Harassment in the workplace has received considerable attention from scholars, employers, unions, and legislators because of its debilitating effects on employees and workplaces. Despite a proliferation of workplace interventions to address harassment, there is minimal research identifying, testing and refining the theories accounting for how and why particular interventions work, for whom and under what circumstances.  The series of studies respond to this gap.

The overarching objective of the studies is to evaluate harassment interventions using Critical Realist Evaluation techniques.


Theoretical Foundation   

The project relies on Habermas’ theory of social transformation to directs attention to workplace harassment as harmful consequences of steering crises of the economic and administrative action spheres of the system. These theoretical advances in explaining harassment are derived from our previous operationalization of Habermasian theory in the context of workplaces and work teams found in the following:

Elizabeth Quinlan & Susan Robertson. 2010.  Modeling dimensions of ‘the social’ in knowledge teams: An operationalization of Habermas’s theory of communicative action.  Sociological Research Online, 15 (3): 11. IF 0.619

Elizabeth Quinlan & Susan Robertson. 2010.  Mutual Understanding within Multi-Disciplinary Primary Health Care Teams.  The Journal of Inter-Professional Care, 24 (5): 565-578.


Critical Realist Evaluation (CRE) Methodology

CRE is a theory-driven approach to evaluating complex social interventions, with the aim of producing mid-range theories—theories that remain close to the empirical phenomenon but allow for generalizations. CRE asks the following questions: “what works, how, for whom, in what circumstances and to what extent?”  CRE works incrementally by testing theory empirically and through rigorous review of previously conducted interventions to reveal how and why interventions are effective (or not). To initiate the development, testing and refinement of mid-range theory on how harassment interventions work, for whom, and under what circumstances, a synthesis of relevant literature was conducted. The review and synthesis methods are explained in the following:

Tracey Carr, Elizabeth Quinlan, Susan Robertson, & Angie Gerrard. 2017. Adapting realist synthesis methodology: The case of workplace harassment interventions.  Research Synthesis Methods, 8 (4).  496-505.

Figure 1 – Conceptual Platform – Harassment Interventions

Explanatory Accounts Table

Consolidated Accounts Table