Workplace harassment among staff in higher education: a systematic review

Abstract

Workplace harassment in higher education adversely impacts workforce productivity and has deleterious health effects on victims. The aim of this study was to review the literature pertaining to workplace harassment in higher education. This systematic literature search was conducted in December 2013 and completed in January 2014. Refereed journal publications from 1994 to 2013 inclusive were identified. The strategy was conducted on seven major databases. A total of 3278 articles were initially screened, and after review 51 refereed journal articles were included in the final analysis. A thematic analysis identified six themes: causation, types, employee roles, measurement, consequences and interventions. The published evidence, mainly from North America, suggests that workplace harassment is prevalent in higher education, such as gender harassment, workplace bullying, and mobbing. This review highlighted issues associated with: (1) confirming direct causation of harassment due to the high prevalence of correlational research in this area; (2) establishing and standardising measures of harassment that would have cross-cultural applicability and validity; (3) the demand for more comparative research to cater for the globally mobile workforce; (4) the requirement for greater monitoring and evaluation of the efficacy of policies and programmes purporting to be effective in dealing with harassment in the higher education workplace; and (5) the need for more contextually laden research to examine the unique nuances operating in countries, such as those in the Asia Pacific region, not well represented in the literature.

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Acknowledgements

This Project was supported by a Summer Studentship Stipend from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

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Correspondence to Marcus A. Henning.

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Table 2 MEDLINE search strategy illustrated

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Henning, M.A., Zhou, C., Adams, P. et al. Workplace harassment among staff in higher education: a systematic review. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 18, 521–539 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-017-9499-0

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Keywords

  • Workplace harassment
  • Higher education
  • Systematic review
  • Staff