Management or Bullying: What's in a Name?
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Management
The term bullying is often used to denote an individual acting aggressively, harmfully or disrespectfully towards another, often repeatedly. This paper explores the concept of bullying from the subjective views of employees, gathered in interviews and stories collected in agencies of the Australian Public Service. We did not define bullying, rather our interest was in how employees perceived it. We found bullying is perceived to go beyond the common image in many ways: it may be indirect, unintentional or practiced by a group, and may be a single act. Standard management activities may be perceived as bullying, and it may emanate from standard business concerns rather than anti-social individuals. It may involve a lack of action, communication or care rather than specific actions. We conclude that separating bullying from legitimate management is a complex issue, and that simplistic interventions such as policies, rules and training may have only limited impact in ameliorating it. Public discussions of bullying may be improved by acknowledging the intricacies arising from standard views of management power in workplaces.