Understanding workplace bullying as an organisationally mediated behaviour - findings from a study of Australian nurses

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Hutchinson, M, Vickers, MH, Jackson, D & Wilkes, L 2008, 'Understanding workplace bullying as an organisationally mediated behaviour - findings from a study of Australian nurses', paper presented to Royal College of Nursing Australia Annual Conference and the 42nd Patricia Chomley Memorial Oration, Perth, WA, 25-27 September.


Australian and international studies have identified workplace bullying as a significant issue for the nursing profession. While bullying has been recognised as one of the most concerning forms of aggression experienced by nurses, there has been little progress made towards developing validated explanatory models. In the Australian nursing context, bullying continues to be described in terms of horizontal violence. In this presentation, the findings from a mixed methods study of Australian nurses will be used to outline an alternative framework for understanding workplace bullying - one which conceptualises bullying as an organisationally mediated behaviour. The framework was initially developed from in-depth interviews conducted with nurses who had experience of bullying. Analysis of the interview transcripts identified four organisational characteristics associated with bullying: misuse of legitimate authority, processes and procedures for the purpose of bullying; informal organisational alliances; organisational tolerance and reward of bullying, and the normalisation of bullying in work teams. In subsequent stages of the study, measures of these organisational characteristics, bullying behaviours and the resulting consequences were further refined and validated. Data collected from 370 nurse respondents will be used to demonstrate the nature, extent and consequences of bullying among Australian nurses and the relationship between organisational characteristics and the occurrence of bullying. The results presented will demonstrate a causal link between organisational characteristics and bullying. The findings from this study have important implications for interventions to address workplace bullying. Instead of a continued focus upon individual education, palliative remedies, and the development of policy, attention should be directed towards features of managerial and organisational culture that perpetuate and condone bullying behaviour. Abstracts (contninued)