Postprint of: Hurley, J, Hutchinson, M, Bradbury, J & Browne, G 2016, 'Nexus between preventive policy inadequacies, workplace bullying, and mental health: qualitative findings from the experiences of Australian public sector employees', International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 12-18.
Public sector organizations have been shown to have high levels of workplace bullying, despite widespread adoption of zero-tolerance policy. Given the level of harm that stems from bullying, it has been suggested that it might be one of the most serious problems facing modern organizations. The qualitative findings from a large cross sectional study of public servants in Australia are reported in the present study. The results highlight palpable mental distress and illness stemming from exposure to workplace bullying. This distress was exacerbated by failures in prohibitive workplace procedures. Reporting bullying through formal organization processes did not lead to resolution of the problem; it instead highlighted feelings of powerlessness and mistrust. In light of the findings, we suggest that an alternative discourse is required, one that gives attention to enhancing employee resilience and self-healing behaviours to the emotional trauma of workplaces. Organizations might be better placed investing resources in fostering the resilience and emotional intelligence of their workforce, rather than continuing to invest resources in prohibitive policies that fail to address the problem. Employees should be supported to prioritize responsibility for their own mental health, rather than an overreliance on organizational responses.