Workplace Bullies: Don’t Wait for Karmic Justice
It's time to stop workplace bullying in radiology and radiation oncology facilities.
In the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, Moe, the grade-school bully, is a minor recurring character whose main target is Calvin. Unable to outwit his tormentor, Calvin's id and super-ego engage in internal dialogue, debating the wisdom of appealing to his antagonist's sense of right and wrong versus just stealing back his favorite toy truck — the latter guaranteeing a violent response, and the former offering no more than a slightly reduced possibility of getting pulverized on the playground. Life, Calvin discovers repeatedly, is unfair. First-grade philosopher Calvin opines, "People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children."
I doubt anyone views adulthood as idyllic, but how often do adults with objectively good lives today shrug off childhood experiences of bullying as merely some unfortunate and largely forgotten detritus of their youth? How often do other adults bear indelible scars of victimhood on their psyche that require lifelong therapy? Increasingly, efforts against the normalization of bullying in all sectors of society are more visible, but these measures seem to focus on youth more than adults. Perhaps because for adults, with respect to categorization by government agencies, workplace bullying falls under the heading of occupational violence.
Bullying is not a topic I expected to ever see in the pages of the JACR. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, since quite a few articles about stress and burnout have appeared in the JACR over the years. And if being bullied at work isn't stressful, then I don't know what is. Having had a moderately negative experience in my third-year medical school surgery rotation, I could easily see a journal article about bullying appear in the surgical literature.
In radiology, I've common across some folks that could readily be called arrogant or jerks. But bullies? Well, truth be told, maybe one. But it only takes one bully to undermine your confidence, make you question your competence, and quench your desire to keep working with zeal. I guess I just never thought that bullying was commonplace among radiology and radiation oncology staff, but then I read this eye-opening JACR article.
If the walls of your hospital (or other health care facility) could be peeled back, a broad spectrum of human behavior would likely be on display. Would the organizational behavior serve as a role model for workplace civility? Would evidence of bullying be frequent, overt, and obvious? Or would there be subtler, more indirect signs of intimidation and its consequences among employees? Are the staff empowered to report bullying? The JACR article can help radiology department members to define, identify, and address workplace bullying. So get the article, read it, post it, and distribute it. You'll be taking a positive step to eliminate and prevent bullying where you work. Empower yourself and others. Don't wait for karma: its justice is far too unpredictable.