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Do you have a practice bully?


Bullying. We hear so much about it in the news today. It's no longer the mean boys that beat up kids for their lunch money or even the mean girls that don't invite other girls to the mall.

olde time bullies

Bullying. We hear so much about it in the news today. It's no longer the mean boys that beat up kids for their lunch money or even the mean girls that don't invite other girls to the mall.

Now we have cyber bullying that has kids putting vile, vicious comments about other kids on social media sites. The word spreads like wildfire through all the “hangout” channels. It has such a negative effect on young impressionable minds, which has forced kids to change schools, drop out of school and, in some very sad cases, even led to death.

Bullying, unfortunately, is not limited to kids. We see many adult bullies. I don't know if adult bullies were bullies as children or if being bullied as a child caused them to grow up to be bullies; however, it seems to be getting worse in the workplace.

Related link: Stop blaming the victim

What is bullying?

Forms of bullying include:

  • The employee who is always right and never allows anyone to change a system, though his or her way is quite antiquated

  • Passive aggressive behavior that causes everyone to constantly look over their shoulder for the sabotage that will make them look bad, wrong or unethical

  • Yelling, screaming, demeaning, constantly correcting/monitoring or outright demoralizing others

  • Singling one person out of the pack to “pick on”


The workplace becomes a hostile environment with a decrease in production due to the employees trying to avoid the bully or the inefficient systems that prevent growth in the company. A bully can select one person or can bully an entire team. The need to control a person or an environment seems to be the target of a bully. The methods that a bully takes are akin to that of a domestic abuser picking the time, place or circumstance to be caring or kind and when to inflict pain, all of which is emotionally abusive.

Do you have a bully?

How do you know if bullying is occurring in your office?

  • Is there one person that everyone - or most people - avoids?

  • Do you have someone who has suddenly become isolated?

  • Have you been told by an employee that they are being bullied?

  • Is there a decrease in production?

  • Do you hear verbal abuse or demeaning from one employee to another?

How to handle a bully?

First, address the situation. If you are being bullied, plan to speak to the bully personally. This is probably the most difficult step. However, by looking that person in the eye and stating your feelings, you are defining how you expect to be treated. You must stand up for yourself.

You will want to remain professional and just like with any conflict resolution, keep your comments concise and use plenty of “I” statements.

Accusatory statements only fuel the fire and reduce the chances of your desired outcome.

If the belittling continues, it is time to climb the chain of command, taking your concerns to the manager or boss. If the bully is your manager or boss and you do not receive any satisfaction by bringing the situation to light, possibly it is time to take your skills elsewhere. Your mental health is not worth remaining in a hostile environment.

If you are the employer and suspect or have been told there is bullying occurring in your office, you will want to address it immediately. Unfortunately, many times the person being bullied is a more valuable employee than the bully, yet chooses to terminate employment. This is a lose-lose for the practice because the bully will simply find another target. And the cycle continues.

Using words like personality conflict or difficult person softens the disruptive behavior without truly defining the behavior. One expert, Tom Engelhardt, said it wisely when he said, "Words denied mean analyses not offered, things not grasped, surprise not registered, strangeness not taken in, all of which means that terrible mistakes are repeated, wounding ways of acting in the world never seriously reconsidered. The words' absence chains you to the present, to what's accepted and acceptable."

Call it what it is: Bullying. It should never be allowed or tolerated. Create a zero-tolerance zone and have an open door policy to allow victims an option for discussing the problem. A bully can be a cancer in your office that eats away at the productivity of your practice and the morale of your team. Growth will be stunted and lead to constant employee turnover. Take a good hard look at the behavior of all employees. Is there a problem that needs to be addressed?

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