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Improving workplace culture and behaviours

Dealing with undermining

Undermining and bullying behaviour has long been recognised as a problem for trainees in obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G), as shown by repeated General Medical Council (GMC) trainee surveys. O&G trainees report more undermining behaviour than any other medical specialty, which is a matter of concern.

A recent RCOG survey also identified undermining and bullying experienced by consultants, with 14% of the UK O&G consultant workforce saying they had been persistently bullied or undermined. The RCOG is committed to improving the workplace for the benefit of both staff and patients, and we want our doctors to feel valued and respected in their workplace.

The RCOG’s annual Workforce report further outlines the challenges facing the O&G profession and the commitments the College is making to address them. If you would like more information you can read the 2017 report and 2018 report.

Workplace Culture

Bullying and undermining can lead to a ‘blame and shame’ culture, defensive practise, high stress, burn-out and sickness which can subsequently result in rota gaps and high rates of attrition from specialty training.

Therefore a key aim of the College’s Supporting our Doctors Task Group is to create a culture where doctors feel actively supported to prevent, minimise and manage workplace stress, collaboratively and openly, for the benefit of their own and their patients’ wellbeing.

Workplace Behaviour Toolkit

This toolkit contains a wealth of resource within 8 modules, which are designed to be user-centred.

It includes tools to:

  • support the development of positive workplace culture
  • support you when you encounter poor workplace behaviours
  • strengthen your skills and confidence in 'speaking up'
  • promote an understanding of what poor workplace behaviour looks like and its impact on individuals, teams, organisations and importantly our patients.

Approaches to complaint handling

The RCOG’s Supporting our Doctors Task Group is advocating for a more consistent, open and progressive approach to complaints handling; a principles-based approach that governs behaviour and interactions with others, emphasising honesty, fairness and integrity. The group has identified 5 core principles it believes should underpin a good complaint handling process:


Inclusion Exclusion should be a last resort having demonstrated that no other realistic and acceptable work can be offered, e.g. limiting an area of practice or teaching
Peer support Doctors should be encouraged to support and speak to colleagues experiencing difficulties
Timeliness Complaint handling and investigations must be completed in a timely manner
Competency Training for everyone handling and investigating complaints
Equality A nationally recognised and applied framework for complaint handling, to ensure parity and consistency across the profession


To support the ‘Competency’ principle the task group are aiming to run an event in 2019 on how best to handle complaints and resolve disputes locally. The event will be aimed at managers and anyone who could potentially be involved in complaints handling processes.

Other useful resources