University of Limerick
Fitzpatrick_2020_Bullying.pdf (4.33 MB)

Workplace bullying in primary schools: teachers’ experience of workplace bullying; an organisational response perspective

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posted on 2023-02-15, 16:15 authored by Kathleen Fitzpatrick
The aim of this doctoral research is to contribute to the growing body of knowledge concerning workplace bullying by considering the help-seeking experiences of targets of bullying and organisational responses to their complaints. A phenomenological research design was adopted. Twenty-two Irish primary school teachers (7 male, 15 female) self-selected for interview. Data were analysed utilising an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis framework. All those interviewed had made complaints in accordance with the nationally agreed procedures stipulated to address workplace bullying in their schools. Redress procedures comprises several stages. All had engaged in stage one and two of the official complaints procedures; and all had availed of counselling, with most engaging with the recommended employee assistance service (formerly known as ‘Care Call’ now Medmark). Some participants had ceased engagement at stage 2, while others participants who had proceeded to stage three, ceased engagement at this juncture. Further participants proceeded to stage 4, of whom two are currently proscribed from returning to their posts due to ongoing disputes based upon retaliation for complaints, which comprised challenges to their fitness to work. It is significant that no participant expressed satisfaction with the outcome of exercising agency and engaging with redress procedures. In fact, complaints procedures served as technologies of power for bullies who launched counterattacks. This doctoral study traced the pre-action, action, response, and overall consequences for the teacher as the target of workplace bullying describing targets’ resistance within the context of complex social interactions and considered possible supportive, preventative, and resolution strategies. The resultant approach has wide-ranging implications for the present pernicious practices and it identified a number of proposals for professional practice and modifications in the way in which workplace bullying may be countered and contained. This thesis contributes to discourses of agency in workplace bullying and challenges both researchers and policy-makers to fully elucidate the various issues surrounding pathways to redress for bullying. In addition through its emphasis on the power dynamics which characterize redress it extends the limited available literature in the substantive area about the ineffectiveness of complaints procedures Moreover, despite the research limitation respecting the modest scale of the study involving self-selecting teachers, the richness of the data elicited underscores the problematic and contingent assumptions underpinning anti-bullying policies and procedures which purportedly address workplace bullying within small organisations.



  • Faculty of Education and Health Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Patricia Mannix McNamara

Second supervisor

Sarah MacCurtain





Department or School

  • Allied Health

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