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Aggression in the workplace: A study of horizontal violence utilising Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology

Barbara Corney (University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




The aim of this paper is to highlight the problem of bullying within nursing.


A Heideggerian methodology was used to illuminate the phenomenon of bullying and answer the question, “How does it feel to be bullied?. Two nurses were interviewed in a “judgemental” sample. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed thematically. Results were then integrated into an “exhaustive” statement in an attempt to identify the fundamental structure of the phenomenon under investigation.


The results highlight the way in which nurses experienced and felt about bullying behaviour, which was fundamental to the structure of nursing itself. Despite the terrible repercussions, physical and psychological, victims remained unaware that they were being bullied until it was pointed out to them by another. The guilt feelings that seem to be inherent in nursing appeared to become magnified when nurses were being bullied, resulting in self‐blame and a lack of self‐esteem. Nurses were afraid to speak out and this extended into their home lives where feelings of shame and inadequacy prevented them from seeking support.

Research limitations/implications

The size of the study was small and therefore cannot be claimed as being representative.

Practical implications

The paper highlights the very real problem of bullying in nursing, which has resonance with the historical concept of nurses as an oppressed group. This has implications for the design of nurse education in the future.


The paper extends the understanding of the lived experience of being bullied and acts in a conscience‐raising manner, without which there can be no solution.



Corney, B. (2008), "Aggression in the workplace: A study of horizontal violence utilising Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenology", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 164-177.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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