Want to Change Bullying Behavior? Learn Your ABC’s

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Maintaining a positive presence can make a huge impact on your nursing career. Yoder-Wise’s article, “The Essence of Presence and How It Enhances a Leader’s Value” describes  three vital components to a positive presence, which can transform negative, bullying behavior into positive, uplifting nursing teams.

The ABC’s – Appearance, Behavior, Communication

A- Appearance

Personal appearance is an often disregarded part of communication and presentation skills.

When we are working with the public, we may be representing our organization or just ourselves.  It’s important to remember, it is still YOU on the front line.

It is you that the other person, group or audience sees and before you have time to open your mouth and give an account of yourself, certain assumptions, both consciously and subconsciously, have been made.

First impressions are very important – they can be about attitude as well as dress.

Visual impact is at least as important as verbal impact, people will very quickly make assumptions based on your facial expressions, the clothes you wear, how well groomed you are and your body language.

Nobody expects you to be packaged into something you are not, but your appearance is a reflection of your own self-esteem and you should aim to present yourself to your best possible advantage.

Scrubs may not be the most flattering, but they shouldn’t look like they are stored in a rolled up ball in the corner of your closet. Take time in the morning by showering, paying attention to personal grooming  and looking the part of a professional nurse. I once worked with a nurse who looked like she had been out partying all night and then basically brushed her teeth and showed up for work at 7 A.M.! And guess what? She did!

How does appearance help with negative behavior from bullies?

People want to listen to those who look the part of a professional. Think about yourself from the perspective of a patient. What would your first impression be if your nurse appeared at the bedside with a disheveled appearance? ? If your nurse looks unkept, you may feel like your care will be the same. The same goes with our colleagues.  The coworker who seems sloppy may also be viewed as a  careless coworker,, and not taken seriously because of the impression they spend less attention to detail on themselves.

Your appearance sends a message. When you dress well, you appear to be more confident and are thereby, less of a target to a bully.

[easy-tweet tweet=”When you dress well you’re more confident and thereby, less of a target to a bully!”]

B- Behavior

Behavior is shown as the way to display integrity in nursing. Nurses obey the Code of Ethics, established by the American Nurses Association, when they become nurses. Provision 6 explains that nurses, even off the clock, should present themselves as professionals.

How does behavior help with negative behavior from bullies? 

 Nurses with morals and integrity have no desire in putting others down. They care for their patients as much as they do their own family. They also care for their coworkers and want the team to function well. Professional behavior will build trust and a positive, collaborative  team culture.

The way you treat people matters. It matters to the organization, the team, and to the patients we serve.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The way you treat people matters to the patients we serve! #nursesrock”]

C- Communication

Effective communication helps nursing practice in a variety ways. Communication is the key to the nursing process and allows patients to open up to share feelings. It also creates a healthy foundation for  relationships among other nurses and personnel within the team.

How does communication help with negative behavior from bullies?

Different modes of communication build excellent communication skills. Nonverbal and verbal communication skills need to be mastered  by nurses in order  to be skilled  communicators. Good communicators create good teams. Teams that function well reject any incidents of bullying and incivility, therefore bullies may change their attitude when surrounded by positive, assertive communicators.

Incorporating the  ABCs of positive presence can offset negative bullying behavior. Let’s think about two different scenarios, one with negativity and one incorporating  the ABC’s:

Scenario #1:

The physician on call that day is mean to the nurse, the nurse is mean to the nursing assistants; nursing assistants are mean to unit secretaries…and unit secretaries are mean to EVERYONE! Just kidding…well, sorta.

Scenario #2:

The physician is mean to the nurse. The nurse who has learned and practices the  ABCs of Positive Presence responds professionally and articulates positivity to the nurse aide who has a positive presence which  flows to the nursing secretary who is being “killed by kindness,” or in other words, being offset by positive presence.

By showing positive presence – negative behavior will change.

How to Start Changing the Negative Behavior

Here are four ways to work on your positive presence:

  • Get Up Early- Do your hair and makeup (if appropriate) for work. Make sure your scrubs don’t look wrinkly to show your professional appearance.
  • Behave- Behave in a way that honors our nursing Code of Ethics. If you want to be treated as a professional, start acting like one!
  • Communicate- Start by using some assertive communication with patients. Patients will share the good news compliments with your boss. “Kill them with kindness”, the bully nurse, that is. Ask about their day or personal life. Try to discover the roots of their negativity, and try to figure out why they are a bully. However, set boundaries and don’t take any cr** from them!
  • Positive Pose- Before you engage in a tough, positive presence role, go to the workplace bathroom. Look in the mirror and be “wonder woman” or “superman”. Put your hands on your hips and hold your head up high. Your power posture will come across as confident.

As uncomfortable as it may be, we are under the microscope every day. Our employees, our colleagues, and our patients judge us by how we look, how we dress, our manners, our grooming, and sometimes even how we do our job.

Practicing the ABCs for Positive Presence will help change you, for the better. You will learn to be a confident professional nurse with powerful personal presence.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Practicing the ABCs for a positive presence will change you for the better! #positivityforthewin”]

Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.


Sources: Yoder-Wise, P. S., & Benton, K. K. (2017). The Essence of Presence and How It Enhances a Leader’s Value. Nurse Leader, 15(3), 174-178.

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