Bullying in the dental practice

Being bullied in any area of life is atrocious for the victim, their loved ones, and often for those who witness it, too.

Many of us spend the majority of our time at work; it is a massive area of our lives and to be bullied at work is totally unacceptable. In my experience the number of people who have either felt they have been bullied at work or have witnessed somebody else being bullied at work is quite alarming.

Employers have a legal ‘duty of care’ for their employees, and this includes trying to prevent bullying from taking place at work, they are also required to deal with bullying if it occurs. Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their employees, which should involve providing a working environment that is free from bullying, discrimination and harassment.
Being bullied? Here’s what you need to do:
• Dont lose your temper – stay professional and in control
• Tell someone – either your manager, another member of staff or a union representative (as a last resort)
• Record it – keep a diary of all bullying incidences, as well as names of witnesses
• Confront the bully – preferably with another member of staff. Let them know how their actions are making you feel
• If the bullying continues, make a formal complaint. Ensure you follow the practice’s grievnce procedure correctly
• If the bully still won’t let up, seek legal advice.

Keep your cool
If you are the victim of bullying at work, the worst thing that you can do is lose your temper with the bully or retaliate against them. You need to act in a professional manner – even if the bully doesn’t – and have the matter dealt with correctly.

Firstly, let somebody else at work know what is happening, for example a manager or another member of staff. Sometimes – particularly if you have an understanding and caring manager or other senior member of staff – informing and discussing the matter with somebody in a position of authority at work can be enough to get the ball rolling for your employer to deal with the bully and their behaviour, as they are legally obliged to do.  This may cause you to feel embarrassed or humiliated, but if it results in an end to the bullying, it’s definitely worth it. If you feel you cannot rely on your manager or employer to take the matter seriously without you making a formal complaint, you can get in touch with a union representative or seek advice elsewhere, whatever you do, know that you’re not alone, and don’t suffer in silence.

Record it
Try to keep accurate records of all occurrences in relation to the bullying and any steps taken to attempt to stop it from continuing. It is advisable to keep a diary of the incidents that occur, including names of witnesses to each particular incident. If you need medical help for the effects of bullying, keep records and ensure you inform your employer that medical help is being sought.

Formal steps
The first formal step should be for you (preferably with another member of staff present) – or somebody acting on your behalf such as a colleague or trade union official – to confront the bully, explain that their behaviour is unacceptable and that if it continues, a formal complaint that could result in disciplinary action will be made against them. You could also let them know what the effects of their behaviour are – distress, anxiety and humiliation for example. Make sure they understand how serious bullying is, and that it will not be tolerated at work.

If, after a warning, the bullying continues, a formal complaint should be made. Grievance procedures are a legal requirement for employers to have in place for employees to follow should the need arise. If you decide to make a formal complaint, it is very important to follow the grievance procedure correctly, your employer will also need to follow the procedures in place in order to handle your complaint satisfactorily.

If the bullying behaviour still continues, after all efforts to have the matter dealt with have been made, you should seek legal advice.

Advice is available from many places including;
• Citizens Advice Bureaux
• Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Remember, those who provide your indemnity insurance will usually offer free legal advice and there are companies and organisations that specialise in legal advice for employees.
Bullying can be stressful, demoralising, and humiliating, if you are a victim of bullying, don’t suffer in silence, your employers and senior staff members are there to help you.

Katy Parsonage has been a dental nurse for 15 years, working in various parts of the country in orthodontic practices, general dental practices, within community dental services, for both NHS and private practices. Within that time she has seen quite a few changes, not only with the way services are provided, changes in laws and regulations, but also with the use of new materials and treatments. Katy enjoys researching and writing about dentistry in her spare time.

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