Bully or Just a Bad Day?

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Let’s face it. In stressful situations, we are not always on our best behavior.
The unpredictability of healthcare, dealing with crisis after crisis with limited resources can convert Glenda the Good Witch into the Wicked Witch from the East – occasionally.

What’s the difference between someone who is just having a bad day and a bully?
Let’s say you get “testy” with your co-worker during a crisis, if you’re NOT a bully, you recognize your behavior as inappropriate, disrespectful and unprofessional; and you APOLOGIZE. A bully justified her actions, makes excuses or worse, believes she has the right to treat others poorly just because.
I define bullying in this way:  It’s the repeated patterns of destructive behavior with the conscious or unconscious attempt to do harm. Now that’s a bully!
If you find yourself working with someone who frequently flies off the handle, gets reactive in a crisis or lashes out at others when under stress pay attention to how she behaves after the event. Does she apologize? If not and she repeats the same pattern of bad behavior, she may be a bully.

Think about yourself and how you react in stressful situations. Do you ever get “testy” with your co-workers? If you do, recognize and apologize.  There can be a fine line between a bully and someone who just had a bad day. Make sure you’re not falling into the bullying definition.

Remember to be kind to one another, to be respectful, and to apologize if you’ve behaved unprofessionally. Every day you wake up gives you a clean slate to start anew.
Thank you for reading. Please do your part to stop bullying behavior. Bullying has no place in a profession that is supposed to be caring and compassionate!
Take care and stay connected
To find out how you can bring Renee to your organization or next nursing event to talk about bullying, please contact her through her website

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2 thoughts on “Bully or Just a Bad Day?”

  1. Hi Renee,

    I agree with your definition of a bully. We see this in healthcare and education and have given it special terms – lateral vioence, disruptive work places, eating our young. How sad that we still have to label bad behavior and can't just eliminate it like a bad cold.

    We often talk the talk, try to initiate healthy work environments, etc. But how do we get people to actually walk the walk? I am looking forward to your new book to find some of your answers to this problem.

    I have recently had a DON dress down my students in a patient's room for following policy and not doing "what we always do". When I approached the DON to discuss this rationally and see if she had any suggestions, I was told I baby my students and they need to toughen up or they would never make it in nursing!

    When bullying occurs unchecked at management or administrative levels, it can be almost impossible to change a culture to one of support and collegiality.

    Robin Hertel, MSN, RN, CMSRN

  2. Thanks Robin.
    Really…until we stop accepting the bad behavior as "normal" it will continue. We all have an ethical and professional obligation to do our part to end this disgraceful behavior in a compassionate profession.

    Something to remember….policies don't solve problems – people do!

    Take care and be kind

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