Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Employees’ Safety from Psychological Violence in Social Enterprises: State Subsidies or Private Initiative?

Written By

Jolita Vveinhardt

Submitted: 19 October 2015 Reviewed: 11 February 2016 Published: 13 April 2016

DOI: 10.5772/62474

From the Edited Volume

Social Enterprise - Context-Dependent Dynamics In A Global Perspective

Edited by Rosario Laratta

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This study analyses the range of problems of the enterprises that integrate disabled persons into the labour market, evaluating the capacity of their staff to deal with the emerging problems of employees’ safety from psychological violence in the cultural context. Attention is drawn to the fact that social enterprises implementing governmental programmes for the employment of persons with disabilities are oriented only to the guarantees of the physical working conditions, but the issues of psychological safety, psychological well-being, and social exclusion are not dealt with. The latter questions are not discussed neither in the government programme nor in policies of the enterprises; therefore, they are dealt with depending on the established business management culture. The management personnel of companies with the status of social enterprises perceives the function of the enterprise as a certain niche in the market, receiving the state aid for the implemented requirements to employ disabled persons and adapt the physical environment for them. This approach highlights such side effects as unaddressed (suppressed) discriminatory attitude towards employees with disabilities in enterprises, organisational weakness in dealing with interpersonal conflicts, the lack of competence of the managerial staff and the lack of systematic knowledge on work with personnel. In this case, there is a debatable question of whether the efforts of the state will reach the desired goal, i.e. the fully-fledged work and social integration of the people who the investments are intended for, or continue the traditions of silent social segregation? This study shows that it is necessary to critically evaluate the selected model for fostering businesses to integrate into the labour market, in which the issues of psycho-social welfare and social initiative of enterprises are underestimated.


  • social enterprise
  • psychological violence
  • employees’ safety
  • psycho-social welfare
  • interpersonal conflicts
  • social integration

1. Introduction

Corporate social responsibility can be a promising strategy on the markets, the participants of which raise the question of responsibility actively. The word actively is emphasised in order to consider cultural differences as well. Even taking the processes of globalisation into account, we have to admit that both societies and markets are culturally different, as well as their participants, raising the questions of social responsibility differently. Moreover, in practice, the situation where the initiative arises “from the top,” that is, from the requirements formulated by the public authorities, is often encountered, and less frequently, when the public stakeholder groups formulate requirements on the basis of which they join the national policy and become an incentive for its change. On the example of the new member states of the European Union, we can observe the tendencies, when after signing international agreements the business vigorously takes advantage of opportunities and benefits provided by a new policy. It uses, but often ignores, the social groups which the programmes were designed for, as the social groups did not show any significant initiative for some reasons. The deeper problem sources of this context should be left to scholars analysing the processes that take place in the Central and Eastern European societies, focus on the product of social policy, identified as a social enterprise.

The aim of the research is to evaluate how the safety of employees from psychological violence is ensured after discussing the specifics of organisation of work with staff in social enterprises, which carry out the state-supported function of integration of socially vulnerable groups into the labour market.

We can choose: firstly, to adopt a liberal, but limited model of the social enterprise, which, for example, has been implemented by the government of Lithuania, or, secondly, to evaluate its consequences in the context of safety of employees by analysing specific examples and, thirdly, to outline new directions for the change after evaluation of weaknesses recorded. That is, after evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the model, we will have more knowledge on how it corresponds to the interests of socially vulnerable groups.

Thus, in order to propose changes in the policies of the social enterprises, firstly, it is necessary to review the processes taking place in the society, to discuss the basic principles of the functioning model and problems arising in practice, to identify the criteria of the concept of a social enterprise analysed in international discourse and compare with the chosen functioning model, to evaluate to what extent the proposed models meet criteria of psychosocial safety, to diagnose how the chosen functioning model meets the criteria of psychosocial safety.


2. Social policy that has increased social exclusion

Before starting to go deep into social policy that has increased social exclusion, we should overview the historical-social context in which the analysed model of the social enterprise was forming.

The problem of integration of persons with disabilities into the labour market in Lithuania was attempted to solve during the period of the Soviet Union, which lasted for about half a century. The declared social equality had to solve drawbacks of capitalist societies, and funds were allocated generously for its implementation.

In the largest cities of the country housing estates of blocks of flats for people with disabilities were built, housing provided, infrastructure developed: health centres, nurseries, and kindergartens for children, schools for children with hearing and visual impairments, factories where people with disabilities also worked were set up.

A special infrastructure, providing access to shops, health care centres, and schools of the special housing estates, has been developed. The specific names were given to the housing estates, although positive, however, having a disability semantics, which was reflected even in the names of the streets (e. g. “Spindulio” (“Ray Street”)) or public transport stops, for example, “Enterprise for the blind,” “School for the deaf,” etc. At the same time, work at home was widely implemented: in the districts far from the big cities persons with disabilities were provided with necessary facilities for work, the logistics of supplying raw materials and assembling the products was organised. Specialised libraries have been set up to meet the cultural needs, the “Houses of culture” have been established to organise events.

Inevitably, this policy has led to a distinctive social segregation, which was highlighted after the collapse of the Soviet regime and the transition to a market economy, which led to the bankruptcy of many of the enterprises for people with disabilities, the painful and stormy processes of restructuring, unemployment, and understanding of living a certain ghetto. Despite this, some companies set up after the restructuring retained their existence in significantly lower volumes. The infrastructure built in Soviet times has started to deteriorate, the work of people working remotely did not cover the expenses of logistics, so many had to live on social security. The developed residential estates and their residents became stigmatised.

With increasing social differentiation, stigmatisation of the artificially created housing estates and their population strengthened, the housing estates became the areas where the needy citizens lived. Even the real estate boom at the beginning of the first decade of the twenty-first century did not basically change these trends. Cheap housing area has attracted lower-income residents, whose solvency and ability to participate actively in the labour market remained problematic.

There is an ironic saying in the post-soviet society: we wanted the best, but it turned out like always. This saying also reflects the efforts to integrate socially vulnerable groups of the society, while these efforts turned into segregation, creating certain ghettos. Of course, the word ghetto sounds controversially in this context, but it reflects the realities and expectations of the people who left not only in the territorial, but also in social isolation and psychological self-isolation.


3. The model of a social enterprise and outcomes

Social integration is a significant ideological narrative of the European Union policy, which is treated liberally by members of the union. Over the past two decades, a number of crises of the concept of a social enterprise occurred in Lithuania. They strengthened doubts about the chosen political direction but have not fostered any effective changes and came to nothing more than the statement of facts.

In order to understand the causes of these crises, firstly, the main criteria of a social enterprise legitimised in this state should be discussed.

The law on social enterprises of Lithuania (in reference [1]) adopted in 2004, defines a social enterprise as a legal person, which employs target groups of persons. The number of employees who are attributed to the target groups accounts for not less than 40% of the annual average number of the employees on the staff list. In addition, it is noted that the founding documents of the enterprise indicate the operating goals of this legal person relating to employment of the persons who are attributed to the target groups, development of their working and social skills as well as their social integration. The law distinguishes a social enterprise of the disabled—a social enterprise, in which the employees who are attributed to the target group of the disabled account for not less than 50% of the annual average number of employees on the staff list, of whom the disabled with Group I or Group II disability—for not less than 40% of the annual average number of employees on the staff list. It is also noted that a social enterprise of the disabled has all the rights and obligations of a social enterprise, but it can also receive additional aid from the State stated in this and other laws. It should be added that persons returning from imprisonment institutions also acquire a special status. Further, the law discusses the conditions of acquisition and loss of the special status of the enterprise, subsidies, control measures, etc.

Thus, the emphasis is on a mathematical ratio of employees of such enterprises to the employees who do not have the special status, as well as privileges granted by this law and other substatutory legal acts. The purpose of the law is to integrate socially vulnerable members of the society into the labour market, encouraging entrepreneurs by various tax advantages.

This has led to several scandals, when formally using the law, local corporations managed to avoid significant tax liability. In other words, the model strongly contributed to the growth of the financial capital at the expense of social capital.

Nevertheless, the model remained valid. That is, after fulfilment of the formal requirements in any field of economic activities, the right to tax advantages is gained and an additional competitive advantage, which is not additionally regulated in any way, is acquired. The rights and possibilities of vulnerable employees involved/participating in these processes remain undefined by clearer criteria. However, in this context, the pressure formed by the public opinion was highlighted.

This context will be discussed later as a significant factor, and for now, the results of recent research on social enterprises will be overviewed for a deeper understanding of the content of this problem.


4. The problems of social enterprises that deal with unemployment

The discussed model of a social enterprise, in the context of which the empirical research will be carried out, is the choice of one of several opportunities applied in different countries. The rise of the institute of a social enterprise is associated with solution of various social problems, both as a product of the social policy carried out by the state and as a naturally developing culture of corporate social responsibility.

As the aim of this research is not the analysis of different models, only a few generalised directions for the development of the concept of social enterprise and the related issues relevant to this research should be distinguished. Here work integration social enterprises will be focused more specifically.

Although the term social enterprise has not been an oxymoron for some time already, but the raising questions and discussion show that we do not have a clear and acceptable model for all, regardless of objectives of social sustainability and emphasised universal values. It is shown not only by the discussions of business, politicians, and representatives of social movements, but also by academic research that aims at emphasising and proving one or other aspects of the social business again and again. For example, Dees [2] has defined social entrepreneurship as a complex of innovative actions that solve social problems in essence by meeting certain social needs. However, there is always a question, to what extent and why a business (if we are talking not about the state capital enterprises) should be innovative and what fosters social innovation (in the broadest sense).

Despite the evidence that social business provides really tangible benefits by participating in discussions with employees, developing relationships with other stakeholders and at the same time achieving the competitive advantage (in [3, 4]), there often remains a strong attitude that the state or international institutions can significantly contribute to the promotion of social responsibility by programmes (in [5, 6]). On the other hand, these ideas, although not always publicly expressed, are quite popular even among liberal ideologists who fervently speak in favour of privatisation of the state functions. However, this means that the private business is supported by taxpayer funds and it is not always clear, if the market is distorted by providing a competitive advantage to some of its participants. While trying to solve the problem, Engelke et al. [7] suggest a strong anchoring of the concept to the welfare state indicating that social enterprise is a new organisational form that contributes to, but does not necessarily replace existing structures, calculation of social rate of return remains unclear. Rahman and Hussain [8] maintain that there is a need to expand the accounting base to non-financial measures. Social business and social enterprises do not have externally validated performance reports and there is no benchmark data to compare performance. Alter and Oppenheimer [9] generalise the problem by distinguishing two degrees of business integration: pure and hybrid. According to this approach, in the pure model, the business is used only as a tool to solve social problems, and the shareholders of the business do not get any profit, which is given to solve a certain social problem. The hybrid model attempts to adjust the decision of social problems by providing for the return of profits to shareholders of the enterprises. It can be said that this is a compromise between the pure model of social business, which is sometimes identified with philanthropy, and a standard model of business. However, it only establishes the situation, but does not deal with the challenges to people who create and develop social enterprises.

Bull and Crompton’s [10] social research results have shown that enterprises adopt varying practices, face many issues and, while many are beginning to make themselves more accountable in terms of their social value, there was little evidence to suggest that social enterprises were measuring their social impact beyond providing data that was sought by funders. On the other hand, the results of the research carried out by Hines [11] indicated that the current needs of social enterprises are not being met by the current provision for such organisations since such provision fails to address the strategic tension that exists between social and business purpose.

However, these and other studies show that it is not completely appropriate to analyse both positive and negative aspects of the functioning of social activities separately from the motives that led to undertake the business. This is particularly relevant when examining the problems of work integration social enterprises, as such enterprises, taking over certain functions of the state, use the subsidies and/or their other form—tax advantages. In Table 1 below, the problematic aspects of activities of such enterprises revealing in the long term that have to be dealt with are presented taking the provided benefit into account.

Year Giving sense Context of the research Problematic insights References
2010 Reduction of unemployment and building social capital Employment of people with physical and mental disabilities in Hong Kong, taking advantage of the experience of the European countries Because of the emphasis on
social goals, social enterprises
tend to bear higher human resource
costs associated with training
and labour protection. Yet in
the long run, with a view
to operating as self-sustaining
enterprises in a competitive
market, they share the same
pressures in the market as small
and medium-sized commercial
in reference [12]
2011 The success of social enterprises is measured
on the basis of parameters
of economic performance,
social effectiveness
and institutional
The research was carried out
in an Italian labour market
integration social enterprise
It is proposed to implement a
multidimensional management
control system based on the
criteria distinguished by
the authors
in reference [13]
2013 It examines whether any
potential link between
participation and
commitment is due
to social exchange,
as is the case with
for-profit companies.
It is based on the data
obtained in France
from the enterprises,
involved in integration
into the labour market
Results confirm the positive
relationship between procedural
justice and affective commitment
and the mediating role of
perceived organisational
support and leader–member
in reference [14]
2014 The ratio of the
logic of the market
and social services
It was investigated, how the
logic of neo-liberal welfare,
which is acceptable in the
USA and Europe, gives
sense to work integration
social enterprises
This research demonstrates that
when the work integration
social enterprises are
dominated by a market logic,
they commodify their
clients as production
in reference [15]
2014 Suchman’s taxonomy was used in the study Swedish work integration social enterprises were researched in the context
of care provision, empowerment and market forces
Work integration social enterprises
tend to imitate profit-generating
organisations in generating
legitimacy. The study
indicates that although short
-term resource-generation
can be facilitated, the
replication of for-profit
practices can create a
tension with the concurrent
aim of being an innovative
and empowering enterprise for
people who otherwise would
be excluded from the labour
in reference [16]
2015 Based on the theory of
reciprocity, which has
found success within
economic theory but
has not received the
same attention from
management disciplines
or general social
science studies
The activities of social cooperatives in Italy The assumption that the
non-profit sector can shift
away from traditional
fund-raising and obtain
greater financial
independence without losing
its social mission is
discussed. Given the
behaviour of employees, such
companies may be a model
for for-profit organisations
in reference [17]

Table 1.

Review of the recent studies: context and problem insights.

Source: prepared by J. Vveinhardt.

These examples briefly illustrate the fundamental problems of work integration social enterprises which are given our attention. However, the side effects related to relationships between the employees and the quality of these relations remain unresolved. Especially when we mean mixed type enterprises, which employ a part of people with special needs, at the same time also evaluating optimistic evidence that similar programmes contribute to enhancing social integration, psychological well-being, and develop social capital (e.g. in [12, 14]).

There is not a lot of knowledge on how the negative aspects still occurring in practice of social enterprises after solving the problems of unemployment of a part of socially excluded groups of people affect the psychological well-being and prevent the development of social capital. However, individual studies show that it is not enough to see social enterprises as merely an instrument to address social problems, or focus only on the social and economic reasons for the activity of such companies.

Some studies show that the selected field of solution of problems of unemployment and social integration when developing social enterprises has a number of dormant reefs. The latter also reveal significant problems of organisational culture, which are influenced by both internal and external factors. For example, Low and Chinnock [18] drew attention to the problems of management. According to the authors, the democratic model common in social enterprises can be subverted by powerful actors who wish to retain their positions regardless of the impact on the organisation. In addition, a significant gender disproportion in the management of such organisations was observed (in reference [19]).

Okunevičiūtė-Neverauskienė and Moskvina [20] note that social enterprises in Europe as part of the sheltered employment sector play an important role in the integration of vulnerable groups. However, at the regional and national levels, the economic activity and funding mechanisms of social enterprises should he consistent with the principles of economic competitiveness so as to avoid the discrimination of social enterprise employees and adverse consequences for the other entities of economy, which are beyond the supported employment sector. In another study Garrow and Hasenfeld [15] envisaged the danger that employee rights can be violated, as employees in such enterprises are rarely paid more than a minimum wage. Not only because the specifics of the business do not lead to greater profitability, but also due to the fact that there is a limited number of enterprises of the similar profile, which also limits the opportunities of natural movement and choice of the labour force. That is, the state-created system that aims to address the problems of social integration and unemployment, imprisons employees in this system in a certain way, and the solution of the problem of equal opportunities remains undecided. Limited possibilities of choice of work reveal even more problems, which result from the created system, and which are discussed by researchers in different countries. Social enterprises with a special status focus on the requirements of physical work safety, adjustment of the workplace for disabled persons provided for in the law, and give too little attention, effort to improvement of competence of managerial staff, as well to dealing with the problems of psychological violence and mobbing. Employees with disabilities face a higher risk of experiencing psychological violence at work.

The mere fact that a person with disability has a job, and he/she does not need major or minor additional support from the state, does not eliminate the problem of stigmatisation. The special status of the enterprise differentiates employees of the enterprise from other enterprises operating in the market. The policy of the state and the limited choice of work reveal more internal and external difficulties, which result from the created system and which are discussed by researchers in different countries (e.g., in [21, 22]). Given that the effect of this policy was not always as great as expected (in [23, 24]), we have a reason to consider what kind of causes within organisations and the factors influenced from outside make obstacles for development of work integration social enterprises.


5. Research methodology and organisation of the research

When discussing the problems, the social enterprises face, we have distinguished the problems of relationships between employees. A semi-structured interview, the questions for which are prepared on the basis of scientific literature, was used for the research.

As the method of semi-structured interview was used, all of the informants were asked the same introductory questions. Additional questions were formulated during the process of the research, in order to clarify the answers and to develop the questions arising during the interview (Table 2).

Category Introductory questions
Organisation of work with the staff How are the processes of personnel management regulated in your company? How are the employees’ functions and tasks defined in the company?
Competences of managerial staff What are the requirements for the managerial staff in your company in terms of professional and personal characteristics? How is work with the staff organised? Who is responsible for it? How is the development of the managerial staff organised?
Management of relationships between
the employees
How are interpersonal conflicts dealt with in your company (e.g., what are prevention and intervention measures, who is in charge of these issues)? What kinds of conflicts occur in the company? What are the consequences for the parties of the conflict?
Giving sense to the
social objective of
the enterprise
How is the idea of a safe working environment given sense when implementing the mission of your enterprise?
How the employees
What kind of violence have you experienced? How did you try to solve the problem? How did the management respond to your complaints? What decisions have been made (what were the consequences for you and for the offender)? How does your company deal with the issues of psychological violence (e.g., the official procedure, the rules)?

Table 2.

Questions of the instrument.

Source: prepared by J. Vveinhardt.

The questions used in the interviews with the managerial staff and victims of inappropriate behaviour of colleagues (mobbing) have been grouped according to the categories, which are presented in Table 3.

Category Description Informants
Organisation of work with the staff Regulation of processes, rules, documented standards and “non-documented agreements” Managerial staff, victims
Competences of managerial
Culture of managerial staff and individual features, education, knowledge and development of the managerial staff Managerial staff, victims
Management of relationships between the employees Conflict resolution, the use of internal and external resources Managerial staff, victims
Giving sense to the social objective of the enterprise Mission of the organisation, understanding of the relationship between the official status of the enterprise and the employees’ expectations and implementation in the managerial activity of the enterprise Managerial staff
How the employees feel The nature of violence experienced, search for and consequences of conflict resolution Victims

Table 3.

Categories of the questions of the interview.

Source: prepared by J. Vveinhardt

The research was carried out in 2015 by conducting the interviews with four employees of the management of Lithuanian social enterprises and three employees with physical disabilities who have experienced psychological violence. All of the enterprises are engaged in industrial activities, have a special status of the social enterprise, and employ between 60 and 85% of people with physical disabilities. The total number of employees in the smallest enterprises during the research was 64, and the number of employees in the largest enterprises was 127, the annual income did not exceed 40 million Euros. That is, in accordance with the Lithuanian legal framework, the enterprises are attributable to the group of medium-sized enterprises. None of the enterprises represented by informants has a separate department for work with the staff, the function of working with the staff (selection, assessment of employees) is assigned to the informants: deputy directors (the code I1 and I4 is used to describe the research), the production director (I2), the director of commerce (I3). In other words, the informants belong to the middle management, except I4, who is the managing director. I4 represents the company, in which mobbing has not been recorded, thus, this enterprise can be identified as the control enterprise. Informants I1, I2, and I3 represented enterprises, where victims of psychological violence of co-workers worked (codes V1, V2, and V3).

Victims were distinguished during the pilot study that used Vveinhardt’s questionnaire [25], on the basis of the criterion formulated by Leymann (in [26, 27]) that a person who has been terrorised at least once a week and longer than for six months is considered to be a victim. The victims contacted the researcher themselves, in response to a proposal to participate in the interview put in the questionnaire.


6. Results of the research

Giving sense to the social objective of the enterprise . The mission of the organisation in enterprises which have the victims of destructive relationships between employees is perceived as providing work for disabled persons and the optimal adaptation of the physical working environment for them. For example, I2 and I3 stressed the formal actions of the enterprises to ensure the conditions for work and rest provided for by national legislation.

I2: “We are a social enterprise. Most of our employees are disabled. We signed a contract with the national labour exchange and have a plan for social inclusion, and receive certain exemptions due to this. We are also committed to adjusting workplaces for people with disabilities.

I3: “Our enterprise invests in good conditions for work and rest. At the end of the year, the projected annual budget is allocated and more or less based on the surveying it is decided what they want most this year, and then the amount of money is allocated to the various measures.

The informant has stressed that a lot of attention is given to work safety; however, when asked to clarify how the employees are protected from psycho-social stressors, the informant said, “Clean, orderly premises, comfortable workplaces, wages paid on time. We don’t require impossible things, I think it is very important to the proper microclimate and wellbeing, but you know, we employ such people … they are often dissatisfied with everything…”.

A broader understanding of the social responsibility of business is characteristic of the attitudes of the fourth enterprise.

I4: “It is a certain niche, where both business and the state and specific people win. While others live on benefits, they want to work, but not the workplaces are most important. We understand that, so we organise events, celebrations to our employees and members of their families, support the local community, which also involves our employees. We don’t have the standard of a socially responsible company, but we are trying to be socially responsible. <…> Sometimes there are conflicts between employees, we invited a psychologist, maybe it helped a little.”

After the analysis and summarising the answers of the managerial staff, the trends that have been highlighted under five categories of the management policy are presented in Table 4, comparing the enterprises, where the victims were found, and the enterprises where this fact has not been established.

Category Enterprises that had the affected persons Control enterprise
Organisation of work with the staff The functions and responsibilities of the employees are defined formally, but in practice they are freely interpreted by managers. The functions and responsibilities of the employees are defined; formal provisions are complied with.
Competences of managerial staff Orientation to the competencies related to the improvement of production and sales, improvement of competence related to the expense of the managers Orientation to competencies related to the improvement of production and sales, the organisation invests in the training of employees
Management of relationships between the employees Formal decisions, without going deep into the causes, prevention is not given prominence, internal sources are used when resolving
conflicts, the head of the company holds
himself/herself aloof from resolution
of relationships between employees
There is no preventive system, the external assistance is used in response to the events, the head of the enterprise partly holds himself/herself aloof from resolution of relationships between employees
Giving sense to the social objective of the enterprise Social enterprise is perceived as a type
of business, focussing on the
requirements of the legislation
Social responsibility is perceived as a part of the company’s image, not narrowing it to the laws

Table 4.

Trends of management and social policies of social enterprises.

Source: prepared by J. Vveinhardt.

Competencies of managerial staff . Firstly, the requirements for the managers raised during the recruitment have been evaluated. Informants (I1, I2, and I3) specified that their job was related to selection and assessment of employees, providing proposals of recommendatory nature. And only I4 makes decisions to hire or fire employees. In all enterprises work with the documents related to the personnel, management of work-related records, monitoring of laws, etc. are delegated to the administrator of the company (I3) or employees of the finance department (I1 and I2).

According to I2, “This is a common practice, because it is too expensive for a small company to have a specialist, who will not have any work most of the time.”

I4 noted that a personnel management specialist was employed, but additionally he performed the work of a book-keeper. I4: “There are not a lot of matters related to personnel management: to prepare some documents, reports, supervise that we react to the changed laws on time <…> No, it’s not the specific character of social enterprises, many of the small and medium enterprises work in this way, as it is too expensive to keep a separate personnel department. <…> we just delegate some functions to other employees.”

Education of I4 is an economist, I1 and I2 are technologists, and I3 earned a master’s degree in Marketing at university.

From the answers of I1–I3, the following key points should be distinguished at the stage of their own recruitment: higher education, knowledge of the subject (i.e., organisation of production, technology, and commerce), work experience.

Their competencies of work with staff were not evaluated, making the job conversation limited to questions of general interest about the Labour Code (I2 and I3), Law on Social Enterprises, motivating employees (I1, I2, I3), additionally (in the case of I3) distinguishing conflict management. When recruiting managers, the focus was on their knowledge and skills related to the production and sales.

It is partially summarised in I3’s answers: “They basically look what your education is, how many years you worked, what your practical experience is. <…> When going to the interview, I had a look at the law and the company’s website, therefore, I have answered the questions about social enterprises. <…> I think that my experience in the field of marketing made a greater impression. <…> My knowledge of personnel management? There was a psychology course at university, I got some knowledge when learning management, and everything else is personal experience …”.

The informants reported they were interested in innovations in the management science; however, the responses show that the understanding of improvement is associated more with technological processes rather than with personnel management issues. The expectations for professionals had an informal expression, associated with the development of personal competence in a particular field of activity (production, technology, sales), and the questions of personal culture, leadership style were not discussed and were left for the interpretation of the executives.

According to I1, “It is important to achieve a good result. And it is your private business how it is done.” The enterprises represented by the informants did not have any specific training programmes and were oriented to the development of the informants at their expense, except I4, where personal initiatives are only supported partially: “We trust the motivation of our professionals, if they want, we let them go on training courses. <…> Management of psychosocial stress and employees’ relationships? <…> For the meantime we deal with the issues of production of new products, but if such questions also occurred, perhaps we would allocate resources for training”.

Organisation of work with the staff . Managers have job descriptions. However, the descriptions are not always followed.

I3: “Descriptions are here, life is there. We work what is needed at the time. Everything can’t be fit in a job description.” I4 considers that every manager “must know the documentation in depth”.

However, the informant was unable to ensure that ordinary employees are well aware of their own job descriptions: “They exist, but as usual, many people sign anything without actually reading it first. We have people with different disabilities who work here, therefore, we have higher requirements for work safety and sometimes we remind the instructions.”

The responses of I1, I2, and I3 coincided: the employee’s duties and key requirements are briefly provided in employment contracts or in the annexes to them. There is an assumption that it is enough to explain the duties and responsibilities to the employees verbally.

Feedback from the subordinates is not clear. I3: “We give the employees the plans for the next six months or a year, say, what we’re going to do…” I2: “The decisions are communicated orally, we only inform about penalties in writing. <…> If a decision made has an influence on an employee, he/she shall be informed personally.”

In the informants’ enterprises, there is no clear policy on the extent to which the employees should be informed about the overall situation of the company.

I3: “There are different theories on this issue, but it is unusual to speak about the situation of a company with employees in Lithuania. Supposedly, the unfavourable information will cause disorders within the company, reach customers and competitors.”

Management of relationships between the employees . When recruiting ordinary employees, occupational documents (when hiring people without disabilities), and medical records, as well as decisions on the degree of incapacity (for those with a disability) are followed. Psychological and personal qualities are basically not taken into account.

I4: “Our duty is to employ people with disabilities. Of course, maybe their ability to work with other people should be evaluated, maybe their place of work should be chosen according to it, but we do not have such staffing professionals. <…> Usually the specialists of the departments where there is a vacant position participate in selection of employees.”

The responses of informants about the management of relationships between the employees revealed the following problem areas: for the employees, who had suffered from long social exclusion, it is more difficult to establish social relationships with co-workers, they are more sensitive to comments and criticism, conflicts occur both between employees with disabilities and between employees with disabilities and employees without disabilities, the management approach to employees with disabilities and employees without disabilities is different.

I2: “They are people with special needs, we often evaluate them more leniently, of course, employees without disabilities do not always like it, so I would say there is a certain tension.” None of the enterprises has approved standards of ethical relationships, they follow the general rules of good conduct, they do not have any approved protocol of conflict resolution, there are no conflict prevention programmes, internal resources are used to resolve conflicts. It is explained by the fact that “the enterprise is small, so everybody knows everyone” (I1), “there would be too much paperwork, bureaucracy” (I2), “there should be prevention, but the director thinks otherwise” (I3). Conflict resolution is in principle entrusted to direct managers. I4 argues, “They know their employees best, so they can go into the situation deeper. When they fail, they bring me reports, explanations, and then we try to deal with it. <…> There weren’t a lot of cases they would not cope. <…> We have invited a psychologist, but it didn’t really help.”

Conflicts are dealt with formally, ordering to provide written explanations, in exceptional cases, the immediate superiors and the colleagues who saw the conflict are questioned. Decisions of the executives have a decisive influence, and the explanations of longer-serving employees are more appreciable. The informants identified the following sources of conflicts: dissatisfaction with the work tasks, decisions of the management, wage size and differences in wages, different personal psychological properties. The signs of tolerating social ostracism were observable.

I2: “There are some impracticable people <…>, but those who work for a longer time often solve the problems by themselves. Complicated people come to work with us, those who are the odd ones in the team, they quit themselves”.

The most common outcomes of the conflict are a verbal warning, financial punishment, dismissal. Informants identified the lack of their competence in dealing with conflicts, but in the short term, they did not plan to enhance the competence in this area. None of the informants knew what mobbing or social ostracism are. They attributed the identified features solely to employees’ interpersonal relationships, without attributing the responsibility to the organisation.

Well - being of employees (victims) and the nature of violence experienced. The experiences of the employees (victims) who suffered from psychological violence reported during the interviews are summarised and provided in Table 5. When characterising the experiences in accordance with the nature, they were grouped into four categories, which outline the nature of the attack, the search for solution in accordance with personal competence, the response of the management to the conflict, and the consequences for the victim of violence and the bully.

Characteristics Experiences
V1 V2 V3
Nature of
Negative opinion is formed
behind the back, permanent
work and personal criticism,
co-workers and the
head of the branch
are involved
Taunting, offensive jokes,
backbiting, negative
colleagues’ and
managers’ opinion is
Taunting, verbal bullying,
Personal search
for the solution
of the conflict
Efforts to negotiate
with the abuser, talked
to a lawyer who made a
claim to the enterprise
Tried to appeal to the
abuser’s feelings, to
clarify the causes, lodged
a complaint to the
immediate superior
Contacted the immediate
Solutions of the
Constant complaints left
without response, the
management has responded
to the legal document,
the person who terrorised
was warned in writing about
the impending financial
Verbal warning to both,
they threatened that if they
don’t find the solution,
both will be dismissed
from work
The executive tried to mediate,
offered the victim to go
to a psychologist
for the victim
Direct attacks stopped,
feels unpleasant glimpses,
the manager avoids
contacts, feels social
isolation, psychological
Sense of social isolation,
left the job because of
worsening health
Harassment became more
intense, the victim was
called a “sneak”, it
has reinforced a negative
for the bully
Oral and written
warnings about the
impending penalty, was
moved to another
department, harasser
is considered
a victim
Was warned orally,
but the pressure has not
stopped, it has become
more sophisticated
Oral warning, the effect
is short-term, harassment
Well-being of
the victim
Feels helpless, does not
know the way out
Feels helpless, is afraid
that will occur again in
the new workplace
Feels helpless, does not
know the way out, feel socially
Possibility to
deal with the
problem using the
Unknown, followed
personal competence
Unknown, followed
personal competence
The rules are known, but
they are ineffective in

Table 5.

Experiences and solutions of victims of violence.

Source: prepared by J. Vveinhardt

According to V2, “My lawyer called what was happening to me the discrimination from the management and warned that the it would be impossible to prove it in the court, because my colleagues refused to talk. <…> I have found another job <…> not in a social enterprise”.

It should be noted that, firstly, the victims who had suffered as a result of violence have remained the victims after trying to solve the problem and, secondly, did not have knowledge on the available opportunities to deal with the problem using the internal resources of the organisations; thirdly, they did not receive effective aid from the management. Only one of the victims sought legal aid, other victims did not consider this option.


7. Discussion

Many recent studies focus on the value problems of organisations of the ratio between profit maximisation and philanthropic activities, economic freedom and responsibility for social tasks (in [2830]; etc.), as well as legal regulation (in [29]). Enterprises, which on their own initiative and/or supported by the governmental plan deal with the issues of integration of socially vulnerable members of the public into the labour market and the society, hold a special place in this context. Such work integration social enterprises, according to Garrow and Hasenfeld [15], must balance between two conflicting institutional logics: market and social services. Nevertheless, Agafanow [30] draws attention to the fact that scientific literature on social enterprise is at an impasse, moreover, there remains plenty of controversy and uncertainty, what can be considered a social enterprise and what are the essential features of such an enterprise (in [31]). In the discourse of social enterprises developed in the scientific literature which is focusing on the solution of a wide range of relevant social and environmental issues, little attention remains to the relations between the employees and the negative individual and social consequences resulting from psychological violence, which occurs in different forms (in [3235]). The more so as the social enterprises themselves in the management of their own internal processes face relevant to the society problems, occurring as, for instance, unequal treatment of its members, etc. (in [19]), which is particularly relevant in addressing the issue of integration of socially vulnerable groups of the society into the labour market in the social enterprise. Thus, there is a real danger that the aims of the social enterprise will not be achieved or will be achieved only partially. In addition, underestimation of protection of employees from psychological violence raises the questions of how widely and properly social responsibility is perceived as a value in the company.


8. Conclusions

After discussing the specifics of organisation of work with staff in social enterprises, which carry out the state-supported function of integration of socially vulnerable groups into the labour market, this research evaluated how the safety of employees from psychological violence was ensured. In various studies, the attention is drawn to the fact that interpersonal employees’ conflicts, which are not always effectively dealt with, occur in the enterprises implementing social missions.

In the scope of this study, interviews with four representatives of the management personnel and with three employees of social enterprises who experienced psychological violence were conducted. The research was carried out in private equity companies that have the official status of a social enterprise provided by the state, which carry out the function of integration of the disabled representatives of the society into the labour market, being subsidised by the state in various forms. The results of the research showed that the state investment in involvement of the stigmatised members of the public in the labour market and in the promotion of socialisation cannot be limited to physical provision of the place of work and adaptation of the workplace to the individual needs, while ignoring the factors of psychological comfort which depend on the management culture of the organisation. The formal status of a social enterprise granted by the state may be perceived and is treated in practice of activities of companies as a specific business niche, without forming the values of the social enterprise, stemming from the perception of social responsibility, which fosters a wide range of social innovation.

The situation identified during the research is determined by the established culture of business, organisation of work with the staff, which in fact is not changed by the provided special status of the social enterprise, and current special requirements provided by the government. Formal requirements of adaptation of physical working environment for persons with disabilities do not solve and cannot solve the issues of psychological safety and indirect discrimination of employees, and can cause additional traumas resulting from social exclusion and psychological pressure in employees’ relationships. However, considering that the enterprises consistently follow the requirements of the adaptation of the workplace for people with special needs and the requirements of social integration, governmental psychosocial workplace safety programmes could serve as a partial solution to the problem.

That is, when giving the official status of the social enterprise, additional objectives to organise psycho-social work safety could be provided for in addition to the existing requirements of adjustment of the workplace for people with disabilities, social integration, and physical work safety. After defining and elaborating the concept of psychological violence in work environment at the level of the government, social enterprises should be obliged to supplement their programmes by the mechanisms of protection of employees from psychological violence. These mechanisms should be implemented in individual programmes of prevention and intervention of violence of enterprises. Taking into account the differences in competence of the managerial staff of the enterprise, methodological support at the level of the government should be provided as well.

But this would not basically solve the existing problem of social integration. Other studies should evaluate the conditions of transformation of the state initiative into private socially responsible initiatives.


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Written By

Jolita Vveinhardt

Submitted: 19 October 2015 Reviewed: 11 February 2016 Published: 13 April 2016