Bullying & Harassment

Dealing with Inappropriate Behaviour

Discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in either the practice of surgery or in surgical training is completely unacceptable and inappropriate under any circumstance and should not be tolerated. Inappropriate behaviour in any modern workplace can have a serious and lasting adverse impact on those who are subjected to it. Discrimination, bullying and harassment demean individuals and prevent them from reaching their true potential.

Workplace bullying and harassment adversely affect the quality of patient care by undermining employee morale and can result in absenteeism, stress-related illnesses, and higher turnover of staff. Bullying and harassment may also have a damaging impact on employees not directly subjected to inappropriate behaviour but who witness it or have knowledge of it.
Everyone involved in Surgical Training has a responsibility to treat colleagues with dignity and respect, irrespective of their sex, race, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, political conviction, membership or non-membership of a trade union/professional organisation or real or suspected health status. RCSI is committed to taking a leadership role in supporting the standards of professionalism behaviour that are required of health professionals in positions of leadership and/or influence. We are committed to ensuring that appropriate procedures are in place to firstly support and empower, but also support any victims of discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment.

Workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.

An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but as a once off incident is not considered to be bullying.

A key characteristic of bullying is that it usually takes place over a period of time. It is regular and persistent inappropriate behaviour which is specifically targeted at one employee or a group of employees. It may be perpetrated by someone in a position of authority, by employees against a manager or by employees in the same grade as the recipient.

The following do not constitute bullying:
• An isolated incident of inappropriate behaviour may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once-off incident, is not considered to be bullying, e.g. an occasional bout of anger or a conflict of views.
• Fair and constructive criticism of an employee’s performance, conduct or attendance.
• Reasonable and essential discipline arising from the good management of the performance of an employee at work.
• Actions taken which can be justified as regards the safety, health and welfare of the employees.
• Legitimate management responses to crisis situations which require immediate action.
• Complaints relating to instructions issued by a manager, assignment of duties, terms and conditions of employment or other matters which are appropriate for referral under the normal grievance procedure.

The following are some examples of the type of behaviour which may constitute
bullying. These examples are illustrative but not exhaustive:

  • Constant humiliation, ridicule, belittling efforts – often in front of others
  • Verbal abuse, including shouting, use of obscene language and spreading malicious rumours
  • Showing hostility through sustained unfriendly contact or exclusion
  • Inappropriate overruling of a person’s authority, reducing a job to routine tasks well below the person’s skills and capabilities without prior discussion or explanation
  • Persistently and inappropriately finding fault with a person’s work and using this as an excuse to humiliate the person rather than trying to improve performance
  • Constantly picking on a person when things go wrong even when he/she is not responsible

All training hospitals recognise the right of all employees to be treated with dignity and respect and are committed to ensuring that all employees are provided with a safe working environment, which is free from all forms of bullying, sexual harassment and harassment.

The HSE Dignity at Work policy covers sexual harassment and harassment as outlawed by the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2008 and workplace bullying and reflects the experiences of both employers and union representatives in dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment.

To read the policy, please click here.

A summary version is also available. Please click here.

Each training Hospital has their own policies in relation to Dignity at Work and these are available from your line manager or HR department.

Support Contact Persons

A support contact person is an independent employee of the HSE who has volunteered and received training to provide support and information on the Dignity at Work policy to colleagues who may feel they are experiencing bullying, harassment and or sexual harassment.

Click here to get a full list of Support Contact Persons working in your Hospital or Region.

Some frequently asked questions in relation to the Support Contact Person are:

Their role is to enable you to better understand the Dignity at Work policy which explains bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. The policy provides information on a range of options available to you. Support Contact Persons are there to assist you over a short period of time, ie. 3-4 visits if required.

This support is available to all staff on a confidential basis. The only individual who will know about your visit is the support contact person.
Will the Support Contact Person help me if I am accused of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment?
Yes, this support is available to both people who may feel they are being bullied, harassed and or sexually harassed, or by staff who may have an accusation of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment made against them.

No, this is not their role. They will help you to better understand what is going on, but will not speak to anyone on your behalf.
Do I have to visit a Support Contact Person in my work area?
No, you can choose any Support Contact Person. Support Contact Persons are there to assist you over a short period of time, i.e. 3-4 visits” if required or via telephone.

For a list of Support Contact Persons in your area, please select from the links below