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Interventions to deal with bullying and undermining at the individual level

This is one of the recommendations from the ‘individual’ section of the RCOG/RCM undermining toolkit.

Interventions to deal with bullying and undermining at the individual level

  • Have an open and candid conversation. Too often, behaviour is allowed to persist because no-one tells the accused of the charges against them. Transparency is fair to everyone involved – the accuser then knows they’re being taken seriously, and the accused has the chance to reflect on the encounter and, potentially, change. Sometimes normal interactions can be perceived as bullying; the approach outlined above allows the accuser to reflect on their own behaviour and, in relevant circumstances, develop resilience.
  • Undertake relevant training. There are usually a variety of options at a local level which help individuals to develop as trainers and to address their behaviours. Training can be in a face-to-face course or via eLearning. It’s important to realise that we are all capable of modifying our teaching and leadership styles to maximise the potential of the wide range of people we come into contact with.
  • Some trusts offer formal mediation services, often provided by human resources or senior colleagues such as the director of medical education, to facilitate an open discussion between the accused and the accuser with the aim of informally resolving the situation.
  • Many trusts or local education providers offer observational training. An experienced facilitator can come in to observe clinical teaching and then offer feedback.
  • Some trusts offer formal coaching and mentoring schemes which can help both the accused and the accuser. Advisers are volunteers from within the organisation who are trained to listen, outline options and signpost support mechanisms. They can also be used in adjunct with courses on communication skills, stress management and time management, as well as formal counselling and therapy from external sources. For advice regarding the development of relevant interpersonal and communication skills, see Becoming Tomorrow’s Specialist.
  • Some departments have introduced their own initiatives to address bullying and harassment. These include multi-disciplinary behavioural awareness workshops, e.g. ‘Give Respect, Get Respect’, employee of the month schemes and anti-bullying charters signed by both trainers and trainees. Some individuals have developed their own practices, e.g. team introductions and debriefing at the start and end of clinics and on-call sessions. These can help members of the team understand each other’s roles more clearly, and shared feedback can reduce staff animosity and conflict.
  • If all else fails, formal complaints and disciplinary procedures can be followed. However, most issues can be addressed before they reach this stage by applying common sense and individualised approaches.

References and further reading

  • Clutterbuck D. Mentoring and diversity. Burnham: Clutterbuck Associates; 2010.
  • Megginson D, Clutterbuck D. Making coaching work – creating a coaching culture. London: Chartered Institute of Professional Development; 2005.

Elsewhere on the site

Resources and support for trainees
Further resources to support specialty trainees in O&G
Resources and support for trainers
Resources to help trainers deliver the specialty training programme in O&G