I’ve spent the last 25 years as a nurse and have witnessed bullying behavior in every role I’ve held. As a new nurse working at the bedside (I was tortured by my preceptor), a homecare nurse (testing new employees and watching them drown), an educator (withholding information…’because I have tenure!!!’), and even at the executive level (major covert sabotage!) – I’ve experienced or witnessed every form of bullying.
Nurse bullies are alive and well, exist in every role, and are present at every level.
I got to the point where I was no longer willing to accept nurse bullying as the norm, “Well, that’s just the way it is in nursing.” Therefore, I’ve spent the last 8 years DOING something about it! I spend the majority of my time helping individuals and organizations put a stop to bullying in healthcare. Nurses from all over the globe reach out to me asking for help. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about bullying which I use to help others.
5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT NURSE BULLIES
1. They need targets to survive
Think about it. If everyone stood up to the bullies, they wouldn’t have anyone to bully! They only way they exist are because they have targets to pick on. Starting TODAY, make the decision to refuse to be a target.
2. They tend to be really good at their job
It’s so easy to address someone’s clinical skills but much harder to address their behavior. What I know about nurse bullies is that they tend to be the experts in the department. To make things worse, that they are also more likely to get promoted!! Many bullies end up in leadership roles (charge nurse, preceptor, manager, etc.).
3. They see the workplace as a battle field
Bullies operate from a win-lose mindset and every workday they get prepared for battle. We also need to prepare for battle. How? By understanding their tactics and deploy counter tactics.
4. They like to keep their targets guessing about when the next episode will occur.
When working with a bully, their targets feel like they are walking on eggshells. Sometimes they’re nice and then whammy! You let your guard down and they zing you. Just assume all attempts to be nice to you are fake.
5. They don’t play by the rules.
They cheat, lie, and don’t play fair. The reason why we have so many targets in healthcare is because we are the “do-gooders” and play by the rules. Bullies don’t. Our ANA Code of Ethics provides a blueprint for clinical and professional behavior. Bullies chew up our code and spit it out.
Understand that there will always be someone at work who tries to bully someone else. Why? Because we work with humans and humans have been bullying each other for centuries. However, isn’t it time we stop accepting bullying in nursing as the norm? We are hemorrhaging really good nurses!!
If you are working with a bully or gang of bullies, speak up, take action, do SOMETHING about it. You deserve to work in a supportive, nurturing and professional environment – free from the bullies!
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About the author: Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. Find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event.