Hegemony and Moralistic Bullying in a Contested UK Public Sector

Anita Garvey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How is workplace bullying morally legitimised in a contested public sector? This article makes an original contribution to workplace bullying scholarship through its focus on ‘moralistic’ bullying. The United Kingdom (UK) public sector has undergone significant changes propelled by neoliberal marketisation over four decades, purportedly to enhance competitiveness, financial accountability, and efficiency. These reforms coincide with a reported increase in public sector workplace bullying. Inspired by Gramsci’s [Gramsci, A. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Translated by Q. Hoare, and G. N. Smith. London: Lawrence and Wishart. (Orig. pub. 1947.)] concept of hegemony, we adopt a neo-Gramscian analysis of ‘moralistic’ bullying in this context. Drawing from a study of 25 self-identifying bullied targets in UK public sector organisations, we illustrate how moralistic bullying is legitimised through organisational processes propelled by market rationalities and financial imperatives. Our contribution highlights how moralistic bullying is legitimised inconspicuously amidst hegemonic conditions of neoliberal marketisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalCulture and Organization
Early online date17 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2023

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