Project: Destructive Interpersonal Conflict in the workplace: The effectiveness of Management Interventions


This project was submitted on 04/06/2014 and published by British Occupational Health Research Foundation

Workplace bullying has been increasingly acknowledged as a major concern to British employers and their workers, with implications for individuals as well as organisations. Whilst most studies to date have focused on the prevalence of the phenomena and its consequences, very few have looked at remedial action. To address this imbalance, an intervention study was carried out in five British public sector organisations. Sponsored by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation (BOHRF) the aim of the study was two-fold: 1) to devise and test the appropriateness as well as effectiveness of a risk assessment tool, and 2) to develop, implement and evaluate three different bullying intervention programmes. These programmes focussed on training in three different areas: policy communication, stress management and negative behaviour awareness.
With regard to study method, a randomised control design was deemed necessary to enable the researchers to make any degree of inference with regard to causal relationships, with the same interventions carried out in various combinations in all five organisations. Pre and post intervention data were obtained by means of a questionnaire comprising of a variety of instruments to measure negative behaviour and experiences and consequences of bullying. This was supplemented with data from postintervention
focus groups and information from the trainer as well as training
participants. In line with the study’s aims, the questionnaire survey also contained an instrument to measure potential risk-factors of bullying – the Bullying Risk Assessment Tool (BRAT). Informed by focus group findings as well as expert opinion and a literature review, the refined version of the BRAT has a factor structure made up of five factors: organisational fairness, teamconflict, role conflict, workload and leadership. A validation study confirmed the validity of the instrument with all five factors emerging as predictors of negative behaviour and self-labelled bullying.

Pre-intervention base-line measures were based on a sample of 1,041 respondents, a response-rate of 41.5%. The pre-intervention questionnaire study confirmed that bullying is a problem in public sector organisations in the UK with 13.6% of respondents stating that they have been bullied within the last six months, compared with a national average of 10.6% obtained from a previous BOHRF sponsored nationwide study (Hoel & Cooper, 2000).The level of bullying in the current study varied between organisations, with the lowest at 10.8% and highest at 16.6%. An analysis of the data highlights a strong association between bullying and mental health and intention to quit, thus confirming that bullying appears to have individual as well as organisational implications. A total of 61% of perpetrators were reported to be managers or supervisors whilst colleagues were considered to be the culprits in 42% of incidents.

The main stress management and negative behaviour awareness
interventions were delivered by a professional trainer as three-hour trainingsessions, whilst the policy communication was carried out over a thirty-minute session. The training programme was implemented in all five organisations over a six month period and involved approximately 150 participants in total.
Feedback contained in 193 training evaluation forms (participants on the fullday training programme were required to evaluate the morning and afternoon sessions separately), suggests that the training was well received, with a substantial number of participants considering the sessions very interesting as well as relevant. With regard to the trainer’s own end-of-training session comments, it was emphasised that sufficient time was needed in order to establish a climate in which constructive group dynamics and learning could take place.

Human factors & behavioural safety, Other, Violence
Agriculture, Aviation and Aerospace, Chemical, Construction, Education, Engineering, Entertainment and Leisure, Environmental and Waste management, Finance, Fire, Food and Drink, Healthcare, Local Authorities, Manufacturing, Media, Nuclear, Offices, Offshore, Other, Public Sector, Quarrying / Mining, Railway, Retail, Telecommunications, Transport

Organisation: British Occupational Health Research Foundation

42 The Croft,
High Barnet,

Principal Investigator: Helge Hoel & Sabir I. Giga

Other Researchers: Brian Faragher

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