When myself and the members of the Bradford Midwifery Society met to chat about the up and coming conference (over chips and tea, of course) one of the concerns we had was about midwives thinking we are against constructive feedback.
When it comes to suggesting we’re always kind to each other, we don’t want to come across as if we’re wanting to mollycoddle midwives and students.
We’re not romantic about how fast paced and tough practice can be.
Plus, hard conversations and criticism are crucial for high quality care. You can’t do a job as responsible as midwifery and not have to face difficult self reflection, often.
But we think there’s a difference between constructive feedback and poor behaviour. Drawing this boundary is important.
We started to talk about whether or not being called ‘rubbish’ by a mentor was bullying. I suggested it might be a matter of tone, it could be a joke taken the wrong way or a mentor trying to give a ‘wake up call’ because they were genuinely concerned. But it still didn’t sit right with us…
It might sound pedantic but being called ‘rubbish’ is like saying we need to throw you away, you’re worthless.
Much less painful would be ‘this was rubbish’ because it’s not about you, it’s about your behaviour (which you can change).
Even better? ‘You need to work on....’(documentation, you’re not doing this quick enough, you need to listen more, etc.)
Midwifery researcher Patricia Gillen, who is speaking at the conference, has identified four pieces of bullying behaviour: the repeated nature of the behaviour, the negative effect on the victim, the difficulty for the victim in defending themselves from the bully and intent of the bully (2017).
Which means we can’t tell if this one moment in practice was bullying from this piece of information alone. Critical thinking about bullying is important, we need to get things right to change midwifery so we can’t label something as bullying if it’s not.
But we still think namecalling isn’t ok.
It turns feedback from ‘there’s something wrong with what you’re doing’ into ‘there’s something wrong with you’. Especially if you hear this from someone more senior than you, the emotional pain you feel from being excluded in this way can be pretty exquisite.
Could you have this conversation with a colleague, mentor, boss or student if you hear namecalling? Bonus points if you can get a conversation going with an open heart and generous assumptions about whoever you’re talking with. This is often the most effective way of making an impact.
We want to talk about this issue at The Kindness Conference: Getting Positive Midwifery Cultures To Flourish. Hopefully, we’ll get clearer on why namecalling feels like such a big deal for us. As a Midwife Diaries subscriber you get £4.99 off the price of the conference, just add the discount code 'KIND' when you check out.
To kindness in midwifery,
Ellie and the Bradford Midwifery Union
P.S. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment. Do you think we should try and ban name calling in practice? Is this possible for our future?