Social Undermining: Definition and Meaning

In the workplace, social undermining is pretty frequent and, its negative impact can also be seen in different forms. Different facets of social undermining have an impact on certain races in the workplace. Social undermining at work is related to social interaction. According to research, people are more likely to lead happier lives if they work in a supportive atmosphere. When examining positive workplace conduct, research has demonstrated that social undermining exists on a unique and distinct continuum.

Meaning of Social Undermining

Social undermining characterized as the intentional or unintentional behavior of an individual that taken with the purpose to weaken or sabotage the social relationships, self-esteem, or performance of another person or group. Usually, it is a sort of negative action, which can take many forms, such as spreading rumors or gossip, giving negative feedback, withholding information, or belittling someone's accomplishments, which can occur in different social settings, such as workplace, family setup, among the friends, or any such environment where people interacts frequently.

Furthermore, it is important to note that social undermining is different from constructive criticism or feedback, which aims to help someone improve or grow. In fact, social undermining is typically motivated by jealousy, competition, or a desire for power and control over others.

Social Undermining During Workplace

Interactions with coworkers and managers can lead to social undermining; these interactions have an impact on the undercut workers and may have an impact on how well they perform at work. Vinokur discovered that people who claimed to encounter social undermining at work reported having worse mental health and feeling less well-being.

According to the study, undermining plays a big part in the relationships between coworkers and supervisors, and it can have a variety of negative effects, including emotions of impatience, anxiety, depersonalization, and despair. It demonstrates how social undermining has an impact on one's work ethics and general wellbeing. A person's perceptions can be impacted by socially destructive behaviors.

Abusive Supervision

In many contexts, including the home, the classroom, and the workplace, abusive supervision may occur. Violence in the workplace is a result of a combination of situational and human factors, according to research on abusive supervision as a precursor to negative subordinate workplace outcomes. In the study, it was examined how various workplace occurrences and abusive supervision relate to one another. Abuseful supervision can result in social undermining, such as when a supervisor utilizes unfavorable behavior and things "flow downhill." This is referred to as abusive supervision.

An extra-punitive mentality known as hostile attribution bias causes people to tend to place the blame on other people. Researchers were interested in how hostile attribution bias might affect how subordinates perceive abusive supervision in connection to their views of psychological contract violations. They feel that there is a stronger positive correlation between experiences of psychological contract violation and reports of abuse from subordinates. Undermining does occur with abusive supervision, which has an impact on families and leads to violence.

Abuse of a subordinate can have a bad impact on their family, as the subordinate begins to undermine the members of the family. Displaced aggression, defined as "redirecting a harm-doing behavior from a primary to a secondary target," can lead to undermining. A toxic work environment can lead to family undermining because when someone in a position of authority makes fun of you, you begin to believe that your family should also make fun of you.

Effect on Health

According to research, social undermining can have an impact on one's health. Social undermining has been proven to contribute to depression symptoms. Depending on the nature of the relationship, a patient's loved one may encourage or discourage them, or even do both during the same conversation, which might exacerbate depressive symptoms. Depending on the type of stress the patient is experiencing, increasing social support may help them respond better to treatment.

According to Cranford, a relationship's depressive symptoms might worsen if one partner undermines the other rather than the other providing support. It has been discovered that social undermining rather than social support is a more reliable predictor of psychological adaptation. The ability of one partner to handle other pressures can be fatally affected by social undermining in a relationship.

It can also cause a decline in adaptive coping behaviors and even a rise in maladaptive coping behaviors like wishful thinking and poor psychological adjustment. This may draw attention away from other stressors and focus more on coping mechanisms, decreasing the couple's chances of finding a solution to their issues. Conflict in the marriage may develop if the couple is unable to solve their issues. Social undermining in a relationship can have a detrimental impact on the physical health of the spouse and make the spouse more susceptible to pressure. This may result in depressive symptoms, which may lower the spouse's confidence.

Mental Health

Depending on the individual or even the relationship, social undermining and social support can have opposing impacts on a person that can be either harmful or beneficial. A person may experience both social undermining and social support from being in a close relationship. An abusive relationship that provides little support and a lot of undermining is an example of one of these relationships.

High support and little undermining are typical characteristics of a healthy, close relationship. An adolescent's relationship with a parent might offer significant amounts of support or even be undermined. Patterns might alter over time depending on the relationship’s circumstances and traits. A relationship's quality, whether it's great or negative, can have grave consequences.

Behavioral and Emotional Responses

According to research, social undercutting can have negative consequences in terms of increased unproductive behaviors, reciprocated social undermining, and decreased job satisfaction, depending on how the victim responds to it. The person may experience despair, a drop in self-esteem, or even psychosomatic symptoms as a result of these undesirable results.

Crossley discovered that when an offense was serious, the victim was more likely to assume that the offender conducted the deed with malicious intent or out of personal greed. This finding came from a study of victims' opinions of the undermining they had experienced. Victims' impressions of the perpetrators' motives typically have an impact on whether they react to the undermining negatively, with emotions of rage and a want for retribution, or positively, with a desire to make amends with the perpetrator.


The cause of moral disengagement, which is the primary prelude to social undermining's presentation in interpersonal and professional behaviors, is at the heart of social undermining. The social undermining of others, as well as the behavioral signs in its victims, are studied for potential reasons and motivations.

The significance of social undermining for businesses, employees, and how it affects employee behavior at work are then discussed. In the context of social undermining as a source of workplace stress and as existing on a spectrum of positive and/or negative workplace behaviors, employee and organizational reputation are explored.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is meaning of the term Blacklisting?

Ans. Blacklisting is the process by which a group or authority creates a list of individuals, nations, or other entities that should be avoided or distrusted because they are deemed unacceptable by those creating the list. If someone is on a blacklist, they are assumed to have broken the law or to be unreliable.

Q2. What do you mean by Debarment?

Ans. Debarment is the condition of being prohibited from using particular things, rights, privileges, or behaviors, as well as the act of stopping something by using the law. For instance, accusations of fraud, poor management, and other irregularities may result in organizations being excluded from contracts. Debarment is an option for businesses, people, and non-governmental organizations.

Q3. What is Deplatforming?

Ans. Deplatforming, also referred to as "no-platforming," is the "attempt to boycott a group or individual through the removal of the platforms used to share information or ideas," or "the action or practice of prohibiting someone holding views regarded as unacceptable or offensive from contributing to a forum or debate, especially by blocking them on a particular website."

Updated on: 10-May-2023


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