07 December 2009

IRONY - When the Bully uses the FAIR WORK "Adverse Action" laws to obtain interlocutory injunction to stop potential dismissal

Case note: Fair work “adverse action” claim wins interlocutory injunction

Jones v Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre Ltd [2009] FCA 1382 (25 November 2009).

Justice Collier of the Federal Court has issued an interlocutory injunction in favour of an Applicant to stop her potential dismissal.

The Applicant, Elizabeth Louise Jones, was the Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC).

The Centre processes applications for admissions to the majority of undergraduate courses offered by universities in Queensland and also Bond University, The Australian Maritime College in Tasmania and to some courses at universities in Northern New South Wales. It also processes applications for diploma courses in Queensland Institutes of TAFE and other private providers of post-secondary education.

Ms Jones had been employed by QTAC since about 2002 without any issue being raised about her employment. From the beginning of this year, she was QTAC’s chief negotiator with the Australian Services Union (ASU) in the re-negotiation of the Enterprise Agreement governing the terms and conditions of QTAC’s employees. As a result of her involvement as the negotiator, she was the subject of a number of complaints by the ASU, named individuals and also some complaints which were made anonymously. An investigator was instructed to provide a report, and as a result of the investigator’s report, QTAC was of the belief that Ms Jones had acted in a way which amounted to “bullying or harassment of employees” (at [28]). Ms Jones claimed that the investigation instituted by QTAC into her behaviour was improper and that she was concerned, not only by the investigation, but also by the prospect that she could have her employment terminated.

In her application for an interlocutory injunction and for final relief, Ms Jones asserted that there had been various breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and her contract of employment, that damages were not an adequate remedy and that on the balance of convenience an interlocutory injunction should be granted pending a final determination of her action.

Ms Jones was successful in arguing that there was a serious question to be tried in that there had been a breach on a prima facie level of the Fair Work Act. Paragraph [17] of the judgment sets out the summary of the submissions made by Ms Jones concerning the Fair Work Act. The summary reads as follows:

“[17] In summary, the case submitted by Ms Jones as to the existence of a serious question to be tried can be summarised as follows:

  • Section 340(1) of the FW Act provides that a person must not take adverse action against another person because the other person has a workplace right, or has or has not exercised a workplace right.
  • A “workplace right” means, inter alia, that a person is entitled to the benefit of, or has a role or responsibility under, a workplace law, workplace instrument or order made by an industrial body (s 341(1)(a)), or is able to initiate or participate in a process or proceedings under a workplace law or workplace instrument (s 341(1)(b)).
  • “Adverse action” is taken by an employer against an employee if, inter alia, the employer dismisses the employee, or injures the employee in his or her employment, or alters the position of the employee to the employee’s prejudice (s 342(1) Item 1). Threatening to take such action also constitutes adverse action (s 342(2)).
  • Ms Jones’ workplace right was in respect of either:
  • her role or responsibility in negotiating the Enterprise Agreement on behalf of QTAC: s 341(1)(a); or
  • her participation in the process of making an Enterprise Agreement: s 341(1)(b).
  • In relation to Ms Jones’ participation in the process of making an Enterprise Agreement:
  • Ms Jones had a role as a “bargaining representative” of QTAC for the purposes of the Enterprise Agreement negotiations;
  • so far as relevant s 176 of the FW Act provides that:

“a person is a bargaining representative of an employer that will be covered by the agreement if the employer appoints, in writing, the person as his or her bargaining representative for the agreement. (s 176(1)(d))”

  • in a letter to the ASU dated 18 July 2009, Mr McAndrew said that the QTAC Board had confirmed that Ms Jones would continue to be QTAC’s “bargaining representative”.
  • QTAC has taken, and is proposing to take, adverse action against Ms Jones because she has exercised a workplace right, in that:
  • adverse action has already been taken by QTAC in relation to the commissioning and conduct of the Carol Watson report, and informing QTAC staff of the report;
  • QTAC proposes to take adverse action in that it threatens to terminate or otherwise discipline Ms Jones because of the view QTAC takes of the Carol Watson report and the various complaints.”

The Judge did not find there was a prima facie breach of the contract of employment. However, in view of the serious question concerning the breach of the Fair Work Act, His Honour found there was a serious question to be tried and that damages would not be an adequate remedy. The Judge said (at [49]):

“Discipline of a Chief Executive Officer for allegedly creating a culture of fear or terror in the workplace, be such discipline in the form of termination of employment or otherwise, is a very serious matter. In my view, it is likely that such a course of conduct would have a detrimental effect on Ms Jones’ reputation and impose a stigma which could adversely affect her future career prospects …”

His Honour, on balance, favoured the making of the interlocutory injunction sought (at [52]) and that the difficulties that might cause QTAC in the granting of such an injunction could be ameliorated by the accelerated timetable for the hearing of the substantive issues in the proceedings (at [58]).

This case is further evidence of the various uses which some of the provisions of the Fair Work Act will be able to reveal as useful adjuncts to employment disputes even for people who are not otherwise covered by industrial instruments.


Adverse action shock

Not long after the introduction of the Keating Government's 1993 Industrial Relations Reform legislation, the then Minister, Laurie Brereton was forced into an embarrassing back down. The new unfair dismissal laws designed to protect ordinary workers from capricious dismissal was being used by senior management employees to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. The government hastily amended the legislation to prevent the majority of employees who were considered high income earners from making a claim. An arbitrary remuneration limit of $60,000 per annum was introduced.

In what shapes up as an important test case for the legislation, a Chief Executive Officer has won a Federal Court injunction to prevent her employer terminating her employment. The CEO is arguing that the employer was proposing to terminate her employment because she exercised a "workplace right" and because she was participating in the process of making an enterprise agreement.

For many years industrial legislation has protected employees from prejudice in their employment because of their participation in union related activities or because they have insisted on their rights to minimum employment conditions. What makes the case of Jones v Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre Ltd (QTAC) different, is that the employee has claimed that by representing her employer - not, one will note, other employees - in enterprise bargaining negotiations, she is entitled to the protection of the Act. The timing of events which led to the claim are perhaps a little unusual, but even if Ms Jones ultimately does not succeed in her action, the scope for the "adverse action" provisions of the Fair Work Act to become a heavy yoke for employers is slowly being exposed.

As CEO, Ms Jones represented QTAC in negotiations with the Australian Services Union for a new enterprise agreement. QTAC's initial attempt to put an agreement to an employee vote was thwarted by the ASU obtaining a good faith bargaining order from Fair Work Australia. During the course of subsequent negotiations, the ASU and individual employees made complaints about Ms Jones conduct, which amounted to allegations of bullying and harassment.

QTAC initiated an investigation into the CEO's conduct, as a result of which a report was produced. The findings of the report were adverse to the CEO and QTAC indicated to her that it was considering terminating her employment.

Enter Julia Gillard's "adverse action" laws. Ms Jones successfully argued that there was a serious question for the court to consider as to whether her employment was under threat because of her participation in the enterprise bargaining negotiations. QTAC argued it was acting in good faith in order to prevent further instances of bullying and harassment of the type alleged against Ms Jones, consistently with its obligations under Queensland's occupational health and safety laws.

By identifying the "timing of the allegations against Ms Jones... and the identity of the complainants, including the ASU" as factors weighing in favour of granting the injunction, the Court has left open a finding that the complaints were in fact industrially motivated. The Court recognised in its decision that if Ms Jones is ultimately successful in arguing that, as CEO, she had "workplace rights" as a consequence of the enterprise bargaining process, such a finding could have an impact on all CEO's or executives who have those responsibilities. The court has yet to make its final determination, which will occur when the case goes to trial in early 2010 and there is no suggestion that the outcome of the enterprise bargaining negotiations were themselves negative for QTAC.

Quite aside from its impact in this case, the establishment of a "workplace right" for executives simply because they are involved in enterprise bargaining will potentially hobble the ability of employers to make business decisions about executives who behave inappropriately or who handle negotiations poorly.

Ironically, the consequences of an executive's conduct might include an adverse action claim against the employer by unions or employees. Given the gusto of attacks on the apparent lack of executive accountability to shareholders, you have to wonder if that was really what was intended by the Rudd Government in making the Fair Work Act law. At some point, the Government will have to re-examine the scope of these laws. Hopefully before creative lawyers have their way with Fair Work.'

06 December 2009

Australian Teachers trapped by Bullying Epidemic from other Teachers!

VICTORIA'S teachers are in the middle of a bullying epidemic in our schools, official research has revealed.

A WorkSafe study has found occupational bullying is on the rise, with one in five workers suffering some form of intimidation or abuse.

And those in the education and training sector are the worst offenders, with 39 per cent of staff reporting they have been repeatedly bullied - double the state average.

Parents' groups say the bullying culture among teachers is contributing to the problem among children - because students who see bullying in role models mimic that behaviour.

The Sunday Herald Sun has also found:
  • TEACHERS encourage parents to complain about their enemies to school principals.
  • STAFF routinely complain about each other's teaching ability to year leaders, principals and even education authorities.
  • THEY try to palm off difficult students on unpopular colleagues.

Additional data in the report reveal there has been a 30 per cent rise in WorkCover stress claims by teachers since 2006, with at least 250 teachers seeking counselling for bullying, heavy workloads and the stress of the Black Saturday bushfires in the six months before August.

Parents Victoria spokeswoman Elaine Crowle said bullying among teachers could have serious ramifications for children.

"If they see (bullying) happening there, they will mimic (that) in their own relationships," Ms Crowle said.

"The publicity is always around the bullying in the playground, but we are aware there is also bullying in the classroom and the staffroom.

"There is bullying between teachers and teachers, teachers and principals and principals and parents."

Mary Bluett, president of the Australian Education Union Victorian branch, said she was not surprised teachers topped the table for workplace bullying.

"Schools are stressful places. People under stress are often short with their colleagues and that can be perceived as bullying," Ms Bluett said.

"Bullying is a problem with some principals."

WorkSafe Victoria Tools for Bullying


05 December 2009

Review sparks Centacare management change after Workplace Bullying Complaints

Centacare says it will overhaul management processes at its Fraser Coast offices after an independent review found the management style was inadequate for the growing organisation.

The two-month investigation was launched when staff at the Maryborough and Hervey Bay offices complained of workplace bullying, a management conflict of interest and religious discrimination directed towards a female worker wearing a cross.

The executive director of Centacare Brisbane, Peter Selwood, says the review found measures to manage workplace conflicts were poorly communicated and there was evidence of inappropriate workplace behaviour.

He says while there were different accounts of a woman being asked to remove her cross, she has accepted an apology from Centacare management.

He says he is unhappy that what has happened at the offices has tarnished the organisation's reputation as a Christian mission in the community.

The former deputy director-general of the Department of Families, Myolene Carrick, has been appointed to oversee the operations.


Carrick takes over Centacare

ONE OF the state’s most respected social administrators has been appointed as the acting director of Centacare Fraser Coast in a major management overhaul.
Centacare - Peter Selwood and Myolene Carrick.

ONE OF the state’s most respected social administrators and a former deputy director-general of the Department of Families has been appointed as the acting director of Centacare Fraser Coast in a major management overhaul.

Myolene Carrick’s appointment yesterday comes in the wake of a two-month inquiry by independent Brisbane-based investigator John Scoble, after current and former employees and clients complained to the Chronicle over management style and conflicts of interest within the organisation.

The inquiry, during which 57 people were interviewed, was commissioned by the Catholic archdiocese in Brisbane.

“Today was my first day. It was reflective. I’m very pleased to work with the local community and to continue to grow the presence of Centacare here,” Ms Carrick said in Hervey Bay yesterday.

Ms Carrick, who will also continue in her Brisbane-based role of Centacare’s childcare services director, replaces Jo Chorny as the head of Centacare here.

But Ms Chorny will remain in her role of service manager.

The investigation found that measures put in place to manage potential conflicts of interest were “poorly communicated”.

There was also evidence of inappropriate workplace behaviour and Jenny Bill, who was ordered to remove crosses from her neck while working at the centre as a counsellor, had been apologised to personally by Peter Selwood, Centacare executive director.

“The Centacare Council and I wish to place on record that we are most unhappy with what has occurred at Centacare Fraser Coast,” Mr Selwood said.

“The matters raised undermine public confidence in our service, negatively impact staff morale and tarnish our reputation.

“We have heard the messages of the past few months loud and clear and I am confident that through a new leadership style we will begin to move forward in a positive new direction.”

Maryborough parish’s Father Paul Kelly yesterday said the appointment of Ms Carrick to oversee the new management processes was “heartening and excellent news”.

02 December 2009

RESEARCH - Inside the Brain of a Bully

What goes on inside the brain of a bully?
Researchers from the University of Chicago used brain scan technology to find out. They wanted to learn whether the brain of an aggressive youth responds differently to violence than the brain of someone who is not a bully. In a chilling finding, the researchers found aggressive youths appear to enjoy inflicting pain on others.
In the study, the researchers compared eight 16- to 18-year-old boys who were unusually aggressive to a control group of adolescent boys with no unusual signs of aggression. The aggressive boys had been given a diagnosis of aggressive conduct disorder and had been in trouble for starting fights, using a weapon and stealing from their victims.

The youths were tested with functional magnetic resonance imaging to see how their brains reacted while watching video clips. The clips showed people in pain as a result of accidents — such as when a heavy bowl dropped on their hands. They also showed intentional acts, like stepping on another person’s foot.

When the aggressive youths watched people intentionally inflicting pain on another, the scan showed a response in the part of the brain associated with reward and pleasure. The youths who were not aggressive didn’t show the same brain response.

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Biological Psychology, suggests that the brain’s natural impulse for empathy may be disrupted in the brain of a bully, leading to increased aggression.

“This is the first time that f.M.R.I. scans have been used to study situations that could otherwise provoke empathy,” said Jean Decety, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, in a press release. “This work will help us better understand ways to work with juveniles inclined to aggression and violence.”

While the study is small, the striking differences shown in the brain scans suggests that bullies may have major differences in how their brains process information compared to non-bullies. Dr. Decety said the aggressive adolescents showed a strong activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum, areas of the brain that respond to feeling rewarded. The finding “suggested that they enjoyed watching pain,” he said. Notably, the control group of youths who weren’t prone to aggressive behavior showed a response in the medial prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal junction, areas of the brain involved in self regulation.

01 December 2009

NEWS - Union calls off disability workers' strike over Workplace Bullying

Follow Up from yesterday ...

Strike action at the Disability Service Queensland office in Maryborough has been averted.

Members of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) were due to go on strike for 24 hours last night to protest against a State Government decision to drop an investigation into allegations of workplace bullying.

But a Queensland Industrial Relations Commission hearing yesterday recommended the union drop the action and the commissioner will travel to Maryborough to hold a dispute conference between the parties.

Keith Ballin from the AWU says the investigation should never have been dropped.

"I'm quietly confident that I hope it does show the situation for what it really is," he said.

"How can you have 102 separate issues - on the balance of probability - with no question to answer?

"That to me is a claytons and I think it is a buck pass from the department of disability service when that does happen."

In a statement, the director-general of Disability Service Queensland, Linda Apelt, says the department is working closely with staff and the unions to resolve the concerns.


30 November 2009

Australian Workers strike over Bullying probe rejection - QLD

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) says members employed by Disability Service Queensland (DSG) in Maryborough will take 24 hour strike action to protest against a State Government decision to drop an investigation into allegations of workplace bullying.

Keith Ballin from AWU says the director general of DSQ told workers on Friday that an investigation into more than 100 allegations of workplace bullying, harassment, discrimination and falsification of documents at the office would be dismissed because they were unfounded.

He says workers do not accept the finding and will strike for 24 hours from 7:00pm (AEST) tonight.

"We are very disappointed in the Government department of disability services on the outcome of an investigation where they believe it was frivolous and vexatious and without substance," he said.

"We totally disbelieve and we cannot except that proposal."

Mr Ballin says the action could disrupt the care of those with disabilities.


29 November 2009

URGENT PETITION - Please Sign "Stop the TGA classifying our food as drugs" petition

Sign the "Stop the TGA classifying our food as drugs" petition now!

If you don't want vitamins and herbs to be availably only on prescription you better get signing. The first part of the Bill to do this was already passed in the US this year. This is Australia's attempt to do the same!

Australian residents only

This petition needs to be sent before the 30th of November as the TGA submissions close.

Please read the full article first, sign the petition, and then email the MP's and the TGA committee.

Please sign the petition at: http://www.healthpetitions.com.au/stop-the-tga-classifying-our-food-as-drugs

TGA moves to legislate food as medicine!

Hippocrates said "let food be thy medicine".

This did not mean that our food should be regulated as dangerous drugs that need to be treated as potentially life threatening!

Hundreds of years later the observation of Hippocrates still stands, yet the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) want to go one step further and class our food as a hazardous medicine similar to dangerous synthetic pharmaceutical drugs?

The TGA wants to do this by changing legislation that makes our food in capsule or tablet form a drug!

Does this mean that Kellogg's Special-K or shredded wheat cereals in a capsule could soon be a drug here in Australia?

Certainly such health products like Chlorella, Wheat grass, Barley grass and Spirulina will be soon classified as a drug if the TGA has its way!

Put simply, this petition is trying to stop the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration from legislating regulation which will term all food in a capsule or tablet as a drug or a Therapeutic Good (its still regulated as a drug).

This petition will be sent to the federal minister of health (Nicola Roxon) and the Assistant Minister of Health (Mark Butler). Your petition email will also be sent to the TGA's submission email address.


The Project Officer
Section 7 Consultation 2009
Regulatory Compliance Unit
Therapeutic Goods Administration

The TGA explanation is below:

In Australia, it has long been recognised that there is a legislative ‘interface’, or overlap, between foods and medicines for human oral consumption. As the food and complementary medicine sectors have evolved over recent years, a ‘grey area’ has unintentionally developed at this food-medicine interface. The confusion is due to certain areas of food legislation and therapeutic goods legislation overlapping in such a way that makes it difficult to determine which legislation should be applied in many cases.

The TGA says it is confusing trying to determine a drug from a food so they want to use a blanket approach to regulate all food and natural supplements as drugs, full stop!

Please read the petition carefully adding or subtracting any of the text at your convenience.

Sign this petition by filling out the form below. We'll include your online signature in a petition report delivered to Members of Parliament. As this is an Australian petition, it is open only to Australian citizens and residents. (* Indicates required fields).
This petition was sponsored by the Alliance for Health Freedom

Workplace bullies must be challenged - What do you think of this Article??

In the workplace — by Paula MacLean

Workplace bullies and schoolyard bullies share a common characteristic — they both have low self-esteem. Bullying is abuse. If the bully is a supervisor or manager, then bullying also involves the abuse of power. People who are comfortable with their personal and professional power have nothing to prove and therefore treat others with respect. People who are personally or professionally insecure often treat others badly. Although masquerading as strength or power, bullying comes from a position of weakness.

Progressive employers have policies outlawing all forms of abuse. These policies include stern consequences for anyone who breaks the rules. Despite preventative policies, abuse-free workplaces are rare. Recent research in Alberta indicated that 45 percent of employees surveyed could give at least one example of being treated with a lack of respect by someone in authority within their current workplace.

Many people report being stunned into silence when bullying occurs. This reaction is common for victims and witnesses to bullying. Challenging a bully is a very difficult thing to do. If the bully is a manager, challenging the bully may seem unthinkable. However, in the fine print of everyone’s job description, right below, “Other related duties as assigned” should be one final duty: “To have courage.”

If you see someone being bullied, having courage means saying: “I’m uncomfortable with how you are treating _____. I think you should stop and give some thought to how you are behaving.” Contrary to how you might feel, you are not powerless. Being silent condones the bully’s behaviour and increases the likelihood that she or he will bully again. Speaking up is an act of power and courage. We all have this potential to be courageous, however only some use our power to protect others.

If you are the victim of bullying, report it to a manager with whom you feel safe. Be clear about the facts, identify others who witnessed the incident and be prepared to put your concerns in writing. Ask that the situation be reviewed and action taken. Your action may help protect both you and others from experiencing abuse in the future. Remember that we teach people how to treat us. Standing up for yourself and others is one way of putting an end to bullying and other types of abuse at work.
Paula J. MacLean is a best-selling author of five books on improving human resource practices in the workplace.

What do you think of Paula's opinion?

24 November 2009

Legal Win - Former News Of The World sports reporter in £792k tribunal payout- UK

Victim awarded almost £800,000 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

Two sacked victims of workplace bullying and harassment have received six-figure payouts in the UK this week after employment tribunals ruled against their employers.

In the first case, former News of the World sports reporter Matt Driscoll, who was fired by News International in April 2007.

An employment tribunal has awarded former News of the World sports reporter Matt Driscoll £792,736 in compensation after finding he was unfairly sacked and discriminated against on the grounds of disability.

Before he was sacked in April 2007 he had been on long-term sick leave for stress related depression.

Stratford Employment Tribunal said of his dismissal: "We find the behaviour to have been a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour... with the intention to remove him from their employment, whether through negotiating a settlement package or through a staged process of warnings leading to dismissal.

"The original source of the hostility towards the claimant [Driscoll] was Mr Coulson, the then editor of the News of the World; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson's departure; or shared his views themselves."

Coulson - now chief spin doctor for the Conservative Party - resigned as News of the World editor in January 2007 after royal correspondent Clive Goodman was jailed for four months for intercepting the mobile phone messages of royal aides.

Driscoll joined the paper in 1997 and was promoted twice between then and 2001. That year he was moved from the North East of England to London and told he would be put on a salary of £50,000.

Driscoll believes he fell foul of editor Coulson in late 2004 when the editor tipped him off that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts. Arsenal FC denied the story - but it appeared in The Sun three months later.

Driscoll claims that sports editor Mike Dunn said to him: "Coulson will be on the warpath over this. We are dead." Dunn denied having that conversation.

Driscoll was given a first warning in October 2005 because some disputed quotes were not backed up by a verbatim note.

After this NoW managing editor Stuart Kuttner sent Coulson an email saying: "Of course we could still fire him: and pay the going rate for that. Mike Dunn tells me Discoll can't be got shot off?"

Driscoll wrote a letter complaining about his discplinary warning to which Coulson replied: "In my view your actions on this matter merited dismissal".

The tribunal described this as "a bullying remark".

Before being dismissed finally, Driscoll was given a series of warnings.

But the judgment said: “The impression given us, from reading the documentation and considering the evidence as a whole, was that the senior management team were going through a cynical process of giving an appearance of fairness towards him.

"By giving him a first warning, final warning and then dismissal, they hope to avoid a successful unfair dismissal claim."

The tribunal heard that when editor Coulson found out Driscoll was off sick he sent an email to his deputy editor saying: “I want him out quickly and cheaply.”

Dirscoll told the Guardian today: “Andy Coulson was at the heart of all of this. He should look at himself and decide if his actions in the course of the way I was treated were correct. If I were him, I would find it very hard to look in the mirror. I was subjected to unprecedented bullying and he did nothing to stop it, if anything he accelerated it. I didn't do anything wrong.

"I was in the top 30 sports writers in the country. I then came up against the venom of Andy Coulson, which I found very hard to take. It has taken an incredible amount of strength to take on the richest news group in the world and win. I don't think anyone has ever done that before with the success that I have.

16 November 2009

REPORT - TIME MACHINE 1999 - Adult Bullying Project

Report of a Working Party chaired by Helen Cowie, University of Surrey Roehampton (USR)

December 1999

In collaboration with Lucy Bradshaw, Sari Kaipiainen and Peter K. Smith, Goldsmiths, University of London,
Andy Liefooghe, Paul Naylor and Ragnar Olafsson, University of Surrey, Roehampton (USR),
Charlotte Rayner, University of Staffordshire, Ian Rivers, University of Luton, Mechthild Schåfer, University of Munich


What is adult bullying?
Measures of adult bullying
1. Questionnaires
2. Interviews
3. Case studies
4. Observing human relationships in real life settings
5. Critical Incident Technique (CIT)
6. Bubble Dialogue
7. Focus Groups
8. Systematic diary-keeping
9. Collaborative research with Human Resources (HR) Departments
Examples of useful facilitative questions


"He, a manager, was consistently condescending to new employees; he often insulted them or made critical comments about their work. He never praised anyone. He used to make derogatory comments about their character in front of others and behind their backs. Sometimes he even threw furniture about when he was in a bad rage. On a number of occasions he reduced colleagues to tears. He saw it as strong leadership and no-one ever challenged him about it. A number of people left rather than endure this treatment any longer." (professional in a large company).

"The supervisor shouted at you and put you down in front of other people. When you answered back - if you dared - she pointed to the door and said, 'If you don't like it here, you can leave!' Since I very much needed that job I endured it for a long time. My confidence just went over time. I tried mentioning it to one of the managers but it was treated as an isolated incident and nothing was done about it." (shop floor worker in a medium-sized factory).

The Trades Union Congress (TUC, 1998) describes bullying as "a serious workplace issue which too often people think is just an occasional problem between individuals. But bullying is more than an occasional bout of anger or the odd tiff. It is regular and persistent intimidation which undermines the integrity and confidence of the bully's victim. And it is often accepted or even encouraged as part of the culture of the organization".

A study of union members by the public sector union UNISON (1997) showed that 66 per cent had either witnessed or experienced bullying at work. 75 per cent of those in the UNISON study who had been bullied reported that it had affected them physically or mentally. Stress, depression and lowered self-esteem were the most common complaints.

A number of organisations in the UK now recognise the need to change the culture of the workplace in order to tackle bullying and have developed clear company policies to offer appropriate protection for employees. For example, 'Dignity at Work' policies emphasise the importance of a positive working environment characterised by clear communication and consultation, respectful relationships amongst employees and between management and workforce, and sanctions against unacceptable behaviour. Currently there is a Trades Union initiative to develop a Dignity at Work Bill for Parliament. To date, the proposed Bill has been debated in the House of Lords and is on the political agenda.

^ to Top

What is adult bullying?

Adult bullying in the workplace has been extensively studied in Scandinavia (Björkqvist, Österman and Lagerspetz, 1994; Björkqvist, Österman and Hjelt- Bäck, 1994; Einarsen and Raknes, 1991, 1997; Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996; Leymann, 1990, 1996), in Germany and Austria ((Niedl, 1995, 1996; Zapf et al, 1996) and in the UK (Adams, 1992; Crawford, 1997; Lewis, 1999; Quine, 1999; Rayner and Höel, 1997). In an overview of this research, Rayner and Höel (1997) group bullying behaviours into the following categories:

threat to professional status (e.g. belittling opinion, public professional humiliation, accusation regarding lack of effort);
threat to personal standing (e.g. name-calling, insults, intimidation, devaluing with reference to age);
isolation (e.g. preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding of information);
excessive overwork (e.g. undue pressure, impossible deadlines, unnecessary disruptions);
destabilization (e.g. failure to give credit when due, meaningless tasks, removal of responsibility, repeated reminders of blunders, setting up to fail).
Rayner and Höel also point out that the areas of racial or sexual harassment are linked to workplace bullying.

The issue of adult bullying presents particular methodological challenges. A central problem concerns the actual definition of what constitutes bullying (Smith, 1997). In a comparison with earlier research into school bullying, Höel, Rayner and Cooper (1999, p. 195) identify several parameters in this debate: 'the type, frequency and duration of acts which target experience, the reaction of the target including their perceived power in relation to the perpetrator and finally the intent of the perpetrator'. Each of these parameters poses particular problems in the domain of adult bullying.

The duration of the bullying is a debated issue. Leymann (1990) included in his definition the concepts of persistency and continuity of actions that have negative effect on the victim, and suggested the criterion with regard to frequency as being around one incident per week over a period of at least 6 months. By contrast, Einarsen and Skogstad (1996) consider that behaviours that have taken place within the last six months 'now and then' or weekly can be defined as bullying. Björkqvist and his team (e.g. Björkqvist, Österman and Hjelt-Bäck, 1994) investigate persistent behaviours within the past year. At the same time, anecdotal accounts (Adams, 1992; Randall, 1997) indicate that it is possible to bully a person without demonstrating weekly behaviour, for example through a single threatening act. (See Höel et al, 1999, for a review of these criteria.)

Another issue concerns inside/outside perspectives on the phenomenon. Researchers in the field disagree about the validity of, for example, self-reports on the part of victims. A major difficulty is that there is little evidence of the researchers assessing the accuracy or stability of participants' recollections or reports across time. Very little evidence of peer verification (witness statements) of incidents of aggression is reported in the literature, and similarly there is little evidence of any attempt to measure test-retest reliability when data are collected retrospectively. In the initial stages of exploring a phenomenon such as adult aggression, reliability and validity measures may not seem central to the task at hand. However, in order to present an authoritative and effective report detailing incidents and outcomes of peer aggression, it is increasingly necessary to demonstrate both the reliability and validity of the findings to those who have funded such research. Johnson (1999) argues that the concepts of validity, reliability and generalisability are not appropriate in the qualitative paradigm and need to be reformulated; she suggests that rigour and transparency of process will help to reduce the gap between the object of study and its representation by participants. Robson (1993) proposes that to ensure the 'trustworthiness' of subjective reports, the concepts of credibility, dependability and transferability are more useful than notions of validity, reliability and generalisability. In fact, 'real world' research, he argues, requires that the researcher become immersed in the culture in order that 'persistent observation' and 'prolonged involvement' be achieved. Furthermore, 'triangulation' with data from other sources can confirm or challenge the detail of particular findings.

Leymann deals with the issue by excluding subjective data completely and relies on the application of strict criteria of frequency and duration. Leymann considers the effect of bullying on the victim as affecting communication skills, social contact, respect of others, effect on work, and effect on health; at its most extreme, he argues, aggression in the workplace is responsible for a substantial proportion of suicides each year. By contrast, researchers including Rayner et al (1997) and Einarsen and his colleagues take more account of respondents' perspectives and experiences of the phenomenon of bullying. For example, Einarsen and Skogstad (1996, p. 187) argue that a person is defined as bullied if he or she is repeatedly subjected to negative acts in the workplace. However, they add, 'to be a victim of such bullying one must also feel inferiority in defending oneself in the actual situation'. In other words, they do not limit their definition of bullying to a set of 'objectively' predefined negative acts.

The debate over 'objective' and 'subjective' data is not new in this particular field, and it continues to be controversial in all social science research. In his pioneering study of workplace harassment in the USA, Brodsky (1977), the doctor on the Californian Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, identified bullying as "repeated and persistent attempts by one person to torment, wear down, frustrate or get a reaction from another". He distinguished between subjective (as experienced by the victim) and objective (behaviour that breached agreed criteria of acceptable behaviour) forms of harassment. The two aspects of the phenomenon were, in his view, linked. He concluded that harassment is a 'basic mechanism in human interaction' if unchecked, and recommended that companies build into the social structure of the workplace changes that could encourage productive rather than destructive interaction. Höel et al (1999) consider that the subjectivity-objectivity debate has a key role to play in the development of research in this field. While they agree with Frese and Zapf (1988) that individual perception is not necessarily the opposite of 'reality' and that individual perspectives can enhance understanding of a phenomenon such as bullying, they are also keenly aware of the problems inherent in over-reliance on self-reports. They also note that even apparently objective items (for example, in the Leymann Inventory of Psychological Terrorization) are emotionally loaded since their origin lies in in-depth interviews with victims. They argue that one solution may be to measure independent and dependent variables separately, and to devise research instruments with 'neutrally worded items' in order to reduce the influence of cognitive and emotional processes on the part of respondents. Liefooghe and Olafsson (1999) view bullying as a set of events that can be conceptualised in many ways rather than an 'objective' reality. They strongly recommend that researchers in this field explore a range of representations of bullying in order to have a flexible, multi-faceted view of workplace bullying that encompasses the individual employee and the broader perspectives of the organisation.

A further solution may come from investigations into the values and norms of the workplace environment as a social system. Einarsen and his colleagues (e.g. Einarsen and Raknes, 1991; Einarsen and Skogstad, 1996) view the culture of the workplace as a form of filter through which behaviours are interpreted and through which a range of behaviours are accepted or tolerated. For example, Einarsen and Raknes (1991) found that aggression and harassment were significant problems in their sample of 460 industrial workers in a Norwegian marine engineering industrial context. 7 per cent of the men in their sample reported being subjected on a weekly basis to ridicule, insulting behaviour, verbal abuse, rumours, hostility, social exclusion or derogation of work. These acts occurred frequently, and, to the researchers, indicated a focus on 'male masculinity and continuous testing of one's ability to tolerate teasing and ridicule'. Nevertheless they appeared to have adverse effects on well-being and health as well as overall job satisfaction, not only on the victims, but also on the bystanders. Employees who were not the victims of bullying experienced a high degree of role conflict when they observed aggressive behaviour and reported a poor quality of environment in these circumstances. Niedl (1996) also indicates the urgent need for more research into the organisational effects of bullying, in particular into the possible links between reduced well-being of individual employees (whether victims or bystanders) at a personal level and reduced turnover, higher absenteeism and lower productivity at the organisational level. Sheehan (1998) too discusses the impact on the cultural values of an organisation when major restructuring, for example downsizing, takes place. He highlights negative outcomes (including organisational bullying) that suggest variance between the 'rhetoric of restructuring' as expressed by managers and the 'brutal reality' as experienced by employees.

The debate indicates the need to explore the issue of workplace bullying at different levels from individual through to organisational. There are subjective and objective aspects to be taken account of, as well as individual, social and cultural. The measures described in the next section include: questionnaires, interviews, case studies, observational methods, critical incident technique, bubble dialogue, focus groups, systematic diary-keeping and collaborative research with Human Resources. For each method we provide a brief description, we outline some examples of relevant research and we summarise key advantages and disadvantages of the measure.

^ to Top

Measures of adult bullying

Leymann (1990) devised and administered the Leymann Inventory of Psychological Terrorization (LIPT). The questionnaire consists of 45 items representing various mobbing actions, e.g. attacking a person's possibilities of communication, attacking a person's social relationships, attacking a person's social reputation, attacking the quality of a person's occupational and life situation, attacking a person's health. Leymann found factors which he labelled as negative communication, humiliating behaviour, isolating behaviour, frequent changes of task to punish someone, and violence or threat of violence. Based on factor analysis of the LIPT questionnaire, Niedl (1995) identified seven factors: attacking a person's integrity, isolation, direct and indirect critique, sanction by certain tasks, threats, sexual encroachment, and attacking a person's private sphere.

Einarsen and Raknes (1997) developed the Negative Act Questionnaire (NAQ) in a study of harassment in the workplace. The questionnaire consists of 22 items, each written in behavioural terms with no reference to the term 'harassment'. The NAQ was derived from two distinct sources of information - literature studies and accounts given by victims of long lasting harassment. The scale measures how often the respondent during the last six months has been subjected to a range of negative acts and potentially harassing behaviours. Einarsen and Raknes found that aggression and harassment are significant problems in organisational settings since strong correlations were found between exposure to harassment and dissatisfaction with co-worker interaction. Factor analysis of the NAQ by Niedl (1995) elicited the following factors: attacking the private person, social isolation, work-related measures, and physical violence.

Björkqvist et al (1994) developed the Work Harassment Scale (WHS) to study aggression among university employees. The questionnaire consists of 24 items. Participants assess on a 5-point scale how often they have been exposed to 24 types of degrading and oppressing activities by their colleagues during the last six months. Items include: 'being unduly criticised', 'being shouted at loudly', 'being isolated', 'lies about you told to others'. Participants also indicate whether the aggressor is male or female. High WHS scores in this study were related to subjectively experienced depression, anxiety and aggressiveness. A factor analysis led to the elaboration of two sub-scales of covert or disguised aggression. These are referred to as rational-appearing aggression and social manipulation. Women claimed that they had experienced work harassment more often than did men. Almost 70% of men claimed that they had never, or almost never, been exposed to harassment; the same was true for only 45% of women. Björkqvist and his research team proposed that gender differences might be explained by the gender imbalance in workplace hierarchies, in that men are more likely to be in superior positions than are women; so in these roles, they might be expected to experience less risk associated with aggression.

Einarsen and Skogstad (1996) compared data from 14 different Norwegian surveys (N=7986). They found that large organisations, in particular those that were male-dominated, had the highest rates of bullying. Employees reported that they were bullied as frequently by peers as by superiors. More men were reported to be bullies than women; men were also more likely to bully in groups. Male respondents reported that they were harassed by other men; women reported that they were harassed by women. One explanation for the gender difference in this study is that in Scandinavian countries workplaces are often gender-biased (that is, there are many companies where the workforce is mostly male or mostly female).

collection of data from large samples is possible in a limited time;
it is easy to carry out statistical analysis of a range of factors, including gender, status, age;
anonymity of participants can be assured.

there are differences in operational definitions used in the questionnaires;
since the data are derived from self-reports of victims which may be influenced by other factors, the validity of the data as an accurate predictor of the actual behaviour of the bully is constrained;
memories of bullying incidents may be inaccurate or distorted;
respondents may attribute positive experiences towards themselves and negative experiences towards others; they may also focus more on individuals and ignore the wider organisational culture;
we cannot be sure that the respondents are using the researcher's definition or their own;
comparisons within and across cultures can be difficult to make;
responses can be constrained by the questionnaire format;
it can be impossible to gather information outside the range of questions and to gain detailed information regarding the processes and dynamics of bully/victim situations, so the method does not tap into phenomenological aspects of bullying.
^ to Top

Qualitative researchers aim to make research naturalistic and to concentrate on the complex ways in which participants in a social situation interpret and describe their world and the people in it. The researcher is both immersed in the interview situation and external to it. The well-designed interview study would normally fall into four stages: ice-breaking and building trust; progressive focussing on the issue; forming a tentative model; the process of analytic induction. Grounded Theory analysis takes this process further by allowing constructs to emerge from the interview data. Participants in the study by Rivers (1999) were interviewed about a number of emotive issues, e.g. the process of 'coming out', linked to social exclusion from the peer group both at school and in the workplace. The procedure for analysing the interview transcripts as recommended by Frontman and Kunkel (1994) was as follows; i) scrutiny of transcripts; ii) open coding; iii) axial coding; iv) selective coding; v) integration. Participants could also be interviewed using this method about other experiences of being bullied at work.

Niedl (1996) used open-ended problem-focused interviews to investigate the organisational effects of bullying in a sample of 10 patients attending a rehabilitation programme in a German hospital. All had left their company because of being bullied. The interviews were based on the EVLN model (Withey and Cooper, 1989) which suggests four final reactions when people are unhappy at work - exit, voice, loyalty or neglect. Employees can leave their job (exit); try to improve their situation through active problem-solving (voice); they can passively hope that the organisation will solve the problem for them (through loyalty); or they can focus attention on nonwork interests (neglect). The qualitative data gave insights into the processes of coping from the time when the bullying was first noticed. Results can be plotted on a flow chart. Most of these patients first reacted with constructive coping (voice, loyality) to the situation; over time, however, the reactions took 'destructive' forms such as reducing commitment (neglect) and leaving the firm (exit). This exploratory study showed a complex sequence of reactions to bullying at different stages in the experience.

the material is open-ended, qualitative, rich and illuminating;
in terms of power, the interviewer/interviewee relationship is more evenly balanced than it is in the questionnaire method;
the method explores informants' lived experience;
the material generates ideas for new explanatory models;
the method is inductive rather than deductive;
it enables the researcher to identify different types of bullying in depth; to have information on which persons were involved, what they did, who intervened, how the participants coped;
discourse analysis can reveal inconsistencies, incoherence or lack of meta-cognition in 'dishonest', 'denying' or 'idealising' interviews.

the method is time-consuming
it is usually only possible to investigate small samples of participants
bullies may be reluctant to talk, plausibly cover up their behaviour or be unaware of their behaviour so the material tends to be oriented towards the experiences of victims.
participants may be expert at producing 'text book' answers on how to manage people which bear little relationship to actual behaviour;
interpretation may be subject to bias;
companies/individuals may be reluctant to participate.
^ to Top

Case studies
The intensive study of one case has played an important part in the development of theory and practice in the social sciences. Typically, the case study researcher observes the acts of an individual unit - a person, a family or a group, or a larger community or organisation. The researcher probes and analyses intensively the many aspects that contribute to the identity of this unit and, as a result, is able to formulate generalisations about the wider population to which this unit belongs. The investigator has the unique opportunity to remain open to aspects and events as they occur, to record accounts and narratives in the participants' own words and to draw on observational insights based on experience and understanding of the particular issue. Yin (1994) argues that both case studies and samples in experiments can be generalised analytically to theory. The well-conducted case study can generate new hypotheses and research questions; this is especially true when the researcher uses a wide range of sources of evidence and takes care to adopt systematic research procedures.

Adams (1992) and Crawford (1997) documented useful case studies of workplace bullying. Adams stressed the high cost of bullying and aggression in the workplace. She documented high rates of sickness and absenteeism, low morale, reduced productivity, high turnover of staff, damage to mental and physical health and a poor company ethos. She emphasised the need to train staff in identifying bullying in their workplace, and highlighted the need for companies to have a well-publicised anti-bullying policy to protect staff, and consistent action to deal with complaints; aggressive managers, she recommended, should be given training in how to deal with anger and stress. Crawford, a psychotherapist working with bullies, victims and organisations, identified personality aspects to the problem. He linked the presence of bullying behaviour to unresolved childhood conflicts in the individual which manifest themselves through difficulty in dealing with frustration and stress at work. Like Adams, he advised that companies should be not only legally liable for acts of aggression in the workplace, but that they should also take moral responsibility for it. He emphasised the importance of working collectively towards greater sensitivity to the interpersonal needs of colleagues working together, a view supported by Sheehan (1998; 1999).

the method generates open-ended, qualitative, rich and illuminating material;
the material generates ideas for new explanatory models; it is inductive;
the method enables the researcher to identify different types of bullying in depth; to have information on which persons were involved, what they did, who intervened, how the participants coped;
there is high ecological validity through deep understanding of the participant and his/her world.

the method is time-consuming
there are usually only small samples of participants resulting in low population validity;
bullies may be reluctant to talk, plausibly cover up their behaviour or be unaware of their behaviour so the material is oriented towards the experiences of victims. Bullies may be expert at producing 'text book' answers on how to manage people;
^ to Top

Observing human relationships in real life settings: direct observation using tape- and video-recordings
Hinde (1981) emphasises the importance of studying people in their natural settings and has developed the following list of dimensions for studying human relationships:

the content of interactions making up the relationship;
the diversity of those interactions;
the quality of those interactions;
the frequency and patterning of these interactions;
the reciprocity or complementarity of these interactions;
the intimacy of information that is given to the other person;
the interpersonal perceptions of those involved in the interaction;
the amount of commitment.

Hinde stresses the need to develop a descriptive base of naturally occurring interpersonal relationships that will allow the researcher to compare and contrast the nature and quality of different types of interaction.

A wealth of material on everyday interactions in the workplace is gathered through security procedures and for the purposes of collecting evidence. For example, security cameras are used in shopping centres, banks, building societies and other public places, and for surveillance in prisons and detention centres. Police interviews are often tape-recorded to be used in evidence. Companies have given permission for the producers of documentary programmes to film everyday interactions in the workplace, e.g. a recent TV programme on working in kitchens.

There are precedents, for example, in the research by Craig and Pepler (1995) into bullying in the playground in which pupils, with the permission of their parents and teachers, agreed to have tape-recorders attached to them during break-times, and to be filmed. This material was analysed for verbal and non-verbal interaction. Kagan (1991) was given permission to film interactions among employees in the armed forces, business, medical settings and classrooms for training purposes. Extracts were then re-played to participants in the presence of a facilitator, referred to as the inquirer, in order to access their feelings and thoughts at the time of the interaction. Kagan's method of Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) has been widely used in training and staff development to improve working relationships.

Salmivalli (1998) and Salmivalli et al (1996) found differing participant roles in the bullying process among 12-13 year old Finnish school children. The roles assigned to the children were: victim, bully, reinforcer of the bully, assistant of the bully, defender of the victim and outsider. A Participant Role Scale was devised. This could be modified to investigate whether such participant roles exist within the context of workplace bullying.

the researcher gains access to real-life, authentic interactions as they occur;
there is the opportunity to replay selected episodes to the participants using such techniques as IPR and so to gain a range of perspectives on the same episode;
the researcher can identify inner states through the analysis of non-verbal behaviour and IPR interviews after the event;
the observations provide useful data to inform the construction of new scales and questionnaires.

there are ethical concerns about recording people; participants may withdraw consent to use the material;
the method is very time-consuming;
companies/individuals might refuse to give permission or withdraw it during the research project; guaranteed access to this material could be difficult to obtain.
^ to Top

Critical Incident Technique (CIT)
CIT (Flanagan, 1954; Lewis, 1992) is a job analysis technique that focuses participants on a particular scenario. Flanagan used the method to analyse failure in military flying training during the second world war. Liefooghe and Olafsson (1998; 1999) used Lewis's adaptation of CIT by asking participants to describe hypothetical individuals who are 'extremely like... bullies' and 'not at all like... bullies'. Participants were interviewed in focus groups in order to elicit representations of the phenomenon through discussion.

the method brings up salient features of the experience of being bullied or being a bully;
it gives a shared understanding of what is a bullying incident;
it has scope for refinements, for example, 'Describe a person most like/least like a bully'.
the method can link to other methods such as Kelly's laddering technique to elicit social constructions of bullying episodes and experiences;
it enables participants not only to list aspects of the phenomenon but also to explore new elements in the process of discussion;
it can be linked to the focus group method as a style of interviewing.

it is time consuming
since the data are derived from self-reports of victims which may be influenced by other factors, the validity of the data as an accurate predictor of the actual behaviour of the bully is constrained;
memories of bullying incidents may be inaccurate or distorted;
respondents may attribute positive experiences towards themselves and negative experiences towards others;
they may also focus more on individuals and ignore the wider organisational culture.
^ to Top

Bubble Dialogue
Bubble dialogue is 'a powerful methodology for users to make public those perceptions... which otherwise remain... unsaid' (O'Neill and McMahon, 1990). The method involves 'grabbing' still images from video films of role-played interactions elicited from a sample of individuals being studied. The participants are shown the video followed by selected stills. They are then asked to imagine what the individuals in the scene are thinking at that moment in time. 'Say' bubbles of the actual speech from each shot are superimposed onto the still; empty 'think' bubbles are provided for the respondents to complete, so encouraging them to imagine the private worlds of the characters in the role plays.

Naylor (1999, in press) used the bubble dialogue 'comic strip' technique in an investigation of adolescents' perceptions of teacher racism. There were three categories of response: i) respondents failed to show that they had seen the teacher's racist behaviours and actions; ii), respondents implied that the teacher's racism underlay many of her thoughts, actions and behaviours; iii), respondents explicitly commented on the teacher's racism. Content analysis (Strauss and Corbin, 1990; Glaser and Strauss, 1967) and systematic network analysis (Bliss et al, 1983) were used to model diagrammatically the respondents' ideas about how they thought the racist teacher thinks. The method gives a social and cultural dimension on how individuals/ groups view bullying. The method is flexible and could be adapted to a wide range of workplace situations, e.g. in the office, in kitchens, at the board meeting, on the shopfloor. There is potential for using existing footage from real-life documentaries or from existing cartoons.

The use of 'Theory of Mind' (TOM) tasks could be related to the Bubble Dialogue method. TOM refers to the ability to understand and manipulate the mental states of others. It is hypothesised that some bullies may possess a superior theory of mind in comparison to victims (and maybe some of the other participant roles). There are specific research tools to measure TOM such as 'TOM Stories' which consist of brief paragraphs describing incidents of double bluffs, mistakes, persuasions and white lies (Fletcher et al, 1995; Happe et al, 1998). The participants are asked to read these stories and answer questions about them. TOM has also been measured by the Eyes and Faces Tasks, which were devised on the basis that eyes and faces express mental states (Baron-Cohen et al, 1996; Baron-Cohen et al, 1997). Participants are asked to choose a word from a given list, which best describes the state of mind of the person in the picture.

it gives participants the opportunity to take the role of different people in a bullying situation, e.g. bully, victim and bystander;
it helps to define the phenomenon;
it identifies different types of bullying;
it identifies coping strategies;
it has real-life authenticity;
it is accessible; does not require a high level of literacy; is quick to administer; is user-friendly.
it provides the opportunity to identify different roles in bullying;

it is expensive and time consuming to create the right video material for the bubble dialogue stills;
even once it is made, the material dates quickly;
we do not really know whether the enacted episodes are authentic or stereotypical;
there could be bias in that the researcher only gets the observer's point of view;
participants' responses may reflect only what they might do in bullying situations, not what they would actually do;
there is a tendency to 'forget' or repress what it was like to be bullied.
^ to Top

Focus Groups
The technique of interviewing participants in focus groups is widely used in marketing research as an exploratory research method to help companies gain a deeper understanding of their customers' perceptions, feelings, motivations and desires. Focus groups are also a well-respected means of gathering in-depth, qualitative information about opinions and attitudes on a wide range of issues..

Focus groups typically bring eight to twelve people together for a round table discussion lasting from one to two hours. The participants are selected because they share certain characteristics that are relevant to the study; often they do not know one another before the group meets.

The interviewer creates a permissive environment, and asks focussed questions to encourage discussion and the expression of differing points of view. Interviews are carried out with several groups so that the interviewer can identify trends in the perceptions and opinions expressed. Participants are given the opportunity to listen to one another's point of view. The interviewer must be skilled in eliciting the participants' self-disclosure through the creation of a permissive environment. The format allows the exploration of unanticipated issues as they arise in the discussion. A number of techniques may be used to elicit the participants' ideas and experiences, including facilitating questions (e.g. asking for clarification of an opinion offered by a participant), vignettes (e.g. experiences of adults in other workplace settings) or eliciting personal constructs (e.g. laddering).

Focus group sessions are usually recorded by video- or audio-tape for further analysis. As a rule, a number of sessions with different groups will be conducted in a well-designed focus group project. This not only ensures confidentiality and eliminates bias, but also provides valuable information through allowing comparisons between groups.

Wilson (1997, p. 221) recommends the method highly since it allows scope for the authentic voices of respondents and gives the researcher an opportunity to hear the stories that emanate from a group. In her experience, focus groups:

encourage open discussion of sensitive issues;
enable the researcher to probe for meaning where they might otherwise be reluctant;
demonstrate a greater variety of discourse than other methods (with the exception of naturalistic observation);
give the researchers the chance to be in a group with respondents and hear them talk with their peers.

It is important to take account of ethical issues. Participants must be made aware that they have the right to withdraw their consent at any stage in the research process. They must also be made aware that the information that they give will be treated in confidence and that no identifying features will be revealed at any stage. The researchers must guarantee that they will adhere to professional ethical guidelines in their reporting of the data.

it is flexible, socially-oriented and is carried out in real-life settings;
it gives the interviewer the opportunity to increase sample size by interviewing more than one person at a time;
researchers can advertise for participants based on a given criterion such as ethnic origin or type of employment for a focus group discussion;
the time-span of the focus group - one hour, at least - offers the opportunity for participants to explore in some depth their views, perceptions and experiences of bullying in the workplace;
the researcher takes the stance of 'not knowing' so the expertise is placed firmly with the participants;
since participants may not be known to one another, they have some freedom to express their opinions without offending immediate colleagues;
the focus group can identify key issues to be included in a larger quantitative study;
the method can also illuminate material gathered previously by quantitative methods;
the method can be complemented by in-depth interviews with individuals.

the interviewer can lose control; participants may stray from the topic, data may be difficult to analyse, the interviewer may probe too much or too little;
the group may move towards a consensus that does not capture the range of individual views;
focus groups need specialist expertise to facilitate, for example in dealing with domineering or disruptive group members or with those who are reluctant or afraid to share their views;
the group can get 'stuck' on certain individuals or issues;
the data elicited are subjective so it may be unwarranted to make generalisations;
focus groups are time-consuming to arrange, to facilitate, to transcribe and to analyse;
the groups can generate a mass of material that is not useful to the subject of the research;
there are ethical concerns about the confidentiality of the group and the extent to which group members feel free to express their opinions on sensitive issues without repercussions.
^ to Top

Systematic diary-keeping
People who are being bullied may not always report the matter and may only gradually become aware that their unhappiness is based in the experience of being bullied, particularly if the bullying is indirect or if the victim is being socially isolated or excluded. The process of responding to bullying episodes may be better understood if the bullied person is able to make regular records of their experiences. The TUC (1998) guidelines recommend that health and safety officers should encourage employees to record episodes of bullying (or suspected bullying) in a systematic, regular way so that there is an accurate record of what happened and a chronological order to events. The individual can be asked to record all the bullying events that occur - what happened, which persons were involved, when did it happen, did anyone observe/ bystand or intervene - the feelings that were experienced, and the outcomes of the episode. At negotiated points in the diary-keeping process, the diary could form the basis of in-depth interviews with the diarist.

In defining relationships at work, as in any other setting, it is arguable that the subjective experience of relationships is central to that relationship. The method of systematic diary-keeping is described by McGhee with Miell (1998) for gathering longitudinal data on everyday interactions that the respondent experienced during each day. Participants are asked to write down the three most significant interactions of each day in their own words, and to rate these interactions on a 7-point scale in terms of such variables as satisfaction, intimacy, similarity to the other person, liking and empathy. The method could be adapted to provide detailed information on the quality of interactions amongst colleagues in a workplace.

it is a recognised method that is quick to administer and captures immediate experiences;
it is systematic, rich in qualitative information yet can also be quantified;
it is longitudinal and so eminently suitable for charting relationships which are constantly changing;
relationships are built up of numerous interactions among people; the diary method focuses on these individual exchanges and their place in the overall relationship; so it can identify patterns of behaviour across time; it could also be the basis for constructing sociograms within a working group;
the data can be quantified using scales, for example on intimacy, satisfaction with relationships, etc.;
the method has the potential for capturing interactions that are significant for the person;
the method is much less onerous than an open-ended diary and more amenable to systematic analysis;
the data could be gathered by e-mail to capture fluctuations of mood at different tines of day, days of the week.

the data gathered are subjective;
the researcher could be interrupting the process of making sense of an experience; keeping the diaries may influence the ways in which participants behave towards one another;
there are ethical difficulties in inviting people to keep records of their interpersonal relationships, e.g. where they write negative things about a colleague.
^ to Top

Collaborative research with Human Resources (HR) Departments
Exit interviews
The outcome for around 25% of employees victimised at work is that they leave the organisation. Human Resources (HR) staff in some companies routinely interview all employees at the point of departure from an organisation. With the co-operation of HR and the permission of the employee, it would be possible to questionnaire those on the point of leaving and then to interview a sample of those who claim to have been victimised and a control group of those who are leaving for other reasons. It might then be possible to access those who are reluctant to speak out while in employment at the organisation.

the method gives real-life, immediate experiences of alleged victimisation;
it also gives access to a control group of employees who leave for other reasons.

the sample might be biased towards those with a grudge against the company;
there might be reluctance on the part of companies to release this information;
the samples of those willing to give interviews might be atypical.

Documentary evidence
Researchers could gather information on policies and procedures against harassment and bullying at work. HR files on systems for dealing with employee complaints about harassment and other forms of intimidation, and documentary evidence gathered from tribunals and other appeals procedures, would reveal a range of perspectives on the issue of workplace bullying and on the procedures adopted in a company. With the co-operation of HR, all identifying features could be removed from the documents to preserve confidentiality.

the method would give access to a range of perspectives on a bullying episode, including, for example, victim, bully, mediator, advocate, line manager, senior manager, trade union representative, local MP.

Some companies and individuals concerned might be reluctant to release this material.

Statistical indicators
HR statistical records on sickness rates, absenteeism and staff turnover in departments within a company would provide indicators of staff morale in the organisation.

the material could offer real-life, immediate access to the perspectives of employees with recent experience of being bullied.

Some companies might be reluctant to release this material
^ to Top


The debate over the nature of bullying continues and centres around the following elements:

the nature of the bully-victim relationship; subjective and the objective aspects of this relationship; the effects on the victim; the intentions of the bully to cause hurt; personality characteristics of bullies and victims;
the social contexts that facilitate or inhibit the emergence of the negative behaviours involved in bullying; management styles; environmental pressures, heavy workloads, time pressures, fear of redundancy or unemployment;
the social construction of hurtful, malicious, insulting behaviour; the social construction of factors that constitute direct and indirect bullying;
participant roles in the work setting; the concept of an imbalance of power and the abuse of that power; the power may be formal (in the hierarchy of the organisation) or informal (through personal qualities); the role of the bystander.
Clearly these are issues of great importance since, depending on the method of classification, the number of victims of workplace bullying varies widely (Höel et al, 1999; Niedl, 1996). The choice of measures is determined/influenced by the research question being asked by the investigator. Over-reliance on the perspective of one group (for example, descriptive case studies of victims) can blind the researcher to the wider view and so inhibit a multi-faceted model of the causes of bullying (Zapf, 1999). As we have argued in this paper, it is necessary to triangulate research findings in order to take account of the multiple causes of bullying, including the following:

leadership/management culture of the organisation,
the personal characteristics and family history of the perpetrators,
the norms of the social group where the bullying takes place,
and the characteristics and family history of the victimised persons.
One important brief of the TMR researchers is to identify the longer-term consequences of bullying and social exclusion in the workplace. Specific objectives include:

1 elicit opinions and experiences from employees in a company on the issue of bullying and social exclusion;
2 explore aspects of work experience which evoke unpleasant feelings, including anger, fear, embarrassment, humiliation;
3 explore aspects of work experience/ interpersonal relationships which evoke pleasant feelings, including acceptance, trust, enjoyment;
4 identify areas of risk or threat arising from peer group/supervisor/management relationships in their working environment;
5 identify areas of difficulty in management/supervisory styles;
6 identify threat from external environment such as economic climate in the cultures involved (e.g. having to downsize leading to managerial pressure that escalates down)
7 identify current channels for notification of these issues;
8 explore ways in which the issues raised might be different;
9 explore definitions in different cultures as in school bullying;
10 identify strict criteria as necessary for defining adult bullying in a scientific way; explore what makes a bully or victim, e.g. a combination of environmental factors, personality and aggressiveness, bringing in theory of mind, type of attachment, etc.

The present report of the TMR working party on measures of adult bullying has described measures that are currently being used to investigate adult bullying, or that potentially might clarify the nature of adult bullying. It is hoped in addition that by developing new measures, we may play a part in the planning of interventions to address the problem.



15 October 2009

SURVEY - UK Workplace bullying experienced by one in three young women

One in three young women are the victims of workplace bullying, alarming new figures have revealed

A poll of 685 young women found that 33% had been bullied in the past six months, and the most common culprit was an older woman in a more senior professional position.

Excessive work monitoring and criticism, isolation/exclusion/intimidation, unrealistic targets and public humiliation and insulting jokes were among the most common bullying behaviours experienced by those victimised.

The study, carried out by union Unison and Company magazine, showed the majority of bullied women suffered from anger, mental stress, depression, low confidence and insomnia.

More than half believe that bullying has become an acceptable part of workplace culture and more than half said their organisation does not address the bullying problem .

In addition, 40% think that bullies are tolerated in the credit crunch environment.

David Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "This shocking survey shows that bullying and harassment of young women in the workplace is spiralling out of control.

"Our research has shown that bullying is accepted in many organisations - we need to change this attitude now. The recession has surely added to this problem, and the cost to employers, to cover absence and replace trained staff, makes it clear that tackling bullying make economic sense."