Teachers' experiences of workplace bullying and its effects on health : developing a multi–level intervention programme
Workplace bullying is recognised as a major psychosocial stressor in various professions and can have severe effects on health. Teachers are distinguished as an occupational group that is severely affected by this phenomenon. The general objectives of this research study were to firstly investigate teachers’ experiences of workplace bullying and its effects on health, and secondly, to develop a multi-level intervention programme that can be implemented to address workplace bullying and its effects on health in this context. This research study was conducted in two phases. The biopsychosocial model was applied as a theoretical foundation in the first phase. Participants were sampled by means of informative and educational articles that were placed online and in printed media. Selection criteria were applied to sample a group that was representative of victims of workplace bullying. Ultimately, twenty-seven teachers were included in this study. A qualitative, phenomenological research design was used to explore teachers’ experiences of workplace bullying and its effects on health. Data was specifically gathered by means of semi-structured interviews and personal documents. Semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded and data was transcribed verbatim. Methods of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis were applied to analyse and present the data. Findings were supported with verbatim quotes and a literature control. Teachers’ reports indicated that workplace bullying is mostly perpetrated by principals and that colleagues are often also involved in the process. Bullying behaviours were aimed at attacking the character, as well as the work of teachers. Organisational channels were often exploited to bully teachers. Certain behaviours were an infringement of teachers’ human and labour rights. Findings are also analogous to the theory and dynamics that is depicted by the biopsychosocial model. Escalating stress and trauma were reflected in teachers’ physical, psychological and social health. The experience of workplace bullying firstly impacted on their psychological health, which was also accompanied by various physical health problems. Major depressive episodes and/ or symptoms of depression were mostly reported. Some teachers also reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, complex-posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks. Teachers’ ill-health experiences further negatively impacted on their social and professional relationships. The school organisation is affected. The result is teachers with a lost passion for the profession, lowered work performance, increased absenteeism, and teachers’ intention to leave the profession. Findings finally indicated that certain personal and organisational characteristics facilitate and sustain workplace bullying. Relevant literature, field notes during the research process and findings in the first phase of this study guided the development of a multi-level intervention programme for the South African teaching profession. Strategic intervention activities were suggested to address some of the causes, as well as the physical, psychological and social health effects of workplace bullying. A strategic and methodological approach to multi-level intervention was also developed and proposed. Strategic intervention activities were ultimately suggested for the professional, social/ community, individual/ familial, dyadic, organisational, managerial, and work group level.
- Education