Difficult Bosses in Medicine

How Big a Problem Is It?

The first question to ask oneself when confronted by a Bully Boss problem is “how bad is it?”

But in doing so it is important to be rational and logical and not fall into the trap of any personal biases.  The biggest one for most trainees being their commitment to their career or their work overriding any serious bullying behaviour.

But there are definitely situations where it can be ok to just ignore it or move past it.

The solution should always be about what you need first.  And if you have thought about it hard and feel that it is not such a big deal for you.  Then that’s OK.  After all there are plenty of other more senior people around who are probably ignoring the problem and who should arguably be dealing with it.

So situations which might make the Bully Boss tolerable might include situations where the bullying is infrequent or widely spread around the team as well as situations where you know that you won’t need to put up with it for too long (hooray for term rotations!).

This would include having the reserves and resilience to deal with the bullying as well as supports both in the workplace and at home.


You will feel it in yourself or possibly others will notice it in changed behaviours.  If the bullying situation is becoming a reason for you to feel like not going to work, de-energised during the day or spilling over into your family or social life then its a problem for you and it needs a solution.

Bullying is also a bigger problem if it is not just affecting you but affecting other people and potentially putting patients at risk.


Some questions to pose yourself about your Bully Problem.

  1. Is the Bully Boss situation affecting you at an emotional level?  Do you feel bad or belittled because of their behaviour?
  2. Is the Bully Boss always a bully? Or is this just a temporary situation?
  3. How long do you have to endure this for? Is your time with the Bully Boss coming to an end?
  4. Is it just one Bully Boss or is this a team culture? Are others supporting you or also engaging in the bullying?
  5. Do you have any power over the Bully Boss?  Something that could pull them into line?
  6. Is the bullying causing you to really suffer?

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