November 23, 2013

Workplace Bullying in Canadian Graduate Psychology Programs: Student Perspectives of Student–Supervisor Relationships

Graduate students may be particularly vulnerable to workplace bullying by their supervisors, given the competitive and individualistic nature of obtaining promotions in academia and the power differential inherent in the student–supervisor relationship. The purpose of the present study was to explore the prevalence and nature of workplace bullying in the context of the student–supervisor relationship for graduate students in Canadian psychology programs. Data were gathered via an online questionnaire from graduate students in April, 2011. Of the 336 students (55 men and 281 women) who responded to the survey, 68 (21.3%) of them reported that they had been subjected to workplace bullying from their supervisors during graduate school. Exploratory factor analysis indicated three types of bullying behaviors: threatening–dismissive, passive–aggressive interpersonal, and work-management. There was no significant effect of student gender on bullying status; however students with female supervisors were more likely to report being bullied than students with male supervisors, particularly female students with female supervisors. In addition, students whose supervisors were at the associate professor level were more likely to report experiencing bullying than students whose supervisors had full professor status. The results point to the importance of exploring and creating dialogue around the issue of workplace bullying in graduate programs.


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