Could Your Practice Have A BULLYING Problem?

June 5, 2023
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We primarily think of bullying as happening in the schoolyard, but bullying can occur in any workplace, including dental practices.  Bullying has become so commonplace, especially in the political arena, that we often fail to call it out for what it is. Putting a label on bad behavior is important so the behaviors can be reduced, if not eliminated.

Recently, while analyzing a practice’s high staff-turnover rate, bullying behavior on the part of several team members was uncovered as a contributing factor.  

The individuals involved (there were multiple) were valued by the practice owner, their actions were tolerated and not identified for what they were:  BULLYING.

Could BULLYING be happening in your practice?

Here are a few examples of bullying behaviors that could happen in a dental practice workplace:

1. Verbal Abuse: Dental professionals or team members may engage in verbal bullying by using derogatory language, insults, or shouting at their colleagues or teammates. This can create a hostile work environment and negatively impact the self-esteem and emotional well-being of the targeted individual.
2. Exclusion or Isolation: Bullying can involve intentionally excluding or isolating a colleague or coworker from workplace activities, conversations, or professional opportunities. This behavior can lead to feelings of loneliness, exclusion, and a sense of being undermined within the dental practice.
3. Undermining and Criticism: Bullying can manifest through consistent criticism, belittling, or undermining a colleague’s work or professional abilities. This can include public humiliation, constant nitpicking, snide remarks, facial expressions or spreading false rumors about the person, leading to reduced self-confidence and job satisfaction.
4. Withholding Information or Resources: Bullies may withhold crucial information or resources necessary for a colleague or teammate to perform their job effectively. This can result in feelings of frustration, inefficiency, and professional incompetence, which can ultimately impact patient care.
5. Sabotage: Bullying can involve intentionally sabotaging a colleague’s work, such as misplacing or hiding their equipment, altering their schedule without notification, or purposefully damaging their tools or materials. This behavior can cause stress, increased workload, and decreased job performance for the targeted individual.
6. Cyberbullying: With the prevalence of technology, bullying can extend into the online realm. Colleagues may engage in cyberbullying by sending derogatory or offensive messages, spreading rumors or gossip through email or social media platforms, or posting humiliating content about a colleague online.

Do you have an Anti-Bullying Policy in place?

But having a policy isn’t enough.  Communicating the policy and enforcing it are required.  That can be done via a staff-wide meeting on the topic and then one-on-one reviews to discuss how such behaviors can be eliminated from the workplace.

People might not even realize that they’re bullying.  Without exposing such behaviors for what they are, they will continue to wreak havoc on the practice and can be a contributing factor to low productivity, staff turnover and low practice morale.

It’s important to note that bullying in any of its varied forms in the workplace is unacceptable and can have severe consequences for the individuals involved and the overall dental practice environment. It’s crucial for dental professionals and employers to address and prevent bullying through policies, education, and fostering a respectful and inclusive workplace culture.

Consider implementing an Anti-Bullying policy in your practice.  You can request a copy of one as well as a report on how to deal with such behaviors at:

Because finding new staff is so challenging, it behooves practice owners to do all they can to retain existing staff.  Staff retention will be the topic of the upcoming Coffee With The Coach Webinar.

Towards respect everywhere,


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Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

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