Chapter 12: Whose Side Are You On? Trust and HR in Workplace Bullying
Susan Harrington and Charlotte Rayner INTRODUCTION Workplace bullying has received increasing attention in the United Kingdom. While no specific law exists on bullying at work, the issue has been taken seriously by the UK government. The national occupational health and safety organization (Health and Safety Executive) has prioritized dealing with workplace bullying as it calculates that the issue is a significant source of stress-related sickness absence (MacKay et al., 2004). A recent study has established a cost to the UK economy of £17.65 billion ($27 billion) (Giga et al., 2008). As a ‘people issue’ workplace bullying falls squarely within the remit of the human resources (HR) department of an organization. In this chapter we seek to explore the stresses on trust which dealing with workplace bullying places on HR practitioners in terms of their role, loyalties and their power positioning in the organization. These, we suggest, influence how HR practitioners tackle the issue, with trust being central as both an input to and an output of the process. In our exploration we shall draw on the extant literature as well as two sources of primary data, each collected by one or other of the authors. One is a survey conducted among members of the trade union UNISON (the dominant UK public sector trade union with 1.3 million members) in 2009 which repeated questions in a previous survey among its members in 1997. Our second set of data is a recent pilot study that used interviews to illicit the story from...
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