Workplace bullying and harassment in the healthcare industry: M3 Pulse

Workplace bullying and harassment has been acknowledged as a global health issue and identified as one of the major challenges for occupational health and safety, jeopardizing employee’s wellbeing, mental health, and work performance.

Even though workplace hostility in the healthcare sector, harassment, assaults, and verbal violence have been recognized as a major global issue, statistics show that incidents rates are on the rise. The 2021 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey Report , revealed that 66% are aware that workplace bullying happens and 49% of adult Americans are affected by bullying, either as a witness or a victim of bullying. The study suggests that 79.3 million workers in America have been affected by bullying 

The M3 Pulse survey conducted in August 2021 by M3 Global Research display similar trends, where 65% of over 8,000 global respondents reported that they have experienced or witnessed bullying, undermining or harassment at work in the healthcare sector 

The definition of workplace bullying is described by US Workplace Bullying Institute as a “non-physical form of workplace violence” and “repeated mistreatment and a form of abusive conduct”.  Some behaviours may include:  

  • Gossiping 
  • Negative criticism 
  • Passive-aggressive behaviors 
  • Intimidation 
  • Microaggressions 
  • Power plays 
  • Incivility 
  • Exclusion and ostracism 
  • Offensive or degrading jokes 
  • Cyberbullying 

What is the difference between bullying and harassment?

The Equality Act 2010 defined workplace harassment as: 

´Unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.’  

Protected characteristics include: 

  • Age 
  • Disability 
  • Gender reassignment 
  • Race 
  • Religion or belief 
  • Sex 
  • Sexual orientation. 

This definition of harassment may include behaviours of different types of bullying. In general and legal terms however, harassment is a broader expression and often viewed as more serious as it may also include discrimination, physical violence, and sexual abuse. Bullying is often referred to as verbal abuse and viewed as less invasive.   

In other words, workplace bullying can be defined a mistreatment by a verbal behaviour that hurts or frightens someone. While harassment at work is any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, humiliated, or offended, which may include discrimination and physically violence 

Learn more about Workplace Violence Against Healthcare Workers. 

Workplace bullying and harassment Insights from 8,000+ M3 Members working as healthcare providers

Compared to the statistics in USA as showed above, around one in five physicians in the UK’s NHS say they have been bullied or harassed in the workplace, with the British Orthopaedic Trainee Association (BOTA) reporting that 73% trainees had witnessed bullying, undermining or harassment at work. Most incidents go unreported, often because staff are afraid to raise concerns, or they believe nothing will happen. Hence, this situation seems to be a common issue worldwide. 

Our internal M3 Pulse survey results from 8,686 healthcare professionals in Europe, USA and Canada supports these staggering numbers. The question we delivered to our medical community in August was the following: 


Have you ever experienced or witnessed bullying, undermining or harassment at work? 

workplace bullying
Results in the United States, Canada and Europe

In Europe, the survey was conducted amongst 5,016 M3 members in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Out of these respondents, 65% of the healthcare professional experienced or witnessed bullying, undermining and harassment at work. Bulling and harassment were most prevalent in UK and France at 78% and 73% respectively. Italy had the lowest incidence rate of 46%.  

Harassment in the healthcare sector
Europe - Cross-Country analysis results

The cross-continental analysis shows that 73% of healthcare professionals surveyed in USA reported experienced or witnessed bulling, undermining or harassment at work. Canada had the highest incidence rate at 85%, while Europe had the lowest at 65%. 

Impacts of workplace bullying and harassment at work in the healthcare sector

The rising statistics of reported and unreported incidents of mistreatments and abusive conducts in the workplace is alarming, considering how it impacts employee’s wellbeing and work performance. In the healthcare sector, this is even more concerning due to the negative effects it can have on the quality of care when treating patients.   

Research shows that workplace bullying impacts employee’s life and job satisfaction by the negative effects it has on an individual’s mental health and overall quality of life. The psychological distress bullying causes can lead to job-related anxiety, insomnia, and emotional exhaustion. Adding these stress factors on top of physicians and healthcare providers demanding work environment and professional obligations, puts them at higher risk of burnout, depression, and mental illnesses 

Learn more about Work-related stress and job satisfaction in healthcare 

As mentioned in Frontiers in Psychology research article 2019, “Workplace bullying is one of the most stressful and devastating emotional experience for an individual at the workplace and causes serious mental strain on an individual”. Consequently, any type of hostility, mistreatment, or harassment at work that cause mental and psychological stress can lead to adverse behavioural outcomes such as reduced job satisfaction and job performance, thus affecting healthcare workers ability to fully concentrate on their job tasks and patients. Workplace bullying and harassment in the healthcare sector is a serious issue because it is not only harmful for healthcare providers wellbeing but may create a ripple effect that also impact patient outcomes.   


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  1. Bullying is defined as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person to whom it is directed.Bullying must be fought

  2. Women have been there, I worked very hard at a mans job to take care of 3 children, I’ve been verbally abuse and pysh abuse , and took it so I could keep my job , nothing says nothing when you get on a jet way at 330 in the morning and being attached by some one you trusted .

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