Cultural issues related to allegations of bullying and harassment in NHS Highland: independent review report

An independent review report looking at cultural issues related to allegations of bullying and harassment in NHS Highland by John Sturrock, QC and mediator.

Appendix 3: Views from HR

A3.1 I refer to this Appendix in chapter 25 at paragraph 0.

Bullying and Harassment in NHS Highland

A3.2 There are pockets where bullying and harassment occurs (like in any organisation, particularly big and highly structured and complex ones)

A3.3 Although a number of bullying and harassment complaints have been raised when looking into it (for a certain period) not one had gone to a hearing, usually due to finding of no evidence but instead pointing out relationship issues; however, by the time the investigation has been completed the relationship is often definitely destroyed and redeployment is usually required (although this is then usually left to the manager to deal with)

A3.4 Where investigations are carried out these tend to take a long time and have a huge negative impact on the complainant as well as everyone involved in the process often leading to relationship breakdowns and a need for redeployment (often the complainant) à if there is a need to move somebody out of a team does that not mean there is something seriously wrong?

A3.5 Complaints are not being dealt with consistently (e.g. consultants not easy to recruit or in other areas he/she has always behaved like that are common arguments; particularly differently dealt with in remote/rural areas)

A3.6 Raising a bullying and harassment complaint is difficult because of tendency to immediately consider the complainant as the difficult party, managers not supporting the complainant through the process, closing ranks, tendency to remove complainant rather than alleged bully away from the workplace leading to "card being marked" and fear of repercussions after the process has ended

A3.7 HR team members have been exposed to inappropriate intimidating behaviours from union representatives during meetings when supporting managers, and generally partnership working has been damaged and is not working that well

A3.8 Senior managers from across the organisation showing aggressive and intimidating behaviours towards HR (blaming for shortcomings that in our view sit within their area of responsibility) potentially indicating that the organisation is unclear about the role of HR; managers also using HR to "sound off" which can be perceived as aggressive and intimidating

A3.9 There are instances when employees appear to bully upwards and this should be taken as seriously as any other incident of alleged bullying and harassment

Bullying and Harassment Policy and Procedure

A3.10 No consistent clarity on what constitutes bullying and harassment and what is and is not inappropriate behaviour in the workplace

A3.11 Employees should have a responsibility for challenging behaviours that they consider to be inappropriate/of a bullying nature; a need to make it easier for employees to do that by offering a variety of options how they can do that (e.g. speak directly to the person, ask a colleague or the manager of the person to speak to them, confidential contacts across the organisation could assist, union rep, etc.)

A3.12 The informal stage of this policy should be strengthened to allow for more immediate and targeted intervention before we venture into lengthy and often damaging investigations

A3.13 Definition available in the policy, however, particularly bullying is about how an individual perceives another's behaviour and it is therefore very difficult to establish whether bullying has in fact occurred. That may lead to focussing too much on proving bullying or not, although focus should be on repairing the relationship and ensuring behaviours are appropriate.

A3.14 Managers do not feel that the policy supports them when dealing with people management and it's too easy to call out bullying

A3.15 Policy is too long and structure not assisting with easy application and not helpful to managers despite it saying all the right things, e.g. in appendix 2 (5 pages long and at the end of the policy) mentions what is appropriate for a manager to do when managing people

A3.16 Bullying and harassment procedure not robust enough to make it safe to raise complaints and review process often a tick box exercise biased against complainants (closing ranks and being dismissive); the review offered under the policy should be a robust and transparent appeal process and not just a desk top exercise (as it's often done); we have seen an increase in grievances for b&h issues as this is seen as a more transparent and robust process.

A3.17 Too easy to call out bullying with no consideration whether this is because of reasonable management having put pressure on the employee or even malicious complaints; even if complaint not malicious or vexatious employee should be clear what is reasonable management; Induction and regular appraisals.

People Management

A3.18 Behaviours/performance are not being challenged or not immediately being challenged (leading to a future manager being challenged over them finally managing a team/ individual)

A3.19 There is a nervousness around dealing with behaviours and general reluctance to pick up issues early (considered difficult conversations that managers either don't want to have or because they don't like it/see as a risk to their relationships or they may not feel equipped/confident to do)

A3.20 When concerns are raised there appears to be a bit of a panic reaction and too much time is taken over what to do next, incl. copying in too many people when trying to get guidance which in turn breaches confidentiality

A3.21 We consider ourselves as a people focussed organisation (see HQA) but it appears to all be about the patients and not about the people in the organisation supporting the delivery of our services and the patient focus, i.e. employees

Management Capability

A3.22 Managers not confident to have courageous/difficult conversations and are therefore unable to deal with bullying and harassment complaints effectively

A3.23 Mediation intervention either considered too late or often used to allow a manager not to have to deal with staff relationships (offload management responsibility); needs strong criteria around referral to mediation service and managers to develop facilitation skills to ensure they feel confident in holding facilitated meetings

A3.24 People management and any complications around this are seen as HR issues, e.g. complaint from unions against HR and not against managers; comments from staff geared towards HR (Facebook); this appears to suggest the role of manager is unclear across the organisation (and therefore the role of HR needs clarification as well)

A3.25 No repercussion for being a "bad manager"; no accountability at management level and generally performance management non-existent, specifically at Band 7 and above

A3.26 Is "financial bullying" leading to ineffective prioritisation of people management?

A3.27 Exclusive focus on measures (compliance) set by Scottish Government may have led to us forgetting about other measures we should keep an eye on as a good employer

A3.28 Has job design actually considered people management or was it just added without consideration of ensuring this is deliverable as part of the overall job of a manager?

Improvement Ideas

A3.29 Leadership development with focus on defining positive behaviours, raising self awareness and leading by example with senior management requiring to demonstrate positive behaviours and employees understanding that everyone has a leadership role – must include board members

A3.30 Introduce culture which ensures it is safe to call out inappropriate behaviours (at all levels) – developing confidence and trust amongst staff to do this through training and development/use of iMatter (ensuring iMatter does not become iDon'tMatter)

A3.31 Introduction of effective management development programme, including for those preparing for promotion into manager positions

A3.32 Review recruitment approach into manager positions to ensure that those who are appointed into manager positions do have people management skills as well as the required technical skills

A3.33 Introduce a much improved and much more supportive approach to bullying and harassment with regards to both, the complainant and the alleged bully – through improved communication and support throughout by management (not left to HR or so called contact officers within HR)

A3.34 Improve policy and procedures and ensure robust management training on new policy –in line with what has been mentioned above and ensuring clarity of the manager's responsibilities within the process

A3.35 Policy: ensure employees who have raised concerns as well as those who have been accused (suspended or not) are well supported throughout; build in a robust and transparent appeal process; ensure open and honest feedback is given to all where complaint is not going forward to a hearing; build in debrief and team building where case was considered at a hearing (consider external input); build in robust return to work process for complainants and suspended employees; outcome communicated just by letter to both the complainant and the alleged bully is common but not adequate; should we not share the report to ensure openness and transparency?

A3.36 Introduce confidential "guardians" for employees to turn to when they first experience problems and that they can speak to during ongoing processes; also for supporting alleged bullies during process

A3.37 Need a strategic approach to people management with a link to overall organisation's strategy which features an element of "striving for excellence and continuous improvement" not just in relation to clinical/patient service delivery."



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