Are You the Bully in the Workplace?

Whether you witness or exhibit workplace bullying, learn how to fix and report it.

August 30, 2019 | 

Issue: Fall 2019

If you have checked even one box, you are guilty of some form of workplace bullying. If you recognize bully-like behaviors in yourself, it’s time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and hold yourself to higher professional standards. As a professional, your behaviors should not reside anywhere on the bullying behavior spectrum.

Bully, Meet Empathy

Ask yourself this: Could you handle what you dish out? Before you answer, “Yeah, I’m tough, no big deal,” consider being a new employee, 10 to 15 years younger with less life experience, and expected to carry oneself with ease and confidence in the workplace. Would that change your answer? It should; empathy is a critical emotion in stopping behaviors that may be viewed as bullying.

Generally speaking, people in the veterinary profession have a higher degree of empathy.2 How can a naturally empathetic person act in a way that negatively affects others? The answer is that many bullies have developed a psychological denial mechanism that allows them to hurt others and be okay with it through self-justification of their bad behavior(s) or harsh words. The bottom line is that bullies often don’t realize that they are bullies.

Bully, Meet Karma

Try to practice empathic interrelating with co-workers and subordinates; if you don’t, karma will likely take care of your behavior for you. Karma is a Sanskrit word in the Hindu religion and is the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). In other words, bad intent and actions lead to “bad karma” for the person. If your thoughts, words, or behaviors are negatively affecting others, at some point the world will reciprocate and others will behave in a way to negatively affect you. Your bullying will be reflected back at you in the lack of respect you get, the stress you carry, or the way you are perceived by co-workers and subordinates.

These are the negative outcomes related to your actions. They include being viewed as unprofessional, having poor interpersonal skills, not being a team player, being the initiator of unnecessary drama, not being considered for advancements (pay and position), or even termination with a negative mark on your career record. Leading or contributing to the demise of another—either emotionally, physically, or professionally—is a sign of personal weakness, not strength, and has a negative effect on the people around you and the culture of the workplace.

There are no winners in the bully-victim relationship. The victim is harmed, the bully is misunderstood by others while holding a false sense of power and strength, and the team can’t work together comfortably, which means clients and patients will not experience the highest level of service from the practice. The truth is, power and a desire to hold others back won’t get you very far in the veterinary profession. Empathy, self-awareness, and a desire to help others succeed will position you to be a trusted, caring veterinary professional, which opens many doors for professional growth.


1. Namie G. 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Workplace Bullying Institute. Accessed April 30, 2019.

2. NAVTA Wellbeing. National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America website. Accessed May 2, 2019.