Providing training for Dignity at Work advocates


23 / 01 / 2009

However, the Trust were not able to confirm this finding as few staff had reported bullying or harassment through formal channels.

  • SHA region
  • The organisation
  • What we did and why
  • How we did it
  • The results and next steps
  • Tips for other trusts
  • Contact details and further information
  • SHA region

    NHS East of England

    The organisation

    Redbridge Primary Care Trust

    What we did and why

    The PCT viewed any allegations of bulling very seriously and took the proactive step of introducing a peer support process, Dignity at Work (DAW) Advocates, in addition to their informal and formal reporting procedure.

    Though this is a voluntary post, the advocates went through an interview selection process. The successful candidates then took part in a 1.5 day training programme.

    Makepeace Consulting were asked to help provide general guidance. They assisted in drawing up a job description and person specification for the role and participated in the selection of the advocates. Makepeace also designed and ran the training.

    How we did it

    To start with it was important to clarify the PCT's vision for the role of the advocate, which was to be a sounding board, a sympathetic ear which provided a confidential space for exploration of the issues.

    With this as a guide, Makepeace Consulting designed two experiential, interactive workshops with time in between to give the advocates the opportunity to try out their new found skill in the workplace and report back.

    The workshop covered:

    • What is bullying and harassment?
    • How bullying and harassment affects us?
    • The bullying and harassment mentality both for the bully and victim/target
    • How to recognise bullying and harassment behaviour

    The aim was to give the advocates the skill and confidence to take on the role, but also to think about how they come across as individuals We wanted them to reflect on the questions:

    • Why would anyone want to come and talk to an advocate?
    • What would enable someone feel comfortable coming to talk to me as an advocate?'

    Through discussions a clear understanding of the role was co-created putting in place clear boundaries for both the advocate and the client.

    DAW advocates deal with people in an emotional state. The focus, therefore, was on identifying the personal qualities an advocate would need to demonstrate, as well as on practicing the skills that would build their confidence. This included rapport building, listening, empathy, questioning and creative conflict resolution. Drawing, story telling and metaphor were used as a way of helping the advocates to access information in a different way. They were also given a framework to help them have a 'constructive conversation' with their client. As a result, their insights were powerful and made sense to them.

    'I realise I'm empathetic and I now have the skills and confidence to become a good advocate'

    'I thought I was too young to be an advocate, but now I realise I can offer important help and support'

    Strategies that can help those who are victims/targets of bullying and harassment, were discussed as well as the options available to the client should the informal approach not work. This process heightened awareness to a need to revisit the informal and formal reporting process and make it easier to understand the stages of the process and potential outcomes.

    Finally, as part of the process the advocates had the opportunity to get information and ask questions about the bullying and harassment policy, associated policies, procedures and legal requirements from Liz Edelman, Assistant Director of HR Performance and Planning.

    The results and next steps

    It is too early to know if the presence of advocates encourages people in the Trust to come forward if they feel they are being bullied, or how it will contribute to a culture where bullying and harassment are not tolerated. However, it has already been recognised that there needs to be increased awareness for all about what constitutes bullying and harassment, it's impact and what is and isn't acceptable behaviour. The Trust is going to introduce guidelines on expected and acceptable behaviour and rollout awareness sessions to all employees and review its induction and management development in these areas.

    The PCT is pleased that the introduction of the advocate role has provided a visible opportunity to involve people from across the workforce in shaping the future culture of the Trust.

    The PCT will also use the next employee survey to help assess the practical operation of the Dignity at Work policy. The results of this survey, which will be available in February 2007, will help indicate the willingness of employees to report incidents of bullying and harassment and the confidence they have in the effectiveness of the Dignity at Work policy and procedure.

    'I found Caroline and Anne-Marie from Makepeace Consulting extremely helpful and supportive in guiding my thoughts. I wish I had involved them earlier in the thinking behind the project as I am sure it would have helped us achieve what we wanted more quickly and effectively'

    Liz Edelman, Assistant Director of HR Planning and Performance

    Tips for other trusts

    • Dignity at Work Policy (DAW) and process is more than a tick in the box exercise
    • If necessary, reassess and make changes to DAW policy and process. Include your advocates in discussions about the changes
    • Interview advocates. It gives the role status and builds confidence in the advocate
    • Be clear about the role of the advocate, and carefully plan your communication strategy
    • Use advocates to champion a shift in culture where bullying and harassment behaviour is not tolerated
    • Enable the advocates to deselect themselves at the end of the training if they feel the role is not for them
    • Build-in support for advocates
    • Carry out awareness training across the Trust to reinforce your message
    • Explore the possibility of introducing guidelines on the behaviour expected of both managers and employees
    • If possible make use of objective/expert advice and guidance
    • Additionally, those who attended the advocate training benefited from increased interpersonal skills, confidence and motivation.

    Contact details and further information

    For more information about this project contact:

    Liz Edelman, Assistant Director of HR Performance and Planning, Redbridge PCT (telephone: 020 8926 5038)

    For information about how to make your Dignity at Work policy a reality and training workshops contact:

    Anne-Marie Shawe, Makepeace Consulting  (telephone: 020 7254 9923)

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