Podcast: Are there ways in which workplace bullying can be prevented?

The Cochrane Work Group prepares reviews of a wide variety of topics related to ways in which workers’ health and safety, and wellbeing could be improved. These were added to in January 2017 with a review of interventions intended to prevent bullying in the workplace. The lead author, Patricia Gillen from Ulster University in Northern Ireland tells us what they found in this podcast.

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John: Hello, I'm John Hilton, editor of the Cochrane Editorial unit. The Cochrane Work Group prepares reviews of a wide variety of topics related to ways in which workers’ health and safety, and wellbeing could be improved. These were added to in January 2017 with a review of interventions intended to prevent bullying in the workplace. The lead author, Patricia Gillen from Ulster University in Northern Ireland tells us what they found in this podcast.

Patricia: Workplace bullying is a leading cause of workplace stress, and has adverse consequences not only for the individual who is bullied but also for their colleagues and the organisation they work for. Bullying can lead to lower levels of job satisfaction, anxiety and depression resulting in skill depletion and absenteeism.
In our Cochrane Review, we explored the effects of interventions intended to prevent bullying in the workplace, and found very low quality evidence that organisational and individual interventions may be effective.
Alongside the main outcome of a reduction in the incidence of bullying, we looked at other outcomes such as stress, depression, absenteeism or sick leave.
We included one cluster randomised trial and four Controlled Before and After studies. The studies were done in Australia, Canada and the US, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Altogether, the five included studies had recruited more than 4100 employees. We classified two interventions as organisational-level attempts to change workplace culture. There were also two individual-level interventions testing an expressive writing intervention and a cognitive behavioural Intervention and one multi-level, educational Intervention.
In summary, bullying in the workplace is a major problem and efforts aiming to prevent it need to be underpinned by higher quality evidence. Although the currently available research is of very low quality, there is some evidence that bullying in the workplace is preventable. However, what is required now are large well-designed controlled trials of bullying prevention interventions that use validated and reliable outcome measures of bullying and have a minimum of 6 months follow-up.

John: If you would like to read more about the current studies, and watch out for updates of this review should the research gaps be filled, you can find the full review at the Cochrane Library dot com, with a simple search for 'workplace bullying'.

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