When the Bullied Become the Bullies
Last week, my fellow blogger wrote a piece on the practice of rewarding someone for less than rewardable behaviour. She made clear and relevant points about lessons not learned such as consequences of actions, all things don't always turn out well and an inability to cope when situations go badly.
There is a huge movement in the UK to combat bullying and abusive behavior, not only among children but in the workplace as well. It has been identified that kids who are bullies tend to continue the practice in the work environment. On the surface, this seems to be a noble and worthwhile cause. We've all had patients who spoke inappropriately to us. I even had one patient throw a walker at me in the lobby of his Upper East Side apartment building because I dared correct him in public. (He was about to sit down in open space about three feet from where a chair actually was).
Like the desire to not make young people feel badly for being less than the best at everything they do and to prevent their discouragement and disappointment, this policy has gone too far and created Frankenstein's monster in the process.
The fear of being brought up on bullying or abuse charges is so great here that patients are afraid to speak out when care is substandard. I work with a nurse in the community whose father is in the local hospital. Since arriving there, he has developed three pressure ulcers, missed meals and medication, and has not gotten out of bed for two weeks. This nurse is afraid to speak out on behalf of her father due to fear of being labeled abusive or bullying of the staff. The consequences of which could be severe for her work.
Vulnerable people do need watchdogs to prevent them from being victimized. However, once those safeguards start to impact negatively on those they were designed to protect, maybe we need to rethink just how paternalistic we really want to be.
Addendum: I wrote this piece and then the New York Times ran this article: www.nytimes.com/2011/05/08/opinion/08Brown.html?emc=eta1. So too much paternalism is no good and not enough oversight is also no good, it appears. Where is the happy medium?