Original Research

Buridan’s ass syndrome: Dilemma of the human resources practitioner in workplace bullying

Manasseh Mokgolo, Antoni Barnard
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 17 | a1124 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v17i0.1124 | © 2019 Manasseh Mokgolo, Antoni Barnard | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 October 2018 | Published: 24 June 2019

About the author(s)

Manasseh Mokgolo, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Antoni Barnard, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Share this article

Bookmark and Share


Orientation: Worldwide, bullying in the workplace is recognised as a sensitive and psychologically destructive issue. It has a detrimental effect on employee well-being, organisations’ productivity and employee relations. As a vital link between different constituencies in the organisation, human resource practitioners struggle in their attempts to address and manage workplace bullying.

Research purpose: The aim of this article was to describe the challenges that human resource practitioners face when being tasked with addressing workplace bullying.

Motivation for the study: Concern about human resource practitioners’ capacity to manage situations of workplace bullying requires a better understanding of their role in and perspective of the bullying phenomenon.

Research approach/design and method: A constructivist, grounded theory research design was used to explore the perspectives of nine human resource practitioners on workplace bullying. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews to gain insight into and understanding of their experiences of bullying in the workplace.

Main findings: Paradoxical role demands, lack of decision-making power and their perceived lack of support from policy and management disable the human resource practitioners’ functionality in addressing workplace bullying.

Practical/managerial implications: The study identifies dilemmas that human resource practitioners face, impeding their capacity to address workplace bullying effectively. Findings highlight the practical value of empowering such practitioners in the role they play in dealing with workplace bullying situations.

Contribution/value-add: The present study contributes to the limited body of knowledge on human resource practitioners’ perspectives on workplace bullying within the South African context.


workplace bullying; counterproductive work behaviour; human resource practitioner; critical realism; constructivist grounded theory; theoretical sampling; Buridan’s ass


Total abstract views: 1053
Total article views: 1259

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.