Learned Helplessness Theory

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Bullying in the workplace refers to a situation where a targeted employee is subjected to negative acts by superiors and/or colleagues repeatedly over a period of time, and the confronted employee finds it difficult to take a stand against or cope with such negative acts (Hauge, Skogstad, & Einarsen, 2010; Loerbroks et al., 2015). One possible consequence of experiencing workplace bullying is depression. This paper will address depression within the context of bullying and will review types of operant learning, positive and negative reinforcement as well as avoidance theories, learned helplessness, and social observational theory to help explain why depression may be a possible consequence of being bullied.
Workplace bullying behaviours involve
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With regards to operant conditioning, individuals learn that reinforcement (negative or positive) is determined by their behaviour however in the LH model, individuals learn their behaviour has no control over reinforcement (Ramnero et al., 2016). As Steensma and Van Dijke (2006) posit LH is a permanent state of pessimism that develops when individuals, often incorrectly, learn that they have little or no personal control over the outcomes of important events. Bullying as a repeated and prolonged hostile event may induce learned helplessness when individuals believe they are consistently deprived control of the situation and reinforcement (Loerbroks et al., 2015). As reported by Dygdon and Dienes (2013), the LH model postulates that depression is not predicted by the occurrence of the hostile event but the perceived inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with the event and future occurrences. Furthermore, aversive events may act as negative punishment as the decrease in retaliation or active coping results in the encouragement of learned helplessness experiences (Loerbroks et al., 2015). In the context of bullying from a learned helplessness prospective, the failure to avoid or escape the hostile events leads to a breakdown in reinforcement seeking behaviour by the victim and depression is the result of these breakdowns; the failure to cope with stressful events elicits sadness and despair (Dygdon & Dienes,

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