Bullying in the Dental Office

We’ve all heard stories about kids being cyberbullied by peers online or bullied at school. But bullying can happen in any environment, including at work, and it has become a growing concern across the country. In dental offices, bullying of dental assistants has become an ever increasing concern. The forms of bullying in the workplace can include verbal, nonverbal, psychological and even physical abuse. 

The Effects of Bullying

Beyond that, bullying at the office can have devastating effects not only on the person being abused and the workplace culture itself, but it can also have a financial impact on your business. Bullying in the workplace can result in decreased productivity, sick leave, health issues, employee disengagement and the cost of training new staff. Dental offices aren’t immune to workplace bullying. And while a lot of dental offices are aware this problem exists, they are often unprepared for when it does happen. 

Reasons Why it Happens

So why does it happen and why are we not prepared for it? Often, bullying is tolerated because it is seen as a style of leadership for someone who is difficult to work with or for. In many cases, there is a lack of workplace policies about bullying and the procedures in place for dealing with it. And for those who are being bullied by a superior, it can be scary to speak out, for fear of retaliation.

What Bullying in the Office Can Look Like

Bullying in the office can come in many forms. It can be peer to peer or a superior bullying an employee. Just a few examples include withholding work related information, isolation or exclusion, micromanagement, setting an employee up to purposely fail, incessant criticism or even jealousy. 

What to Do if You Suspect Your are a Victim of Bullying

  • Document the who, what, why, where and when. Document the frequency and pattern of incidents. Having strong evidence of the bullying will make it difficult for the bully to deny it when confronted.
  • Read up on the subject. Knowledge is power that will help you deal with the situation. It will also help you know that you are not alone.
  • Talk to someone about it. Don’t bottle up your emotions. Talk to colleagues you trust to see if they have witnessed any of the incidents that you have experienced.
  • After the bully has been confronted and they haven’t changed, know your limits and when it is time to leave and find a place where you will be respected for your work and what you bring to the business. 

What to Do if You Witness Bullying or it is Reported to You

  • If you witness it, document it. Include the who, what, where, when and why. Use this information when discussing the issue with the bully. 
  • Confront the bully. Remind them that you are both adults and that their actions have no place in a successful business. 
  • Be strong and don’t be emotional when discussing the issue with the bully. Use facts and don’t be surprised if the bully tries to turn the discussion into an emotional one. Rise above that and be professional.
  • After confronting the bully, look to see if things change. If they do, that is great. If not, then you need to decide if they need to be spoken to again or let go. 


Remember, the common thread among bullies, no matter where the abuse is happening, is that they do it to feel better about themselves. Misery loves company. Don’t give them that satisfaction. For the person being abused, stand up to them or report the abuse to a superior. And if you witness abuse, don’t be silent. It will seem difficult at the time, but dealing with a bully can really improve the workplace environment and improve the business overall.