Research: What can we do to prevent bullying? (Workplaces)

A selection of New Zealand and international research on the prevention of workplace bullying.

Preventing and responding to bullying at work: For persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs)

(2017, March). Wellington: WorkSafe.

These guidelines are an update to the 2014 guidelines Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying. The update was initiated due to the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). External feedback (such as the research commissioned by the Healthy Work Group at Massey University and the New Zealand Work Research Institute at AUT University, and the feedback sought during targeted consultation) was used to inform the changes.

Workplace bullying complaints: Lessons for “good HR practice"

Catley, B., Blackwood, K., & Forsyth, D. (2017). Personnel Review, 46(1), 100-114.

This paper draws on a novel data source to provide a holistic model of the complaint management process related to workplace bullying which details the various components and challenges related to HRP throughout the process. Alongside advancing theory, this research has practical value for improving HR practice.

Harden up and face reality: Exploring underlying bullying beliefs in New Zealand

Balanovic, J., Stuart, J., & Jeffrey, J. (2018, online 2016, August). Journal of School Violence, 17(1), 46-57.

A growing body of research illustrating the detrimental consequences of bullying has led to many anti-bullying interventions being developed. Despite good intentions, evidence suggests that such programs vary considerably in their efficacy. The current study examines the social discourse around bullying in the New Zealand environment in order to see whether underlying beliefs may undermine or influence approaches to mitigate bullying.

Workplace bullying 

Darby, F. & Scott-Howman, A. (2016). Thomson Reuters.

Bullying is a major, but often unacknowledged problem in New Zealand’s workplaces. However, recent developments in employment and health and safety law make it a problem that no one in the workplace can afford to ignore. This book deals with bullying in New Zealand’s workplaces in a way that is both educational and practical.

Bullying prevention and mental wellbeing

This Mental Health Foundation paper highlights the importance of positive relationships to mental wellbeing and explores evidence‐based approaches which work towards reducing bullying, creating respectful behaviours and increasing our ability to flourish.

This thesis looks at interventions for workplace bullying in the NZ nursing profession. The thesis explores barriers to intervention efficacy and the need for new approaches. 

Managing workplace bullying experiences in nursing: The impact of the work environment. 

Blackwood, K., Bentley, T., Catley, B., & Edwards, M. (2017). Public Money & Management,37(5), 349–356. 

To progress our understanding of good practice in the management of workplace bullying, the authors explored the influence of work environment factors on bullying intervention. Analysis of focus group data from public hospitals in New Zealand revealed factors at multiple levels in the work environment system that influenced intervention. Many of these factors have previously been identified as antecedents to bullying, suggesting that the work environment hypothesis can also be applied to the management of workplace bullying experiences. 

Understanding management competencies for managing bullying and fostering healthy work in nursing.

Blackwood, K., D’Souza, N., & Sun, J. (2019). Massey University. Healthy Work Group. 

This report looks at bullying in nursing in New Zealand. It explores management competencies necessary for fostering a healthy workplace and for managing bullying. The conclusion includes recommendations for practice and for further research. 

Managing workplace bullying in New Zealand: Perspectives from occupational health and safety practitioners. 

Catley, B., Bentley, T., Forsyth, D., Cooper-Thomas, H., Gardner, D., O’Driscoll, M., & Trenberth, L. (2013). Journal of Management & Organization, 19(5), 598–612.  

Research into workplace bullying has only recently begun to investigate preventative measures. This paper continues that emphasis by examining the management of bullying in a sample of New Zealand organisations. In this study, the survey results from 252 occupational health and safety practitioners were analysed to examine how bullying is understood and managed, along with factors that predict preventative efforts. Results indicate that bullying was perceived to impact significantly on organisations, although the organisations had limited preventative measures in place. The findings confirm the importance of leadership and the establishment of an effective bully-free environment as preventative measures. 

Neutralizing workplace bullying: The buffering effects of contextual factors.

Cooper‐Thomas, H., Gardner, D., O’Driscoll, M., Catley, B., Bentley, T., & Trenberth, L. (2013). Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28(4), 384–407.  

The purpose of this paper is to examine the direct and buffering effects of three workplace contextual factors – constructive leadership, perceived organisational support, and organisational anti‐bullying initiatives – on bullying and its relationships with relevant criteria. Further, the paper aims to investigate the effectiveness of organisational initiatives against bullying as perceived by targets and non‐targets. This paper makes an original contribution in providing evidence of the importance of three contextual factors, and of buffering effects for perceived organisational support and organisational initiatives against bullying. 

This thesis seeks to explore current workplace bullying prevention and management interventions within the New Zealand Public Service. 

Artful interventions for workplace bullying: Exploring forum theatre. 

Edwards, M., & Blackwood, K. M. (2017). Journal of Workplace Learning,29(1), 37–48.  

This paper aims to explore the phenomenon of workplace bullying in response to recent calls for the development of different approaches and provide an exploration of artful approaches to intervention. 

Interventions for prevention of bullying in the workplace. 

Gillen, P. A., Sinclair, M., Kernohan, W. G., Begley, C. M., & Luyben, A. G. (2017). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 

Bullying has been identified as one of the leading workplace stressors, with adverse consequences for the individual employee, groups of employees, and whole organisations. Employees who have been bullied have lower levels of job satisfaction, higher levels of anxiety and depression, and are more likely to leave their place of work. Organisations face increased risk of skill depletion and absenteeism, leading to loss of profit, potential legal fees, and tribunal cases. It is unclear to what extent these risks can be addressed through interventions to prevent bullying. This paper found there is very low quality evidence that organisational and individual interventions may prevent bullying behaviours in the workplace. We need large well-designed controlled trials of bullying prevention interventions operating on the levels of society/policy, organisation/employer, job/task and individual/job interface.

This study aimed to explore the potential for emotionally intelligent leadership as a way to mitigate bullying behaviour within nursing workplace environments. 

This Mental Health Foundation paper highlights the importance of positive relationships to mental wellbeing and explores evidence‐based approaches which work towards reducing bullying, creating respectful behaviours and increasing our ability to flourish. 

Interventions in workplace bullying: A multi-level approach. 

Saam, N. J. (2010). European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 19(1), 51–75. 

This article investigates intervention strategies in workplace bullying which have so far received little attention from researchers. Until now, the focus has been on approaches to classifying intervention strategies, the appropriateness of mediation as an intervention strategy and ways different organisations respond to workplace bullying. 

“Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!”