Organizational justice and workplace bullying: Lessons learned from externally referred complaints and investigations

Annabelle M. Neall, Yiqiong Li, Michelle R. Tuckey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Workplace bullying is a serious psychosocial risk which, when poorly managed, results in detrimental outcomes for individuals, organizations, and society. Some of the most common strategies for addressing bullying within the workplace centre on attempts to document and contextualise the bullying situation—that is, the internal complaint and investigation process. Scholarly inquiries of these investigative mechanisms, however, are limited, and most have neglected the influence of organisational justice as an underpinning mechanism in explaining complainant dissatisfaction. Using evidence from 280 real-life cases of workplace bullying lodged with a peak work, health, and safety agency, we identify how organizational justice manifests in externally referred cases of workplace bullying. Specifically, we match complainant evaluations of the internal complaint and investigation handling process to domains of organisational justice, thereby ascertaining potential threats to efforts to effectively manage and prevent bullying in the workplace. Four types of justice—distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational—were identified within the cases. Specifically, in cases of workplace bullying where distributive justice is not upheld (usually by virtue of unsubstantiated claims), the way in which information is gathered and decisions are made (procedural), the way in which the parties are treated (interpersonal), and the timeliness and validity of explanations provided (informational) are all cited by complainants as key factors in their decision to escalate the complaint to an external investigative body. These results signal the need for timely, clear, and compassionate investigative processes that validate complainants’ experiences and serve as a tool for rebuilding trust and repairing damaged relationships in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Complaints
  • Investigations
  • Organisational justice
  • Workplace bullying


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