A human resource management perspective of workplace bullying

Published date10 April 2017
Date10 April 2017
AuthorPatrick Rockett,Susan K. Fan,Rocky J. Dwyer,Tommy Foy
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
A human resource management
perspective of workplace bullying
Patrick Rockett, Susan K. Fan, Rocky J. Dwyer and Tommy Foy
Purpose The purpose of this qualitative, multiple-case study paper is to determine whether Irish
universities have policies and procedures to address workplace bullying; to determine the views of HR
leaders regarding the efficacy of such policies; to explore the experience of HR leaders in the application of
such policies; and, to explore which cost-reduction strategies Irish university HR leaders utilized to manage
the consequences of workplace bullying.
Design/methodology/approach The participants for this multiple-case study consisted of senior
manager grade staff with expertise in the area of study from all seven Irish universities. One on one interviews
were conducted with participants to gain an understanding of their experience of dealing with workplace
bullying. The analysis of their bullying policies and procedures provided insights about their experiences in the
application of policy.
Findings The findings of this study may offer university leaders and a wider audience of managers an
understanding of the effect that workplace bullying has on employees and on their organizations.
Practical implications This study may inform university and business leaders on how to address the
problem of workplace bullying effectively.
Originality/value The findings from this study contribute to the discourse on workplace bullying and may
help leaders to understand a phenomenon that costs their institutions a substantial amount in human capital
leading to positive social change in their organizations.
Keywords Cost, Power, Human resources, Workplace bullying, Formal procedures, Informal procedures
Paper type Case study
The term workplace bullying originated in Scandinavia in the early 1990s as persistent abuse,
offense, intimid ation, incivilit y, insult, abuse of po wer, and punitive sa nctions to victims
(Paull and Omari, 2015). In this qualitative multiple-case study, we considered the varied
constructs that in form the understa nding of the phenom enon of workplace b ullying, and we
identified what Ir ish university lea ders need to know abo ut the cost of workpla ce bullying in
their organizati ons.
Workplace bullying is a problem with little empirical research available to establish the extent of
bullying in academia (Giorgi, 2012). Bullying is prevalent in many workplaces, but the university
sector can be particularly susceptible to bullying behavior because of some of the distinctive
characteristics of academia. Bullies thrive in decentralized structures, and university structures
are among the most decentralized of all. The power differential in workplace bullying relationships
is a critical component of the phenomenon; bullying involves dominance of one or more persons
over another and without such dominance, bullying attempts are unsuccessful (Hall and Lewis,
2014; Rodkin et al., 2015).
Internationally, the focus of research into workplace bullying is in the USA, Western Europe, and
Australia. An early seminal book published in the USA on workplace bullying was Mobbing:
Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace by Davenport et al. (1999). In Britain, Andrea
Adams, a renowned Journalist, Broadcaster, and Campaigner against workplace bullying,
published Bullying at Work in 1992 with Neil Crawford in which they recommended strategies to
Received 9 November 2016
Revised 9 December 2016
12 December 2016
13 December 2016
Accepted 13 December 2016
Patrick Rockett is an HR
Employee Relations and
Equality Manager at the
Department of Human
Resources, University of
Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.
Susan K. Fan is a Contributing
Faculty and Doctoral Mentor
at Walden University,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Rocky J. Dwyer is a Professor
at the Graduate Business
School, CENTRUM Católica
Pontificia Universidad Católica
del Perú, Lima, Peru.
Tommy Foy is an HR Director at
the University of Limerick,
Limerick, Ireland.
VOL. 9 NO. 2 2017, pp.116-127, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 DOI 10.1108/JACPR-11-2016-0262

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