Too hot to handle? Trust and human resource practitioners' implementation of anti-bullying policy


Contact: Dr Susan Harrington, School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, Leicestershire LE1 7RH, UK. Email:


In this article, we examine the dynamics of trust in the triadic relationship between HR, employees and managers when dealing with allegations of workplace bullying. Previous research has shown employees to be dissatisfied with HR practitioners' responses to complaints of workplace bullying, and we explore the novel angle of the HR practitioners' perspective through semistructured interviews. Paralleling extant employee accounts, the findings suggest that HR practitioners rarely judge situations as bullying where a manager is accused. Trust between employee, manager and HR practitioner is essential for the successful resolution of bullying claims, yet this study suggests multiple directions of distrust. By virtue of their role alignment and previous experiences of handling bullying, HR practitioners were found to prioritise their relationships with managers, automatically distrusting employees' bullying claims. Despite also distrusting managers to effectively deliver HRM practices, it appears that bullying complaints are ‘too hot to handle’ for HR practitioners given the risks to their relationships with managers.