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Caught in the middle: the managers who need extra help

Middle managers need additional training and resources to better deal with organisational change and bad behaviour in the workplace.

Middle managers are often pressured by those above them to handle workplace issues they simply aren’t prepared for, according to ECU’s Professor of Work and Performance Stephen Teo.

The result is that problems in the workplace – such as bullying and a resistance to change – are either avoided or poorly managed.

Professor Teo conducted an Australia‑wide survey of nurses, which found bullying to be a common problem.

But the results also found this negative behaviour was minimised in hospitals where line managers demonstrated ‘authentic leadership’ behaviours.

The study highlighted that 59 per cent of the 230 nurses surveyed had witnessed bullying in their workplace, while 48 per cent reported being a target.

Of these, 39 per cent experienced bullying now and then, while 12 per cent were affected several times each week.

The trickle-down effect

The study also considered the impact of incivility, which is negative behaviour that is subtler than workplace bullying.

Professor Teo says nurses who witnessed or experienced incivility were 52 per cent more likely to report psychological stress – an issue that can lead to health problems, increased turnover and poor productivity.

While workplace bullying is unlikely to disappear overnight, Professor Teo says investing in training and resources for middle managers will play a fundamental role in minimising the negative impacts of incivility and bullying.

Results from the study showed that in workplaces where line managers demonstrated authentic leadership, nurses’ perception of incivility was 37.5 per cent lower and led to reduced stress.

“There is a trickle-down effect of supervisors’ authentic leadership behaviours as employees model their ethical behaviours at work,” Professor Teo says.


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