Hoosen & Callaghan (Psychiatric Bulletin, June 2004, 28, 225–227) identify many of the core features of bullying, including the common perception of the bullied individual that any action taken against the perpetrator will have a negative outcome. However, some forms of bullying are both less overt and more insidious.
Bullying in the form of career advice given either informally or formally during supervision, or the record of in-training assessment process, is harder to define but potentially just as damaging. It may affect performance, confidence and career progression. The authors identify supervision as supportive and indeed it can be, but it may also be one of the arenas of bullying. Senior clinicians naturally develop areas of expertise and bias toward certain activities, but awareness is needed of when advice moves beyond the appropriate (and perhaps directive) into an abuse of power, position or knowledge. For example, is it advice or bullying to suggest dropping union involvement from a curriculum vitae or to suggest dropping union activities altogether to secure senior posts in a chosen specialty? Essentially, the difference relates to whether the advice is sought and the consequences of not taking the advice.
While it is important to eliminate discrimination, harassment and bullying, it is also essential to differentiate bullying from legitimate and reasonable management of staff performance, and indeed from robust academic debate. However, given the negative effects of bullying is it now timely for the College to take an active role in eliminating it from the profession?
- © 2004 Royal College of Psychiatrists