Integrating an action program in daily practice to stop and prevent bullying
Background & Context: Bullying is a public health problem that negatively affects health at workplaces. In the public sectors, including health care, it is more common with bullying problems compared to other sectors. Earlier research has primarily focused on incidence, prevalence, risk factors and relationships between bullying and ill-health. To a much lesser degree, research has focused on prevention. The aim of this study was to develop and implement an intervention to stop and prevent bullying at workplaces in collaboration with employees.
This intervention study is integrated in a larger research project. Based on results from questionnaires targeting bullying, three workplaces in the healthcare sector were invited to participate. After approval from superiors, employees were invited to participate in focus-groups (FG), resulting in groups of 6-8 participants at one psychiatric ward in a county council, and two elderly care wards in respective municipalities. FG interviews were conducted twice; the first interview captured views on bullying, the second interview prepared for and developed the intervention. No superior participated in the first interview in order to have employees feel free expressing their views. Instead the department head was interviewed individually. The second included both employees and department heads. The FG interviews were analysed according to Grounded Theory.
Findings: The first interview revealed that the employees had insufficient knowledge about bullying and how to manage it. The second FG demonstrated that there were insufficient opportunities for reflections about bullying problems. Employees also expressed that they did not feel recognized and valued by superiors in higher levels of the organization.
Given this, the researchers have, as part of the intervention, held half-day lectures on the phenomena of bullying, conflict management, communication and shame. The intervention also contained discussions in small groups focused around game-cards that were specifically designed to initiate discussions about specific situations where bullying may occur and how one may prevent or manage this.
In the FGs, it was furthermore suggested to write a contract that ensured that everyone treats each other with tolerance and respect at the workplace. Both interviews revealed that managers play key roles in preventing workplace bullying. Appropriate leadership creates safety at the work-places, whereas inappropriate leadership creates fear.
Building on these findings from the FGs, next steps include plan of action, targeting e.g., compulsory, continuing discussions concerning bullying improved contact with the superior level and a workplace contract of mutual respect.
Suggestions for the action plan will be discussed in one additional FG, upon which the plan will be introduced to the directors of the workplaces for their support.
In summary the results of the findings are a developed intervention/action program consisting of lectures, game card-discussions and an action plan in collaboration with employees and managers.
Implications for practice, training and organization:
Systematic longitudinal workplace interventions is one way of shouldering the responsibility of tackling bullying in workplaces, highlighting this often hidden problem.
3 learning objectives:
- Bullying in the workplace is prevalent, and yet not acknowledged
- Managers play key roles in preventing workplace bullying
- Leadership can contribute to safety as well as fear in the workplace
3rd International Conference on Violence in the Health Care Sector, Vancouver, Canada, October