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Consequences of being accused of workplace bullying: an exploratory study

Moira Jenkins (School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)
Helen Winefield (School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)
Aspa Sarris (School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 29 March 2011

2783

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions of accused bullies in terms of their experiences of fairness in the manner in which the complaint against them was managed, and examine the subsequent health and career ramifications of being accused of workplace bullying.

Design/methodology/approach

This exploratory study was carried out through a mixed methodology: 30 managers who had been accused of workplace bullying completed a survey about their experiences, and 24 of these participants were interviewed. A thematic analysis of the interview data was undertaken.

Findings

A number of themes emerged from the analysis including negative psychological health outcomes for accused bullies in terms of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, and suicidal ideation. Other dominant themes were the poor perceptions of justice in the way in which the investigations were carried out, negative career consequences, and exit from the organization, whether the accusations of bullying were substantiated or not. Loss of confidence in the participants' managerial abilities and roles also emerged as a significant ramification for a number of the accused bullies.

Research limitations/implications

Despite the methodological limitations of such exploratory research, this study highlights the importance of organizations adhering to the principles of organizational justice when addressing workplace bullying complaints, including recognising the potential health consequences of a bullying investigation for the accused perpetrators as well as for the bullying victims.

Originality/value

This is one of the few studies that examine workplace bullying from the perception of the accused bully and, as such, breaks a long tradition of workplace bullying research being informed only through victims' accounts of workplace bullying,

Keywords

Citation

Jenkins, M., Winefield, H. and Sarris, A. (2011), "Consequences of being accused of workplace bullying: an exploratory study", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 33-47. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538351111118581

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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