Bullying in dentistry: Long-term and short-term effects on victims

People suffer when they're bullied on the job. It affects their job performance and personal life. ADAA president Natalie Kaweckyj explores bullying in dentistry and its victims.

Jun 18th, 2018
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 06 Bullying 1

This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting Digest e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative monthly ENL designed specifically for the dental assistant here.

For the last two months, Kevin Henry (editorial director of Dental Assisting Digest) and I discussed bullying in the workplace. We first focused on bullying examples carried out in dentistry, followed by the characteristics of bullies. For many assistants, it was a weight lifted off of their shoulders as others acknowledged going through similar circumstances.
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This month, I focus on how bullying affects victims as adults. Some of these effects are similar to what children experience, but children are often more resilient than adults and rebound more quickly from negative experiences.

There are plenty of programs that help schools and other institutions prevent bullying. However, there are few programs available in professional workplaces as many are ill-equipped to deal with the thought of bullying even happening. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, right? Well, not exactly.

Here are some of the effects bullying victims may experience.

Short-term effects include:

  • Anger and resentment
  • Mental health issues, such as apprehension and melancholy or depression
  • Anxious avoidance of settings or situations in which bullying may occur
  • Greater incidence of time away from the workplace due to illness
  • Lower quality of work completed when compared to non-bullied peers
  • Higher incidence of suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Health problems such as sleep disorders and eating disorders
  • Psychosomatic illnesses
  • Increased stress levels

Long-term effects include:

  • Reduced occupational opportunities within profession
  • Lingering feelings of anger and bitterness
  • Desire for revenge
  • Interpersonal difficulties, especially the avoidance of new social situations
  • Intrapersonal difficulties working in a team setting
  • Increased tendency to be a loner
  • Perception of self as overly sensitive, thin-skinned, and easily victimized
  • Issues with self-esteem that affect all areas of life
  • Increased incidence of bullying and victimization
  • Mental disorders such as panic disorder, agoraphobia, or chronic depression
  • Severe insomnia and poor cognitive function
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse or eating disorders
  • Difficulty establishing trusting and reciprocal relationships
  • Prolonged exposure to stress
  • Premature aging with process of aging affected

It doesn’t take a lot of time for short-term effects to turn into long-term consequences. Each victim is unique in his or her chemical and biological makeup, as well as in the circumstances of the bullying and a person’s ability to cope with the negative effects. Bullying doesn’t just harm the individual, it hurts productivity. Females bullied as adults have more absenteeism long-term than their non-bullied counterparts, as well as an increased reliance on antidepressants. Males, on the other hand, are twice as likely to leave their jobs as their non-bullied peers.

With increasing dependence on technology and decreasing social mores, bullying will never go away completely. Society views it as a part of human nature that should be suppressed, but as victims know, it never will be entirely suppressed.

Read what bullying has done to some of your peers in this article from Kevin Henry.

Natalie Kaweckyj, LDARF, CDA, is president of the American Dental Assistants Association.


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