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Bullying at work can have a significant negative impact on your professional and personal lives.
It may be that you are being ignored,
being over worked or not given appropriate work or being spoken to
inappropriately on a regular basis. Or you may have been accused of
bullying someone you work with.
Being subject to bullying or being
accused of it can make it difficult to concentrate at work and inevitably
results in you bringing your anxieties about work home with you. This can
lead to sleepless nights and increasing anxiety, and can have a
significant impact on patient care.
A recent study indicated that
25% of the Australian medical workforce had encountered bullying during
the last 12 months, which strongly associated with poorer health and
wellbeing. (Askew D et al Bullying in the Australian Medical Workforce:
cross sectional data from an Australian e-Cohort study Australian Health
Review 2012; 36(2) 197-204)
At Avant over the past 5 years, we have
seen an increase in allegations of bullying or intimidation of staff, and
allegations about negative work environment. Here we outline what is and
is not bullying. We also provide information on what you can do if you
have experienced bullying or have been accused of bullying
It is not
only aggressive behaviours such as yelling that can be characterised as
bullying. Bullying can also include passive and passive aggressive
behaviour such as using a condescending tone when speaking to a colleague
or publicly criticising a co-worker.
workplace bullying will generally meet the following criteria:
Conduct is generally
regarded as work related conduct if there is a sufficient connection to
the workplace. There are a range of factors that a court or tribunal
will consider to determine whether there is a sufficient connection to
work. For example, whether the conduct occurs at a work sponsored
function, whether the employer required the employee to be in the
particular location that the conduct occurred and whether the conduct
might bring the employer into disrepute.
A single incidence of bullying behaviour is not
enough. The behaviour must be repeated and it must be unreasonable.
management action carried out in a reasonable manner is not bullying.
Supervisors have a right to manage your performance. Mere negative
feedback, or constructive criticism is not bullying and harassment.
However, if you are experiencing feedback in an inappropriate tone or
manner, or you do not feel you are receiving the necessary support to
improve your performance compared to others, this may constitute bullying
Some colleges such as the Royal Australasian
College of Surgeons (RACS) are training supervisors to manage trainees
and communicate feedback effectively. This may help in giving negative
feedback to trainees in a more constructive manner.
FAQs on anti-bullying laws
Fair Work Commission
You may be able to make a complaint about
bullying at work to the Fair Work Commission if you work for particular
organisations (for example, companies). Further information about your
rights can be found at www.fwc.gov.au, you can also contact Avant’s Medico-Legal Advisory Service
for advice on 1800 128 268.
You should seek advice early if a
concern about your workplace behaviour has been raised with you.
We have seen many unhappy outcomes when doctors have not sought advice
before responding to a complaint or investigative process. Once a
decision has been made to suspend a doctor, terminate an employment
contract or impose an unfavourable outcome it is far more difficult to
correct than actions aimed at preventing an outcome.
Contact Avant’s Medico-Legal Advisory Service for
advice on 1800 128 268.
Webinar - Dr House Syndrome: the impact of disruptive
Dr Smith received a letter from his manager seeking a response to a
number of allegations made by his co-worker about his conduct towards
the co-worker. The complaints included:
were able to assist Dr Smith to respond to the allegations to minimise
the risk of disciplinary action being taken against him.