3 Ways to Protect Yourself from the “Crabby” Nurses

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If you catch a bunch of crabs and put them into a basket, something interesting occurs. One crab will try to escape by climbing up the walls of the basket. However, when the other crabs see one of their own trying to escape, they pull that crab back down. They will exert great effort to stop that ONE crab from escaping even to the point of breaking off the crab’s legs and eventually killing the crab!

Nurses do the same thing to each other.

I’ve talked to many nurses who try to downplay their accomplishments because they know their coworkers will display crab like behavior and try to pull them back down.

Common crabby nurse behavior:
• A nurse wants to go back to school to get her BSN or MSN but works on a unit with predominately ADN or Diploma nurses. If her coworkers find out, they will treat her like she thinks she’s “better than everyone else” and exclude her from all social events (Oh, she’s too good for us now. She’s getting that big shot degree). So, this nurse doesn’t tell anyone about her plans to go back to school.

• A nurse wins an award. Instead of her colleagues celebrating and recognizing her, they downplay the award and then start trying to find fault in her nursing care. “See. She’s isn’t so perfect!”

• A nurse wants to prepare to get certified in her specialty. When her coworkers find out, they try to talk her out of it by telling her certification is stupid – just a money maker for the organization and that it doesn’t prove anything.

3 ways to protect yourself from the crabby nurses.

1. Know your why – get very clear on WHY you are going back to school, getting certified, etc. Once you know your why, it helps prevent you from second guessing yourself when the crabs are attacking.

2. Use scripting – Prepare ahead of time for crabby behavior. When your coworker downplays your award or makes fun of you for going back to school or getting certified, use the following scripts:
“I respect your decisions and would appreciate it if you respected mine.”
“This award is important to me. It offends me that you are making fun of it.”
“Help me to understand why you’re making fun of me because I want to ____.”

3. Start celebrating – the way to minimize crabby behavior is to create a culture where good thing are celebrated. Go out of your way to recognize ANY goodness – awards, school, birthdays, births, marriages, etc. If we all get used to complimenting, celebrating, and recognizing each other, it becomes a part of our language. Therefore, when anyone acts like a crab, it’s immediately recognized. Celebrating becomes the new normal and crabby behavior becomes the abnormal.

Changing a culture from a crabby one to a celebratory begins with each one of us doing our part to recognize, promote, and honor each other!

Cheers to you all! Thanks so much for reading my blog. If you like this post, I recommend the following:

Renee Thompson1. Share with your colleagues and friends using the social share buttons.
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Take care and stay connected!

If you are a new nurse and want help to bully-proof yourself at work, make sure you check out my new Nurse Bully-Proofing Online Program.

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