Workplace bullying in Australian public service administrations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This is a study of workplace bullying policy in the public service. The research draws on interviews with policy actors from three groups located in four Australian states and one Australian territory. The groups are senior managers, policy implementors and employee advocates. The study is also informed by research and popular literature to examine how assumptions about what the problem is in workplace bullying dictates the direction taken in policy development. Unlike much of the research into workplace bullying that is based on psychological theorisations, this study is influenced by scholars who focus on the power imbalances that underpin workplace bullying. The key argument in this thesis is that the conceptual dominance of 'gender neutrality' operates to mask the gendered power imbalances which perpetuate bullying behaviour. Hence, to start to address workplace bullying, the effects of power must be acknowledged and addressed in the organisational policy responses to the growing phenomenon of workplace bullying. However, analysing the effects of power is insufficient if gender is not made visible in the analysis. The methodological touchstone for this is Carol Bacchi's 'whats the problem' approach (1999), which is taken further through feminist organisational theory, post modernist understandings of power realtions and a critique of New Public Management practices. The thesis shows how workplace bullying policies in Australian public service administrations have been carefully crafted as gender-neutral, and interweaves data and literature to develop a thesis for why such an approach is a deeply flawed outcome of gender politics. This thesis concludes with some modest suggestions about how organizations might more effectively develop more effective gender-sensitive approaches to workplace bullying.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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