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Bullying and Harassment

Topic: Bullying and Harassment

Research Question:

“Are non-management employees, such as administration staff, being bullied, harassed or discriminated against, in any way, shape or form, by the management levels within the NHS (National Health Service)?”

Introduction to Research Proposal

This assignment is a proposed research study that will be carried out in the spring of 2010. The research question has been identified and reasons and justifications for this proposed research study can be explained in the literature review. The main study is based on bullying and harassment in the workplace. Explanations of what bullying and harassment are and how they are dealt with within the UK political system can also be identified in the literature review. The organisation that I have chosen to study is the NHS. Based on a previous study between two Primary Care Trusts and working in the NHS myself, I found it to be a fascinating organisation to implement my study. The assignment is a guidance tool for the main study and project in the spring for the module HR3P09N (Current Issues in HRM).

Research Question

“Are non-management employees, such as administration staff, being bullied, harassed or discriminated against, in any way, shape or form, by the management levels with the NHS (National Health Service)?”

Aims, Objectives and Hypothesises

The objective of this research proposal is a preparation tool for a project and study in the spring. It is a helping tool, when carrying out my research study as it will have already been thought through, in terms of background information, a proposed timetable of the events to come and the research methodology, how I will carry out my research. My aim is to produce a questionnaire for NHS non-management employees regarding bullying and harassment, and whether or not they are or have been in a certain situation regarding bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Literature Review

Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has grown to become the world's largest publicly funded health service. The system was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth - and that principle remains at its core. With the exception of charges for some prescriptions and optical and dental services, the NHS remains free at the point of use for anyone who is resident in the UK - more than 60m people. It covers everything from antenatal screening and routine treatments for coughs and colds to open heart surgery, accident and emergency treatment and end-of-life care. Although funded centrally from national taxation, NHS services in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are managed separately. While some differences have emerged between these systems in recent years, they remain similar in most respects and continue to be talked about as belonging to a single, unified system. Nationwide, the NHS employs more than 1.7m people. Of those, just short of half are clinically qualified, including almost 120,000 hospital doctors, more than 40,000 general practitioners (GPs), more than half a million nurses and almost 25,000 ambulance staff.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a problem that many employers will come across. If bullying is handled badly, or goes unchecked, there can be serious problems for an organisation. However, behaviour that is considered bullying by one person, maybe considered as firm management by another. There are many definitions of bullying. It can be said that bullying is offensive, intimidating or insulting behaviour towards an individual. There are many actions that both employers and employees can take when bullying and harassment takes place at work. Bullying and harassment, a lot of the time, is based on the grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation, disability and religious views. Over the years, laws and acts have come into place to ensure that recipients of bullying and harassment can take legal action. According to Hannabuss (1998), “It causes anxiety, sickness, low morale, tension, distrust, overwork and stress. It may arise from workplace aggression or from sexual harassment. It may be premeditated or not, overt or covert, emotional or not”, (Hannabuss 1998, pg 304).

There is no specific legislation on bullying and harassment. The Health and Safety at Work Act places a general duty on employers to protect health, safety and welfare of their employees and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations sets out the means of doing so. Anti-discrimination legislation, the Sex Discrimination, Race Relations, Disability Discrimination Acts, may apply in some instances. The Criminal Justice and Public Order and the Protection from Harassment Acts may afford protection. The Employment Rights Act deal with the right to claim ‘unfair constructive dismissal' in the face of an employer's breach of contract which could include a failure to protect health and safety. However, expert advice should be obtained on all these measures before any reliance is placed upon them. According to Berry (2006), “

The NHS has indeed put into place there own policies on bullying and harassment. Two recent court cases could have very serious implications for all NHS Trusts. The landmark judgement in the case of Majrowski v Guy's St Thomas NHS Trust set the precedent that employers can now be held vicariously responsible for bullying of their staff by their staff and in Helen Green v Deutsche Bank Group Services (UK) Ltd the High Court upheld a claim for personal injury against the employer due to psychiatric illness caused by bullying and harassment. The court also upheld a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and awarded damages in excess of £800,000.

In Green v DB Group Services (UK) Ltd the High Court found that, bullying and harassment had taken place. There had been a “relentless campaign of mean and spiteful behaviour” by four women co-workers and a male colleague had treated her in a “hostile, disrespectful, dismissive, confrontatory” manner. The claimant's line managers knew or ought to have known what was going on, and that a reasonable and responsible employer would have intervened as soon as it became aware of the problem.

Culprits would have been warned about their unacceptable behaviour and reminded that disciplinary proceedings could be taken against them if they persisted. The defendant knew of the claimant's previous history of depression and prescribed anti-depressant medication which indicated she was more vulnerable than others. The stress created was far more than that normally to be expected in the workplace and it was foreseeable that some people would not be able to stand such levels of stress. Workplace stress was the cause of the two nervous breakdowns suffered by the claimant.

The behaviour of the individuals concerned amounted to harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 because it was targeted at the individual, occurred with great frequency and was calculated to distress. NHS Trusts need to ensure that they take a pro-active role in the management of bullying and harassment, and in particular where the victim is known to be vulnerable. Arranging for staff to attend harassment training was not considered a sufficient defence in the Green case because the alleged bullies did not take the training seriously and the High Court decided that the employer should have done more to prevent the harassment.

The NHS 2004 and 2005 staff surveys identified staff-on-staff bullying and harassment as a key issue to address, with 10 per cent of NHS staff reporting experiencing bullying, harassment and abuse from colleagues in the past 12 months and 7 per cent reporting experiencing bullying, harassment and abuse from managers/supervisors. More worryingly, only 54 per cent of staff actually reported the incidents. Bullying and harassment is not just confined to the health service, it is now being recognised as a problem across all sectors. The costs of bullying and harassment include increased sickness absence, low productivity, high staff turnover, costs of potential litigation and damage to the reputation of the organisation. Research has indicated that bullying and harassment can have the same negative impact on the observers as it does on the people being bullied, to the extent that observers may choose to leave the employer, particularly if they do not perceive the employer to be dealing with the bullying and harassment in a satisfactory manner. Stereotypical images of bullying and harassment in the NHS often focus around junior doctors being berated by irate senior consultants. Although junior doctors may be more vulnerable to bullying and harassment, in reality it reaches all levels of the organisation, affecting anyone from directors down. This guidance is intended for all staff throughout the NHS in England and in the case of junior doctors will supplement work being carried out by NHS Employers Equality and Diversity team.

Research Methodology

Quantitative methodologies are concerned with measuring (quantifying) variables in a numeric fashion. This methodology has the advantage that data generated can be analysed scientifically and in a transparent way. A disadvantage of such quantitative methods is that by reducing variables down to simple numeric measures, some of the rich context of life can be lost. In short, this approach has high reliability but has problems in terms of validity. Quantitative research is essentially numerical. Qualitative methodologies are concerned with analysing behaviours, arguments or dialogues within their contexts. Data are not reduced to numbers or measurements, but are analysed as a whole. Data are analysed for common themes and meanings. A popular way of obtaining qualitative data is by using interviews. Some interviews are highly structured and use closed questions, such as ‘Do you think all war is unjustified? Yes/no'. Questions formed in this way limit the range of answers, so effectively the data can be coded with numbers and treated as quantitative. However, such restrictions of answers is more common in questionnaires, since the point of interviews is that they allow rich, elaborated data to be gathered. Therefore, many interviews will use open questions, such as, ‘In what situations do you think war is justifiable?' This allows the respondent to give a detailed and considered response, including attitudes and opinions. An advantage is that rich context of the data is retained. However, a disadvantage is that findings are less easily generalised, since the methods do not result in data that can be analysed statistically in terms of probability. In short this approach has high validity, but has problems with regard to reliability.

The research methods that I have chosen to carry out are questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires are a cost effective and simple way to gather data; they are generally used to sample some information. With questionnaires it is highly important to observe ethical guidelines and laws on confidentiality. Questionnaires are cheap, simple and quick to administer. Information can be gathered about intangible characteristics (concepts and constructs that we can't directly observe, such as attitudes and opinions). Results can inform future study, and can provide a simple measure for comparison between groups. However, there are limitations to implementing questionnaires as a research method; these are reliability and validity issues. A questionnaire relies on upon the researcher's own definition and understanding of the construct being measured (which may be biased, inaccurate, too loose or too narrow). Closed questions (where respondents select from answers provided) are common i9n questionnaires and can lead to responses that don't fully represent the respondent's genuine opinion or position. Closed questions are posed in a way to allow only a limited range of answers, and often invite the respondent to tick or circle their chosen response. Open questions are asked in order to invite more detail and a wider range of responses from the respondent.

My second choice of research method that I will be carrying out is interviews. Interviews range from highly structured question and answer sessions (essentially, a questionnaire administered orally) to very loose, informal conversations. Interviews have an advantage over questionnaires in that misunderstandings of questions can be clarified, but they carry a risk that experimenter effects may arise. On the other hand, looser forms of interview can gather more detailed information, but are open to researcher bias and are problematic with regard to reliability and validity. Advantages of this method include the high level of detail that can be acquired, the flexibility of the questions that can be asked, the high ecological validity, and its use as a tool for generating ideas for subsequent experimental research. Disadvantages include the problems of reliability and validity, difficulty in replicating, limited ability to generalise from findings, the potential bias of interpretation and ‘leading' from the interviewer , and the potential for demand characteristics.

Previous research has been carried out in terms of measuring whether non management NHS staff are or have been bullied, harassed or discriminated. Burnes and Pope (2007), carried out a study into two Primary Care Trusts in the NHS, where they were observing negative behaviours in the workplace, including bullying and harassment. The outcome of the research study showed particular attention to social factors, such as aggression and how this can lead to bulling and harassment in the workplace. The research method that they have used is a questionnaire, which as stated above has its strengths and weaknesses. One of the main outcomes of the study is that it states that the NHS has the highest level of negative behaviour then any other organisation, which provides information to non management employees being bullied and harassed, “of the public sector, the NHS appears to experience one of the highest levels of negative behaviours with, in some surveys, over 50% of staff experiencing/witnessing negative behaviours”, (Burnes and Pope 2007, pg 286).

A random sample of non management employees within the NHS will be approached at different locations within the Barnet area of London. Combining employees from hospital and GP surgery sites, I will design and produce a questionnaire with a mixture of closed and open ended questions to receive a diverse amount of information. I plan to design my questionnaire in two parts, the first will measure the demographic variables, e.g. age, position, gender, the second part will contain questions that will provide an answer to my research question, having both quantitative and qualitative questions will give me both significant, reliable and rich with information answers. The target population will be a maximum of 100 and a minimum of 50 participants from five different locations, Barnet Hospital, Edgware Community Hospital, Finchley Memorial, Torrington Park Group Practice and Torrington Park Speedwell Practice. The questionnaire will have a covering letter or paragraph at the start of the questionnaire explaining what they have to do, how they complete it and why I am carrying out this research. I will not be there when the participants are filing in the questionnaire as this can cause them to feel overwhelmed and could result in false answers.

The presentation of the results and findings will be in the form of statistical raw data and graphs and charts. I have chosen to present this way because it is very good if people show the actual main figures and findings as well as putting that into a graph. Looking back at my aims, objectives and hypothesis, I have predicted that there will be a considerable amount of non management employees who are being bullied, harassed or discriminated against in any way shape or form. The NHS has outlined its policies on tackling this problem within the workplace, but I will see if that is actually put into practice and its not there just for legal reasons.

Timescale

October - November 09: Review of literature & methodology
November - December 09: Draft of literature & methodology
December - January 09/10: Agree on research methods
January 10: Design and production of questionnaire (pilot)
February 10: Distribution of questionnaires to locations & collection
February 10: Analyse results and findings
March - April 10: Draft of project
April - May 10: Final project

References and Bibliography

BERRY, M. (2006). HR director accepts NHS trust failings on bullying, Personnel Today, pp28-28

BLOISI, W. (2007). 1st Edition. Introduction to Human Resource Management, McGraw Hill, Berkshire, UK

BLOISI, W, COOK, C W & HUNSAKER, P L. (2003). 1st Edition. Management and Organisational Behaviour, McGraw Hill Education, Berkshire, UK

BRATTON, J & GOLD, J. (2003), 3rd Edition. Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, UK

BREAKWELL, M G et al. (2000). Research methods in psychology, Sage Publications, London, UK

BURNES, B & POPE, R. (2007). Negative behaviours in the workplace: A study of two Primary Care Trusts in the NHS, International journal of Public Sector Management, Volume 20, (4), pp 285-303

CANNON, J A. (2006). 1st Edition. Making the business case, CIPD, London, UK

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HANNABUSS, S. (1998). Bullying at work, Journal of Library Management, Volume 19, (5), pp 304-310

HARVEY, C P & ALLARD, M J. (2009). 4th Edition. Understanding and managing diversity, Pearson Education Ltd, New Jersey, USA

McMAHON, L. (2000). Bulling and harassment in the workplace, Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Volume 12, (6), pp 384-387

MILLWARD, N. (1995). 1st Edition. Targeting potential discrimination, Equal Opportunities Commission, London, UK

PATON, N. (2005). NHS nurses face harassment, stress and bullying, Journal of Occupational Health, Volume 57, (3), pp 4-4

RAYNER, C et al. (2002). 1st Edition. Workplace bullying: What we know, who is to blame and what we can do?, Taylor and Francis, London, UK

RAYNER, C et al. (1999). Theoretical approaches to the study of bulling at work, Journal of Manpower, Volume 20, (1/2), pp 11-15

SAUNDERS, M, et al. (2009). 5th Edition. Research methods for business students, Pearson Education Ltd, Essex, UK

STEPHENS, T. (1999). 1st Edition. Bullying and sexual harassment, CIPD, London, UK

STEPHENS, T & HALLAS, J. (2006). 1st Edition. Bullying and sexual harassment: A practical handbook, Chandos Publishing Ltd, Oxfordshire, UK

TAYLOR, S. (2005). 3rd Edition. People Resourcing, CIPD, London, UK

THOMSON, R. (2002). 3rd Edition. Managing People, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxfordshire, UK

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