Managing Bullying in Swedish Workplace Settings: A Concealed and Only Partially Acknowledged Problem

J Nurs Manag. 2019 Mar;27(2):339-346. doi: 10.1111/jonm.12668. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Aim: The purpose of this article was to explore workplace routines and strategies for preventing and managing bullying in the context of health and elderly care.

Background: Bullying is a serious problem in workplaces with consequences for the individual, the organisation and the quality of care.

Method: Open-ended interviews were conducted with 12 participants, including managers and specialists within one hospital and three municipalities. The interviews were analysed with qualitative content analysis.

Results: Bullying was often concealed, due to avoidance, unclear definition and lack of direct strategies against bullying. No preventative work focusing on bullying existed. Psychosocial issues were not prioritized at workplace meetings. The supervisor had the formal responsibility to identify, manage and solve the bullying problem. The most common decision to solve the problem was to split the group.

Conclusions: The findings showed that bullying was a concealed problem and was first acknowledged when the problem was acute.

Implications for nursing management: Crucial strategies to prevent and combat bullying consist of acknowledgement of the problem, transformational leadership, prioritization of psycho-social issues, support of a humanistic value system and work through bullying problems to achieve long-term changes.

Keywords: management; preventative work; solutions; workplace bullying.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bullying / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Personnel / standards
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care / standards
  • Sweden
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Workplace / standards*