Episode 58: Bullying in the Workplace with Dr Adam Harrison
Bullying doesn’t just happen in the schoolyard — it can happen anywhere, even in the workplace. Workplace bullying and harassment can adversely affect an employee’s health, career and performance. Overcoming bullying should never be the victim’s burden; thus, knowing how to support victims may alleviate the situation.
In this episode, Rachel chats with Dr Adam Harrison, a general practitioner, medical leader, and barrister, shares his experience as a victim of bullying and how he conquered his fear of bullies . He also talks about the ‘bystander effect’ and how you can support victims of workplace bullying to combat this issue.
Tune in to the full episode to understand workplace bullying and the ways to overcome it.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Find out how humiliation and bullying affect the professionals who experience it
- Discover how to be resilient in the face of workplace bullying.
- Learn how to settle cases of workplace bullying.
Bullying in the Medical Field
- Adam shares stories about a medical student being humiliated by a consultant and his own experience being bullied.
- He has a list of eight things that stuck with him after that experience.
- Traditional medical training may be the problem because historically, it has been based on behaviours that can be seen as bullying.
Definition of Bullying and Harassment
- There is no legal definition of bullying.
- Bullying is usually defined as behaviour related to repeatedly spreading malicious rumours, unfair treatment, picking on or regularly undermining someone and denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities.
- Bullying can be physical or emotional. It is often aimed at particular groups or demographics.
- Anyone can be a bully regardless of power imbalance or mismatch. It can manifest in many forms.
- Unlike bullying, harassment has a legal definition. There are laws that protect you from harassment, such as the Harassment Act 1997 and Equality Act 2010.
What Happens When You Get Bullied?
- Because of his tenacity and resilience, Adam quickly got over his experience of being bullied.
- A good support network can help a person move forward.
- Some people are not that resilient and don’t have support networks. Bullying adversely affects their performance and health.
- Bullying can lead to anxiety, stress, depression and even suicide.
- Meanwhile, it can also negatively affect the people who witness the bullying.
The Price of Incivility
- When employees experience incivility, the organization’s work effort and commitment significantly declines. Some also release their frustration on customers.
- Your work performance can also be affected when your colleagues are bullied.
Conflict in the Workplace
- According to Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the second dysfunction is the absence of conflict. Conflict can breed and feed creativity.
- However, some people are not good at being assertive, making them withdraw from potential conflicts. This leads to the bystander effect.
- The bystander effect is a social psychological theory that claims people are less likely to offer help to a victim when others are present.
- According to a study, there are two common reasons people don’t act on the spot: fear of loss of importance and fear of ‘bad consequences’.
- We should examine acts of bullying objectively, both from the perspective of the victim and the bully.
On Conflict Management
- It would be better to discuss sensitive matters privately instead of publicly. Move on from the situation and talk later.
- The bystander must assure the victim the bullying is not their fault and that they are not alone.
- Bring another person into the equation who can create a protective bubble and influence the bully.
- Try and see if you can resolve the situation informally. Be more open about your feelings and openly describe the case to the other party.
- There are departments or organizations within a workplace to settle a problem.
Adam’s 3 Tips to Combat Workplace Bullying and Harassment
- Try to de-personalize the situation.
- Find support within the team.
- Learn to become more assertive and influential so that you can confront your bully and persuade them to stop.
5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode
‘Bullying takes a lot of forms and has various manifestations’.
‘People aren’t very good at being assertive when they need to be, so that they either go into their shell and withdraw, or they perhaps inadvertently are quite aggressive, deliberately aggressive. But you know, there’s that sort of middle ground of assertiveness, that a lot of humans I find are not very good at’.
‘Firstly, it’s important to look at the conduct that’s been perceived as bullying or harassment, objectively, and consider whether it could be an intrinsic problem’.
‘Anything that’s potentially sensitive, that could inflame any situation is best done in private, isn’t it? Behind closed doors and sort of take someone aside’.
‘If you’re not so assertive, just try and work on those skills to become more assertive and more influential, and ultimately use those skills to take the conversation to the bully to, to explain what they’ve done, or how they made you feel and persuade them to stop’.
About Dr Adam Harrison
Dr Adam Harrison, a GP and medical leader, has various experience in the medical field. He also trained and worked outside of medicine as a medicolegal advisor, a barrister and a leadership coach. He has specialized in career development, study skills, leadership, burnout, bullying and doctors in difficulty with the GMC or NHSEI.
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