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I can relate to the post in particular the basic grade OT from Ireland. I had positive experiences on placement which were within the community. But in my first job as an occupational therapist. I experienced what I consider to be bullying from my supervisor,constant nit picking criticism,blame for things that weren't my fault.I was told by other members of staff that nobody liked being on that team as they were very difficult to please.I was given within a couple of weeks on the job a performance plan to meet targets to see 10-12 pts per day (sometimes possible but not always).Which I did my best to do, but wasn't always possible.My supervisor then made complaints about me to her managers to try to get me fired, I was called into them in the middle of the shift and told off about things that were out of my control even things my supervisor had told me to do.When I explained the circumstances I was told off for my attitude. I made a complaint about bullying with HR which they didn't have evidence for they did acknowledge that the managers had acted inappropriately and hadn't given me enough support. I couple of weeks later I was sent a letter inviting me to a meeting(eg to fire me)
with a list of their complaints (small petty things any new grad could be accused of eg not seeing all the pts in the few weeks of work when I'd been given 2 wards to cover.she had been going to other members of staff and asking them to make complaints, a couple of members of staff she was friends with supported her in this and made petty complaints. I had stuck it out for months and her with the support of her managers made my life a misery. I can't believe some of the things they did and the way I was treated, when all there complaints were to do with my being new and not having enough training.I wrote a rebutal letter which I sent to hr and since I left I heard that they put in place alot of training for new staff ect. But I have lost all confidence and at this point I feel too anxious to get an OT job. I'd offer the same advice as the Irish OT that once you realize they are going to be difficult, get out. I worked so hard to try and please them and ended up anxious and depressed.I am trying not to think that what happened was about me and my abilities and I hope that you will come to realize too,that it wasn't your fault.

No NameNovember 27, 2013

I was lucky enough to complete my fieldwork with a variety of supervisors, some less encouraging than others, but overall giving good experience of working with different personality types. However, after a year and a half working as a basic grade in a community setting with supportive and positive manager and colleagues, I rotated into a basic grade post in rehab. In retrospect, I had reservations speaking to my new supervisor on the phone to organise a start date. She was very insistent that the current OT needed to move on as soon as possible. The girl in question, a lovely lady, was also eager to leave as the duration of the rotation had come to an end. We were understaffed in community with our manager out on lengthy sick leave at this point, and I had a couple of complex cases to tidy up before I swapped with this lady , lets call her 'Mary' out of fairness to the clients, my team and Mary. As they were fully staffed I thought this urgency strange. How I wish I had listened to my gut and declined to take the rotation without a manager in place to oversee it.
I started in summer 2011 and was there for almost a month before I went on vacation to be married. My honeymoon was the last time I started and finished a novel to this day. I was an English major in my first college degree and reading was my favourite hobby.
Now, 2 years and a beautiful 11 month old son later I am off sick from work. My doctor diagnosed acute stress from workplace issues. I am depressed, suffering anxiety, racing and suicidal thoughts, and unable to stop myself obsessing over what happened to me in me in my job. I vacillate from anger at my supervisor, who constantly found fault, criticised , micro managed me until I felt broken, incompetent and hopeless to despair at how I failed to stand up for myself in this situation and lost all self esteem and self confidence. With no other OT's prepared to rotate into this position and no manager to discuss the situation with I was left in this rotation with no end date. I was separated by physical distance from my colleagues and the shame and guilt I felt at being constantly found lacking in my job performance prevented me from sharing my difficulties with them. Eventually I found that out of the last 4 people in that position, 3 had negative experiences with my supervisor. The pattern appeared to be worsening as the lady before me had suffered most.
I returned after maternity leave to be told I was rotating into the main hospital, my boss and immediate supervisor are my own supervisor's ex classmates and 'friends'. I feel my career in OT is effectively over. It is so hard to regain faith in yourself when you have been subjected to long term negative feedback, isolation from peers and management support, and the subtle but unmistakeable exclusion from the social circle - no eye contact, conversation directed to everyone else in the room, sighing etc that anyone in this situation knows can have you questioning your sanity.
My advice to you all, students and qualified, is to listen to your instinct and don't doubt yourself. If I had documented everything from the first couple of months as my father advised, instead of telling myself to give her the benefit of the doubt, I would be able to fight this unprofessional behaviour and have a chance that the next OT to go there will not be undermined and broken as I was.

Basic grade OT September 22, 2013

thank you for this article, it is sad you had such a sad experience. I am not sure if it is bullying, but am feeling harassed/bullied in the SNF where I work. The productivity standards are unreasonable due to the multitude of other things that can occur in this setting. The contract company doesn't seem to understand or ignores the other factors that negatively impact productivity include billing time, documenting time, meeting time, communicating time with family and nurses. Recently I had an illness caused by the stress from these managers. I have received a warning and may be fired in the near future. I hope to secure another job before that occurs. Nonetheless, I am curious if people feel that the frequent reminders that occurs to therapists about productivity could be considered bullying?

steph psudeoname,  occuptional therapistAugust 21, 2012

It sad to say that many of the cliques from highschool seem to continue on to this level. Some of the people that I sit with make small jibes, ignore, exclude, spread rumors and make fun of some of the more socially awkward people not in our group. I feel bad and have commented numerous times that "that's not nice" or made excuses for them, but I'm afraid of saying anything or else face the same treatment. I don't know many people in this city and I'm not close with a lot of people outside of my group, and I've never really gotten to know some of the other people. I often feel like I'm losing who I really am around some of my friends, and I feel like I'm giving off a shallow, spoiled, antisocail, non professional image. I also feel like by constantly being forced to achieve and read we're losing touch with the caring for others, we even criticize and exclude people who don't come out to our events, even if we don't really make them feel like they belong or feel welcome anyways.
I also wonder if an institution can bully? I notice that our program isn't very forgiving, accessible, makes last minute unreasonable demands and makes fun at of other professions and education levels...

Erin ,  StudentOctober 06, 2011

I had a COTA who sexually harrassed (ie would close the door and try to pin me in the corner). he was 20 years to my junior. Press his body against mine etc. The companies answer was never be alone with him. Bullying goes all different ways..Company loved him as he managed 110% producivity I left after he threatened to bring a gun to work..

marjy ,  ms OTRlSeptember 07, 2011

This is an important article for future fieldwork students to read as it appears to be a common occurrence. I just completed my level II fieldwork and learned from several of my classmates that they encountered this behavior from their clinical instructors. Some clinical instructors take advantage of their position and take out their frustrations on fieldwork students because they know the student will most likely put up with it in order to pass and graduate on time. I hope your article reaches OTs because this is not a good reflection on the profession, especially when some of these behaviors occur in front of patients.

Elizabeth January 17, 2011

Linda, making this public is why I submitted this paper to Advance. Bullying has always been thought of as a childhood issue; but through researching for this paper I have realized it is more prevalent in the adult population than ever thought. I too have recurrent thoughts of what I experienced. My suggestion is to purchase the book "The Bully at Work" and/or visit the website where you will find a blog site where you can share your experience and get great positive feedback to help you through your 'nightmares'.
I too want to hold someone responsible for what I experienced;but who? the university who sent me there? Of course not, so my future plan is to work with the AOTA and change fieldwork standards. For example, I feel a fieldwork coordinator should be required to have a face to face interview with the clinical instructor prior to placing a student (surely they have face to face interviews before employing a professor!). I also feel clinical instructors should be required to have 'x' amount of CEUs in fieldwork education and certification to be a clinical instructor.
For you, maybe you can look into the disability act and use that in your defense. Just a thought.
I submitted this paper because I do want to be forth awareness. We, current and future OTs and COTAs, need to always remember we are healers and this not only begins and ends with our clients but with all persons we encounter.

author November 18, 2010

On my last job, I was faced with a daily dose of harassment and undermining of skills. HR knew about the situation and the bully was actually rewarded with employee of the quarter. I was in a situation that my health was declining and causing problems with daily performance but instead of working with this issue the atmosphere became extremely negative and hurtful. There was even age discrimination since my vision was not good for early morning driving. I always tried to keep my clients safe as my own abilities changed but there were no allowances for a therapist experiencing health changes. I developed a greater understanding of the frustrations of our older population since I was experiencing similar problems. The other therapist was my peer and thought she was a supervisor. She had far less life experience than I did but discredited my abilities at every chance. I was verbally abused in front of clients and other staff. It has been over a year and I still have nightmares. HR totally ignored the situation. I need help as to how this can be made public and the company be held accountable. I am now on disability with limited income.

Linda Moore,  OTRNovember 18, 2010
Indianapolis, IN

Great article. I have been the target of bullying twice in different work settings. Both experiences were when I was new to the organization and to the practice area. The Screaming Mimi really backed down when I refused to let her tirade continue over the phone when I was with a patient. I never had to raise my voice, just staying calm and repeating, "We'll need to discuss this later when I'm back in the office since I'm with a patient." was all. I did it twice and that was it.
In a new job, it's hard to know who you can trust and it's easy to believe the bully. I agree that a once competent and valuable employee doesn't change jobs and become a total screw up.
The Two-Headed Snake was much more difficult to first identify and later to deal with. It was insidious at first and caused a great deal of questioning myself re: whether I was "blowing it out of proportion" The Snake will go for blood if he/she is out to be promoted, tenured or chosen for a specific training/job site. It's true that there are those who will do anything to get ahead. If you're perceived as a threat to the goal then watch out. Many Snakes will profess to like and respect you but behind your back will be doing anything to sabatoge and undermine your efforts. Trying to discuss any of the issues with her brought nothing but denials. She was a narcisstic, histrionic manipulator who lied continously. In the end I left knowing that she was the crazy one and I just a threat to eliminate.

Susan November 16, 2010

I read the article with interest, and it was good to realise that, I am not the only one who has been through this experience. I had no one to speak to and when I reported it to the trust i was working in, the OT manager denied everything and only the truth to come out later, which I intend to publish one of these days

Rebecca Abusa,  Occupational Therapist,  Universal LocumsNovember 16, 2010
United Kingdom

I am continuously surprised not to mention embarrassed for our profession to know that OTRs could have such an attitude. In talking with licensed OTRs I am learning this behavior is quite popular. Although I am being told that with new graduates entering the work field this attitude is shifting. I recently spoke with a COTA who has been in the field for 20 plus years and he told me he has quit many jobs because in his words 'it is like a club and if you don't fit in you are shunned'. Let us change this, we must remember who we are and what our goals are; not only to clients but to our fellow occupational therapists as well.

marie November 14, 2010


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