Stopping Overt Nurse Bullies: #1 action step to stop them in their tracks!

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If you’ve been a target of a nurse bully, I don’t have to tell you how destructive bullying can be.  I’ve known nurses who have called off work, suffered from headaches and diarrhea, and even quit —all because of nurse bullies.  Healthcare loses productivity, risks medical errors, and loses excellent nurses each year to this one problem. 

While some bullying behaviors are sneaky and go undetected for weeks, months and even years (covert); other bullying behaviors are easy to recognize (overt).  Both are destructive and do not belong in a profession dedicated to caring and compassion.
Example of covert bullying behavior: Your co-worker Cindy is so nice!  She frequently offers to finish your work at the end of your shift when you’ve had a busy day; she goes out of her way to reassure you that she LOVES new nurses, and offers to trade your difficult patient with one of her easier patients from time to time. Yes. Cindy is super nice UNTIL…you find out she’s been talking smack about you behind your back telling the other nurses, physicians, housekeeping and anyone else who will listen that she has to “clean up your mess” because you can’t cut it as a REAL nurse.
You’ve just been “zinged” by a covert bully!
Example of overt bullying behavior: Your co-worker Alice starts loudly criticizing you in the middle of the nurses’ station – in front of others. As Alice is screaming at you, she is pointing her finger at you while spewing venom all over you and everyone else.
You’ve just been attacked by an overt bully!
It’s time for the bullying to stop!  Here’s a tip on how to deal with an overt bully:
Walk away from Overt Bullying
When you walk away from a bully attack, you take the audience away with you. Seldom will a bully continue screaming, yelling, or criticizing without an audience. Here are sample situations and possible responses that involve walking away:
Yelling and screaming: Interrupt and say, “I’ll be willing to continue the conversation when you are not yelling.” If the yelling continues, walk away.
Openly criticizing: Interrupt and say, “I’ll be receptive your feedback when you deliver it calmly and respectfully” If the bully continues to criticize, walk away.
Openly minimizing accomplishments: “I respect your decisions regarding education and I expect you to respect mine.” If the bully continues, walk away.
Remember, an overt bullying LOVES an audience. So, don’t give him or her one. Walk away.
Thanks so much for reading. I’m on a mission to put an end to nurse-to-nurse bullying. I’d love to read your comments and answer your questions. Please feel free to reach out to me through my website if you are struggling with a nurse bully or bullies! And to learn about the other strategies you can take, consider joining me at one of my seminars or check out my book on nurse bullying. 
You deserve to work in a supportive and nurturing environment – free from the bullies!
Take care and stay connected
For more great tips, make sure you “like” me on Facebook,”follow” me on Twitter and YouTube and subscribe to my blog. Also, check out my new book on nurse-to-nurse bullying!

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6 thoughts on “Stopping Overt Nurse Bullies: #1 action step to stop them in their tracks!”

  1. Thanks for your question SueSeaCT! One of my blogs addressed this problem!! Just type bully boss in the search and you can read it.

    However, similar strategies apply. Document objective information regarding your boss over a period of time. Schedule meeting with him/her to address your concerns. If nothing changes and/or you believe he/she is retaliating, file a complaint with HR.

    Here's the reality (unfortunately). Sometimes nothing resolves and your boss makes your life miserable. If that's the case, then leave. You deserve to work in a supportive environment. Period.

    Warm regards

  2. Thank you for posting this subject. I had never experienced this type of behavior before until around 2007. I have since had two places of employment where bullying was rampant.
    I was stunned that nurses would behave in such a manner and more so that supervisors would allow such behavior. Bullying one another seems to be the norm in some areas of nursing. The bullying does not end with the nurses it becomes directed toward patients.
    There has always been the underlying adage of "nurses eating their young" but now its infectious and comes with such veracity it reminds me of the grade school playground. Its hard to believe professionals would engage in such petty behavior particularly in the field of health care and "wellness". The language and behavior has certainly become quite overt and painful for all. Thank you again for opening this topic.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment mahawk! Bullying is pervasive and destructive. Nurse bullying exists al over the world!! I've seen some organizations, as you mentioned, where bullying has become part of the culture while other organizations just have pockets of it.

    I'm doing my part to end bullying. It' just feels wrong not to do something about it.

    I am so thankful for your support and sorry to hear about your experiences

    Big air hug to you!

  4. Pingback: Nurse Bully Profile Series: Super Nurse - RTConnections


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