KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 – The Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF) has launched a survey for health care professionals in the public sector on their work environment, including workplace harassment and bullying.
However, despite the sensitivity of issues raised in the survey, HWCITF’s poll was launched on Google Forms that requires respondents to sign in with their Google account to limit respondents to one response each. Other survey platforms do not require sign-ins to prohibit more than one response per user.
HWCITF’s online Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Survey – which runs from May 27 to June 7 – does not provide complete anonymity as the poll also requires respondents to provide their email address; the grade of their position in the civil service; the Ministry of Health (MOH) programme, state, and type of facility that they’re working at; work tenure; age; gender; marital status; ethnicity; and language proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia and English.
“The Ministry and the Task Force will treat your personal data as confidential and any further usage of the information arising from the survey will be communicated to you in advance,” reads the introduction of HWCITF’s Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Survey, as sighted by CodeBlue.
“The purpose for which your personal data may be used and processed is to provide the Ministry and the Task Force a better and comprehensive understanding of the workplace culture of the health care profession across the targeted demographic groups in Malaysia.”
However, HWCITF does not state that individual survey responses will not be provided to MOH or to the facility where respondents are working at, should respondents choose to name their place of work. HWCITF also does not guarantee that respondents will not face any action for their responses in the poll.
HWCITF’s survey requires supervisors to implicate themselves in any acts of bullying done within the past year, including if it was unintentional, with questions like whether they have “insulted or offended others”; shouted at others or “reacted with anger in an unreasonable way”; “controlled or supervised others in an extreme way”; or imposed an “excessive workload” onto others.
Although HWCITF states that respondents have the “right” in deciding what information to grant to it and MOH, as the survey is voluntary, the task force noted that limiting or failing to provide information may lead to it and MOH being “unable to conduct a wide and comprehensive research”.
However, nearly every question in HWCITF’s long survey with 44 questions and 38 sub-questions is mandatory for respondents to answer.
The survey comprises eight parts that focus on one’s working environment, workplace support system, and workplace harassment in the public health care sector, among others.
Staff from MOH’s headquarters, state health departments, hospitals, district health offices, health clinics, rural clinics, community clinics, dental health clinics, as well as institutes (including university hospitals that are under the Higher Education Ministry’s jurisdiction), are allowed to take part in this survey.
Naming one’s facility is required for respondents working in MOH hospitals, but there is a “not applicable” option among the list of hospitals provided.
Government personnel across MOH programmes – management, finance, medicine, public health, research and technical support, pharmacy services, dental health services, as well as food safety and quality – can participate in the survey.
‘Safe Space’ To Raise Concerns About Harassment, Bullying?
The first and second parts of the survey deal with the frequency of responses to feedback at the workplace, flexibility of superiors, training, work motivation, how often one’s supervisor constantly checks their work quality, liberty to make decisions, and how often taking initiative is encouraged.
Respondents are also asked about the frequency of clarity of accountability in their workplace, employees being treated fairly or consistently, tolerance of non-life-threatening mistakes, “complete trust” in one’s superiors, how frequently one’s superiors are motivating, and how often one’s superiors involve others in decisions that affect them.
Another 10 questions in the third part of the HWCITF poll comprises questions on support from supervisors, career progression, communication and implementation of policies and procedures related to employees, and whether there is a “safe space” for respondents to raise concerns around harassment, bullying, and other grievances.
Part Four lists nine questions on fairness in addressing raised concerns, providing feedback to one’s seniors, freedom of expression, whether one is expected to support their superior’s decisions, requirement of preciseness in work, toleration of mediocrity, fairness in performance appraisals, job security, and whether one’s facility rewards outstanding performance.
All 39 questions in Parts 1 to 4 of the poll require answers from respondents on a scale of 1 (Not at all) to 10 (Always) on the frequency of the situation that they’re currently experiencing and their future wishes.
Burnout, Harassment, Supervisor Admitting Own Bullying
Part Five with one question aims to measure the work-life balance of staff, asking respondents who say they do not have work-life balance to state the frequency of work overload, engaging in social interactions with friends and family, emotional exhaustion from work, looking after certain patients impersonally as if they were objects, getting little returns from work, and feeling that they want to end their time in the hospital.
Participants are required to choose the frequency of occurrence for this part of the survey – “Never”, “Now and then”, “Monthly”, “Weekly” and “Daily.”
Similarly, sub-questions of one question in Part Six asks for the frequency of harassment occurrence experienced in one’s workplace for respondents who say they “feel harassed”, defined as being “ignored, humiliated, threatened etc”.
Participants are required to state the grade of up to three persons who are harassing them. This is followed by questions for respondents on the frequency of:
- Someone withholding information that affects my performance
- Being ordered to do work below my level of competence
- Having my opinions ignored
- Being given tasks with unreasonable deadlines
- Excessive monitoring of my work
- Pressure not to claim entitlements (fo example, sick leave, holiday entitlement, travel expenses)
- Exposed to an unmanageable workload
- Being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with my work
- Having key areas of responsibilities removed or replaced with more trivial or unpleasant tasks
- Spreading of gossip and rumours about me
- Being ignored or excluded
- Having insulting or offensive remarks made about my personality, attitudes, or their private life
- Hints or signals from others that I should quit my job
- Repeated reminders of my errors or mistakes
- Being ignored or facing a hostile reaction when I approach
- Persistent criticism of my errors or mistakes
- Practical jokes carried out by people I don’t get along with
- Having allegations made against me
- Being the subject of excessive teasing and sarcasm
- Being shouted at or being the target of spontaneous anger
- Intimidating behaviors such as finger pointing, invasion of personal space, shoving, blocking my way
- Threats of violence or physical abuse or actual abuse
Part 7 of the survey for supervisors requires these “people managers” to state the frequency of certain acts they have engaged in within the past one year, whether unintentionally or currently – either never, now and then, monthly, weekly, or daily:
- Restricted access to information that affects others’ performance
- Ordered others to do tasks below their competence
- Ignored, excluded or physically isolated others
- Insulted or offended others concerning their way of being, their attitudes or private life
- Have shouted at others or reacted with anger in an unreasonable way
- Have controlled or supervised others in an extreme way
- Have imposed excessive workload to others
Questions 43 and 44 under Part 8 of the lengthy survey requires respondents to describe – in their own words – the workplace culture that they’re currently experiencing and suggestions on how to improve it.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin set up the nine-member HWCITF on May 13, following the death of a house officer from Penang Hospital last month that triggered widespread allegations on the purported work culture of bullying of junior doctors across public hospitals.
HWCITF, which is chaired by former Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation secretary-general Prof Siti Hamisah Tapsir, comprises experts outside MOH, including human resource and organisational design experts, but does not include any representatives from medical associations or groups representing trainee doctors.