Purpose – The self‐reports of bullies or victims of workplace bullying appear to result in confused responses that fail to clarify who is doing what to whom. The research reported in this paper aimed to examine how staff from human resources and occupational health conceptualized and assessed cases of alleged bullying. Design/methodology/approach – The research relied on semi‐structured interviews with managers, human resource staff, occupational health staff, mediators, trade union representatives, and staff members who were both victims and alleged perpetrators of bullying. The staff contributing came from an NHS trust, two universities and a criminal justice agency. Findings – Staff were reluctant to document or reveal information about the frequency and severity of bullying within their services. Despite this, three key themes emerged from the interviews that seemed to inform individual and organisational responses: the ethos of professionalism, the ambiguous role of human resources and the presumption of mutuality. Research limitations/implications – Reliance on interpretations of workplace bullying that defend both individual staff members and the organization had implications for victims. By not naming reported problems as bullying, the organization could limit its responsibility to act. Failure to identify and document bullying limited the research but also poorly served victimized individuals. Practical implications – Services require training to help them move beyond a presumption that the self‐reports of bullies are a reliable source of assessment data. Social implications – Effective identification and assessment of bullying situations would be the first step towards reducing the psychological impact of the problem. Experience of workplace bullying is highly correlated with health and mental health problems of targeted individuals. Originality/value – This paper capitalizes on insights from the field of domestic violence in highlighting the need for clarity about the nature of coercive control. The paper will be valuable to individuals and organisations charged with the task of tackling workplace bullying.
Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 12, 2013
Keywords: Workplace bullying; Domestic violence; Coercive control; Assessment; Mutuality; Bullying