work
outcomes in Vietnam
Diep T. N. Nguyen, Stephen T. T. Teo, Steven L. Grover & Nguyen P. Nguyen
To cite this article: Diep T. N. Nguyen, Stephen T. T. Teo, Steven L. Grover & Nguyen P. Nguyen
(2018): Respect, bullying, and public sector work outcomes in Vietnam, Public Management
Review, DOI: 10.1080/14719037.2018.1538426
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2018.1538426
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Published online: 31 Oct 2018.
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Respect, bullying, and public sector work outcomes in
Diep T. N. Nguyen
, Stephen T. T. Teo
, Steven L. Grover
and Nguyen P. Nguyen
School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia;
Management, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand;
International School of Business,
University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This article examines empirical links between a subordinate’s felt recognition respect
from his/her supervisor, the subordinate’s appraisal respect for that supervisor, and
bullying, work engagement, and organizational citizenship behaviour in Vietnam’s
public sector. Data from 274 employees in six branches of a public sector agency
were used to test the hypothesized model. Within Vietnam’s public sector, the
followers who receive recognition respect from the leaders have greater appraisal
respect for their leaders, experience less bullying, and reveal higher work engage-
ment and organizational citizenship behaviour. This article theoretically and empiri-
cally contributes to the respect literature developed in the Western context.
KEYWORDS Respect; bullying; engagement; organizational citizenship behaviour; public sector
In contemporary life, work situations establish key grounds on which people are
respected or not as respected. This communicates worth and belongingness, the
importance of which lies at the core of human existence and basic psychological
needs (Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015; Rogers and Ashforth 2017). Nowhere is
this more important than in the public sector, which is marked by leaders who are
not always trained to create a supportive environment that cares for the followers’
wellbeing to ultimately reinforce public service motivation, which is the core deter-
minant of job satisfaction, work engagement, and organizational citizenship beha-
viour (Christensen, Paarlberg, and Perry 2017; Cowell, Downe, and Morgan 2014;Ko
and Hur 2014). However, scholars have only recently begun to examine the feeling of
being respected and holding respect for the leader generally. Emerging research (e.g.
Clarke and Mahadi 2017; Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015) argues for further
empirical examination of the consequences of respect in the workplace.
There have not been many empirical studies which examine how the feeling of
being respected by one’s boss interrelates with having respect for the boss (with the
exception of Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015). In a recent study conducted in
CONTACT Diep T. N. Nguyen email@example.com
These authors contributed equally to this work.
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and repro-
duction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW
Europe, Decker and Van Quaquebeke found that when bosses (supervisors) treated
their followers (subordinates) with respect, it would lead to job satisfaction, because it
meets one’s self-determination needs, especially belongingness and relatedness. In
addition, the ego self-enhancement associated with self-determination is much stron-
ger when the messages of respect come from a valued source. According to Decker
and Van Quaquebeke (2015), these relationships can be interpreted within the
boundaries of contexts with similar cultural values while other scholars (e.g. Grover
2014; Rogers and Ashforth 2017) have argued that respect can be further differen-
tiated by its direction in the supervisory relationship. In fact, the notion of respect
could be different in Asia due to differences in managerial values and leadership
styles (Hayward, Freeman, and Tickner 2017; PWC 2016). Therefore, this study
questions how the interrelationships of respect work together in a cultural context
different from that conducted by Decker and Van Quaquebeke (2015). Such will be
the main aim of the present study.
The present study contributes to the understanding of the importance of leader–
follower respect in Vietnam. Vietnam was chosen as the research context because of the
dominance of collectivism, power distance and Confucianism in the society. These
three factors influence how subordinates ‘respect’their leaders in the society (see PWC
2016;Weng2017). In a collective culture, leaders and subordinates are expected to be
group-oriented and as a result, positive and supportive interpersonal relationships are
developed to eliminate the prevalence of negative workplace behaviours (Thang et al.
2007). On the other hand, in a high power distance society, it is a challenge for the
creation of supportive relationship with subordinates as the powerless subordinates
often experience and accept unfair work treatment as part of obeying the commands
from their leader (Hofstede Insights 2018). Such treatment often leads to employee
silence, especially when there is no trust towards the leader (Weng 2017)ortheymay
be too frightened to report negative workplace behaviours (Kwan, Tuckey, and Dollard
2014). Individuals in Confucian work environment are also expected to respect their
leaders’authority and seniority; which may result in a tolerance of workplace mistreat-
ments. In such instances, the subordinates are likely to tolerate and accept workplace
bullying situation as bullying could be used by the supervisors as a means to maintain
hierarchy and order (Kwan, Tuckey, and Dollard 2014).
Indeed, leaders must embrace ‘respect’as the guiding principle for fair treatment
of subordinates (Liu and Stening 2016; Pellegrini and Scandura 2008). As a result, it
is expected that public sector subordinates in Vietnam will reciprocate their respect
and loyalty for their leaders/supervisors (PWC 2016; Quang and Vuong 2002). An
import aspect of the leader–follower relationship lies in how followers perceive the
respect by their leaders. However, little is known about how respect is associated with
negative workplace behaviours in a collectivist culture. Most of the researches on
respect are being examined in the Western society (see Omari and Paull 2015) that
found that a lack of respect tends to be the cause of negative workplace experience in
the public sector. Given the importance of a respectful workplace culture (Omari and
Paull 2015), the second contribution in our study is to examine how respect
diminishes the occurrences of negative workplace behaviours in order to enhance
positive employee work outcomes. Negative workplace behaviours are associated with
leaders not listening to the voices of their subordinates, or not recognizing the
employees’needs (Cowell, Downe, and Morgan 2014). Therefore, treating people
with respect and not bullying them are core ethical values of government service
2D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
(Omari and Paull 2015). It is predicted that bullying acts can be prevented as the
followers experience positive and respectful behaviours from their leaders, and the
associated respect for their leaders are reciprocated. This reduction in bullying results
in a more positive work experience as indicated by high engagement in work and
organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) because the leader sets up a respectful
standard for organizational behaviours. A large body of research on OCB shows that
job satisfaction, perceived fairness, and personality dimensions are most frequently
found in Western countries, while little is known about the determinants and
consequences of OCB in non-Western economies with the exception of Farh,
Earley, and Lin (1997,2002,2004) and Lam et al.’s(2015) studies in China, noted
by Organ (2018). Thus, the third and last contribution in our study is a response to
the call for further evidence of additional precursors of OCB in a non-Western
context where respect is the central value in interpersonal relationships. This study
therefore incorporates social identity theory (SIT), social exchange theory (SET), and
motivated cognition theory (MCT) to propose the interrelationship of these concepts,
as illustrated in Figure 1.
Theoretical framework and hypotheses
Respect in organizations
Being respected is one of the basic psychological needs of humans (Christensen,
Paarlberg, and Perry 2017; Magee and Frasier 2014). In this study, respect
as ‘the manifestation of believing another person has value and can be differentiated
between appraisal and recognition respect. Appraisal respect is the approbation from
work performance and recognition respect is the quality of interpersonal treatment’
(Grover 2014, 35). This concept is vital for the public sector as respect is accorded to
individuals’care for others (i.e. having others’interests in mind) and professional
competence (i.e. having skills and knowledge to help others achieve their goals)
(Fiske 2010; Magee and Frasier 2014). These two elements of respect are important
in the public sector context to stimulate public service motivation of public servants
as respect reflects the self-recognition and strong ties between the organization and
employee values and goals (Christensen, Paarlberg, and Perry 2017; Magee and
Figure 1. Proposed model of the study.
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 3
Frasier 2014). For this reason, the relationships between the leader and the subordi-
nates are integral to understand how respect influences the followers’work percep-
tions and outcomes in the public sector.
SIT states that every man has a desire for self-definition (i.e. personal identity) and
self-recognition (i.e. social identity) in a social group to which they belong (Ashforth
and Mael 1989; Hitlin 2003). Thus, individuals tend to engage in cohesive, coopera-
tive, and altruistic behaviours and symbolic interactions with their group members to
define themselves and increase an awareness of their status within their group
(McKay et al. 2007). A key idea that has emerged from the SIT is that people’s
tendency to reciprocate how they are treated would depend on the extent to which
they identify with their group (Tavares, van Knippenberg, and van Dick 2016). This
social identity would lead individuals to view their relationships with the group less
in social exchange terms, and thus the association between perceptions of the quality
of exchange relationship would deteriorate (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005; Parzefall
and Salin 2010). The present paper examines this idea by examining the outcomes of
a reciprocal respectful relationship between the leader and the followers.
SET focuses on how an organizational management system shapes social connec-
tions and interactions between people (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005; Parzefall and
Salin 2010). The central assumption of SET is built on the exchange of employees’
effort and loyalty for the benefits they receive, such as recognition and support
(Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005; Parzefall and Salin 2010). In high quality connec-
tions, positive interdependent relationships generate the obligations and commitment
due to a bidirectional transaction that shows what is given and what is returned in
mutual, respectful, and complementary activities (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005;
Cropanzano, Dasborough, and Weiss 2017). These interdependent relationships will
inspire positive energy and encourage a supportive workplace atmosphere and
collaboration among organizational members (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005;
Cropanzano, Dasborough, and Weiss 2017). On the other hand, individuals tend to
adjust their attitudes and behaviours downwards in response to perceived unfavour-
able treatment (Parzefall and Salin 2010).
Drawing from SIT, recognition respect shows leaders’willingness to listen atten-
tively and collaborate ethically with employees due to their acceptance of employees’
rights, worth, and humanity as fully fledged colleagues (Van Quaquebeke and Eckloff
2010). Showing recognition respect to the followers reflects the leader’s duty to
support humankind and sustain high quality interpersonal interactions. The feelings
of recognition respect connote being included in one’s identity group and treated in a
respectful manner that leads to the feeling of being worthy (Decker and Van
Quaquebeke 2015). This is true in a positive social exchange situation between the
leader and the followers highlighted by the SET. Clarke and Mahadi (2017) found
that mutual recognition respect associates positively with wellbeing. This is because
when the leaders have positive and respectful behaviours directed towards the
followers, they will inspire the feelings of obligation in the followers to reciprocate
in beneficial and positive ways. Thus, the followers who are led by the respectful
supervisors are motivated to believe that they receive leaders’trust and respectful
treatment (Clarke and Mahadi 2017).
Felt recognition respect facilitates relational information processing, which creates a
more positive impression of their supervisors (Grover 2014). The followers treated in a
positive fashion are placed in a positive state that enables appreciation for the leader
4D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
because of the leader’s abilities, knowledge, and skills in performing relevant super-
visory tasks and work-related components (Grover 2014). Within the Confucian
regime, the subordinates are likely to show respect towards their leaders due to the
leaders’power, formal authority, and hierarchical positions (PWC 2016; Weng 2017).
The subordinates’respect for the leaders may be strengthened when leaders are likely
to be sensitive to the needs of their followers and endeavour to assist them through
acting selflessly and with unveiling sympathy and kindness (Han, Kakabadse, and
Kakabadse 2010; Liu and Stening 2016). Such leaders are expected to behave honour-
ably, to treat their subordinates well, and protect them in order for their followers to
return loyalty (Pellegrini and Scandura 2008). In a social exchange process, subordi-
nates show their appropriate level of respect and loyalty for status, authority, higher
ranks, and legitimate hierarchical commands (PWC 2016; Quang and Vuong 2002). As
a result, the followers are more likely to concentrate on recognition respect to develop
appraisal respect for leaders because they emphasize a leader’s moral duty to provide
subordinates with an opportunity to contribute effectively (Liu and Stening 2016).
Hypothesis 1: Followers’perceived recognition respect positively relates to appraisal
respect toward the leader.
Respect and employee outcomes
According to MCT, learning behaviours from others help people to modify personal
attitudes and actions through the development of personal standards of conduct that
are a source of behavioural motivation (Baumeister 1996; Wood and Bandura 1989).
Specifically, individuals are encouraged to behave like successful members of the
organization who are similar to themselves, but they tend to be discouraged from
following behaviours that they see often result in unfavourable consequences
(Baumeister 1996; Wood and Bandura 1989). Linking to the respect literature,
learning the respectful behaviours of the leader increases the subordinates’positive
self-concept because the leader establishes and applies the rules and strategies for
treating his/her followers in a mutual and respectful manner that engenders the
development of a sense of self-worth and positive self-assessment (Clarke and
Mahadi 2017; Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015).
Respect at work can also be explained using SIT. People evaluate themselves in
comparison to their standing with groups and therefore respect stimulates self-esteem
that grounds a person’s willingness to conform to the organization’srulesandregulations
and to express positive workplace behaviours when interacting with other constituents
(Ellemers et al. 2013;Grover2014). Despite the empirical evidence of the impact of
respect on employee outcomes such as OCB, questions remain about the consequences
of recognition and appraisal respect related to exchange relationships between the leader
and the subordinates (Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015;Grover2014).
Bullying is defined as negative behaviour such as ignorance, social isolation, or
being humiliated, or intimidated frequently and repeatedly, and which happens to a
target in the workplace over a period of at least 6 months (Agervold and Mikkelsen
2004). Organizational members frequently direct workplace bullying towards the
target or at the target’s tasks or work environment (Harvey et al. 2009). Zapf et al.
(2011) noted that bullying frequently occurs in the public sector. For instance, Salin
(2001) and Piirainen et al. (2000) found that social and health workers, public
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 5
administration, and education staff frequently reported incidents of being bullied at
work. In the UK, one in five public workers claimed to have been a victim of bullying
at work (Lewis and Gunn 2007). Bullying is an example of unethical behaviours in
the public sector that have to be eliminated because public sector employees tend to
report more incidents of bullying and suffer severe psychological effects compared to
those in the private sector (e.g. Cowell, Downe, and Morgan 2014; Hoel, Faragher,
and Cooper 2004). According to Fevre et al. (2012, 4), public sector workers ‘are
particularly at risk of both incivility and disrespect and violence and injury’and this
situation is more serious than the private sector. Research also shows that bullying
victims are generally unable to defend themselves or to react in kind due to unequal
power distribution (Einarsen, Hoel, and Notelaers 2009). Thus, high power distance
and bureaucracy in the public sector enforce further barriers to the reports of
bullying incidents because the subordinates tend to accept what they are told by
leaders, and this dynamic legitimizes bullying behaviours (Samnani 2013).
Workplace bullying has been argued to be prevalent in society with Confucian and high
power distance values as workplace bullying is explicitly or implicitly supported by senior
managers (Samnani 2013). Empirical studies from Pakistan, India, Taiwan, and China
found that workplace bullying is commonly accepted by the subordinates in organizations
with tall hierarchy and autocratic relationships between managers and employees, and
imbalanced power distribution (Ahmer et al. 2009; Bairy et al. 2007;Ma,Wang,andChen
2011; McCormack et al. 2009). Therefore, the employees in Confucian and high power
distance contexts are expected to respond positively to workplace bullying compared to
those from low power cultures such as Australia (Loh, Restubog, and Zagenczyk 2010).
Accordingly, we argue that the work environment characteristics in Vietnam could
potentially lead to more workplace bullying among the public sector subordinates.
Based on MCT, leaders who respect their followers are likely to create a mutual
and respectful environment and rules for a collective treatment that encourages the
perceptions of person-person fit and the psychological growth of self-esteem, self-
worth, and positive self-validation (Baumeister 1996; Decker and Van Quaquebeke
2015). As individuals’needs of self-recognition are met, trust and the shared respect-
ful environment inspire and strengthen social ties or a positive workplace atmo-
sphere, and collaborative behaviours (Clarke and Mahadi 2017; Brunetto et al. 2016).
These positive exchange relationships thus reduce incidents of negative behaviours
such as bullying because employees frequently receive care, support, and resources
from their leaders (Hoel et al. 2010; Skogstad et al. 2011). Other research in public
sector organizations (e.g. Brunetto et al. 2016; Cowell, Downe, and Morgan 2011)
showed that the care, trust, and mutual respect of the public sector leaders for their
subordinates stimulate the development and maintenance of good standards for
ethical and acceptable behaviours and interactions among organizational members.
Having appraisal respect towards the leader is a form of openness to influence,
tantamount to having positive attitudes towards the experience of work, especially
when it is operationalized as the absence of negative bullying acts (Decker and Van
Quaquebeke 2015; Van Quaquebeke, Van Knippenberg, and Brodbeck 2011). Engaging
with respected leaders reduces the amount of energy that one devotes to the super-
visor–subordinate relationship and to navigating the intricacies and difficulties of
organizational life. In other words, having a talented and competent leader improves
organizational life because one’s life is easier and one can devote energy, or resources,
to organizational demands (Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015;Grover2014).
6D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
In Vietnam’s public service culture, negative workplace behaviours are not allowed,
as leaders from Confucian and collectivist culture are committed to care for and protect
their subordinates (Quang and Vuong 2002). Accordingly, the values of Confucianism
and collectivism exposed throughout all the organizations in Vietnam highlight the
perceptions of belonging to a group/organization, sharing common goals, caring, and
supporting each other (Dickson, Den Hartog, and Mitchelson 2003; Thang et al. 2007).
The leader is expected to be group-orientated, take care of his/her members, and put
others’interests above his/her personal needs. Such caring, helping, and supporting
behaviours are seen to be barriers for the prevalence of negative behaviours that could
harm individuals and the group, for which s/he is responsible. On the other hand, the
followers are expected to work hard and remain loyal to their managers when they
receive love and care from the leaders (Vo and Hannif 2013). When one party neglects
the roles in a reciprocal relationship, hostility and disappointment are guaranteed
(Pellegrini and Scandura 2008). Additionally, respect is most imperative in
Vietnamese work settings as it significantly influences work communication within
leader–follower–co-worker relationships (Weng 2017). Without the reciprocal respect-
ful relationships between the leader and the followers, organizational members remain
silent about raising and solving organizational problems due to a lack of trust towards
the management (Weng 2017). Leck and Galperin (2006) found that the culture of
collectivism has helped targets of bullying receive collective outward support from their
peers, including supervisor and co-workers, to report bullying acts or has enabled peers
to tell the perpetrator to stop the bullying behaviour. Omari and Paull (2015)also
supported the literature with the evidence that management neglect of responsibility
for developing a respectful culture is the main factor leading to the prevalence of
bullying in the public sector. The following are thus hypothesized:
Hypothesis 2a: Followers’perceived recognition respect negatively relates to bullying.
Hypothesis 2b: Appraisal respect toward the leader negatively relates to workplace bullying.
It is argued that positive interpersonal interactions between leaders and subordinates
are able to reduce negative behaviours and enhance positive outcomes such as work
engagement (Hakanen, Schaufeli, and Ahola 2008; Law et al. 2011). Work engagement
is defined as ‘a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterized by
vigor, dedication, and absorption’(Schaufeli and Bakker 2004, 295). Highly engaged
employees tend to perform their jobs happily and enthusiastically, and maintain
positive perceptions of dedication and satisfaction with given tasks (Schaufeli and
Bakker 2004). Therefore, all managers have to consider the factors which would
negatively affect the work engagement of their employees (Einarsen et al. 2016).
Work engagement requires a positive work environment with trustworthiness, humi-
lity, collaboration and appreciation (Einarsen et al. 2016). Thus, to engender engage-
ment, it is important to establish interpersonal interactions that highlight compassion,
loyalty, honesty, and respect (Brunetto et al. 2016; Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005).
OCB is defined as ‘individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly
recognized by the formal rewardsystem, and in the aggregate, promotes the efficient and
effective functioning of the organization’(Organ 1988, 4). In public management
research, it has been argued that OCB is seen to be an important tool in enhancing
organizational effectiveness. Accordingly, this concept provokes voluntary contributions
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 7
by employees, indicating the fact that employees with OCB are unlikely to perform their
work with the aim to achieve immediate rewards or avoid punishment (Shore and
Wayne 1993; Vigoda and Cohen 2003). The literature highlights that employee attitudes
and leadership appear to be more strongly associated with OCB than other precursors
(Podsakoff et al. 2014). According to SET, in high quality connections between employ-
ees and their supervisors, when leaders show their willingness to help subordinates
complete jobs, employees are likely to increase their OCB because they are discretionary
(Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005; Podsakoff et al. 2014). This assumption is evident from
empirical studies (e.g. Campbell, Lee, and Im 2016; Yeo et al. 2015) showing that high
quality of leader–member exchange relationship in the public sector is likely to signifi-
cantly increase the subordinates’willingness to help others.
Recent research (Grover 2014; Rogers and Ashforth 2017) has argued that respect
reduces bullying and facilitates work engagement and OCB. Recognition and apprai-
sal respect increase the desire to invest time and energy in groups that enhance
engagement and OCB. Disrespect leads to disengagement that ‘eventually may reduce
involvement in interaction, less sharing of information, and reluctance to make long-
term commitments’(Sleebos, Ellemers, and de Gilder 2007, 338). Decker and Van
Quaquebeke (2015) and Grover (2014) argued that recognition and appraisal respect
affects individuals’self-esteem, and higher esteem facilitates positive job evaluations
that eventually may result in the increase of OCB (Organ and Ryan 1995; Podsakoff
et al. 2014). This study therefore hypothesizes the following:
Hypothesis 3a: Followers’perceived recognition respect positively relates to work
Hypothesis 3b: Appraisal respect toward the leader positively relates to work engagement.
Hypothesis 4a: Followers’perceived recognition respect positively relates to OCB.
Hypothesis 4b: Appraisal respect toward the leader positively relates to OCB.
Engaged employees tend to have a sense of energetic and effective connection with
their work, and be less likely to experience burnout (Schaufeli et al. 2002). If bullying
behaviours exist in the organization, organizational members tend to avoid emotional
engagement with their jobs because employees who view their jobs negatively have
little incentive to invest energy to obtain self-reward and satisfaction (Bakker et al.
2008; Idris, Dollard, and Winefield 2010). Einarsen, Hoel, and Notelaers (2009)
argued that bullying victims are unlikely to protect themselves or find it difficult to
cope with this occurrence, and so bullying is perceived to be part of hindrance
demands negatively affecting the positive psychological wellbeing (Crawford,
LePine, and Rich 2010; Einarsen et al. 2016). For instance, empirical studies have
shown that bullying causes high levels of post-traumatic stress and anxiety, low self-
esteem, or job dissatisfaction (Agervold and Mikkelsen 2004; Bond, Tuckey, and
Dollard 2010). A great number of empirical studies (e.g. Einarsen et al. 2016; Law
et al. 2011; Rodríguez-Muñoz et al. 2009) also confirmed the negative association
between bullying and work engagement.
Bullying acts happen due to imbalances of power, work frustration, or high internal
competitions among organizational members (Agervold and Mikkelsen 2004; Tybur and
8D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
Griskevicius 2013). These behaviours increase a high level of stress and negative feelings
of work because the experience ofbeing bullied can result in the feeling ofbeing rejected,
devalued, and disrespected (e.g. Power et al. 2013; Skogstad et al. 2011). Omari and Paull
(2015) supported this notion in the public sector context, indicating that disrespectful
culture in the public sector can fertilize workplace bullying that results in disengagement
and job dissatisfaction. Nguyen et al. (2017) consistently found that bullying reduces
work engagement among Vietnamese public sector employees.
Hypothesis 5a: Bullying negatively relates to work engagement.
In recent years, the consequences of workplace bullying have received much attention
from scholars, practitioners, and policy makers. Emerging meta-analytic research
(Bowling and Beehr 2006; Nielsen and Einarsen 2012) provided a large body of
evidence of the negative impact of workplace bullying on job performance and job
satisfaction while showing its positive relationship with turnover intentions.
Although other studies did not measure directly the relationships between bullying
and OCB, their empirical evidence showed that a high level of perceived and
experienced negative impacts of other negative behaviours, such as abusive super-
vision (Liu and Wang 2013; Zellars, Tepper, and Duffy 2002), predicted a low level of
OCB. It appears that the relationship between workplace bullying and OCB is still
under-addressed with the exception of Devonish’s(2013) study. An understanding of
the association between bullying and OCB is important in the public sector of
Vietnam, which is characterized by the collective and high power orientation. As
bullying behaviours consist of exclusion, ignorance, and intimidation toward the
victims, the literature notes that targets of bullying are likely to engender the feelings
of being silent, unconfident, worthless, disrespected, and devalued compared to any
other member in the group (Omari and Paull 2015; Samnani and Singh 2016;
Strandmark and Hallberg 2007). Thus it is argued that those individuals who do
not identify with the group are unlikely to implicitly develop the feeling of disen-
gagement after experiencing bullying behaviours as they lose the motivation to
interact with others (Law et al. 2011; Mitchell and Ambrose 2007; Strandmark and
Hallberg 2007). In social identity and social exchange processes, these negative
feelings may relatively dampen their OCB (Farmer and Van Dyne 2017).
Hypothesis 5b: Bullying negatively relates to OCB
Some studies (Liu and Wang 2013; Zellars, Tepper, and Duffy 2002) focused on the
relationship between negative workplace behaviours such as deviance or abusive
supervision and OCB. In seminal review work on OCB in the last 30 years (e.g.
Dalal 2005; Organ 2018; Podsakoff et al. 2000,2014), job satisfaction, perceived
fairness, and personality dimensions are the most precursors to OCB found in
Western countries. It has been recently argued that the literature on OCB needs to
be extended with a further holistic understanding of additional precursors and
consequences in non-Western economies (Organ 2018).
OCB in our study is conceptualized as the voluntary helping behaviours toward
the others and the organization to improve performance effectiveness (Kehoe and
Wright 2013; Organ 1988). As prior studies (e.g. González-Romá et al. 2006;
Schaufeli et al. 2002) argued that burnout reduces OCB, work engagement as the
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 9
opposite of burnout can increase OCB. As predicted by SET, employees involved in
respectful and trusting relationships with the leader and co-workers, are likely to
report more positive attitudes and intentions toward the organization (Cropanzano
and Mitchell 2005; Parzefall and Salin 2010). Other research (e.g. Hakanen, Schaufeli,
and Ahola 2008; Kehoe and Wright 2013; Organ 2018; Podsakoff et al. 2014) argued
that work engagement increases organizational commitment, and organizational
commitment is a precursor of OCB. Therefore, the engagement of employees in
constructive and positive attitudes and behaviours that are repeated frequently
enough creates a climate that stimulates OCB (Hakanen, Schaufeli, and Ahola
2008; Podsakoff et al. 2014; Saks 2006). This study hence suggests that:
Hypothesis 6: Work engagement positively public sector relates to OCB.
Being respected becomes particularly important when bad things happen. This is
important in the context of bullying. Scholars (e.g. Einarsen et al. 2016; Power et al.
2013) argued that subordinates are likely to feel excluded, ignored, disregarded and
disrespected in low quality leader–follower–co-worker relationships if they experi-
ence bullying. As bullying is part of hindrance demands, the victims try to look for
coping strategies, yet they are often passive and this negatively reduces work engage-
ment (Crawford, LePine, and Rich 2010). Therefore, it is argued that a high level of
supportive environment such as climate for conflict management (Einarsen et al.
2016) or psychological safety climate (Law et al. 2011) buffers the negative effect of
bullying on work engagement. It is also argued that the prevalence of exchanged
respectful relationships between the leader and the followers is part of a supportive
climate that could handle negative interpersonal relationships at work. In fact,
subordinates tend to interact with their supervisors when bullying occurs because
they look for the care and support provided by their supervisors. This interaction
reduces the negative impact of workplace bullying on work engagement by relying on
supervisors’respectful treatment (Grover 2014). Despite the incidence of bullying,
subordinates are still willing to invest and dedicate time and energy in their work
because of their leaders’ethical collaboration, willingness to listen, and the acceptance
of employees’rights and worth (Grover 2014). Therefore, recognition respect is
suggested to buffer the negative relationship between bullying and work engagement.
Hypothesis 7: Recognition respect moderates the relationship between bullying and
Sampling and data collection
A self-complete and anonymous survey in non-identifiable envelopes was directly
distributed to full-time employees who were not involved in any supervisory role, in
six branches of a public sector organization located in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The data were collected from May to August 2015, with considerable efforts made to
present the ethical issues and the academic purpose of the study to develop trust
between researchers and directors, and in handling concerns over admission and
transparency issues (Bartram, Stanton, and Thomas 2009). Respondents were advised
10 D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
about the assurance of confidentiality, anonymity, and the minimization of risk and
discomfort, in the participant information letter attached to the survey. In total, 274
completed and usable responses were returned in sealed envelopes directly collected
by the co-author in Vietnam (response rate of 42 per cent). Over half of the
respondents were female (57.7 per cent) and 44.2 per cent identified as being aged
between 31 and 40. The majority had more than 3 years’experience in their current
branch (82.8 per cent) and in their current job (74.9 per cent). Forty-six per cent of
participants were working in large branches that had over 250 employees. Eighty-four
per cent of respondents held undergraduate degree qualifications.
This study adopted Brislin’s(1970) back-translation process to ensure the content
and face validity of the scales with the involvement of one of the authors, an
additional bilingual native Vietnamese and English scholar, and two independent
HRM and OB practitioners from Vietnam. A pre-test of the translated survey was
then carried out with 50 part-time postgraduate students at business universities in
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Participants were asked to indicate whether they had experience with any bullying
behaviour in the last 6 months using a five-point Likert scale from ‘1ʹ=neverto
‘5ʹ= daily. The remaining items used seven-point Likert scales, with each item’sdegree
of agreement ranging from ‘1ʹ=stronglydisagreeto‘7ʹ= strongly agree. Table 1 shows
the results of the discriminant validity test. Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics of
the scales (including mean, standard deviation [SD], composite coefficient reliability
[CR], and average variance extracted [AVE] value). CR values of the five constructs
ranged from 0.91 to 0.94, indicating reliability. The AVE values of the five measures
ranged from 0.62 to 0.81, indicating convergent validity (Byrne 2009).
Recognition and appraisal respect
This study adopted 10 items of 2 respect scales from Vogt et al. (2017), which
validated the original scales from Van Quaquebeke and Eckloff (2010). The five-
item scale to measure recognition respect includes the following sample item: ‘My
leader unconditionally respects me as a person’.Toassesssubordinates’appraisal
respect for leaders, a five-item scale was used, with sample item: ‘Itrustmy
A nine-item short form of the Negative Acts Questionnaire from Notelaers and
Einarsen (2008) was used to measure the respondents’experience of workplace
bullying. Sample items included ‘Devaluing of your work and efforts’.
This study adopted the nine-item Utrecht Work Engagement scale by Schaufeli and
Bakker (2003). Sample items included ‘I am enthusiastic about my job’.
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 11
Table 1. Comparison of fit indices between hypothesized and alternative models.
/df CFI TLI RMSEA SRMR Δλ
Model 1 Preferred model 529.04 272 1.95 0.96 0.96 0.06 0.037 –
Model 2a 4-factor model (recognition appraisal respect,bullying,engagement,OCB) 662.13 276 2.40 0.94 0.93 0.07 0.038 Δλ
(4) = 133.09
Model 2b 4-factor model (recognition respect,appraisal respect,bullying,engagement+OCB) 614.28 276 2.23 0.95 0.94 0.07 0.044 Δλ
(4) = 85.24
Model 2c 4-factor model (recognition respect+engagement,appraisal respect,bullying,OCB) 902.61 276 3.27 0.91 0.89 0.09 0.084 Δλ
(4) = 373.57
Model 2d 4-factor model (recognition respect+OCB,appraisal respect,bullying,engagement) 864.20 276 3.13 0.92 0.90 0.09 0.073 Δλ
(4) = 335.16
Model 2e 4-factor model (recognition respect,appraisal respect+engagement,bullying,OCB) 902.57 276 3.27 0.91 0.89 0.90 0.082 Δλ
(4) = 373.53
Model 2f 4-factor model (recognition respect,appraisal respect+OCB,bullying,engagement) 870.17 276 3.15 0.91 0.90 0.90 0.064 Δλ
(4) = 341.13
Model 3a 3-factor model (recognition+appraisal respect+engagement,bullying,OCB) 1,026.86 279 3.68 0.89 0.87 0.10 0.087 Δλ
(7) = 497.82
Model 3b 3-factor model (recognition+appraisal respect+OCB,bullying,engagement) 993.24 279 3.56 0.90 0.88 0.10 0.077 Δλ
(7) = 464.20
Model 3c 3-factor model (recognition+appraisal respect,bullying,engagement+OCB) 748.42 279 2.68 0.93 0.92 0.08 0.045 Δλ
(7) = 219.38
Model 3d 3-factor model (recognition respect+engagement+OCB,appraisal respect,bullying) 1,078.92 279 3.87 0.88 0.87 0.10 0.072 Δλ
(7) = 549.88
Model 3e 3-factor model (recognition respect,bullying,appraisal respect+engagement+OCB) 1,048.94 279 3.76 0.89 0.87 0.10 0.070 Δλ
(7) = 519.90
Model 4a 2-factor model (recognition+appraisal respect+bullying,engagement+OCB) 1,393.28 281 4.96 0.84 0.81 0.12 0.136 Δλ
(9) = 864.24
Model 4b 2-factor model (recognition+appraisal respect+engagement+ OCB,bullying) 1,226.88 281 4.37 0.86 0.84 0.11 0.084 Δλ
(9) = 697.84
Model 5 Single factor model 1,838.78 282 6.52 0.77 0.74 0.14 0.140 Δλ
(10) = 1,309.74
12 D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
Table 2. Descriptive statistics, composite reliability, AVE, and internal correlations.
M SD CR AVE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
1. Gender 1.58 0.05 ––1
2. Age 2.88 0.90 ––−0.07 1
3. Firm size 4.24 0.89 –– 0.01 −0.01 1
4. Positional tenure 3.30 1.08 ––−0.08 0.39*** −0.06 1
5. Organizational tenure 3.65 1.09 ––−0.07 0.52*** −0.05 0.67*** 1
6. Educational level 4.99 0.47 ––−0.04 0.10 0.06 0.08 0.04 1
7. Recognition Respect 4.84 1.33 0.94 0.81 0.05 −0.05 −0.05 0.12* 0.10 0.02 0.90
8. Appraisal Respect 5.01 1.27 0.93 0.76 0.08 0.01 −0.06 0.12* 0.09 0.03 0.82*** 0.87
9. Bullying 2.16 0.93 0.94 0.66 −0.06 0.04 0.04 0.01 −0.03 −0.05 −0.38*** −0.38*** 0.81
10. Work Engagement 5.06 1.17 0.91 0.62 0.03 0.06 0.01 0.18** 0.14* −0.03 0.56*** 0.54*** −0.35*** 0.79
11. OCB 5.12 1.22 0.91 0.71 0.03 0.04 −0.04 0.16** 0.14* 0.01 0.67*** 0.63*** −0.44*** 0.75*** 0.84
Note:N= 274, M: mean; SD: standard deviation; CR: composite coefficient reliability; AVE: average variance of extracted, *p< 0.05, **p< 0.01, ***p< 0.001
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 13
Organizational citizenship behaviour
Our research used a six-item scale from Kehoe and Wright (2013)to measure
subordinates’OCB. Sample items included ‘I encourage others to try new and
effective ways of doing their job’.
Control variables included gender, age, and education levels because they have been
found to have relationships with bullying (Hoel et al. 2010). The present study also
controlled for total number of full-time employees in a branch, positional tenure, and
organizational tenure. An Independent-Samples T-Test and ANOVA analysis showed
that there was no difference between males and females, age groups, education levels,
and positional tenure in relation to all the constructs. An ANOVA test also showed that
there were differences between participants who had 3–5 years and those with
6–10 years of organizational tenure in that they had different levels of appraisal respect
(Mean difference = −0.58, p< 0.05) and bullying (Mean difference = 0.36, p<0.05).
SPSS ver24 was utilized to produce descriptive statistics, correlations, and to run
exploratory factor analyses. Following Byrne (2009), AMOS ver24 was used to test the
convergent and discriminant validity of the scales, and to test the hypotheses. The modera-
tion effect of recognition respect was tested with Hayes (2013, model 1) Process macro.
This study followed Anderson and Gerbing (1988)two-step approach. The conver-
gent validity of each construct was established because the fit indices of each scale in
a series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) met the cut-off values (Byrne 2009).
Chi-square difference values between a single-factor model and a two-factor model of
recognition respect and appraisal respect showed that the two-factor model was
better fit to the data (χ
/df = 2.02, CFI = 0.99, TLI = 0.99, RMSEA = 0.06,
SRMR = 0.02). As Decker and Van Quaquebeke (2015) argued for the differences
between two types of respect, the test therefore affirmed the discriminant validity of
recognition respect and appraisal respect.
The fit indices of the five-factor model were satisfactory in accordance with the
usual conventions (χ
/df = 1.95, CFI = 0.96, TLI = 0.96, RMSEA = 0.06, SRMR = 0.04).
There was also comparison of the hypothesized model with other alternative combined
models to ensure the discriminant validity of the scales through a series of Chi-square
difference tests. Table 1 reports the comparison results, showing that the hypothesized
model was more satisfactory than the alternative ones. In addition, the square root of
the AVE value for each construct was much larger than its correlation with any other
construct (Fornell and Larcker 1981) (see Table 2). These results confirmed the
discriminant validity of the five constructs in our study.
Common method variance
Prior to the data collection, this study followed the procedural remedies suggested by
Chang, Van Witteloostuijn, and Eden (2010), Jakobsen and Jensen (2015)andPodsakoff,
MacKenzie, and Podsakoff (2012) to check for common method variance (CMV). The
14 D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
present research then utilized Harman’s single factor test, and showing four factors
emerged with eigenvalues of greater than 1.0, accounting for 69.76 per cent of the
variance in the exogenous and endogenous constructs. The CFA of a single factor
model also showed it was highly unsatisfactory (χ
/df = 6.52, CFI = 0.77, TLI = 0.74,
RMSEA = 0.14, SRMR = 0.14). Second, a common latent variable test showed that the
effects of a common latent factor on items’standardized factor loadings were less than
0.20 (Chin 1998). Finally, the difference of correlations of the five constructs before and
after, including ‘social desirability’as the marker variable, was 0.008, indicating the
marker variable did not account for the correlations between exogenous constructs
and the endogenous variables (Lindell and Whitney 2001). A t-test of mean difference
to compare the correlations of the two models (i.e. models with and without the marker
variable) showed that there was no difference between the two models (p=0.994).
Altogether, these tests provided us with assurance that CMV was not a major issue.
As reported in Table 2, the mean score of participants’experience of workplace
bullying was approximately 2.16 (SD = 0.93), indicating a remarkable prevalence of
bullying incidents in Vietnam’s public sector. Half of the participants reported to
have been a target of bullying (rated from ‘2’–now and then to ‘5’–daily) and the
highest reported behaviour was ‘devaluing of your work and efforts’(M = 2.31,
SD = 1.09). Approximately 16 per cent of respondents reported to be ‘now and
then’targets of bullying during the last 6 months. This response rate falls within the
range of 11 per cent to 18 per cent, which is the standard for international research
on workplace bullying (see Nielsen, Matthiesen, and Einarsen 2010).
The hypotheses were tested in a structural model that included control variables.
There were insignificant relationships between control variables and bullying as
opposed to Hoel et al. (2010). Age was positively related to appraisal respect
(β= 0.07, p< 0.05), indicating older subordinates showed higher appraisal respect
for the leaders than did younger employees. Respondent gender was found to be
negatively associated with recognition respect (β=−0.16, p< 0.05), that is, male
respondents perceived higher recognition respect from their leaders than female
subordinates did. Gender was also positively related to appraisal respect (β= 0.10,
p< 0.01), indicating female subordinates had higher respect for their leaders than did
male respondents. More experienced subordinates receive higher recognition respect
than less experienced subordinates (β= 0.18, p< 0.05).
The findings in Figure 2 showed a positive relationship between recognition
respect and appraisal respect (β= 0.90, p< 0.001), supporting hypothesis 1.
Appraisal respect was found to be negatively associated with bullying (β=−0.43,
p< 0.05), supporting hypothesis 2b. As expected in hypotheses 3a and 4a, recognition
respect had a positive influence on work engagement (β= 0.55, p< 0.001) and OCB
(β= 0.31, p< 0.001). In addition, hypotheses 5a and 5b were supported by the
evidence of negative impacts of bullying on work engagement (β=−0.19, p< 0.01)
and OCB (β=−0.11, p< 0.05). Finally, work engagement was found to be positively
associated with OCB (β= 0.61, p<0.001), supporting hypothesis 6.
The result of the moderation hypothesis testing supported hypothesis 7. Figure 3
shows that recognition respect reduced the negative relationship of bullying to work
engagement (interaction effect = −0.11, p< 0.05). The result means that victims of
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 15
Figure 2. Results of the structural model.
Note:N= 274, **p< 0.01, ***p< 0.001
16 D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
bullying are likely to experience higher work engagement when they perceive higher
recognition respect from their leaders compared to those who receive less recognition
respect when bullying is extreme.
The public sector work environment has been shown to be a challenging context as
employees reported a prevalence of workplace bullying (e.g. Fevre et al. 2012; Lewis and
Gunn 2007) and lack of respect tends to be the cause of this negative workplace
experience (e.g. Omari and Paull 2015). The aim of this study was to examine if respect
plays a part in minimizing the experience of workplace bullying in Vietnam, a country
characterized by its Confucian influences. Drawing from SIT, SET, and MCT, our study
found that followers’experience of feeling recognition respect from their leaders was
positively related to having positive attitudes in terms of appraisal respect towards
leaders. These positive attitudes were negatively associated with the perceptions of
being bullied at work, which in turn negatively relate to engagement and OCB.
Furthermore, respect was found to moderate the relationship of workplace bullying on
work engagement. The findings from a Confucian-collective influenced leadership
culture pose some differences and similarities to the Western model of respect.
Our study and the research by Decker and Van Quaquebeke (2015)are among the
only studies showing how recognition respect and appraisal respect work together.
The difference between these two sets of studies subtly illuminates differences in the
Figure 3. Moderation effect of recognition respect on the relationship between bullying and work engagement.
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 17
Western versus Eastern leadership culture. Decker and Van Quaquebeke (2015)
found that appraisal respect for one’s leader moderates the impact of felt recognition
respect on positive outcomes. In contrast, our study finds that felt recognition respect
directly relates to positive respect for one’s leader’s ability (that is, appraisal respect).
The reason for this subtle difference is that the leaders in Vietnam’s public sector are
expected to care for followers and in return the followers offer their dedication and
respect for seniority, authority, legitimate hierarchical ranks, and status (Quang and
Vuong 2002; Vo and Hannif 2013). Therefore, these public sector workers have more
positive attitudes toward their leaders’competence when they have received that
basic recognition respect as one of basic psychological needs of humans. This is
consistent with the assumptions in the integration of SIT and SET (Clarke and
Mahadi 2017; Tavares, van Knippenberg, and van Dick 2016).
Our study further contributes to the literaturebyshowingthatthetwo-wayrespect
combination in Vietnam aligns with less bullying and more engagement and therefore
resulting in positive work behaviour (i.e. OCB). One of the reasons is that the subordinates
in Confucian society like Vietnam are more likely to respect their leaders due to power,
authority, hierarchy, and order of the leaders. Therefore, they will report less bullying as
they understand that they need to comply with the dominant culture in the organization
when the leaders could use and motivate bullying to maintain their power and status
(Kwan, Tuckey, and Dollard 2014). While they potentially understand workplace bullying is
an example of unethical workplace behaviour; however, they are powerless to voice their
concern as they have less power (Kwan, Tuckey, and Dollard 2014).
Our study provides additional understanding of workplace bullying that in a context
of Confucian and high power distance context like Vietnam the leaders’help and
guidance plays an important role in quietening the impact of the negative act by reacting
to, addressing, and thereby dissipating bullying (Grover 2014). In addition, appraisal
respect is a form of openness to influence (Van Quaquebeke, Van Knippenberg, and
Brodbeck 2011). When public sector employees show appraisal respect toward their
leaders, they are more willing to be influenced and controlled by leaders. Subsequently,
this would result in a reduction of potential bullying incidents when the followers accept
and comply with rules for collective treatment in a respectful environment. These
findings are consistent with and broaden recent work by Clarke and Mahadi (2017)
that found a positive outcome of a two-way congruence of leader–follower respect on
employees’job satisfaction and wellbeing. The findings also support Omari and Paull
(2015) study by addressing the fact that a mutual respectful environment as a motiva-
tional mechanism for public service motivation is critically important in the public sector
to eliminate workplace bullying because the public sector is highly characterized by
unequal power distribution and bureaucracy that could silence the voices of employees.
In addition, the findings support the assumption of the perspective of leader–member
exchange relationships arguing that high quality of exchange relationships between the
leader and subordinates, results in positive individual outcomes such as the reduction of
negative behaviours (Brunetto et al. 2016) or the willingness behaviours to help other
counterparts (Campbell, Lee, and Im 2016; Yeo et al. 2015).
Thepresentfindingsspeaktotheprimacyoffelt recognition respect as this feeling has
profoundly positive outcomes in terms of work engagement and OCB through bullying,
while research on these relationships has still been scant (Devonish 2013;Organ2018).
The results suggest that it is not enough to be simply treated well as a valued being human
being.Thenatureoftherelationshipswithleaders is important. Our study found that
18 D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
bullying is an outcome of lack of respect and a precursor of work engagement and OCB.
This inclusive sequence brings together a comprehensive picture of the workplace situa-
tions and treatment. As such, it draws on some research in justice –concerning how
people are treated with respect, bullying literature, and positive organizational scholar-
ship. Altogether, our study and previous research show that recognition and appraisal
respect combine to (a) promote basic motivational needs toward a positive work experi-
ence, and (b) deplete feelings concerning negative acts in the workplace represented by
bullying, again pointing toward positive outcomes of work engagement and OCB.
As recently argued by Decker and Van Quaquebeke (2015), the interaction of different
types of respect on employee outcomes requires further investigation. The present study
answersthisrecommendationbycontributing to the extant literature evidence of the
moderating effect of recognition respect in a public sector where there is an inherent
level of power distance and bureaucracy, such as in Vietnam. Power distance and bureau-
cracy in the public sector show a clear supervisor–subordinate relationship and the
acceptance of what subordinates are told that can be a source for the emergence of work-
place bullying. The finding means that employees receiving strong respect from the leader
will increase their trust towards the management to perform actively and constructively in
situations of bullying and, at the same time, the followers will feel more confident to address
the issues with the leader, hence reducing the negative experience of work in a bullying
situation. Thus, the present finding suggests that the feeling of being respected by the
leaders is an important mechanism for public sector subordinates –to ground positive
relationships between leaders and subordinates, and maintain their work engagement when
negative acts are prevalent.
Similar to research conducted in the public sector organizations in Western countries, our
study identified the prevalence of workplace bullying in Vietnam and that it is associated
with the lack of respect. Our study contributes clear evidence of the global phenomenon of
public sector workers reporting high levels of negative experience of work behaviours,
which damages the positive experience of work (Fevre et al. 2012;LewisandGunn2007;
Zapf et al. 2011). This finding is more important in the context of public sector in
developing economies, such as Vietnam, which is characterized by a high degree of
bureaucracy, power distance, and a dearth of leadership and management skills (Quang
and Vuong 2002; Vo and Hannif 2013). As noted by Dickson, Den Hartog, and Mitchelson
(2003) and Weng (2017), it is important for public sector organizations in Vietnam to
provide comprehensive and close support to the public servants. As a part of ethical values
(Clarke and Mahadi 2017), respect plays an important role in encouraging the employees to
stay, to engage in, and deliver a quality public service (Omari and Paull 2015). It is therefore
essential for public sector organizations in Vietnam to focus on providing an environment
in which employee needs for being respected are met. This requires the improvement of
managerial skills such as genuinely smiling at the followers, sitting near and leaning towards
them, communicating and listening to their thoughts and opinions, and caring for others’
interests in order to reduce the impersonal nature of the bureaucratic public sector setting
(Magee and Frasier 2014;Zapfetal.2003).
As employees accept power distance, close supervision, less freedom and delegation, and
a lack of decision-making participation, giving feedback on leadership style is difficult in
Vietnam (Quang and Vuong 2002). However, an awareness and evaluation of leadership
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 19
styles incorporating the attribute of respect is essential (Decker and Van Quaquebeke 2015;
Van Quaquebeke, Zenker, and Eckloff 2009). Therefore, public sector organizations should
consider a frequent examination of employees’perceptions of whether they have been
treated with respect. This fundamental management practice turns out to be extremely
important in making people feel happy and excited and wanting to engage more (i.e. public
service motivation and work engagement).
Previous studies also show the negative consequences of having disrespectful leadership.
For instance, disrespectful behaviours toward subordinates can lead to low levels of
dedication, effort disbursement, and commitment (e.g. Sleebos, Ellemers, and de Gilder
2007). Our study shows that recognition respect is key to increasing appraisal respect for
leaders, work engagement, and OCB, while appraisal respect can inhibit bullying incidents.
Those relationships are occurring in the integration of social identity, social exchange, and
motivated cognition processes. Importantly, this study showed the moderating role of
recognition respect in maintaining subordinates’work engagement when bullying occurs.
The findings suggest that leaders in the public sector should be trained to be respectful,
honourable, and protective of their subordinates in order to enhance their standing with
those subordinates. On the other hand, in such a context as Vietnam, recognition respect
from the leaders is important for subordinates to choose the leaders they should follow and
adjust their behaviours in accordance with what they perceive (Samnani 2013). Working
with leaders who respect followers and are worthy of respect may enhance the positive work
experiences of subordinates.
The last suggestion that emerged from the present findings is related to organizations’
awareness and observation of bullying behaviours. It is important for public sector orga-
nizations to develop policies, practices, and mechanisms to prevent workplace bullying
together with the enhancement of management skills and capacity to deal with such
negative acts. As bullying was found to negatively affect work engagement and OCB, it is
suggested that public sector organizations should consider an effective communication and
response system in which employees are safe to report bullying incidents.
Limitations and future research
Despite the procedural remedies to reduce CMV applied in this study, there is an awareness
that a single source of respondents at one time may be a potential limitation to the research.
As argued by Chang, Van Witteloostuijn, and Eden (2010), the moderating effects together
with other tests for CMV showed that common method bias was not a major issue. It is
acknowledged that it is not easy to achieve good data in the form of feedback on leadership
style in Vietnam’s public sector organizations due to the suspicions of public sector
managers concerning this type of research (Bartram, Stanton, and Thomas 2009;Quang
and Vuong 2002). However, future studies could use different sources of respondents over
multiple time points, or a longitudinal researchdesigninconjunctionwithobjective
measures, to strengthen the causal direction and generalize the present findings
(Jakobsen and Jensen 2015).
The mean value of OCB in this research suggests that future studies may examine
other associated outcomes such as intention to leave (Kim 2018) or job embeddedness
theory that have been found in previous empirical studies (see Lee, Burch, and Mitchell
2014). Additionally, future studies may consider the examination on specific types of
leadership behaviours such as paternalistic leadership prevalent in a similar context like
Vietnam in the relationships of respect, public service motivation, and work behaviours.
20 D. T. N. NGUYEN ET AL.
The prevalence of these two types respects found in this study might imply high quality
LMX in this particular public sector organization in Vietnam. Future research should
broaden the findings from the current research by incorporating leader–member
exchange interactions on employee outcomes in the public sector as high quality
LMX could have an impact on employee work outcomes. Furthermore, as respondents
were from six branches of a public sector organization, the branch contextual conditions
such as branch culture or work climate may result in variances in perceptions of leader–
subordinate relationships. Therefore, future studies are encouraged to extend other
contextual characteristics of specific branches to validate the research findings.
This study draws from SIT, SET, and MCT to show that public sector leaders are respected
when they show their respect to subordinates in a Confucian environment. The present
findings are important for Vietnam’s public sector organizations as high power distance
and bureaucracy negatively affected the balanced exchange relationships between leaders
and subordinates. Overall, respect is a clearly delineated two-way street and, applied in the
public sector, increases positive work outcomes for the employees. As bullying is prevalent
in Vietnam, it is important for organizations to develop training programmes on leadership
and managerial skills for the leaders to enhance their capacity to deal with negative work-
place behaviours and improve the followers’psychological wellbeing.
1. The present paper uses the terms ‘appraisal and recognition’respect, which have a long history in
philosophy (Darwall 1977). Decker and Van Quaquebeke (2015) adopted the terms ‘vertical and
horizontal’respect to identify the same concepts, and Rogers and Ashforth (2017) created the
terms ‘particularized and generalized’respect. These terms are not significantly differentiated, and
the present article adopts the more established terms and offers this footnote for clarity.
Notes on contributors
Diep T. N. Nguyen is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan
University, Australia. Diep completed her PhD from Auckland University of Technology. She is
currently undertaking research into Strategic HRM (specifically, the roles and influence of HR
departments) and workplace bullying in Vietnam. Her research has appeared in the Journal of
General Management,New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations,Public Management Review,
and Asia Pacific Journal of Management.
Stephen T. T. Teo is a Professor of Work and Performance in School of Business and Law, Edith
Cowan University, Australia. Stephen teaches HRM Strategy, Business Research Methods, and
International HRM to undergraduate and postgraduate students. He is currently examining resi-
lience, stress, and productivity in the healthcare sectors in Australia and New Zealand. Stephen has
published in journals such as Human Resource Management,Human Resource Management Journal,
International Journal of HRM, and Journal of Vocational Behavior.
Steven L. Grover is a Professor of Management, School of Management, University of Otago, New
Zealand. Steven teaches Managing and Leadership to undergraduate and postgraduate students. He
is currently examining behavioural ethics and interpersonal treatment, and issues of respect and
trust between followers and leaders. Steven has published in journals such as Academy of
Management Journal,Administrative Science Quarterly,Journal of Applied Psychology,Human
Relations,Organization Science, and Journal of Business Ethics.
PUBLIC MANAGEMENT REVIEW 21
Nguyen P. Nguyen is a lecturer at the International School of Business, UEH University, Vietnam.
Nguyen is also a full-member of Certified Practising Accountants, Australia. His research focuses on
intra-organizational coopetition strategy, the interfaces between marketing and other disciplines,
employees’wellbeing and psychological climate in organizations. Recently, Dr Nguyen and his co-
authors have two papers accepted and presented in ANZMAC 2015 [best paper in the track
Marketing Strategy and Strategic Marketing] and ANZAM 2015. His publication has appeared in
Public Management Review and Industrial Marketing Management.
We thank Catharina Vogt for her thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Diep T. N. Nguyen http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5454-8835
Stephen T. T. Teo http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5025-7937
Steven L. Grover http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3081-6660
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