Bullying stops here

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Anne Harvey | February 12th, 2015

It was now almost a year ago on Pink Shirt day, Feb 26, 2014, that VCH introduced a new policy and supports to encourage staff and physicians to seek help and report bullying, harassment and disrespectful conduct in the workplace. Since then, we have received 575 requests for help and 255 complaints referred to HR for follow up have been resolved.

I am so proud of our staff for coming forward and reporting bullying – you are not only setting an example for the rest of your colleagues at VCH, but other workplaces that are now seeing VCH as a leader in this field.

A look back

Before we launched our 1-800 line to report bullying, we estimate that we received less than 20 formal complaints a year. Staff were struggling with deciding if the behavior was really bullying and if they wanted to go through the discomfort of facing their bully. We also heard that people were afraid to report bulling and didn’t believe anything would be done if they did report a problem.

The end result was that most people didn’t say anything and were suffering in silence. We have now broken that silence and for me, that is a true milestone to celebrate this Pink Shirt Day on February 25th. EE provided the tools – the new Respectful Workplace Policy, access to VCH’s No-bully line (1 844 662 8559) and a prompt investigation process – but this all required staff participation to reach out for help, and you have done just that. With calls now coming in every week to the No-bully line, I think it’s safe to say that with your help and courage, we are changing the culture at VCH and no longer tolerating bullying and disrespectful behaviour.

Leading the way

VCH was the first employer in Canada to offer a 1-800 line to report bullying, and many staff have utilized this safe, support option to reflect on the situation before deciding how to move forward.  It’s a unique form of support as it really gives staff a safe place to confidentially explain their experience with a counsellor who can help them deal with the problem without reporting. What’s also new is that our HR Advisors provide multiple support options for staff experiencing bullying, such as coaching advice on how to have the difficult conversation, mediation and formal investigations.

Bullying is serious

The Respectful Workplace program is one of EE’s highest priorities; each complaint is taken seriously and reviewed carefully to determine the appropriate course of action. In the last year, a total of 41 employees and physicians have either received a letter of warning, suspension, termination, demotion or had their privileges revoked. We are working together to stop bullying at VCH and you are helping us change the culture by reporting disrespectful behaviour, and telling others it’s safe to do so.  I encourage those of you who are unsure about reporting to start with the No-bully line (1 844 662 8559) and first speak with a counsellor about your support options. It’s working for many others.

February 25 is Pink Shirt Day

Let’s celebrate how far we have come this Pink Shirt Day and make a commitment to contribute to a respectful workplace. Wear your ‘Respect Starts Here’ VCH exclusive pink t-shirt on Pink Shirt Day to show your support!

What do you think?

What changes have you seen in your work area since the new supports were introduced? Are we changing the culture around bullying?  Post your comments below.


About the Author

Anne Harvey
email iconanne.harvey@vch.ca  

Anne Harvey is the Vice President of Employee Engagement at Vancouver Coastal Health. Driving best practice for patients and employees, Anne leads a team that includes employee relations, workplace health, lean transformation, recruitment, compensation/classification, management talent acquisition, clinical education, management development, and staff scheduling and timekeeping. Anne joined the organization in 2005 from her role as Chief Operating Officer of the BC Nurses Union. Anne’s qualifications include a master’s degree in Organizational Design and Development from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara California and a bachelor of honours in Sociology with a major in Modern Industrial Societies from Manchester Polytechnic.

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3 comments on “Bullying stops here

  • Unappreciated says:

    Hi Anne,
    after two years in my new position I am still not happy with the way that I was treated after 20 years of faithful service to VCH ( when I started it was a Health Board).
    I feel that they way my job was terminated and the process that followed was upsetting, unjust and had a direct impact on my family. On top of that I am sure that the manager has tainted my good service record in my HR personnel file. Is it too late to file a grievance and how do I get my good name back that I so rightly earned? I am not the only one that has been at the receiving end of her inappropriate actions and I know that several staff have filed grievances against her. What do you do when it is management that are the bullies!!!! When you want to keep your job, sometimes silence is the only option.

  • Mike Gix says:

    Hi Anne,

    I’m glad that VCH has anti-bullying policies, reporting mechanisms, and resources to support staff who have experienced bullying on the job. It is shocking to learn that 41 individuals affiliated with VCH in the past year have been subject to discipline for that type of behaviour. I commend VCH leadership and H.R. for taking this issue seriously and implementing means to keep the worksite safe and respectful for all staff.

    Reading posts to this blog on a recent topic of Does VCH Have A Culture of Wellness?, I find remarkable the number of VCH staff who have recounted experiences with H.R.’s Attendance and Wellness Promotion program, and described it as an experience of being bullied, humiliated, and shamed. Others have used terms like “punitive”, “the sick police”, and vented that the program treats adult staff like “delinquent children”. Is this not a concern to leadership, specifically with the VCH communication campaigns around “People First” and the promotion of anti-bullying awareness?

    I’m sure that no one in VCH leadership or H.R. wants to believe they are bullying staff through the AWP program. But this is the perception of a sizable number of front line employees. Indeed, labour arbitrator Vince Ready ruled over a year ago and that some provisions of the AWP program were unjustly punitive ordered them eliminated.

    Isn’t it arbitrary and heavy-handed to call an otherwise well performing staff member into an AWP meeting with the boss, an H.R. advisor, and the union rep simply for having utilized any number of sick hours above the “average”. Isn’t a better and less demoralizing alternative to reward staff who utilize less sick time than the average?


    Mike Gix

    • Anne Harvey says:

      Thank you for raising this issue Mike. I think it’s important that we examine the claim that employees are bullied in AWP meetings. In fact those claims were made at the arbitration with Vince Ready, which you reference.

      Arbitrator Ready heard from a number of witnesses both employees and union stewards who felt AWP meetings were intimidating and from the human resource advisors who conduct those meetings with managers.

      He concluded that “the mere fact that communications, both oral and written, in the context of an AWP are uncomfortable does not necessarily render them disciplinary.”

      I think he captured the problem exactly. Employees feel uncomfortable being shown their sick leave calendar and asked if we can help them improve their attendance. However it’s a necessary discomfort.

      Last year Vancouver Coastal Health had 2,761 nursing shifts we could not fill. The vast majority of these shifts were short call sick leave absences. Every time there is a shift we cannot fill employees work short-staffed.

      Poor attendance is a problem for everyone.

      We do our best to make the AWP meetings constructive by explaining the wellness programs available to staff. The arbitrator commended us on this, saying we did better than a lot of big organizations.

      “I applaud this Employer for also focusing on wellness as part of the program at this workplace and I find that this AWP was researched and implemented in good faith by the Employer, after consultation with the unions.” Vince Ready Jan. 18, 2013.

      We also invite a union steward to every meeting to ensure that employees have representation. I think this probably is the best argument for employees who have concerns about bullying in AWP meetings. Our health care unions are strong, viable organizations and while Vancouver Coastal Health management does not want to bully anyone, neither would our union stewards allow that.

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