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Home > Topics > EMS Advocacy
February 03, 2011
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Banish bullies at work

Employers can promote bullying-free organizational cultures by following a few simple steps

By Arthur Hsieh

Editor's note: In Australia, a paramedic said that staff and management made him feel 'victimized and disturbed.' Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh says that employers can promote bullying-free organizational cultures by following a few simple steps

Bullying in our nation's school systems has received a lot of public attention during the past year. While middle and high school suicides have been talk about the most in the public press, local officials and child advocates struggle to minimize the incidence and effects of bullying in their districts.

A recent article reflects that bullying behavior can happen at work, too for EMS providers. While the outcome of the investigation is not yet known, it's important for employers to recognize basic elements of bullying behavior. Recently I participated in the EMS Educast podcast, hosted by Greg Friese.

Two recent episodes focused on identifying and working with bullying behavior in the EMS educational arena. Catherine Mattice, president of Civility Partners, LLC, a training and consulting firm that focuses on positive work place enviornments describes bullying behavior as "perpetual, systemic and aggressive communication, manipulation and humiliation."

In the classroom, bullying behavior not only can originate from students, but also from instructors and preceptors who sometimes unknowingly abuse their power over a student. In the workplace, staff may not always be aware that such behavior might be happening, since no illegal activity is occurring (i.e. sexual harassment or discrimination). Employers can promote bullying-free organizational cultures by following a few simple steps:

  • Communicate clearly that open dialogue and teamwork is important to the organization.
  • Promote activities that allows that message to be carried out.
  • Have an anti-bullying policy in place and enforced.
  • Conduct training that helps to identify bullying behavior and ways to manage it.

At a personal level, recognize that bullying can be painful and demoralizing. Confront the bully if you're comfortable; bring a friend or co-worker if needed to help facilitate the conversation. Identify the behavior that you find unfair and demeaning. Listen to what the other person has to say. Try to resolve the differences. If that doesn't work, talk with your supervisor.

Ethical agencies will try to help resolve the issue if it’s possible. The bottom line is that bullying behavior affects the bottom line, and organizations need to manage it just like other aspects of its operation.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. Since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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