Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Mental Health Professionals Targets

The Professional’s Dilemma: Being a target and caring for targets

3 D Charcter with hand on face standing in front of red question mark
Publication Date March 27, 2017

Workplace bullying is a complicated issue that entangles itself into every aspect of one's life. However, for some professions, it becomes more complex when you are experiencing bullying and working with people who are bullied. The question is can you work with targets if you are a victim yourself

For medical and mental health professionals, this is often a dilemma they must maneuver through on a regular basis because these are high risk professions for workplace bullying. As such, medical and mental health workers may be victims bullying themselves while offering suggestions to their clients and patients who are also targets. This puts them in an extremely difficult position. 

Medical and mental health professionals are in the business of caring for people often when they are most vulnerable.  They are exposed to hearing people’s life stories, including accounts of workplace bullying. They give out lots of advice to their clients and patients about dealing with workplace bullying. At the same time, they may be experiencing workplace bullying themselves.

Here are some suggestions for medical and mental health professionals who find themselves in this position.  First, it is vital that professionals have an awareness of this dilemma. This recognition allows the medical or mental professional to start to address how being a victim is impacting their patient and client care. 

Second, it is vital that they receive education specifically on workplace bullying. Knowing about bullying is key to coping effectively with it as a target as well as being able to give solid advice to patients and clients. (Without specific training on workplace bullying, it is likely these professionals are managing bullying like conflict. Thus, putting themselves and their clients at risk for increased bullying. 

Medical and mental health workers need to ensure that they are applying their education on bullying to themselves. This includes documenting as well as utilizing supports and other professions to help them cope as a victim. Being able to take care of themselves as a victim will only strengthen their ability to help others.

Finally, medical and mental health professionals must try to remain objective and separate their own experience from bullying from that of their patients and clients. Techniques like self-talk and role-playing can assist professionals with this. This helps ensure that they are giving are effective guidance rather than suggestions about ways they wish they could deal with their bully. Professionals need to be aware that they are not oversharing about their own experiences and utilizing the helping relationship to cope with their workplace bullying. They need to be able to step away from their patients and clients if they feel themselves losing their ability to be objective.

Call to Action

This week, if you are a target of workplace bullying, make sure you are taking care of yourself. This helps you as well as your patients and clients.