The Difference Between Bully Targets and Bully Victims

MP90043317973% of all nurses report experiencing bullying or witnessing bullying by their nurse colleagues.  Knowing that there are approximately 3.1 million nurses practicing in the United States, more than 2 million of us have experienced or witnessed bullying by our colleagues.
We are hemorrhaging good nurses because of nurse bullying – leaving us left with the bullies! Good nurses are leaving the profession because of the physical, emotional, and psychological impact bullying has on a person.
Nurses who are subjected to repeated acts of bullying behavior internalize the conflict and actually start to believe the bully. They believe that they aren’t good enough or that they should know more; be more; do more. They start to believe that maybe they don’t have what it takes to be a good nurse. They question their competence and their decision to become nurses. These thoughts lead to physical and psychological stress. Without intervention, they leave.
One way to create a force field around nurses is to help nurses view themselves as targets and NOT as victims. But to do that, we need to understand the difference.

The Difference Between Bully Targets and Bully Victims
TARGET – Understand that the bully has selected you as their next target. By identifying yourself as a target, this allows you to be objective and to depersonalize the bully’s behavior, thus, minimizing their impact on your physical, emotional, and mental health.
VICTIM – When you view yourself as a victim, you feel helpless, out of control, and powerless to do anything about your situation.  As a victim, you are more likely to suffer physical and psychological consequences and may decide to leave the nursing profession.
If you are in a bullying situation, you are NOT a victim. You are a target.
As a target, you DO have control and power over your situation. In my book, “Do No Harm”Applies to Nurses Too!, I teach nurses the steps they can take to stop the cycle of bulling.
At the Workplace Bullying Institute, you can find a Bullied Target 3-Step Action Plan  to help you gain control over your situation.
The key is to separate yourself from the bully by naming it for what it is – You’ve been selected. You’ve been targeted. You are NOT a victim. And, you deserve to work in an environment free from the bullies!
Nurses should be kind – not cruel!
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About Renee Thompson

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. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, visit

There are 2 comments on this post
  • Renee Thompson
    Renee Thompson
    Nov 01, 2015 Reply

    Yes Jordan! It's a mindset shift. When you see yourself as a target and NOT a victim, you depersonalize the situation. you stop internalizing their behaviors and believing them! Thanks so much for taking time to comment. I'm doing everything I can to stop the cycle of bullying!

  • Renee Thompson
    Oct 30, 2015 Reply

    Some very interesting thoughts here. Terminology can actually mean a lot in these sort of situations. Thinking of yourself as a target, not a victim, can change how you perceive and handle it.

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