#1 Deadly Sin Causing Nurse Bullying

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horizontal violence, vertical violence, lateral violence, incivility, nursing culture
Karen was thrilled to receive an award at work for her excellence in nursing care. She had been a nurse for more than 20 years and this was the first time she was recognized by the leadership team. Her manager announced Karen’s award during a staff meeting and she was honored at a lovely afternoon reception.
Karen was beaming with joy and pride!
However, over the next few weeks, Karen started to notice that her assignments were really heavy – alcohol withdrawal patients, difficult families, isolation patients, etc. While she was running around going crazy, many of her colleagues were sitting at the desk, chatting. She thought it was her imagination until she overheard a conversation between the charge nurse and a colleague that shook her to her core.

The charge nurse was deciding whom to give the ICU transfer to. Apparently the patient was a “hot mess.” Karen heard the charge nurse say, “I’ll give him to Karen. She’s such a big shot now that she won that award. Let’s make her work for it.”
Karen became the victim of the #1 deadly sin causing nurse bullying. Karen was a victim of ENVY.
I was visiting my sister Tina and attended church services with her and her family. Pastor Ron talked about envy as one of the 7 deadly sins. The entire time I listened, I couldn’t help but to see the connection between envy and nurse bullying. It was clear that envy is alive and well in the nursing profession too and a primary cause of unprofessional behavior AND nurse bullying.
What is envy?
Envy is when we want what someone else has, i.e. new car, vacation property, award, etc. and RESENT them for having it. At the core of envy is a feeling of unfairness – I am owed this and I’ve been cheated. Or, I deserve this more than this person.
What if you just think these thoughts but don’t act on them?
Make no mistake about it…Envy is a violent emotion. We may not intentionally attack the person outright but envy will find it’s way into the way we communicate, interact, and make decisions – all of which impact the work environment AND patient outcomes.
Envy makes us competitors and as competitors we have trouble seeing each other as colleagues who are all working together to achieve a common goal.
Envy poisons every relationship, every work environment, and every profession – including the nursing profession.
What’s the antidote to envy?
1.   Name it
When you start questioning someone’s accomplishments or downplaying them, catch yourself. And then say, “I’m feeling envious of her  ________.” Recognizing your feelings of envy and be the beginning of healing.
2.   Trade malicious envy for motivational envy
If you are envious that your colleague got an award or an advanced degree, use it as a motivator instead and GET UP AND MOVE! Do something positive that will move you towards the same or a similar accomplishment.
3.   Celebrate with them
Be thankful for their blessings because when one of you succeeds – you all succeed. The more you celebrate the success of others, the greater the reward for all. Be a part of the party.
Envy is a relationship destroyer and has no place in a profession dedicated to caring and compassion. What should have been a very proud and fulfilling time in Karen’s professional career turned out to be a painful and stressful one.
We are all humans capable of envy (me too). But by recognizing our envious feelings and taking positive action on them, we can start the process of building a professional, supportive and nurturing nursing culture.
Has envy been a reason why you have been treated poorly? I’d LOVE to read your comments about this topic.
Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!

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19 thoughts on “#1 Deadly Sin Causing Nurse Bullying”

  1. Thanks for commenting class blogger! Really? Instead of beating you up because of it, she should have watched and found out what you were doing to build a trusting relationship with patients!!

    So sad

  2. Oh no Ginny! So sorry to hear that. Many nurses mistakenly think that if they are hard on new nurses, they will help them to be competent. The opposite is true! And then there are some who are just mean.

    I've written a lot for new nurses about how to protect yourself against bullying. Most of it is on my website. Please check it out and let me know if I can help!!!


  3. I also agree. I received an award for clinical excellence and I was shunned. My coworkers also began to look for any actions I may have done which was not "perfect" in order to discount my work.

  4. I've suffered this sort of bullying more times than I can count. In my last job on a med surg floor we sometimes had a replacement charge R.N. and many times this was given to one nurse in particular who always put me on the hardest patient load. When I say always, I really mean always. She refused to help me when I needed help and made snarky comments about how I whined to much. She was a real bane! Luckily she finally moved on. These sorts of nurses are hard to pin down and management generally did nothing when I went to them with my concerns. What's the answer???

  5. I've been hearing more and more stories about charge nurses giving horrible assignments to targeted nurses. Ultimately, the decision to do that impacts PATIENTS in a negative way.

    I'm out there trying to change that by teaching managers how to address and eliminate this type of behavior – among their staff and especially among folks in leadership roles, like charge nurses.

    Nurses can be so caring and compassionate to patients but so horrific to each other. It's time for that to stop!

    thanks so much for taking the time to comment!
    Air hug

  6. Hello everyone! As an RN for 28 yr and NP for 18yr I have seen it all in the 4 states I've practice in a variety of settings! I hate to admit this, but the worst situations have been practicing on the east coast, NJ, NY, and MA. I honestly Never had any issues with the FT 13 years (plus another 12 yr intermittent Locum and travel) I practiced in CA. As a matter of fact, we were greatly rewarded in CA for what we knew and not who we knew, which sadly has not been my experience out here. I hope this may one day change?

    Maybe one day I might be fully accepted and appreciated here where I now reside in MA! 😉 one can only hope…

  7. So sad to hear about your experiences Terry. I travel across the country speaking about eliminating bullying and have seen horrific behavior east to west; north to south. We have to stop allowing these bullies to continue torturing other nurses. Nurses can be so caring and compassionate to their patients but so horrific to each other!!!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Like you, I'm hopeful that one day we can all celebrate and support each other – not eat each other!


  8. Wow…so incredibly true. I think we can all look inside of ourselves and see envy dwells within us all! I have been a nurse for almost 40 years and have seen probably every type of bullying out there. Envy seems to always be at the heart. I have worked my entire career to fight this "disease" and have earned my place as a victim due to it. I still work hard to prevent it in any case. Each and every time you bully someone, think long and hard about how you would feel if it were you receiving it!

  9. Thanks so much for commenting! So glad you and others are out there trying to stop it. It's so wrong to treat each other so poorly. I just don't get why nurses use the success of others as a weapon against them instead of celebrating the success of others!!! Aren't we all in this together?

    Doing my part…glad you're doing yours 🙂

  10. This has happened to me in a nurse educator position. I have taught in an NP program for more than 20 years, and always get excellent student evaluations on my teaching. I have also had excellent relationships with my colleagues, who have always let me know they respect and trust me. Recently, 2 new directors came in, and both have made my life miserable. Calling my teaching into question, having meetings about vague things like "not having a team attitude" and "being difficult" or "hard to work with" or that I am "not prepared". It started with me politely disagreeing with a new policy that was bad for students. These aspersions on my abilities are all absurd as for 20 years, my reputation has been as the faculty who all the students and other faculty go to for problems, because I am empathetic and helpful" I do believe both had a problem with me being well liked and getting great reviews. The sad thing is the insidious snide comments about my abilities has hurt me tremendously, and I have no way to fight them. I feel it has weakened my reputation there, but since all they say is inuendo, and vague threats, I have no tangible things to protest. My teaching schedule has been hacked apart over the last year also, all with weak excuses. I am now thinking of leaving but feel somehow that I am "letting the bullies win." This happened to another faculty last year, just as bad, and she got abruptly fired mid semester. Then once she was gone, they spread rumors as to why… all lies. Yuck. There are many faculty that are aware of my situation and support me emotionally, but it still feels like I am the only one who will lose in this situation. The University will almost always side with administration d/t CYA, no matter the reality. Anyone have suggestions? I have tried to be honest, hardworking, and gracious at all times because I can only control my behavior. But I still have nightmares almost every night about these personal attacks, and my inability to defend myself.

  11. So so sorry you are going through this. But unfortunately, you story is not unique. It does sound like their is a bit of female competition a.k.a. jealously involved here. And because their accusations are so vague, it would be difficult for you to objectively address and file a formal complaint. It sounds like their behavior is impacting your health. If so, then leave and let the bullies "win." There is NOTHING more important that your health – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. I stayed in a toxic environment longer than I should have and ended up with TMG so bad that I couldn't open my mouth wide enough to fit in a blueberry or chew oatmeal AND thyroid cancer. Now, I'm the healthiest person I know and was shocked (so was everyone else). But do you see? Your body will absorb that stress and it will manifest somewhere. If you are unable to address their behaviors, then I would prepare to leave.
    Oh….remember Eleanor Roosevelt's famous quote, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission." Try to mentally separate yourself from them. They are not important in your life :-).

    Air hugs

  12. I too am a victim of bullying. I am an RN and for the first time in my life, I experienced cruel, severe bullying. It's depressing and turns me off from the field. There is no loyalty among nurses. Faith is completely gone when it comes to nurses. Every man for themselves.

  13. Oh no! So sorry to hear that. Please let me know what I can do to support you!! There are good places out there. The key is to find a place where nurses support each other – not eat!
    Don't give up!

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