Workplace bullying in healthcare: A qualitative analysis of bystander experiences

Neill Thompson, Madeline Carter, Paul Crampton, Bryan Burford, Gill Morrow, Jan Illing

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Abstract

Bystander action has been proposed as a promising intervention to tackle workplace bullying, however there is a lack of in-depth qualitative research on the direct experiences of bystanders. In this paper, we developed a more comprehensive definition of bullying bystanders, and examined first person accounts from healthcare professionals who had been bystanders to workplace bullying. These perspectives highlighted factors that influence the type and the extent of support bystanders may offer to targets. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 43 healthcare professionals who were working in the UK, of which 24 had directly witnessed bullying. The data were transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis. The analysis identified four themes that describe factors that influence the type and extent of support bystanders offer to targets of bullying: (a) the negative impact of witnessing bullying on bystanders, (b) perceptions of target responsibility, (c) fear of repercussions, and (d) bystander awareness. Our findings illustrate that, within the healthcare setting, bystanders face multiple barriers to offering support to targets and these factors need to be considered in the wider context of implementing bystander interventions in healthcare settings.

Bystander action has been proposed as a promising intervention to tackle workplace bullying, however there is a lack of in-depth qualitative research on the direct experiences of bystanders. In this paper, we developed a more comprehensive definition of bullying bystanders, and examined first person accounts from healthcare professionals who had been bystanders to workplace bullying. These perspectives highlighted factors that influence the type and the extent of support bystanders may offer to targets. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 43 healthcare professionals who were working in the UK, of which 24 had directly witnessed bullying. The data were transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis. The analysis identified four themes that describe factors that influence the type and extent of support bystanders offer to targets of bullying: (a) the negative impact of witnessing bullying on bystanders, (b) perceptions of target responsibility, (c) fear of repercussions, and (d) bystander awareness. Our findings illustrate that, within the healthcare setting, bystanders face multiple barriers to offering support to targets and these factors need to be considered in the wider context of implementing bystander interventions in healthcare settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Pages (from-to)3993-4028
Number of pages36
JournalThe Qualitative Report
Volume25
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2020

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