Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephan Dilchert

Committee Members

Raquel Benbunan-Fich

Deniz S. Ones

C. Justice Tillman

Subject Categories

Human Resources Management | Industrial and Organizational Psychology | Organizational Behavior and Theory | Personality and Social Contexts


contrapower sexual harassment, personality, gender


Contrapower sexual harassment refers to sexual harassment incidents where the perpetrator has less formal power within the organization than the person being victimized. Although the potential for inverse power dynamics were already identified in the early stages of sexual harassment research, the prevalence and antecedents of contrapower sexual harassment have rarely been examined. In addition, prior sexual harassment research has overwhelmingly prioritized gender as the focal variable of interest. This dissertation seeks to contribute to the literature on workplace incivility, organizational deviance, and counterproductive work behaviors by looking at contrapower harassment through three different lenses: The perspective of harassment targets, harassers, and bystanders. In doing so, it relies on O’Hare and O’Donohue’s (1998) Four Factor Theory of Sexual Harassment as a framework to examine the influence of personality traits and gender (individually and jointly) on the frequency of experiencing harassment and the frequency of engaging in contrapower harassment. In addition, bystander perceptions of contrapower harassment are examined using an occupational stress-based framework developed (Bowling & Jex, 2013). Three separate survey studies and a large dataset of employee ratings from hundreds of organizations across industries are used to illuminate relationships previously unexamined. Findings from the survey studies reveal that men engaged in more contrapower sexual harassment than women, but the gender difference disappeared when controlling for either need for power or the personality trait agreeableness. Additionally, need for power and agreeableness were both significantly correlated with bystander perceptions of contrapower harassment behaviors. In the industry sample, results also indicate that men are more likely to engage in various sexually harassing behaviors, but that both genders are slightly more likely to harass others in presence of male versus female supervisors. Taken together, the results presented in the current dissertation provide evidence of the utility of the Four Factor Theory when applied to the underresearched construct of contrapower harassment, as well as the importance of looking beyond harasser gender.

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