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How good management can help fend off bullying

How good management can help fend off bullying

Dr Kate Blackwood, Massey University

Training line managers to foster healthy work environments is part of an investment in culture change needed to prevent bullying in the nursing profession, Senior Lecturer Dr Kate Blackwood of New Zealand’s Massey University says.

Dr Blackwood completed a PhD on workplace bullying in the New Zealand nursing profession, interviewing 34 nurses who had been the targets of bullying. For her latest research, she interviewed 30 nurses and nurse leaders to develop a framework of management competencies for responding to bullying and developing healthy nursing workplaces.

The 10 competencies for managers wanting to foster healthy workplaces are:

  1. Availability – having an ‘open door’ policy and making time for staff
  2. Being trustworthy – acting with integrity and honesty
  3. Communication – setting clear expectations of behavior and giving constructive feedback and praise
  4. Consistency – fair and equal treatment of staff, regardless of hierarchy
  5. Confidence and resilience – confidence to challenge norms and processes and protect staff from external pressures
  6. Dealing with work problems – taking staff concerns seriously and organizing work
  7. Empowering staff – providing opportunity for growth and development and allowing staff autonomy
  8. Fostering team cohesion – creating opportunities for team building and being part of the team
  9. Individual consideration – showing compassion and empathy; genuine care
  10. Reflection – being able to admit fault and understand own limits.

Some of these management competencies were also useful in managing bullying, Dr Blackwood found. However, to deal with bullying, line managers also need an understanding of what bullying is and training in ‘low-level managerial interventions’ – coaching and mediation.

Bullying is rarely resolved once it becomes entrenched, Dr Blackwood said. Of nurses Dr Blackwood interviewed who had been bullied, only one felt the case was resolved successfully. Dr Blackwood recommends early solution-focused approaches to managing bullying and a systemic approach to prevention.

At present, new nurses are socialized into adopting unhealthy work cultures, Dr Blackwood said.

‘I’m paraphrasing but one nurse said you go through and earn your stripes and that earns you the right to go on and do it to the next person.

‘It requires culture change and there is no one thing that’s going to stop this and the management competencies I’m talking about are part of a much bigger puzzle.’

Dr Blackwood is a keynote speaker at the four-hour ANMF (Vic Branch) Psychological Hazards in Healthcare Conference to be held online on 14 August, 9am to 1pm. The conference will also include presentations on vicarious trauma and creating a climate of psychosocial safety.

Register for the conference.