Are NHS bullies born or made?
I hear more and more examples of staff bullying by bullies in the NHS which leads me to ponder the question are NHS bullies born or made?
Bullies often have experienced in childhood, physical punishment, or observed aggressive behaviour in adults, watched violent TV, have problems processing emotions, or it is part of a more serious psychiatric disease or genetic condition. Bullying is a way to get what you want and to achieve social dominance.
Research shows that those singled out for bullying, lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they encounter the bully. Victims are people who don't stand up for themselves. Those chosen as victims evince insecurity and apprehension. A bully makes an effort to retaliate against one person who speaks up and is unlikely to target several so the most effective way of stopping bullying is to activate bystanders.
So what leads a bully to bully?
Right of passage. Some people bully juniors in the NHS as a right of passage, from a warped position of 'it happened to me and it did me no harm so in fact, it made me stronger, a more resilient leader, more rounded individual. There is a bizarre attempt to build an individual's capacity and robustness through the act of bullying. It's almost as if there is a professional, genealogical process, handed down and repeated through generations of practitioners/professional development and career progression.
Because they can. Some people in power exert their authority through fear and humiliation simply because they can.
As a shield against their own feelings of inadequacy or impostor syndrome to make them feel stronger and more powerful against others, in this case, their victims.
Academic snobbery. There is long-standing prowess gained from where you trained. With all graduate entry for the majority of professions in the NHS and with the many newer medical schools and approaches to education, this is lessening.
Lack of difference and diversity. Inherent racism with a lack of inclusion, tolerance, and shared understanding still exists, and whilst there is much activity to reduce it in all forms, the recent Coronavirus and Black Lives Matter, demonstrates the raw source of discrimination and inequality due to racial ethnicity.
Tall Poppy Syndrome to chop down anyone who does better than average, an analogy where poppies which should grow together and 'if one grows too tall, it is cut down to size'.
The notion of getting too big for your boots so I am forbid upstaging your superior.
Anxiety stress and fear lead people to act out of character and sometimes downward pressure and unrealistic expectations of individuals and departments of performance, lead people into a situation where unknowingly their stress levels are becoming toxic and they themselves have yet to recognise this. Pressure to meet unrealistic expectations, make radical financial savings lead to a hotbed culture where bullying thrives.
Bullying can be very covert despite there being a Policy and Procedures for Preventing & Dealing with Bullying and Harassment. in each NHS organisation, hidden in the covert way bullying practice operate, means it often goes unnoticed, is insidious and difficult to 'prove' and it is even more difficult to find the evidence from an individual victim who is then at their most vulnerable.
The way forward is surely developing a systemic wide organisational culture of zero tolerance of bullying and harassment and honest, kind, open culture, fostered on shared understanding, where people understand other's personalities and preferences through trusted, reliable, and validated personality typing within teams. Individual and Team development time which is highly prized in blue-chip companies is often denied and overlooked in the NHS with precedence taken over for in time, in the moment delivery of pressing patient care.
Victims need support and personal development to rebuild their confidence and bullies need the equivalent of 'restorative justice' and personal transformation.
Ultimately we need to Be Kind to each other, as well as our patients and service users.
No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment