Almost one in two LGBTQ+ psychiatrists have experienced hostility at work because of their sexuality or gender identity, according to the results of a landmark survey commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The ground-breaking survey of College members – the first such survey by a UK medical Royal College - reveals for the first time the experience of LGBTQ+ psychiatrists in the workplace.
The survey was completed by 2,282 members which equates to 12% of the RCPysch membership. In total, the RCPsych has approximately 20,000 members.
Among members who identified as LGBTQ+, almost half (48%) said they had been bullied, harassed or experienced microaggressions at work in the past three years. The figure was even higher for LGBTQ+ psychiatrists from Black, Asian and other minority groups with 58% saying they had experienced bullying, harassment or microaggressions.
Analysis of the responses suggests microaggressions may be the starting point for future workplace bullying and harassment. Among the LGBTQ+ psychiatrists who experienced microaggressions, 31% said they were also bullied and 40% said they were also harassed.
The survey found most LGBTQ+ psychiatrists who experience hostility at work, do not lodge a formal complaint with their employer. Just four in 10 LGBTQ+ members who experienced bullying or harassment said they had complained to their employer. Among those who experienced microaggressions, 1 in 10 said they had lodged a formal complaint. Only one in five said they were satisfied by their employer’s response.
Dr Pavan Joshi, Chair of the College’s Rainbow Special Interest Group, said:
“Nobody should be bullied, harassed or experience microaggressions at work because of their sexuality or gender identity. Like racism, LGBTQ+ discrimination can be subtle and disguised. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people will continue unless we each speak up and call it out. Staying silent emboldens perpetrators. Discrimination in all its forms damages mental health. It has no place in our society including the workplace.”
Microaggressions – hostile comments or behaviours – were the most common form of abuse. Of the 572 psychiatrists who identified as LGBTQ+, 41% said they had experienced microaggression. These included colleagues using the wrong pronouns when referring to them or their partner despite being advised otherwise or making derogatory comments about LGBTQ+ people and other minority groups in their presence.
The responses suggest most hostile incidents go unnoticed by colleagues. Among the 1,710 respondents who did not identify as LGTBQ+, just 21% said they had witnessed LGBTQ+ colleagues being bullied, harassed or being the target of microaggressions.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists urges employers to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and microaggressions and to create a more inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees.
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“Despite advances in many areas of life, discrimination against LGBTQ+ people unfortunately persists in our society, including in health care. Discrimination in all its forms is unacceptable. Employers have a duty to protect their employees from harm and healthcare organisations must lead by example.
“We’re calling on all health care organisations to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and micro-aggressions against LGBTQ+ employees. This means backing up warm words with strong actions. Senior managers must lead by example and foster a culture that is safe and inclusive for all workers.”
Among those who responded to the survey was an unnamed LGBTQ+ consultant psychiatrist who outlined their personal experience of hostility at work: “It started with microaggressions which led me to question and doubt myself and proceeded to an all-out witch hunt by senior management until I had to leave. At the time I was in a director position and used my position to highlight the needs of the queer community who formed a significant number in our community.”
The College is running focus groups to understand more about the experiences of psychiatrists highlighted in the survey and plans to publish a report including guidance to support employers to stamp out discrimination.