When Bullying Obstructs Healing

By Thomas Crocker
Friday, July 30, 2021

When workplace bullying occurs in health care, the intended targets are not the only victims. A recent AMA report offers solutions.

Bullying in medicine is widespread, according to the report, and occurs due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Conflicting or poorly defined roles
  • High stress levels
  • Lack of workplace independence
  • Overwork
  • Power imbalances
  • Subpar management
  • Understaffing
  • Workplace cultures that enable bullying

When a healthcare professional perpetrates or experiences bullying, patient care — and the entire care team — may suffer, which makes cultural rehabilitation paramount, according to the AMA. The organization offers several recommendations for stamping out workplace bullying, including:

  • Implementing or strengthening anti-bullying policies. Physician practices and other healthcare organizations should clearly define what constitutes bullying, specify who is covered under the anti-bullying policy, set standards of behavior for all covered individuals and detail steps for confidentially reporting workplace bullying.
  • Nurturing a culture of respect. Ways to build an anti-bullying organizational culture include addressing instances of bullying quickly, conducting confidential surveys to better understand employees’ perceptions of workplace culture and acting on their feedback to develop anti-bullying resources.
  • Recognizing the key role of managers in addressing workplace bullying. Managers should encourage administrators to treat workplace bullying seriously and educate all members of staff about how bullying harms both individuals and the organization’s mission. Managerial involvement demonstrates to staff that their leaders are serious about eradicating bullying and encourages individuals to report bad behavior.