It’s making your life miserable, but is it psychological harassment, or just a work conflict?

To take appropriate steps, it’s important to clearly understand the difference between work conflict and psychological harassment. Here’s a scenario:

Donna, that respiratory tech, I CAN’T TAKE HER ANY LONGER! OK, basically, we don’t see eye to eye when it comes to ventilation for very premature infants. We’ve often had some pretty intense arguments about it. She comes to see me during rounds to tell me: “Look, that baby’s been at 45% CO2 for two days, I don’t understand why you’re not doing anything!” Try as I can to explain to her why I’m following this procedure, she just refuses to understand. It’s got to the point that she’s gone to my supervising staff physician to ask him to make changes I don’t agree with. That really annoys me!

Difference of opinion or inappropriate behaviour

We work with all kinds of personalities, some of them diametrically opposed to ours. These contrasts sometimes lead to conflict. But you have to be able to tell the difference between such conflict and psychological harassment problems. The difference often lies in the following question: what’s the problem? Is it something you can define, like a difference of opinion, or is it inappropriate behaviour from one of the two individuals? In the case of a difference of opinion, as in the scenario above, the conduct of the two parties is centered on a defined subject of conflict, ventilation of patients. Who’s wrong? Who’s right? Hard to judge. Science can evolve as a result of such differences of opinion.

In a harassment case, the topic of conflict varies, but the conduct of one of the parties is always repetitively centered on the other party. For instance, in the situation above, if Donna the respirology technician had repetitive hostile behaviours calling the resident doctor’s personality into question, regardless of the subject, then one could talk of psychological harassment.

In light of what you’ve just read, do you feel you’re the victim of psychological harassment?

Yes

No

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