Rethinking Workplace Bullying as an Employment Relations Problem
Over the past three decades, a growing body of international literature points to a relationship between workplace bullying and certain changes to organizational and employment policies. Some of these changes include an increase in precarious employment, greater workloads, restructuring and downsizing, and the reduction in third-party intervention in workplace relations. However, while governments and many organizations have introduced policies in response to workplace bullying, there is little evidence that they have been successful in either the prevention or resolution of the problem. This article explores reasons for this apparent policy failure by reviewing workplace bullying literature and using data collected from interviews with policy actors in Australian public sector organizations. What emerges from these analyses is that prevailing theorizations and policy definitions emphasize the individual aspects of bullying and overlook the significance of organizational, employment and cultural factors. The article argues that narrow explanations of workplace bullying limit the capacity of policies to prevent or resolve the problem. Finally, the article concludes by suggesting that a multidisciplinary approach to understanding workplace bullying as a work and employment relations issue is a fundamental step in its prevention.