Nurse bullying: organizational considerations in the maintenance and perpetration of health care bullying cultures

J Nurs Manag. 2006 Jan;14(1):52-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2934.2005.00535.x.


Aim: To examine bullying within nursing from a micro-sociological perspective and elucidate interactive mechanisms contributing to its causes and continuation within the nursing profession.

Background: The paper is part of a doctoral research study into bullying within nursing. It considers issues pertinent to management, and in the role of negotiated interactions within the National Health Service when dealing with bullying problems. The complex dynamics involved can be problematic for management when dealing with bullying, while often managers have been targets of bullying themselves and not infrequently accused of it. Features of bullying activity are explored, along with issues of target and bully awareness, a central feature in bullying negotiations. Issues of awareness and emergence of bullying behaviour have been identified through vignettes and unstructured interviews, and the research has identified complex interactive events in the creation and maintenance of nurse bullying activity. It is hoped that with a clearer understanding of such mechanisms and manifestations that bullying in the workplace can be reduced or eliminated. The paper is of practical use to nurse managers in illuminating such mechanisms and bringing bullying awareness to the fore. Such activity is ultimately damaging to the organization in both cost and time; and significant for professional practice by its impact upon the nurse and their work in supportive and safe environments. It will also to allow managers to consider their own practice and reactions to bullying activity within the profession.

Conclusions: The overall findings from the research point strongly to bullying activity being essentially 'learned behaviour' within the workplace rather than any predominantly psychological deficit within individual perpetrators and targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Occupational Health
  • Organizational Culture
  • Social Behavior
  • State Medicine / organization & administration
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • United Kingdom
  • Workplace