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Mental violence and Chinese new educated youth: a study of workplace conflict in modern China

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posted on 25.07.2012, 09:29 authored by Xiaoying Zhang
Mental Violence in present study is similar to a western concept, bullying. But is has its characteristics, forms and causes in Chinese workplace. It is a form of indirect interpersonal aggression and identified through the perceptions of its receivers. It does not involving touching receivers physically but is psychologically damaging. It exists between individuals of equal status, such as colleagues. Moreover, it is a two-way phenomenon, which could be reversible. Mental Violence may be the result of a conflict of values. It is particularly evident among the Chinese New Educated Youth. Chinese New Educated Youth is that cohort of young people who were partly Confucian and Collectivistic for emphasizing harmony but also partly Individualistic and Westernized for pursuing personal goals. For this cohort, the above two orientations were incompatible and dissonant leading to stress. Furthermore, they had a competitive lifestyle which was no longer supported by the welfare of a planned economy this exacerbates their stress. To relieve stress, Mental Violence was employed in their daily contacts, e.g. in workplaces. The evidence in support of this account was discussed and evaluated. There is no excuse for any violence. However, we have to say sometimes a kind of violence is not always too noxious for someone, such as the sender of violence. To some limited extent, violence could be considered as positive and it at least helped people to relieve stress and recover a balance from unbalanced situation. Mental Violence is such violence. It is a result of negotiation and a side effect of stress as well. Nevertheless, most of things are double-edged swords. Mental Violence is no exception. For the sender, it might be a buffer and makes him or her relaxed; for the receiver, it is absolutely negative, discomfort and even aggressive. For helping readers to clearly understand such violence, and for advising others to raise their awareness of the violence, this study would explore its causes and characteristics. From ancient traditional society to the present modern one, Confucianism and Collectivism afterwards represent a kind of gentle culture which deeply influences traditional Chinese. Chinese traditional philosophy, such as Confucianism and Taoism, stresses the significance of the harmony relationship for the growing, maturing and success of the Chinese. Chinese New Educated Youth who were disciplined for such a culture in thoughts and behaviours while growing up. Therefore, to keep harmony and to avoid conflict becomes a key characteristic for Chinese interactions in a collective society. However, the opening policy to the West world exposed China to the influence of Individualism which is absolutely unlike Confucian or Collectivism. Confucianism s influence has been challenged by Westernized values because of globalization. The difference between two values made Chinese New Educated Youth confused in their thoughts and appropriate behaviours in interpersonal relationships. To recover a balance, they need to relieve such a stress from the confusion and other stressors as well. While using the two value systems in interaction with others, Mental Violence usually happened. Therefore, the conflict of two different values in dealing with social relationship became one cause for Mental Violence. In present research, I tried to reveal Mental Violence, a particular kind of daily conflict in interactions among modern Chinese. For pursuing why Chinese New Educated Youth was special and experienced Mental Violence often, they were compared with other generations in China. Therefore, this research invited participants from three generations (Chinese New Educated Youth, the older generation who were born before 1970s, and the younger generation who were born in 1980s) and from different cities in China. Participants occupations covered different professions, and all of them worked in three sizes of offices (small, big and single). Both of qualitative and quantitative data collecting methods were used in the study. They contained semi-structural interviewing and filling up the questionnaire. And main methods of data analysis are factor analysis, correlation and Thematic Analysis. The result indicated that Mental Violence of Chinese educated youth occurred in workplace was the most often, but was largely unseen by people outside of the group. Because I had to establish why this cohort would be inclined to apply more Mental Violence in daily life, I compared them with their previous generation and the later generation through measuring demographics, westernised, individualism and collectivism. Three generations are different in the Individualism-Collectivism tendency. Chinese New Educated Youth were always in the middle. They were seemed as partly Collectivistic and partly Individualistic. Linked with categories of Mental Violence Chinese New Educated Youth usually experienced, it seems they applied double standards to deal with social interactions. Due to such standards made them failed in establishing good relationships with colleagues, in other words, whatever Chinese New Educated Youth or their colleagues did not feel happy in their social interactions, it means Chinese New Educated Youth have conflict in Individualism-Collectivism tendency. Otherwise, through the investigation, I noticed significant demographical difference other than the generation in experiencing Mental Violence. Male participants reported experiencing Mental Violence more than female ones. The higher education the participant got, the more he or she experienced Mental Violence. Comparing with other occupations, intellectual respondents reported sending Mental Violence the most. Participants who worked as staffs experienced Mental Violence more than people who worked as administrators in the workplace. And people who were singles experienced Mental Violence the most in workplace. Because conflict of relationship seems a sensitive topic for Chinese, I started interviews from talking about overviews of participants workplaces with them. Therefore, the result also shows characteristics of structure and social relationship of Chinese modern offices. China had lot of small size offices in which 2 to 10 staffs worked. Small offices organised small relative closed groups. In such a group, staffs had long time for face to face interaction everyday. Such offices were much more than single offices where only one person worked in and big offices where more than ten persons in. Both of the above characteristics of workplace are not beneficial for physical aggressions as previous study proved but could considered as a structural factor for Mental Violence. Actually, the Mental Violence which reported occurring in small offices is the most often, especially among Chinese New Educated Youth. Hope this research could be a model for further more thorough relevant study. All of the above would be a step towards further study on Mental Violence and Chinese New Educated Youth.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Xiaoying Zhang

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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