Now is the time to pursue opportunities to address issues regarding harassment and inequity.
A manager often scolds and criticizes staff—loudly—in front of others. A practitioner interrupts and dismisses others at meetings. A resident uses racial slurs and sexually suggestive language around caregivers. Qualified individuals are passed over for promotions because of gender or age. When such situations occur, they can lead to morale and performance issues and high turnover rates. They also can hurt an organization’s reputation, making it difficult to attract and keep good employees.
Many women and others in healthcare everywhere—at all levels and in all job categories—have experienced harassment, bullying, and power inequity in the workplace. Recently, a group of women in the field—including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and others–joined together to launch Time’s Up Healthcare, an effort to address sexual harassment and gender inequity in medical communities and organizations everywhere.
Women comprise over 80% of the healthcare workforce. However, the decision makers, executives, and upper level managers often are predominantly men. According to the Time’s Up Healthcare website, “In healthcare, we know that lives are saved by working together and improving collective intelligence through teams that are not only diverse, but are respectful, inclusive, and equitable.” Time’s Up Healthcare’s plan is to grow its team “to span a wide variety of roles, types of practice, settings, and locations, until we are a unified powerful voice for change.”
There is much that HR can do to promote a culture of inclusion and respect. For instance, Jane Van Dis, MD, CEO at Equity Quotient, tells InFront on HR, “Many institutions are recognizing that culture is a metric. Think about turning the experience of the workplace culture into data.” She adds, “Feelings are good for storytelling, understanding, and creating a narrative description of the workplace. Turn these narratives into data points and measure them over time.” This, she says, can give HR targets for equity and inclusive.
Thomas Varghese, MD, a thoracic surgeon in Salt Lake City, UT, agrees. He says, “HR sees the financial impact of losing and replacing staff. Share these metrics with leadership.” This presents management with a very real and powerful picture of the impact a healthy workplace with a positive culture, he suggests. “As HR, you should be able to speak up and say, for example, ‘The last three people we lost cost us this much, and others are wondering about their own futures at the company as well. We need to do something about this.’”
While you don’t want to wait until people leave to wait until people leave to address their concerns about inclusion, respect, and equity, you can address these in exit interviews. “People may be more willing to talk about their concerns at this point, and you might get more honest feedback you can use to identify and address opportunities for change and improvement,” Dr. Van Dis says.
It is in every organization’s interest to address these issues. As Dr. Van Dis explains, “When you have a safe workplace where people respect each other, productivity is better, engagement is improved, and there is less turnover.” Dr. Varghese adds, “Every time a talented worker leaves, there are financial and emotional costs involved. We need to create an environment where people want to work and don’t want to leave.”