Intellectual activism and action research—a case study on workplace bullying


David Yamada, JD, PhD

This chapter is adapted from the December 2009 Doctoral dissertation by David Yamada: “Combating a hidden epidemic: Multidisciplinary responses to workplace bullying.” PhD Dissertation. Western Institute for Social Research. Berkeley, CA (Yamada, 2009). Dr. Yamada is currently a tenured Professor of Law and Director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School, where he is a globally recognized authority on workplace bullying and psychological abuse. He wrote the first comprehensive law review article on workplace bullying (Yamada, 2000), and his model legislation—known as the Healthy Workplace Bill has become the template for enacted and proposed workplace anti-bullying laws and ordinances in the U.S. (Yamada, 2013).

Introduction to a case study of an intellectual activist using action research in addressing the problem of workplace bullying

(Introductory section by John Bilorusky)

This chapter draws on the scholarship and action research done by David Yamada, JD, PhD, in conjunction with his WISR PhD dissertation in 2009. At that time, and since then, Dr. Yamada has viewed his research as an example of intellectual activism, as expressed in his work:

  • • addressing the growing problem of workplace bullying, mobbing and abuse, as frequently discussed in his popular blog, Minding the Workplace (;
  • • supporting the non-profit Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies network ( on whose Board of Directors he serves; and,
  • • building the non-profit International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence (, for which he served as founding Board chair.

This chapter, then, uses writing from Dr. Yamada’s dissertation to show how action research methods supported his studies and work as an intellectual activist committed to addressing both the consequences and causes of the growing problem of workplace bullying. The first part is Dr. Yamada’s discussion of his views and uses of action research, and the second part is his articulation of the role of intellectual activism in working for larger-scale, longer-term social change. Note that Dr. Yamada, in a somewhat autobiographical mode, shares with us the story of how his process of inquiry-and-action unfolded over time. This sort of tangible storytelling and transparent disclosure of how and why one gets to their insights and actions, are two key principles that have been emphasized throughout this book.

We’ll now learn, in the rest of this chapter, from what David Yamada has to say about action research, intellectual activism, and workplace bullying. First, by way of introduction, the following is the abstract of his 2009 dissertation:

This dissertation examines the phenomenon of workplace bullying and considers how we can fashion multidisciplinary preventive and responsive measures. It begins by describing and analyzing workplace bullying and the history of an emerging anti-bullying movement. It then discusses various institutional and individual responses, grounded in public education, organizational advocacy and change, and legal and public policy reform. It is the product of some ten years of the learner’s educational, scholarly, and advocacy work concerning workplace bullying. Accordingly, it closes by considering how the learner will continue to be involved in this work and build on it in ways that affirm human dignity at work and elsewhere. (Yamada, 2009a)

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