Original Research

Exploring a framework to manage bullying in South African academia: Human resources perspective

Manasseh M. Mokgolo, Esther M. Chigo
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 50 | a2129 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v50i0.2129 | © 2024 Manasseh M. Mokgolo, Esther M. Chigo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 July 2023 | Published: 30 April 2024

About the author(s)

Manasseh M. Mokgolo, Department of Leadership and Human Resources Review, Faculty of Leadership and Management Practice, Office of the Public Service Commission, Pretoria, South Africa
Esther M. Chigo, Department of Human Resource Management, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Bullying is widespread at South African universities and has short- and long-term negative consequences for employees and organisations.

Research purpose: The study explored human resources (HR) practitioners’ challenges in managing bullying at work and sought to establish a framework for managing bullying above and below the surface in the organisation from their viewpoint.

Motivation for the study: Human resources practitioners are a strategic link between diverse constituencies in the organisation and consequently encounter several challenges in their attempts to address and manage bullying.

Research approach/design and method: A qualitative constructivist grounded theory research was exploited to examine nine HR practitioners’ standpoints in two universities in the Gauteng province.

Main findings: Human resources practitioners’ roles remain dichotomised between serving dissimilar stakeholders with diametric expectations while protecting employees from prospective bullying circumstances. The proposed framework to manage workplace bullying above and below the surface from the HR practitioners’ context has both pragmatic and theoretical noteworthiness.

Practical/managerial implications: The combinations of the power dynamics, roles and factors at play have acute ramifications on the HR practitioner’s dexterity to circumvent, administrate and investigate bullying incidents. A proposed framework can help organisation management, practitioners and employees to be unconditionally alert about bullying multiplicities, expedite holistic determinations and preventative interventions to embrace diversity and panoramically reprehend bullying occurrences.

Contribution/value-add: This study adds a noticeable contribution to the field of workplace bullying, HR management and attendant remedial measures from HR practitioners in South Africa’s academic institution context.


above and below the surface; human resource practitioners; workplace bullying; bullying management; paradoxical duality

JEL Codes

J81: Working Conditions; L25: Firm Performance: Size, Diversification, and Scope; O31: Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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