Friday, 24 March 2017

Workplace bullying complaints: lessons for “good HR practice”

an article by Bevan Catley, Kate Blackwood, Darryl Forsyth and David Tappin (Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand) and Tim Bentley (New Zealand Work Research Institute, AUT University, New Zealand) published in Personnel Review Volume 46 Issue 1 (2017)


Current research provides an incomplete picture of the challenges facing human resource personnel (HRP) tasked with managing a workplace bullying complaint. The purpose of this paper is to provide a holistic model of the complaint management process in order to advance the theorising of HRP’s role in this important process, and the challenges they face in undertaking it.

Cases of workplace bullying heard before the legal system were analysed – a novel data source in research on workplace bullying. Thematic analysis was undertaken on the case determinations to identify the challenges HRP faced that prevented the resolution of the complaint.

The analysis indicated two key phases in the complaints management process with five associated challenges. The first two challenges were related to HRP’s ability to assess the substance of the complaint. HRP’s ability or inability to “sort out” conflicting accounts and to follow the process saw the complaint follow one of three “resolution pathways”. Three further challenges were associated with HRP communicating the outcome to the complainant. Failure to overcome these challenges left the complainant aggrieved at the unfairness in which their complaint had been handled – triggering legal action.

This paper draws on a novel data source to provide a holistic model of the complaint management process related to workplace bullying which details the various components and challenges related to HRP throughout the process. Alongside advancing theory, this research has practical value for improving HR practice.

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