The nature of workplace bullying experienced by teachers and the biopsychosocial health effects

  • J De Vos
  • GJC Kirsten
Keywords: biopsychosocial health effects, biopsychosocial model, colleague-witnesses, depression, phenomenology, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), principals, schools, teachers, workplace bullying


This article reports on the nature of workplace bullying experienced by teachers in South African schools and the biopsychosocial health effects that may arise from such victimisation. Voluntary victimised teachers who wanted to share their experiences were sampled using a lifestyle magazine and online articles. Twenty-seven teachers participated in the study. Data was collected through telephonic semi-structured phenomenological interviews and personal documents. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was further used to analyse and interpret qualitative data. Findings indicated that bullying is mostly perpetrated by principals, who often use colleagues as accomplices, and that the bullying mostly tends to be psychological in nature. Participants reported experiencing various physical, psychological and social health problems after being victimised. It was further recognised that health problems do not occur in isolation, but if contextualised, may form part of a list of psychiatric conditions, such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and in isolated cases, panic attacks. Victimised teachers’ health may have a significant impact on the teaching-learning process, acting as a barrier to learning, which may consequently have a negative impact on the organisational culture and the South African emerging economy.

Keywords: biopsychosocial health effects; biopsychosocial model; colleague-witnesses; depression; phenomenology; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); principals, schools; teachers; workplace bullying


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2076-3433
print ISSN: 0256-0100