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Workplace Bullying: How to Identify and Manage

People associate bullies with childhood, but the problem is life-long. Around 31 percent of Americans have been bullied as an adult, and 43 percent say bullying has become more "accepted" in society over recent years. In healthcare, bullying can take many forms, including nasty remarks, intimidation, and severe physical harm. It can happen in the break room, waiting area, or the operatory. It can happen to dentists and vets and administrators. Bullies have no boundaries. 

As a healthcare employer or office manager, it's your responsibility to investigate claims of bullying (or take action if you notice bullying in the workplace). Failing to do so could leave your organization open to a lawsuit. More importantly, there are negative physical and mental consequences for the person being bullied.

Workplace Bullying in Healthcare

What is Workplace Bullying in Healthcare?

Bullying is hard to define, and it can take many forms, "from being ignored during office meetings to being verbally berated for making mistakes," says U.S. News. It's not always obvious, but it can happen in any setting, including hospitals, clinics, and privately owned practices. Bullying is different from harassment and discrimination. 

There's no federal state legislation that mandates against bullying in the workplace. (However, a number of states have introduced a Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) that creates a legal claim for bullied workers.) As a responsible employer or office manager, however, you should take appropriate steps to manage any complaints about bullying. "Bullying lawsuits" are on the rise, and an employee could take you to court if you ignore the problem. 

How to Manage Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying in Healthcare

For better HR compliance, follow these steps for dealing with bullies in the workplace: 

Identify Bullying Behaviors

Bullying can range from name-calling to more harmful practices like physical violence. If someone in your organization exhibits bullying behavior, it could be time for an investigation.

Collect Evidence

Collect any evidence that supports a complaint about bullying, including witness statements. Some employees might not want to "go on the record" about an incident because of fear of retaliation or other negative consequences. Therefore, you should collect statements in the strictest confidence and abide by data protection principles. 

Communicate Your Anti-Bullying Policies

Include policies and procedures for bullying behaviors in your employee handbook. This communicates your stance on bullying and the potential consequences. 

Understand the Consequences of Bullying

People deal with bullying in different ways, but the consequences can be extremely serious. Bullying can also have an indirect effect on your organization when the person being bullied can't complete their work duties properly. Here are some of the physical and mental consequences of bullying in the healthcare workplace:

  • Physical injuries
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Loss of confidence
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Mental health problems

Bullying can be a complicated issue, but HR for Health provides resources and training to resolve a wide range of workplace problems. Click here to learn more.

Final Word

Bullying can have severe physical and mental consequences for everyone involved. Dealing with this issue early on, however, prevents further problems and safeguards the well-being of all workers.

Need to manage bullying claims in your organization? HR for Health's suite of HR tools provide you with the resources you need. Click here to schedule a call with a member of the team!


If you are a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please reach out to our team by calling 877-779-4747. Please keep in mind that due to an influx in questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, our response time may be slower than usual, but we will get back to you as soon as we can! 

If you are not a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please schedule an HR consultation with us by booking time here or calling us at 877-779-4747, option 1. 

Learn more about managing bullying with the experts at HR for Health. Contact us by phone at 877-779-4747 or by emailing compliance@hrforhealth.com today.

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. 


Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services