Bullying as circuits of power: an Australian nursing perspective

M.E. Sharpe Inc.
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Administrative Theory & Praxis, 2010, 32 (1), pp. 25 - 47
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It is not possible to understand bullying without considering the concept of power, and yet power has received little systematic attention in the literature on bullying. Framed largely as a manifestation of conflict, or as a consequence of organizational characteristics that trigger unwitting individuals to engage in abusive acts, superficial and clichéd understandings of the power dynamics involved in bullying are commonplace. The focus on conflict-based understandings offers limited insights into less readily observable forms of power that manifest within institutions. In this article, we draw upon Cleggs (1989a) circuits of power framework to map out an alternative understanding of workplace bullying one that moves beyond the link with conflict. We employ a multidimensional model of bullying and offer interview exemplars from our study of bullying in the Australian nursing workplace. The analysis reveals the complex flows of power associated with bullying and suggests that commonly accepted assumptions and frameworks about workplace bullying have provided limited insight into the phenomenon, while potentially masking inappropriate manifestations of power within institutions.
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