“The temptation to abuse power becomes greater and greater if you create more inequality in work arrangements,” says Michael Quinlan, a professor in the school of management at UNSW Business School. “That, in many cases can lead to bullying.”

In a study of the hospitality industry, he has looked at why bullying in the workplace has become endemic, with academic colleagues at University of Sydney led by associate professor Angela Knox.

“Even if workers know their rights, that can be useless if you have no capacity to access your rights,” says Quinlan.

The research team looked at the impact of pressure, dis-organisation and regulatory failure, and then the mental health outcomes.

Their paper points to evidence indicating that the environment in which hospitality workers operate is negatively impacted by high pressure and low control. Employees experience ongoing work intensification; long, antisocial, irregular or unpredictable working hours; insecure wages and employment; and inadequate training.

“The shift in recent times to the casualisation of the workforce and the return to more insecure forms of employment that existed before World War II, actually encourages bullying,” argues Professor Quinlan.

“Notwithstanding that you have systems in place to address these issues, you will still get some tragic cases. Casual workers and young people who are desperate for a job are under pressure to put up and shut up,” he says.

Further details of the research are in the UNSW Business School publication BusinessThink:

For further comment email Michael Quinlan on m.quinlan@unsw.edu.au or call 0438 167227. Note that he is in Tasmania this week.

Media contact: Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887