Graduate Health Management Trainees’ Perceptions of Workplace Bullying Behaviours: An Australian Perspective

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Workplace bullying is a significant issue in healthcare and unprofessional behaviour is widespread in the Australian healthcare system. The purpose of this thesis is to understand workplace bullying from the perspective of graduate health management trainees (GHMTs) undertaking a two-year training program that includes work placements in healthcare settings. There is sparse literature on perceptions of workplace bullying among GHMTs in Australia. This study aims to address this gap by specifically exploring this phenomenon. Addressing and researching this gap in the literature is important, as GHMTs have a future role in influencing systemic change, policies, education and practice. As their careers advance, GHMTs will also be key decision-makers and be expected to promote a positive and cooperative workplace culture. The study was conducted in two phases. Phase one used qualitative methods with focus groups and individual interviews with participants to answer the research questions. Respondent validation interviews were also undertaken to ensure the validity of the findings. Phase two used both quantitative and qualitative methods with an international expert reference group to provide feedback and comment on a provisional anti-bullying learning framework developed specifically for this study as a result of the findings from phase one. Two overarching domains emerged from the findings in phase one: (1) perceptions of workplace bullying; and (2) strategies for dealing with workplace bullying. Five themes are identified under the domain perceptions of workplace bullying: (1) level of awareness of workplace bullying; (2) behaviours that constitute workplace bullying; (3) causes of workplace bullying; (4) consequences of workplace bullying; and (5) the nature of workplace bullying. Four themes are identified under the domain strategies for dealing with workplace bullying: (1) dealing with workplace bullying; (2) positive relationships; (3) reporting of workplace bullying; and (4) training needs. Recommendations are proposed for future research and practice that may impact on health professionals and patient safety. Long-term, sustained change in healthcare settings for dealing with workplace bullying are evidenced through the development, implementation and evaluation of policies and procedures. The delivery of anti-bullying training and professional development for staff will also be a key metric in assessing the efficacy of systemic change within the healthcare profession. Findings from this study have substantive and methodological implications for researchers studying workplace bullying in healthcare settings.
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