Are you being bullied in the dental practice?

November 20, 2019

Bullies exist everywhere. On the playground, in school, and unfortunately, on the job.

Bullies exist everywhere. On the playground, in school, and unfortunately, on the job. This is a topic that professionals reject and refuse to call it what it is-bullying. But it exists. Bullies do grow up, but they continue this behavior into adulthood. Now, some do “outgrow it” and some even learn to be nice. But, like any form of abuse, what happens in our childhood impacts how we treat others down the road.

So, let’s look at this issue closely. Be honest. Are you being bullied at work? Perhaps you’re ridiculed, harassed or experiencing more serious forms of abuse. Do you feel safe? Do you feel that someone is sabotaging you with the goal to get you fired? Trust your gut. If you are feeling this way, it is happening. As a child, you felt powerless to make the bullying stop. But what happens when you’re an adult? You feel powerless all over again. Why? Because your livelihood is being threatened.

It feels so surreal. Do dental professionals really do this to each other? Do they really pick on each other, badmouth each other, lie and harass each other, and make a co-worker’s life a living nightmare? The answer to that is simply, yes.

But you don’t have to keep feeling powerless over a workplace tormentor. Here are five pieces of advice on how to deal with a bullying colleague:

  • Confront the bully. Stand up to the harassment. They thrive off fear, so don’t show any.

  • Keep track of these incidents and report this to your boss. Have witnesses go with you to management to back you up. Your boss can’t do anything if they are unaware that there is a problem.

  • Get a counselor. Having someone to talk to about the situation is crucial. Talk to your family or friends outside of the workplace. Gossip is a problem in every work situation. Minimize the fallout. A counselor may be the appropriate person to give you the support to take the next steps.

  • If you’ve tried stopping the situation through your employer first, and nothing has changed, consider hiring a lawyer. Everyone deserves a safe work environment.

  • Look for another job. You are never being paid enough to be bullied. Protect your reputation. Bullies will impact your job performance either by sabotaging you or upsetting you so much that you make mistakes. This could lead to absenteeism (since you are too upset to come into work), which could lead to disciplinary actions against you.

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The frustrating thing about bullies is that they don’t realize that they are doing it. They feel justified that the victim deserves being treated this way no matter who their target is. Maybe there is something that prevents them from seeing the mean things that they do to other people. Evidence is truly the only way to break through this impenetrable wall. Even with witnesses or concrete video proof, bullies are still in denial of their own bad behavior. While bullying does happen on the job, it can (and should) be stopped.

I worked with a receptionist who constantly made my life miserable. She ignored me, was rude to me in front of patients, and felt like she had the authority to tell me how to do my job. I was young and lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. I just wanted everyone to like me and couldn’t figure out why she despised me so much. I never crossed her. I tried all sorts of ways to win her over but being nice got me nowhere. Then I tried the tactic of ignoring the behavior. I just looked like a pushover to my patients. My last attempt was to confront her. She responded best to that. She didn’t expect me to call her out for her bad behavior. The tricky thing was that she was being protected by the dentist. But divine intervention happened. She always hid this abusive behavior from the dentist. But, one day she didn’t know the dentist was behind her when she was truly horrible to me in front of my patient. The dentist fired her on the spot. She wasn’t going to tolerate that kind of behavior in her practice.

The dentist then asked why I never told her about it. I didn’t want to make waves. The bully was an older woman who had been working there for a long time. But the dentist gave me a great life lesson. She told me that if I allowed this behavior to continue then it would only get worse. Bullies don’t change on their own-there must be consequences to their behavior, or they will continue to torment others. This experience taught me to never allow anyone to treat me disrespectfully in the workplace and, as a result, I was never bullied again.

Look at your situation. If you are being bullied, you need to do something. Take control of your life and career and get help, keep track, confront the bully, or find another job. You deserve a better work environment.

If you've been bullied in the workplace, email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com to share your experiences.