Is workplace bullying always clear-cut?

Dr Samuel Farley featured in the Sunday Times on 7 March 2021 discussing workplace bullying, in an article exploring the topic amidst a string of recent high-profile workplace bullying accusations.

Lecturer in Organizational Psychology Dr Sam Farley provided expert insight into workplace bullying in the Sunday Times article, which discussed the lack of clarity on the subject in legal terms of the definition, and the problems this can cause for Human Resource departments. The article reports on a ‘growing concern’ in the upward trend of workplace bullying reports, asking “Is workplace bullying, which at its worst can cause post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia, being used as a tool to destroy the reputation of those with whom we do not see eye to eye?’’ 

Dr Farley commented on workplace bullies and the risk factors that can encourage bullying behaviour at work:  

“They may be more driven in pursuit of their goals and convince themselves that it is OK to bully others to achieve them.”

“There might be a lot of organisational change, for example, or one person may not know what they are doing in a job.”

Discussing demand and limited resources causing stress and leading to instances of bullying at work, Dr Farley added: “There is a lot of bullying in the NHS for this reason.”

According to the Sunday Times, Psychologist’s clear definition of workplace bullying maintains that the behaviours take place for a sustained period of time, usually a minimum of six months, and that it has to involve a power imbalance. Dr Farley said: 

“Two colleagues who don't get on and lay it on with one another is not bullying.”

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