Date of Paper/Work


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Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah Noonan, Thomas Fish, Derrick Crim


This qualitative phenomenological study examined how 13 participants serving in senior leadership roles in education or human service fields experienced and made meaning of workplace harassment. Workplace harassment involves “an interaction consisting of acts of harassment, discrimination, unwanted conduct with an adverse effect on dignity, social isolation or exclusion, public and professional humiliation, criticism, intimidation, and psychological and sometimes physical abuse,” which adversely affects employees (Nolfe, Petrella, Blasi, Zontini, & Nolfe, 2008, p. 68). Few think of leaders as potential victims of workplace harassment because of their power and authority. The specific causes of workplace harassment of leaders involved personnel conflicts, financial challenges, and system change efforts. When individuals affected by change feel threatened, they engage in a variety of behaviors to harass leaders, including spreading false rumors regarding a leader’s character, attacking the competence of leaders, soliciting others to spread false claims, and impeding the progress of essential work. The experience of workplace harassment feels like an attack with increasing intensity. Some organizations appeared predisposed to foster workplace harassment due to unhealthy organizational cultures. One factor involved the governing board’s micromanaging and interfering with the daily operations in areas such as personnel, expenditures, and programming. Leaders suffered due to the loss of employment, future career potential, personal health, belonging to a community, and peace of mind. Coming to Grips with Loss theory (Cummings, 2015) revealed how individuals experienced and managed recurring personal loss due to harassment. The study included recommendations for leadership development and improvements to organizational culture.


workplace harassment, mobbing, bullying, abuse

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