In the first of two presentations on workplace bullying, Walter Brennan, a training consultant on workplace conflict, said too many NHS Trusts do not have formal support mechanisms for victims of bullying in place.
During his entertaining and informative talk, Brennan described bullies as “vampires” who suck the self-confidence from people. Telling victims to stand up to them is usually not going to work, he said.
Brennan advocates effective training programmes to help managers and staff recognise and deal effectively with bullying and a bullying culture.
Brennan said some cynics may see bullying as good leadership but organisations should ensure they have policies and procedures in place regarding bullying that everyone understands.
Dr Helge Hoel, Centrica lecturer in change management at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, continued this theme in his presentation on workplace violence and bullying in the NHS.
Healthcare workers have been found to be at far higher risk of experiencing violence than any other service group Hoel explained.
Psychological and emotional aggression appears to be the most widespread form of violence.
Hoel said there was a greater focus on repeated bullying behaviour, with people exposed day in and day out to bullying behaviour. He agreed with Brennan’s description of a bullying culture, saying that as long as we turn a blind eye to bullying it will exist.
Organisations must adopt a zero-tolerance policy to physical violence he added, and in cases of verbal abuse, ensure people are not afraid to report being bullied by taking action where bullying is identified.