Bullying in the workplace : a study of Australian nurses

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Hutchinson, M 2007, 'Bullying in the workplace : a study of Australian nurses', PhD thesis University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, NSW.


Over recent decades, there has been growing recognition that workplace bullying is a pervasive and harmful feature of modern workplaces. In the Australian nursing context, bullying is reported as a common form of aggression. While acknowledged as a concerning issue, there is little substantive data on the meaning of bullying or how it affects the private or professional lives of Australian nurses. The aim of this study was to address this gap by investigating the nature, extent and consequences of bullying in the Australian nursing workplace. A three-stage sequential mixed method design was adopted for the study. The first stage involved in-depth, semi-structured, qualitative interviews with 26 nurses with experience of workplace bullying. Content analysis of the interview transcripts using the NVivo software program identified four major categories, and a number of minor categories and sub-categories. These categories formed the basis of a survey instrument developed for use in the second stage of the study. The second stage of the study established the validity, reliability and factor structure of the newly developed instrument. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software identified seven coherent latent factors, which underpinned the experience, consequences, and organisational features associated with workplace bullying. The EFA identified reliable measures of the seven latent factors and two scales were refined entitled the Bullying Acts and Consequences Scale and the Organisational Processes Scale. The third stage of the study employed the survey instrument validated in the previous stage of the study with a cross-sectional randomised sample of the Australian nursing workforce. Analysis of the survey data identified that bullying occurred across all sectors of the nursing workforce, with no correlations between experiencing bullying and demographic and employment characteristics. In addition to describing the nature, extent and consequences of bullying, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was used on the data from the national survey to further refine the scales developed in the previous stage of the study. These two scales were refined into one multidimensional scale entitled the Organisational Predictors and Consequences of Bullying Scale (OPCBS). The final step in the analysis of the national survey data involved structural equation modeling (SEM) using the AMOS software program. The modeling established that the four organisational factors measured in the study were associated with bullying and the measured consequences. The significant contributions of this study include the finding that organisational features rather than individual characteristics influence the experience of bullying in the nursing workplace, and the development of valid and reliable measures of bullying behaviours, associated organisational features and the consequences of bullying.