The social construction of workplace bullying : a sociological study with special reference to further and higher education
Workplace bullying has been increasingly reported amongst a range of commentators
as an organizational phenomenon that is on the increase. Narratives and accounts of
workplace bullying have appeared from a range of sources that might lead some
observers to suggest that bullying is a product of the activities of moral entrepreneurs
or is the result of the workplace being perceived as a place of increased risk.
This thesis is based on a triangulated pan-Wales study of full and part-time lecturers
working in further (FE) and selected higher education (HE) institutions in Wales. The
study encompasses unstructured interviews with lecturers who have been bullied;
semi-structured interviews with human resource managers and trade union
representatives; and a postal questionnaire survey of members of a trade union
representing the further and higher education sectors. The study has sought to
investigate how lecturers working in FE and HE in Wales have constructed certain
behaviours as workplace bullying. By comparing the accounts of victims, ordinary
lecturers and key informants such as human resource managers and trade union
representatives, we find multiple interpretations and repertoires for bullying in work.
For some, bullying is organizational and/or managerial while for others, bullying is
the product of individualised conflicts. The lack of direct exposure to accounts of
bullying for some participants has resulted in collectivising and shared paradigms,
while for others, bullying is perceived as something more akin to school playgrounds.
The evidence in this study points to a rejection of bullying at work as a product of
moral entrepreneurs and other external labelling sources. Instead, the main finding
from this study is that workplace colleagues' play a central and pivotal role in the
social construction processes for workplace bullying. The activities of work
colleagues are consistently shown to be at the heart of bullying experiences at work.
This is most likely to be in a validating or affirmatory role where they help label
managers and the activities of the organization in the localised social constructions of