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Nurses' responses to workplace verbal abuse: A scenario study of the impact of situational and individual factors

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 20:55 authored by Angela MartinAngela Martin, Gray, C, Andrea AdamAndrea Adam
Verbal abuse in the workplace represents a costly problem for human resource management, with implications for staff productivity and retention. Nurses are a profession exposed to extremely high levels of verbal abuse, particularly from patients, but also from colleagues, making these abusive behaviours, and reactions to them, of vital significance to hospital personnel management professionals. The present study investigated the extent to which responses to verbal abuse scenarios varied as a function of the role and gender of the perpetrator, the situation in which the verbal abuse occurred, and the participant’s level of assertiveness, with a view to establishing key contributors for management attention. Participants were 62 female registered nurses. Results showed evidence of variation in cognitive, affective and behavioural attitudes toward the verbal abuse described, particularly as a function of situation. In particular, verbal abuse was reported to be more frequent, considered less acceptable and elicited more affective arousal in non emergency than in emergency situations. These findings were consistent with predictions that were based on attribution theory. Responses to verbal abuse also varied in relation to the nurse’s assertiveness, which is a finding suggesting that assertiveness training is a potential strategy for protecting employees against the effects of verbal abuse. This study has important implications for managers in hospitals, and indeed, other organisational settings in that dealing with verbal abuse requires cognisance of the need for the implementation of both organisational and individual levels of intervention, within a framework that acknowledges the complexity of responses to verbal abuse in the workplace.


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Research and Practice in Human Resource Management










Curtain University

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