To read this content please select one of the options below:

Chapter 13 A Positive Approach to Workplace Bullying: Lessons from the Victorian Public Sector

What Have We Learned? Ten Years On

ISBN: 978-1-78052-208-1, eISBN: 978-1-78052-209-8

Publication date: 29 July 2011


Over the past decades the devastating issue of workplace bullying and its “cancerous” impact on workplace emotions has seen “today's costliest secret” become exposed (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf & Cooper, 2003, p. 32; Glendinning, 2001, p. 296; Needham, 2003, p. 12). Bullying at work has become so prevalent within today's workplace that 1 of the 4 of us are estimated to suffer the crippling abuse of the workplace bully, costing Australian organizations between $17 billion and $36 billion each year (Clarke, J. (2005). Working with monsters: How to identify and protect yourself from the workplace psychopath. Sydney: Random House Australia; Rayner, C. (2000). Building a business case for tackling bullying in the workplace: Beyond a cost-benefit analysis. In: Sheehan, M., Ramsey, C., & Patrick, J. (Eds), Transcending boundaries. Proceedings of the 2000 Conference, September, Brisbane). The impending doom faced by the target of the bully demeans the individual to such an extent that bullying has been associated with suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even increased risk of coronary heart disease and has been demonstrated to sever “at home” relationships, with grave implications on work-life balance (Archer, 1999; Geffner, Braverman, Galasso & Marsh, 2004; Lewis, 2006). Yet despite the significant lose–lose outcomes of workplace bullying for both the individual and the well-documented consequences of decreased productivity for the organization, there seems to be little progress toward meaningfully addressing the issues that actually create, promote, and sustain workplace bullying (Bolton, 2007; Dutton & Ragins, 2007; Heames & Harvey, 2006; Peyton, 2003). Rather than narrowly concentrating on bullying and its drivers which limits workplace bullying to an occupational health and safety issue, this chapter demonstrates the practical implementation across five Victorian public sector organizations of a tool developed using the principles of positive psychology. This approach places bullying in the wider context of positive workplace emotions, allowing for consideration of the broader organizational characteristics and the subtle negative behaviors which are suggested to underlie the deep seated and pervasive nature of workplace bullying. The preliminary findings suggests that the tool was seen as valuable in creating a bully-free culture and resonates practically by offering insights into some of the issues organizations should consider to ensure such initiatives provide a genuine source of competitive advantage.


Barker, L. (2011), "Chapter 13 A Positive Approach to Workplace Bullying: Lessons from the Victorian Public Sector", Härtel, C.E.J., Ashkanasy, N.M. and Zerbe, W.J. (Ed.) What Have We Learned? Ten Years On (Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 341-362.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited