Hurting at Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being ordered not to comment: She has done this more than a few times and it is very annoying and it hurts.

I am wondering if this is considered workplace bullying. I work at a dental office; my immediate boss is a woman, like myself. She and I sit at the front desk in a small proximal space. I was talking to a patient and her daughter the other day, and they were kind of arguing. I simply said to them to call a certain office to try to settle their question. My boss interrupted me and said, “Just finish what you were doing.”

She has done this more than a few times and it is very annoying and it hurts. I wrote her a letter to tell her that her behavior like this is not acceptable to me. She is still doing it. What should I do? Would you consider this bullying?

Signed, Bullied?

Dear Bullied?:

Your boss informed you of what she didn’t want you doing and she has done this more than once. You wrote her that you disliked her correction, but she is still doing it. Is that bullying? I doubt it. Obviously your boss and you do not see eye to eye and she has a habit of telling you what she dislikes. It might be seen as bullying if her tone and/or four-letter putdowns accompanied her corrections. Even frequent correction by a boss is not bullying; however, it probably is bad bossing. What can you do?

You can attempt to teach her how to boss you in a way you like. That might work and if it doesn’t you can enlist someone higher, probably the dentist or firm that owns the business to resolve this matter, and if it this still is not resolved to your satisfaction, you can vote with your feet. Since your boss still is correcting you, is it not time for a performance review; one in which your boss specifies what you do wrong and what you do right and conversely one in which you candidly confront her about how you think she bosses badly as well as when she bosses well.

Talk about talk can clarify the unspoken ways we talk to one another. A one-time talk about talk can spell out the rules about how she should and should not criticize and vice versa. One time,  if thorough,  might solve the matter, but probably won’t completely. Habits don’t change quickly because they are habits. Therefore it is wise to build in a weekly time-out session to review how well things are going; to applaud what’s going well and to renew or modify those communication rules.

Such talk about talk would wisely focus on the bigger picture. That is how to make your practice function more smoothly, efficiently and effectively; how to please the dental hygienists and dentists and most of all your customers. Putting your heads together on that should generate some specific ideas that will make your office more profitable and pleasant.

Please let us know if this makes sense and what evolves. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what you want; for your boss and all there to share in the good feelings of a successful workplace.

Follow Up: I don’t know what you mean by “voting with my feet”? Yes, you are right I don’t think she likes how I handle things, but most of the time she is telling me how to handle situations. I feel like I can’t say anything, or she will pounce on me. She likes to pick, pick, pick.

Reply “To vote with your feet” is a way to say find work elsewhere. Your boss is responsible for helping you work productively without hassle and distraction. Have you asked your boss to meet with her and you together and for you three to make your work less frustrating? In that meeting she can state what she thinks you need to learn and your boss can agree and/or disagree with her. Perhaps this will clarify procedures so that she will see that her advice is correct or that she is wrong in constantly criticizing you. In conclusion the boss can then state that

Ms. Pick, Pick, Pick needs to stop, stop, stop. That should be spelled out in such a meeting. And you too can insist that she stops. Like a broken record, you can say, “Sally, Stop. I know you might mean well, but please keep your opinion to your self.” And the next time you can say this same sentence again, until all you have to say is “Sally, STOP!” And if she does not, again request that she and you need to again meet with the boss. Might this suggestion make sense?

William Gorden