Workplace bullying among nurses working in tertiary hospitals in Enugu, southeast Nigeria: Implications for health workers and job performance

Ada C. Nwaneri, Amara C. Onoka, Chima A. Onoka


Background: Workplace bullying among nurses has been identified as a major contributor to poor attitude towards duties, and reduction in overall productivity. This study examined the occurrence and effects of behaviors that constitute workplace bullying among nurses in tertiary hospitals in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria.

Methods: Data were collected from 286 nurses working in 4 tertiary hospitals in Enugu State, Southeast, Nigeria, using a modified 22-item Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ) for measuring bullying behaviors in the workplace, and a 26-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)   for measuring the impact of bullying.

Results: The prevalence of workplace bullying among nurses working in tertiary hospitals in Enugu is reported to be high. Data provided by the respondents in relation to prevalence was greatly affected by poor knowledge of what constitutes workplace bullying among nurses. A total of 82.6% of the respondents reported that they have been victims of workplace bullying. Behaviors observed most (on daily basis) over the 6-month period preceding the study include gossiping (22.0%), backbiting (18.7%), excessive workload without supervision (17.3%), failure to respect privacy (13.1%), intimidation (12.6%), humiliating someone in front of others including patients (12.1%) and unfair allocation of job and postings (8.4%). The main perpetrators of workplace bullying were identified by 76% of the respondents as senior nurses overseeing hospital wards/units, 84.1% of the respondents also indicated that nurses in junior cadre were the main targets. Female nurses were identified as the main perpetrators and targets of workplace bullying among nurses by 93.9% and 92.1% of the respondents respectively. The reported impact of workplace bullying among nurses include anger (50.5%), an intention to travel abroad because of the feeling that the prevalence is less there (33.6%), anxiety (21.5%), frustration (16.8%) and strained social relationships amongst colleagues (11.2%).

Conclusions: Workplace bullying (mainly from senior nurses to junior ones) is highly prevalent and has significant impact on the health, job performance and retention rate of nurses working in tertiary hospitals in Enugu. Poor knowledge of what constitutes workplace bullying among nurses, relational aggression and female oppression have great implication in the prevalence, nature of bullying behaviors exhibited, characteristics of the perpetrators and the outcome of workplace bullying among the nurses. In order to reduce the prevalence of workplace bullying among nurses working in tertiary hospitals in Enugu, the nurses do not only require education on what constitutes workplace bullying, they also need adequate information about how to communicate respectfully with each other in the workplace. Nurse leaders and hospital administrators should also constitute disciplinary committees, encourage nurses to report the incidence of workplace bullying, punish perpetrators as well as protect those who report the cases from further attacks of bullying through establishment of policies to regulate interpersonal relationships among nurses.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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