Even doctors, supposedly intelligent, skilled, well-trained and focused on giving the best care possible to their patients, are sometimes bullies toward other staff. The behavior of that 3-4 percent of doctors can cause medical mistakes, preventable complications and even death to patients who could otherwise be saved. In her column in the New York Times, on December 2, 2008, “Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive – and a Doctor,” Laurie Tarkin gives compelling evidence, surveys and examples of this bullying behavior. The examples included obnoxious, intimidating, abusive behavior; shouting, yelling, belittling, insulting, humiliating, ridiculing, blaming, berating and denigrating actions, often in front of patients and other staff members. Some staff had to duck to avoid scalpels thrown across the operating room by angry surgeons.
Often, staff was made to feel like the bottom of the food chain. Sometimes, staff was intimidated by a doctor so that they did not share their concerns about orders for medication that appeared to be incorrect
This hostile environment erodes cooperation and a sense of commitment to high-quality care. Surveys of hospital staff members blame badly behaved doctors for low morale, stress and high turnover.
Although this article focused on doctors, we all know that the same behavior goes on at companies and organizations in every industry and area.
Do you have examples of your own?
I’ve described similar behavior in posts on the top ten ways to create a hostile workplace, verbal abuse by a know-it-all boss, a bullying coworker in the next cubicle and an unhappy employee creating a hostile workplace.
You’ll also find ways to combat this behavior in my book, “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks.” Leaders and managers who want to change hostile work environment should listen to my CD set, “Eliminate the High Cost of Low Attitudes.”
As a coach, consultant and speaker, I encourage people to fight to win. It’s crucial to design tactics for your specific needs and the situation.