The Good Doctor’s Blog: Bullying in the workplace

The Good Doctor’s Blog

Better a Lone Leopard Than a Howling Hyena!

How should we react to bullying?

She was a hard working city analyst employed by a big firm. She felt that despite giving 20 years of her life to the firm, she was being replaced by a group of young colleagues, who had it in for her. She felt she was being isolated and bullied. Her work was always deemed below par by inexperienced colleagues. She fought as hard as she could, but even the legal process let her down. When she asked some colleagues to testify about the bullying they had actually witnessed, they declined, giving all sorts of excuses. She has given up and is leaving the organisation. All this took its toll and she felt depressed. She is undergoing counselling, which helps a little.

Within two days of this consultation, I was speaking to a GP friend from the north of England. He is heavily involved in commissioning. Strangely, his colleagues have turned on him. He had always been exemplary, having been an excellent prescriber and referrer, very conscientious about spending NHS resources. His colleagues were of a different elk and felt threatened by his work. He felt he was being too closely monitored and all his ideas and work were suddenly being belittled. When he used the internal complaint procedure, most of his colleagues abandoned him. They would not even give testimony to what they had witnessed. They turfed him out. He too was undergoing counselling. What else could he do? Should he leave or should he stay and fight.

Bullying is a real problem in the workplace, often resulting in mental health problems, leading to medical consultations. Most GPs are familiar with bullying and its devastating effect on the victim. Worse than the bullies are those who simply pass by, without any sense of moral responsibility to act, simply by giving witness.

What could I have said to help my friend in distress? I recalled watching a wild-life programme about leopards and Hyenas. Leopards are powerful majestic animals, and very skilled hunters. Their catch is often stolen by hyenas that simply harry and bully them. Sometimes the leopard stays his ground and fights, especially if there are only one or two hyenas around. However, more often than not, the powerful majestic leopard simply gives way and withdraws, especially when he is outnumbered by three or more hyenas.

I told my friend to be a leopard. If he felt he could take his hyenas on, he should. If he felt outnumbered by his hyenas, he should withdraw. He feared that any action he may take would lead to deeper isolation. I advised him that it is better to be a lone leopard than a popular howling hyena.

Those who witness bullying at work and are too cowardly to even give witness, are howling hyenas that seek safety in numbers and possess no moral compass. If you are a victim of bullying and have taken action which has failed, be proud of yourself. You have taken action. You are a lone leopard. You could do worse; you could be a howling hyena.

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