World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 40, Issue 11, pp 2560–2566 | Cite as

Workplace Bullying in Surgery

  • Mary Ling
  • Christopher J. Young
  • Heather L. Shepherd
  • Cindy Mak
  • Robyn P. M. Saw
Original Scientific Report



The aim of this study was to determine the extent and nature of workplace bullying among General Surgery trainees and consultants in Australia.

Design, setting and participants

An online questionnaire survey of General Surgery trainees and consultant surgeons in Australia was conducted between March and May 2012. Prevalence of bullying was measured using both a definition of workplace bullying and the revised Negative Acts Questionnaire (NAQ-R). Sources of bullying were also examined, as well as the barriers and outcomes of formal reporting of bullying.


The response rate was 34 % (370/1084) with 41 % (n = 152) of respondents being trainees. Overall, 47 % (n = 173) of respondents reported having been bullied to some degree and 68 % (n = 250) reported having witnessed bullying of surgical colleagues in the last 12 months. The prevalence of bullying was significantly higher in trainees and females, with 64 % of trainees and 57 % of females experiencing some degree of bullying. The majority of respondents (83 %) had experienced at least one negative behavior in the last 12 months, but 38 % experienced at least one negative behavior on a weekly or daily basis. The persistent negative behaviors that represent work-related bullying most commonly experienced were ‘having opinions ignored’ and ‘being exposed to an unmanageable workload.’ Consultant surgeons were the most common source of bullying for both trainees and consultants, with administration the next common source. Of those who reported being bullied, only 18 % (n = 32) made a formal complaint.


Despite increased awareness and interventions, workplace bullying remains a significant problem within General Surgery in Australia. The findings in this study serve as a baseline for future questionnaires to monitor the effectiveness of implemented anti-bullying interventions.


Sexual Harassment Negative Behavior Surgical Trainee Workplace Bully Consultant Surgeon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of Staale Einarsen from Bergen Bullying Research Group, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway, for provision of the NAQ-R survey.


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Ling
    • 1
  • Christopher J. Young
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Heather L. Shepherd
    • 2
    • 3
  • Cindy Mak
    • 1
  • Robyn P. M. Saw
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of SurgeryRoyal Prince Alfred HospitalCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Colorectal SurgeryRoyal Prince Alfred HospitalCamperdownAustralia
  3. 3.Surgical Outcomes Research Centre (SOuRCe), School of Public HealthUniversity of Sydney and Sydney Local Health NetworkSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Discipline of Surgery, Sydney Medical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Melanoma Institute AustraliaNorth SydneyAustralia

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