Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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42 Today's Veterinary Business Community Merriam-Webster's online dictionary offers several definitions of harassment. For these purposes, we will focus on the first. harass (verb) A: exhaust, fatigue B (1): to annoy persistently B (2): to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct The major takeaway from the definition is that harassment is be- havior that creates uncomfortable or even hostile environments that are really annoying and, when per- sistent, are emotionally or physical- ly exhausting to those subjected to the behavior. What Does It Look Like? Verbal and physical might be ha- rassment's best-known forms, but it also can be written or visual. In the case of verbal harassment, a hostile en- vironment might be created when comments cause persistent dis- comfort. The comments might be of a racist, sexist, sexual, homopho- bic, religious or political nature. They also might be verbal bully- ing. Verbal bullying goes beyond schoolyard antics, such as when a supervisor consistently makes fun of an employee's accent. Imagine if Dr. Smith always jokes about her veterinary nurse's deep Southern drawl and how it is indicative of a lack of education, a culture of incest, and poverty. The nurse might shrug off the com- ments the first time, but over time the repeated jokes become demor- alizing and emotionally painful. Rather than confront his boss, the nurse searches for employment elsewhere. The impact is not limited to the employee. Instead, co-workers either will begin to emulate the behavior or reject it by leaving the practice. Physical harassment is more easily identified because touching will be involved. Not all physical harassment will be sexual in nature. Any unwelcome physical contact can be problematic. In this social media age, written harassment has taken on a broader context. Individuals might take to Facebook or Instagram to bully, to reveal conversations or to share images — actions that can create a hostile environment. Excessive texting or email also can lead to an uncom- fortable environment. Visual harassment gets little recognition, especially with the rise of social media. Essentially, visual harassment is the distribution of offensive Community DIVERSITY TOOLBOX media. For example, this used to be the questionable comic posted as a joke in the breakroom. More commonly these days, the comic will be posted to social media and shared around the office electronically. Imagine arriving at work and each day finding an offensive political cartoon posted on the office intranet or, to keep it old school, in the breakroom. The cartoons rankle a third of the staff, eventually escalating friction among employees and impacting collegiality and productivity. Unfortunately, the prevalence of various forms of harassment is high in the workplace. A recent study of medical trainees, published in Academic Medicine, found that more than half of them reported experiencing harassment, with ver- bal harassment the most common form. Colleagues are not the only perpetrators. The study reported that clients and consultants often are guilty of bad behavior, too. What Does Harassment Cost? Workplace harassment can lead to liability issues and costly lawsuits, but most cases never get that far. Instead, workers spend many hours Sexual harassment has been a part of daily news for more than a year now. Mostly, but not exclusive- ly, women are taking primarily to social media to share stories of harassment or assault happening in schools, workplaces and even on the street. The resulting #MeToo movement has toppled careers, launched legal investi- gations and nearly derailed the nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. The reality is that harassment, and not just sexual harassment, persists in society, but the definitions and ramifications are often shrouded in mystery. I would like to bring a bit of clarity to the topic. By Lisa M. Greenhill, MPA, EdD 1 2 3 4 The price of harassment Employers must step up and wipe out abhorrent workplace behavior in all its forms. Education and clear reporting protocols are key.

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