Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Responsibility of a Frontline Manager regarding Staff Bullying

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Responsibility of a Frontline Manager regarding Staff Bullying

Article excerpt

Abstract

Canadian frontline nursing managers are observing an increase in the reporting of workplace bullying as more nurses become aware of their employers' legal obligations to provide employees with a respectful workplace, per the Canada Human Rights Code, Canada Labor Code, and Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. One problem with this reporting is that the victim's reports of bullying may become overshadowed by the bully's reports of victim incompetence, resulting in the victim experiencing further victimization. Bullies may report the victim (target) as inept, deficient in knowledge, or lacking ability. Fear of re-victimization plays a significant role in the victim's failure to report workplace bullying. It is important that managers focus on the bullying and not on the perceived character flaws described by the bully. The author begins by describing workplace bullying and reviewing the workplace bullying literature. She then presents and discusses a composite case study. To assist managers in discouraging bullying she shares supports for addressing bullying, specifically workplace policies, collective agreements, human resources departments, mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and arbitration, and concludes by reminding frontline managers of their important role in identifying bullying and understanding the victim's fears of further victimization.

Citation: Rocker, C, (September 24, 2012) "Responsibility of a Frontline Manager Regarding Staff Bullying" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 18 No. 2.

DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Voll7No03PPT02

Keywords: Bullying, mobbing, victimization, malign bullying, nonmalign bullying, traumatized nurses, unfair treatment, discrimination, mediation, arbitration

Bullying behaviors among nurses are finally gaining the notice of health care leaders who increasingly struggle to control high operating expenses, such as the rising costs of absenteeism, staff replacement, employee benefits, mediation, and arbitration, which can result from bullying behaviors. Leymann, already in 1990, suggested that when managers step in to address the bullying, they may have the tendency "to take over the prejudices of the victim's workmates. ..and those around regularly assume that the cause of the problem lies in the deviant personality of the victim" (p. 121-122). Others have described how the victims (targets) of bullying frequently become distressed when defending allegations made about them by the bully who publically describes them as inept, unsuitable, deficient in knowledge, and/or lacking ability (Hutchinson, et al. 2010: Rocker. 2008: Warren. 2011).

In these cases, the initial issue of bullying may become overshadowed by the negative descriptions the bully uses to talk about the victim. The bully may describe the victim as incompetent, lazy, or not a fit for the workplace. Skilled bullies usually have no difficulty seeking out support from others when describing the incompetence of their victim (Hutchinson, 2009: Rocker, 2008: Vickers, 2011).

The composite case study described below (developed based on my various leadership experiences in addressing bullying) illustrates the negative outcome that can occur when a frontline manager focuses on the character flaws of the victim (target) rather than on listening to the victim's present fears and concerns. In this article, which represents a Canadian perspective, I will begin by describing workplace bullying and reviewing the workplace bullying literature. Next, I will present and discuss a composite case study of bullying. To assist managers, I will share helpful supports for addressing bullying, specifically workplace policies, collective agreements, human resources departments, mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and arbitration. What is distinctive to Canada is the official acts that legally require the employer to protect the mental and physical health of employees from bullying and harassment (Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario, 2010). …

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