The term “workplace bullying” migrated to the UK from Scandinavian countries in the early 1990s as an interpretation of persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, undermines their self‐confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress. This article traces the emergence of workplace bullying in UK media presentations, trade union publications, self‐help literature and academic discussions. An analysis is offered of whether workplace bullying should be considered a new problem, or instead whether it might be viewed as a new interpretation for an existing problem. I draw from qualitative interviews with bullied men and women to discuss how workers are deploying the concept of workplace bullying. My analysis demonstrates that “workplace bullying” supplies a helpful interpretation for a range of unfair practices, but that the current emphasis on persistent and/or harmful experiences should be problematised.
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