A Gramscian study of workplace bullying and hegemonic power in a marketised UK public sector: An exploration of bullied targets’ perspectives

Garvey, Anita (2019) A Gramscian study of workplace bullying and hegemonic power in a marketised UK public sector: An exploration of bullied targets’ perspectives. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis explores workplace bullying and power relations in the UK public sector using a Gramscian theoretical framework. Whilst there have been calls to examine workplace bullying from a critical standpoint, which have been answered by several scholars (e.g. Beale & Hoel, 2007, 2011; Hutchinson, Vickers, Jackson, & Wilkes, 2006; Ironside & Seifert, 2003; Walton, 2005), there remains a paucity of research from a Gramscian perspective. Drawing upon Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, this thesis offers insights into the material and ideological forces that have affected the UK public sector since the 1980s, and it explores workplace bullying in this context. The UK public sector environment is complex and the wider historical, political and socio-economic context surrounding it has had fundamental ramifications for public sector governance and management (Exworthy & Halford, 2011; Hood, 2010). Specifically, public sector policies and practices have been impacted significantly by the ascendancy of neoliberalism and New Public Management since the 1980s, and austerity policies since 2010 (Blyth, 2013; Evans & McBride, 2017). This thesis explores UK public sector bullied targets’ experiences of workplace bullying in the neoliberal context, and how it is potentially legitimised and morally justified. The theoretical potential of using a Gramscian lens to analyse workplace bullying is empirically developed through qualitative research using semi structured interviews with 25 targets of workplace bullying. The participants worked in various parts of the UK public sector when they were subjected to workplace bullying, including local government, the civil service, secondary, further and higher education institutions. Their responses were analysed using a combination of Fairclough’s (1992) critical discourse analysis (CDA), incorporating key Gramscian concepts, and Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis (TA). The study suggests that workplace bullying can be understood as a manifestation of the reproduction of neoliberal hegemonic power relations in the UK public sector, leading to a marketised and managerialist organisational context. The result has been pressurised environments, exemplified by the imposition of business requirements and commodified public services, wherein management power over workers has intensified to achieve income and metricoriented objectives, creating the conditions for workplace bullying to occur. The thesis offers a theoretical contribution by using a Gramscian framework to analyse material and ideational forces that have impacted upon the UK public sector. In addition, a theoretical contribution to workplace bullying literature is made through the advancement of the notion of the moralistic bully (Zabrodska, Ellwood, Zaeemdar, & Mudrak, 2014), in the context of neoliberalism. A methodological contribution is claimed through combining Fairclough’s (1992) CDA with the explicit deployment of Gramscian concepts in the CDA process, and with TA, to enhance analytical rigour. Finally, the thesis adds to critical workplace bullying literature by highlighting the influence of hegemonic power on public sector organisations and institutions, and its role in stimulating bullying.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: critical discourse analysis, Neoliberal capitalism, qualitative research, thematic analysis, workplace bullying
Subjects: N100 Business studies
N600 Human Resource Management
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 20 May 2024 07:33
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 07:55
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51730

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