Original Research

Workplace bullying in a South African higher education institution: Academic and support staff experiences

Marius Badenhorst, Doret Botha
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 20 | a1909 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v20i0.1909 | © 2022 Marius Badenhorst, Doret Botha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 February 2022 | Published: 10 August 2022

About the author(s)

Marius Badenhorst, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Doret Botha, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Orientation: Workplace bullying is a common occurrence in organisations worldwide, and higher education institutions are no exception.

Research purpose: This study was conducted with the aim of determining the perceptions of workplace bullying amongst academic and support staff at a higher education institution in South Africa and to ascertain how they are affected by selected sociodemographic variables.

Motivation for the study: Currently, there are limited published research studies reporting on the prevalence and/or experience of workplace bullying at tertiary education institutions in South Africa.

Research approach/design and method: The study used a quantitative-based survey design. The research setting was limited to one higher education institution in South Africa. The target population of the study comprised all academic and support staff of the institution. A web-based standardised questionnaire was used to collect the data.

Main findings: The results revealed that the respondents experienced negative behaviours related to exclusion the most, followed by managerial misconduct, humiliation and belittlement and hostility the least.

Practical/Managerial implications: Understanding and addressing workplace bullying is critical to counteract this problem in organisations. The longer the phenomenon is left unattended, the worse it will become and the more difficult it will be to combat. Employers can play a pre-emptive role in the prevention of and intervention in workplace bullying.

Contribution/value-add: The study sheds light on the experiences of bullying at a South African university and adds to the body of literature on bullying in the tertiary education sector in the national context.


academic staff; higher education; sociodemographic variables; South Africa; support staff; workplace bullying


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Crossref Citations

1. Targets’ Coping Responses to Workplace Bullying with Moderating Role of Perceived Organizational Tolerance: A Two-Phased Study of Faculty in Higher Education Institutions
Levia Levia, Gurvinder Kaur
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health  vol: 20  issue: 2  first page: 1083  year: 2023  
doi: 10.3390/ijerph20021083