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From left: Kirsten Andersson, Brandy Usick, Dr. Sandy Hershcovis, Bernadine Wallis, Dr. Judith MacIntosh

From left: Kirsten Andersson, Brandy Usick, Dr. Sandy Hershcovis, Bernadine Wallis, Dr. Judith MacIntosh

Is workplace incivility as harmful as bullying?

October 10, 2014 — 

A panel of representatives from across different disciplines at the University of Manitoba gathered this week for a discussion on workplace bullying in health care.

Led by the University of New Brunswick’s Dr. Judith MacIntosh, the event was part of the College of Nursing’s Dr. Margaret Elder Hart Distinguished Visitor Series. Dr. Sandy Hershcovis (Asper School of Business), Bernadine Wallis (nursing), Brandy Usick (U of M Student Advocacy) and Kirsten Andersson (Manitoba Nurses’ Union) also joined the panel.

“Workplace bullying affects people’s core identities,” said MacIntosh to a room of nursing students. “It changes them as people, as workers, and it changes their meaning of work.”

Speaking on her own research, Hershcovis said that while outright bullying can have harmful results, the more common incidents of “workplace incivility” – potentially ambiguous acts like ignoring a co-worker – are an equally important issue.

“In terms of the relationship with job satisfaction, well-being, depression, anxiety – incivility leads to those negative consequences at the same magnitude that bullying does,” said Hershcovis. “If you think about your day-to-day classroom experiences and workplace experiences, you could probably think of an example of uncivil treatment, even within the last week.”

When asked by an audience member about what to do when you’re unsure if you’re experiencing mistreatment, the panellists agreed that having the courage to ask questions is crucial. Andersson provided an example of a nurse returning from break who misinterpreted a manager checking her watch as a critique on the nurse’s performance.

“When the nurse [asked the manager], the manager had no such intentions; she was just checking the time,” said Andersson. “It really does illustrate the value and the importance of checking those assumptions.”

The Dr. Margaret Elder Hart Distinguished Visitor Series is an annual event that gathers celebrated academics from the nursing field to discuss a range of issues. For more information, visit

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