Mental health and emergency services
It seems that over the last decade Australian emergency services organisations have alkmost all been investigated by Parliament, OHS Regulators or specialist consultants about mental health issues including bullying and suicide. The latest inquiry released its findings in the last fortnight -
I have been writing about this issue in SafetyAtWorkBlog for over a decade and in 2010 I wrote:
"Emergency service organisations, like the military, are susceptible to accusations of bullying due to the hierarchical command structure on which they are based. "
Do workers in organisations based on a "hierarchical command structure" have worse mental health? Is the command structure the problem? Can an emergency services organisation operate with an alternative structure?
I don't think it's the hierarchy itself that is the problem. There has been a lot of research been done into the conditions that lead to bullying behaviours, as these behaviours don't occur in a vacuum. There is an organizational context, but I don't think it's the hierarchy itself - rather the high work demands combined with low resources, unbalanced power dynamics along with some individual factors. Bullying is then seen as the symptom of work design dysfunction and stress from within the organizational system. Chat with the team at Massey's Healthy Work Group, as they are leading NZ research in this area.
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