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Workplace bullying in the voluntary sector: an application of routine activity theory

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posted on 26.03.2010, 14:32 by Shariffah R. Sheik Dawood
The aim of this study is to investigate the nature and prevalence of workplace bullying in the voluntary sector. Also, it attempts to expand the theoretical repertoire by applying RAT in examining the situational antecedents of workplace bullying in this sector. A cross-sectional, in-depth survey using method triangulation was applied. The findings are based on 178 completed questionnaires (response rate=71%) and 22 interviews, from members of 29 voluntary organisations in Leicestershire. A total of 15% of the respondents reported being bullied over the last one year and 28% in the last 5 years. Where comparable, the prevalence of bullying in the voluntary sector was found to be higher than among the NHS trusts, fire service, higher education, manufacturing and civil service sectors, while it is almost parallel to the police service and the post/telecommunications—the sectors which are considered to have high prevalence rates. Detrimental effects in terms of physical/psychological health, work performance, sick leave and personal life were evident. The independent sample t-test shows that the victims of workplace bullying in voluntary organisations reported the least experience of overt behaviour and personal harassment, and the most experience of work-related harassment. Logistic regression reveals only a partial support for a routine activities approach to workplace bullying. Consequently, an alternative situational framework, consisting of RAT and Social Interactionist Perspective, was proposed. Overall, the study identifies some pertinent situational factors, which need to be addressed in order to curb bullying in this sector: management commitment towards a zero-tolerance bullying policy; management training in areas such as conflict resolution, implementing organisational changes, and maintenance of the commitment of a conscientious workforce; meticulous selection of voluntary management committee is recommended; high prevalence of role conflict, role ambiguity and lack of work control need resolving; strained relationship with funding bodies need improvement; and assertiveness training for the workforce is essential.



Spence, K.

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University of Leicester

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