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Addressing undermining and bullying in the workplace

Blog 20 November 2013

Jo Mountfield, RCOG Workplace Behaviours Advisor

Dr Jo Mountfield FRCOG, Workplace Behaviours Advisor at the RCOG, writes…

It is now more than six months since I undertook the role of Workplace Behaviours Advisor at the RCOG so now seems a fitting time to reflect on progress. What has not been surprising is the commitment to address the issues we face as a specialty and the support from all quarters in the College and its members to make a difference.

This is a subject that raises many emotions in a wide range of people. There are few who have not been subjected to unacceptable behaviour in their careers, however, my perception is that attitudes are shifting and what may have been passed off as “well that’s just the way they are” or “it’s always like that in that department, it’s their high standards” is no longer acceptable.

Contributing to this ongoing change was the joint statement from our President and the RCM stating our position and reminding all professionals working that good teamwork means good care for women and their babies and promising College support to enable change. We also had a really useful College Tutors meeting where we explored how to tackle some difficult behavioural issues. Some really excellent work and ideas came from the workshops which we have shared on the website.

We are working collaboratively with the GMC and they are taking this issue very seriously, demonstrated by their support for the network of local workplace behaviours advisors that Heads of School are busy recruiting for. This initiative has been welcomed by the Deans and we will have our inaugural meeting in February next year.

These individuals will be a point of contact for trainees, consultants and career grade staff and will also help us develop our toolkit of support. Personally I have been approached by a number of individuals who have found themselves in difficult circumstances. My hope is that a local point of contact could help deal with these difficult circumstances and issues before the situation escalates by signposting individual doctors through the system to people who can support them.

That said we also need to identify and disseminate good practice where team working is excellent and a workplace advisor is redundant. In the increasingly stressful environment in which we work some conflict and unhelpful behaviour is almost inevitable, but it is how this is dealt with and resolved which in my view is the key to success.

Finally on 14 November I spoke along with Jacque Gerrard RCM Director for England at the RCM conference again to raise awareness and also encourage our midwifery colleagues to challenge inappropriate behaviour. We are much more likely to succeed if we act together.

So on reflection some progress but really loads more to do.

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