Workplace Bullying as an Organizational Problem: Spotlight on People Management Practices

Michelle R. Tuckey, Yiqiong Li, Annabelle M. Neall, Peter Y. Chen, Maureen F. Dollard, Sarven S. McLinton, Alex Rogers, Joshua Mattiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Though workplace bullying is conceptualized as an organizational problem, there remains a gap in understanding the contexts in which bullying manifests—knowledge vital for addressing bullying in practice. In three studies, we leverage the rich content contained within workplace bullying complaint records to explore this issue then, based on our discoveries, investigate people management practices linked to bullying. First, through content analysis of 342 official complaints lodged with a state health and safety regulator (over 5,500 pages), we discovered that the risk of bullying primarily arises from ineffective people management in 11 different contexts (e.g., managing underperformance, coordinating working hours, and entitlements). Next, we developed a behaviorally anchored rating scale to measure people management practices within a refined set of nine risk contexts. Effective and ineffective behavioral indicators were identified through content analysis of the complaints data and data from 44 critical incident interviews with subject matter experts; indicators were then sorted and rated by two independent samples to form a risk audit tool. Finally, data from a multilevel multisource study of 145 clinical healthcare staff nested in 25 hospital wards showed that the effectiveness of people management practices predicts concurrent exposure to workplace bullying at individual level beyond established organizational antecedents, and at the team level beyond leading indicator psychosocial safety climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-565
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Occupational Health Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • People management practices
  • Risk audit tool
  • Risk contexts
  • Work environment hypothesis
  • Workplace bullying


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