If anyone in the nursing profession doesn’t believe that bullying occurs, I invite them to peruse several web sites created to support nurses and type in the search box “bullying.” I did just that today and was completely overwhelmed with the number of posts by nurses about being bullied at work.
These posts all seem to have a central theme:
• Senior nurses target new nurses
• Nurse Managers do not get involved
• Human resource staff counsels nurses to “deal with it”
And other observations from the nursing blogs
• Nurse Managers are frequently identified as a bully
• Nurse bullies have been observed bullying clients
• Bullying behavior is tolerated by the majority of staff
• Physicians identify bullies and avoid them
There are quite a few nurses out there who will not stand for bullying in the profession however still perceive themselves as being powerless against bullies. Why is this occurring? And what can be done to stop it?
Well the American Nurses Association’s Tip Card for Workplace Bullying offers these suggestions:
• Don’t participate in bullying activities.
• Become aware of what behaviors to which you are particularly sensitive.
• Make your supervisor aware of the disruptive colleague and behavior.
• Step in when you see others being bullied.
• Confronting bullies may be uncomfortable, but the only mistake you can make is to avoid the conflict altogether.
Obviously these tips are not working since bullying still occurs. Since I was the target of workplace bullying when a practicing staff nurse, I used a variety of techniques to “deal with” the obnoxious behavior:
• Smile at the bully – In some cases this can disarm a bully
• Offer to help the bully – This strategy helps to align you and the person and offer some common ground on which to work out your differences
• Ask the bully for their opinion on X, Y, or Z – this gave the bully an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of a particular subject, depending upon the question they bully may know a lot or a little about a subject. In either case, it’s opening a dialogue and keeping the lines of communication open.
• Volunteer to work with the bully on unit projects – other staff thought I was offering myself as the bully’s personal punching bag, but ultimately, I demonstrated to the bully that I was not going to go away and that we were going to have to learn to work together.
Overtime, using these approaches I was able to steer the bully away from “picking on” other new staff nurses. And within a few months, the bully left the care area for “other opportunities.” Even though I too left the care area shortly thereafter, I never forgot the experience and vowed to never permit bullying anywhere near me or my work.
But alas that would not be the case. Bullying followed me as I started working in staff development in a major city trauma center. This was my first exposure to a Nurse Manager bully and it was horrible! I’ll tell you about it next week…… See you then!