Job satisfaction and public service motivation in Australian nurses: The effects of abusive supervision and workplace bullying

Kara Ng (Lead), Esme Franken, Diep Nguyen, Stephen Teo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Workplace mistreatment is common in healthcare, especially among nurses, who may experience mistreatment from different sources, yet must carry out essential, public-facing duties. However, researchers have typically studied forms of mistreatment in isolation. This paper investigates the combined relationship between abusive supervision (i.e., vertical mistreatment) and workplace bullying (i.e., horizontal mistreatment) on job satisfaction and public service motivation among nurses. Drawing from self-determination theory, we examine how experiencing workplace mistreatment can thwart the fulfilment of psychological needs, operationalised as job satisfaction. Experiencing workplace bullying alongside abusive supervision is predicted to worsen this relationship. In turn, nurses are less likely to internalise their organisation’s values, leading to less public service motivation. We tested our hypotheses on 219 Australian public sector nurses via an online survey, with a temporal separation of six weeks. Results suggest that abusive supervision has an indirect negative association with public service motivation, via job satisfaction. Workplace bullying moderated the indirect relationship at high and low levels, though the indirect relationship was stronger at low levels. Our study contributes to a well-rounded understanding of workplace mistreatment, particularly within the context of self-determination theory, and to our understanding of how public service motivation is affected by employees’ social environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2022


  • Abusive supervision
  • nursing
  • public service motivation
  • workplace bullying
  • workplace mistreatment

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Work and Equalities Institute


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