What Do You Think About Workplace Bullying?

The problem of bullying is one nurses are sadly all too familiar with. We've selected a few comments our ModernNurse readers have shared regarding their own stories and thoughts on this important topic. Read below and share your own thoughts on workplace bullying and what we can do to be a part of the solution.

 

I wish this didn’t still bother me, but it does. The worst bully I have encountered in 47yrs. of emergency nursing is the woman who insisted that I be fired. She disagreed with me that an elderly woman with a K+ level of 2.2 should be able to sign out AMA and drive home or to the hospital if she wanted to. I engaged the pt’s daughter in an effort to facilitate a quick and safe transfer by having her drive her mother’s car and for her to go with our local paramedics to the nearest hospital. She finally agreed and was admitted and stayed for a four-day treatment of slow drip potassium. After several meetings with human resources, I was fired because I was considered to be acting outside my scope of practice. I was also denied unemployment coverage and had to go before a judge to have it begun. She was a young nurse with too much responsibility in a situation that was meant to be “the best care for the patient.” Within a week, she had a special meeting of my former teammates to warn them that she, herself, was feeling bullied by their unhappy reaction to my firing. I try to forget about being fired, because nursing was my love.

--Patricia S.

 

How about the sneaky, snarky type of bully? The one who sets people up, intimidates new staff and has to be the one who ”saves the day”. This person is the loudest, most attention seeking person in the place. She travels with a posse equally as snarky. Administration is totally aware of staff perceptions but alas… nothing.

--Camo

 

Unfortunately, nurses do eat their young and I never understood that–we were all young once. In fact, I have a friend who did her master’s thesis on “How Nurses Eat Their Young” and the reasons are endless!! About the comment how nurses hate everything about the job–obviously we don’t or we wouldn’t continue to do it. Nursing school was no picnic, but we all completed it. Maybe that says something about most of us!! But, look at it from the other side–we touch people’s lives everyday and we are able to do something 99.9% of the rest of the population can’t. I think that’s really special!

- mighteemouse

 

And just about the time you have staff brave enough to say, “we are not going to take this any more!” And actually give you specifics in writing add the unions into the picture. I lost 5 good nurses within a months time due to 1 bully. I write her up, HR interviewed them all, upheld my disciplinary action, and the union fought it saying my decision was preconceived. The VP had to get involved and it stuck. Where was the union protecting the rights of the abused nurses???  It is present and we need to stay firm in not tolerating it. We grow the culture that allows bullies to flourish by NOT acting when we should.

- MC

 

I can honestly say in 25 years of nursing I have worked with a few “wanna be bullies” but mostly just very good nurses who were decent people. I’ve found being firm, fair and friendly to co working nurses goes a long way, with an equal emphasis on each of those 3 components. Also, being professionally assertive and confront negative issues when they occur. I don’t mean hostile confrontation. I mean simply respectfully standing up for yourself. Just knowing that you will respond back derails many bully personalities. Don't allow negative emotions to build along with fear and resentment. This is what happens when others make bad remarks and you do not address the inappropriateness of it. We all need to treat others with respect and then expect the same from them.

- Ruth N.

 

Wow. We’ve never met but you perfectly described my boss from my previous hospital. She was a Selective Bully who had been around forever Even the CEO of the hospital didn’t dare to confront her. Thank God I finally. Figured out her agenda and found another job before she could carry it out!

- Lynda M.

 

Most bullies are allowed to be that way because administration does nothing to stop this despicable behavior. You will find this in every healthcare setting. It should be discussed more frequently. Administration that allows this or ignores this should be disciplined along with the bullies . Serious action should be taken by nursing boards. This might help curtail this very real problem. --Ellen

You’ve only scratched the surface! I’ve seen many types of bullies in the medical work place. Problem is they love attention from the boss and your colleagues. I ask them to go to a quiet room and have a one on one discussion. That seems to take the wind out of their sails. They don’t have the lights and they look much different in the quiet setting. Someday I’m going to write an article on this subject and I hope it gets published. There are many good nurses out there who tolerate this behavior. They love helping the patients, as I do, but there are quite a few who try to discourage that. Such a shame.

- Bob G.

 

What are your thoughts on this topic? Share in the comments section below.

 

31 COMMENTS

  1. Workplace bullying would end if fairness was rewarded, unfortunately, hospitals are counting on pitting nurses against each other.

  2. It is not only that “nurses eat their young” they also “digest the old”. I returned to acute care nursing after working in other fields of nursing for seven years. It was a huge learning experience and believe me I would not recommend it for anyone. I had to prove myself all over again even though I had more acute and sub-acute nursing experience than those who were orienting me. I find the generation gap to be rather difficult and still there seems to be a lack of respect. I may move a little slower, but I move with purpose!!

  3. I retired from my hospital after 38 yrs. ,two and a half years before retirement age due to the repercussions of reporting a bully in an administrative position. HR was not involved in the investigation of the complaint. The DON who was the bully’s director did the investigation. She admitted she wasn’t sure how they determine bullying. I was removed from my position as it was decided I shouldn’t work with the bully in her department.
    After all the years of service in numerous positions with excellent evaluations I feel I was punished. I endured months of a move to a totally different position that was extremely stressful and required extra hours each day with home study to be able to function. I had loved my prior position and was grieving the loss but did become proficient in the new roll. I hate that I resent the way administration handled the incident and feel so saddened. My life was disrupted by a bully and I’m sure I’m not alone.what a disappointing was to end my career.

    • I have also walked in your shoes, and got fired a week before my 60th birthday from a job I had held for 18 years. It was hell when my supervisor died and the new one, a horrible bully, replaced her. I felt punished as well, and it haunts me to this day, as my cubie mate was so incensed by what they did to me, she quit in protest. I am so sorry this happened to you.

  4. I was bullied to the point of a nervous breakdown. I just about gave up my license but a friend who is also a nurse talked me out of it. My boss actually destroyed the evidence of all the written out events and I had to go all the way up to WCB to win my case and get back pay for two years of being off to heal. My bully coworkers are still working in the same job and never not reprimanded and I had to give up a full time job with total benefits to take a casual job somewhere else to only get a small amount of benefits.

  5. I worked as an RN for 15 years back in my country, and with my perseverance I was able to get my Rn license in USA.My first observation of bullying was in between colleges, especially native ones . Of course with english as my 4’th language I was having some hard time in beginning. Some of them (staff) were smiling on me , and after my back heard such stupids things about my RN status coming from another country, doubting on my skills.
    But this didn’t last to long because I was so good showing my best side of what I do with all my heart patient care.

  6. I’ve been a nurse for 35 years and just recently met an anesthetist who was a bully. He didn’t want any help to the point that he began swatting the hands of nurses who made any attempt to assist him with applying the monitors. This was how the relationship began. He often was impulsive, overreactive, interruptive, hostile, and dismissive. I realized early on that my coworkers and I dreaded working with him and we all began to feel unappreciated and undermined. No one wanted to deal with him. I believe anytime communication breaks down it jeopardizes patient safety. After making a formal complaint I was forced to confront him in a room of 8 people including administration. It was awful. And even though I knew it recurred with my coworkers, it was presented as though it was a personal problem to work out. My nurse manager said I was the only one complaining. After the meeting I was told my manager had asked around and indeed found out others had been swatted but did not relay this during the meeting. I felt singled out and thought that management should have handled it, not me. Confronting a bully shouldn’t be the job of the one being bullied. It should come from the top.

  7. Personally, I am writing to bring attention to the unprofessional behavior that I have received from a number of surgeons in the perioperative environment at different medical facilities. Among the behaviors I can categorize as unprofessional includes disrespectful, inappropriate, demeaning comments creating an uncomfortable, hostile, and intimidating work environment. Every nursing intervention implemented in facilitating the case(s) preceded derogatory comments made by the surgeon(s). Instead of creating conflict in the environment, I paged for nursing assistance and reported the situation to operating room nurse managers.

    I hope that this comment explains the disappointment with what is occurring. I would not like this to happen again to me or to any fellow peers. This does not even touch upon the bullying amongst fellow nursing peers and surgical technologists within the perioperative environment. At this stage, administration, surgeons, nurses, surgical technologists, etc. should unite to stop mean, abusive, and disruptive behavior among medical professionals that interfere with the cooperation, teamwork, and communication necessary to fulfill the obligation to put the patient’s interests foremost. This behavior is unethical, uncivil, and disrespectful, yet distressingly common. After bringing this situation to the attention of the Chief of Surgery and administration, the respective surgeon(s)/nurse(s)/surgical technologists received a slap across their hand so to speak and went upon their merry way of manipulating the system continuing on with their conduct. We need to continue to bring this matter forward in order to stop the vicious cycle from happening in the future and hope that corrective measures are taken seriously and swiftly. These efforts should be recognized, applied, and supported by all nursing boards and physician organizations to address this ongoing issue.

    Nurse abuse continues to be a professional issue affecting the code of ethics. These barriers effect nurses in coordinating and providing safe quality patient care. Nurses continue to carry out their scope of practice with moral resilience that eventually cause nurse fatigue. This workplace violence and incivility needs to stop.

    Thank you for listening.

  8. You wanted to be the center of attention? Wanted to feel superior to someone? Well, with this pandemic, have at it! Enjoy!

    To others who wish they did not become nurses:
    1) There are multiple fields within nursing. Was there something about nursing that interest you? If so, focus on getting into that field. Otherwise –

    2) Consider changing your career. It is never too late to change your career. Don’t let others guilt trip you into staying in a career that you are just not happy with.

  9. If you pay close attention to what is going on around you on the units, you will realize nursing has a great amount of disgusting and dysfunctional people working in this field.

  10. I become very upset and I feel frustrated when I see my colleagues bullying new nurses. I’ve been a nurse for 30 years. I worked in different settings. I work right now in a place where we need team work. Each nurse’s opinion is very important. We need to work together no against each other. I see supervisors standing behind nurses to expect them to fail. There is not compassion for their personal issues. I pray every day to handle any confrontation appropriately so I don’t get reprimanded. However, this place has only made me stronger and become aware to help and guide the young. Though, some nurses fall into this trap, I know that as long I follow policy and procedure,I have a good stand and I keep my faith stronger. I will make a difference for excellent patient care.

  11. I’ve been on the receiving end of so many bullying, snarky, situations I couldn’t go into details – not enough room or time. Wish I had never become a nurse. To those who haven’t been a victim spare us the advice to b strong. Would u tell a domestic abuse victim the same thing?

  12. I have to say that I was lucky. I was 31 when I became an RN. Having experienced work place bullying when I was 21, I had already learned how to deal with it. I was also older coming into nursing. I had a mouth and knew how to use it. I guess I was also lucky to have some pretty good bosses. There were some co-workers that I didn’t care for, and some doctors and residents that were jerks. When I started and was precepted, I would tell my preceptor that I want feedback because I still need to learn, but don’t correct me or belittle me in front of a patient. I asked that if she or he saw me doing something wrong, suggest that there is another and better way and offer to show me. Then tell me in private. I would tell them what I expected of them, and asked what they expected of me. I think I only had to ‘correct’ a couple of co-workers for being disrespectful. I would also stand up for co-workers if I felt they were being ganged up on. I don’t like stuff like that and can’t just sit by and let it happen.

    I think it also makes it easier for me because I’m 5’8″ and almost 5’10” with those Dansko clogs. I had 10 years as a paramedic, so I was very comfortable with patients as well as having that experience. This made me more confident even as a new RN. Unfortunately, adult like is kind of like still being in high school. People’s personalities never change. Some people mature and have learned from things they have done. But the nasty people never change. And we get stuck dealing with them in all types of jobs.

  13. Bullying is real and I was amazed by some of the comments I read here but more educated for them. I haven’t been in nursing long but I have discovered that it is worse than corporate America. At least in corporate there are no unions. If you bully, you go to HR, write up, than let go. For some reason in healthcare it’s tolerated more. If I am a manager, do I allow 1 bully to stay on staff and chase away 5 nurses or do I get rid of the 1 bully? I rather get rid of 1 than to lose 5 good nurses. The TIME, ENERGY, and MONEY, it takes to train a new nurse is serious business. I was bullied out of my first job. I hung in there for 8 months and finally quit. The sad part is the people I was bullied by were known bullies and management refused to do anything. It was so bad that these nurses even bullied the doctors in the practices, some of the female doctors were too scared to say and do anything. I was a child bullied in school and I refuse to tolerate it as an adult. Bullied do come in various types as mentioned in the above posts. If it means I job hop for my sanity and safety, so be it. Each year new graduating classes of nurses rush to get master degrees and run away from the hospital because of this bullying. We had a friend in our circle who was thinking about suicide because of the depth of the bullying she received. From locking herself in the bathroom and crying her eyes out each shift. This is not humane. Bullying on all levels must come to an end. There is no bargaining when it comes to this type of behavior from ANYONE!!!

  14. I was bullied years ago by the DON I reported her to corporate and they said that maybe they would look into it. She was a lying underhanded person and ran off several good nurses. Nothing was done about her so I quit just to get away from her. Its unfortunate that bullies are not held accountable for their actions.

    • I agree with your action. You did the right thing. You could have stayed and dealt with it or remove it from your life. It’s toxic and affects all areas of your private life. You take it home to your family and relationships suffer for it. Being unhappy and miserable at a place you go to do Gods work. It’s a shame because I have found that it is always the the senior nurses who have been around a long time who have the ear of management who get away with it. In my situation, I was the youngest on my unit, cute face, and a body that showed I worked out daily. That did not help me much. The lead bully, because there is always a lead bully, was besties with the charge nurse and hung out and partied with the head managers so an impossible situation!!!!

  15. Bullying is pervasive in healthcare. I have noticed that it’s not just the young that get eaten but the experienced/mature nurses (as in over 50 y/o and up)are also disrespected for their work ethic, knowledge, and skills. These bullies incidentally are often empowered by Managers and administration because of lack of action when reported. When you review the topic of bullying you see that it has been a huge topic and even built in to hospitals education reading requirements and sign off. The problem is that it is all ignored. As a manager I had to have specific documentation of bullying by an employee. Staff would come to me and tell me about a particular person but no one wanted to to document for fear of retribution.Sure it’s not supposed to be allowed but it happens despite attempts to intervene, counsel, and document, document, document. Many times hands are tied by Unions or HR even when the documentation is available.

  16. It has been identified that ICU,NICU, Labor and Delivery, and Maternity units have the highest incidents of bullying by JACHO. The longest a new grad will last in NICU is 5 years. Then she will leave nursing altogether because of bullying. That’s so sad. Statistics are high. SB

    • So true. All of the nurses in my orientation were in L&D at least 6 and they quit after a few weeks because of bullying on their unit. OMG, it is true!!!

  17. Unfortunately I was a victim of work place bullying. I even went to my HR rep, who went straight to my supervisor and they both had a plan and fired me. I’ve been s nurse for 30 years. I have loved every minute of it. I was asked to resign and told I wouldn’t be fired. I was going to contact JACHO about horizontal violence in the workplace prior to being fired. I wanted to give my supervisor a chance first, she wasn’t interested. I was working on the maternity unit which was my passion. I worked at that facility 25 years. The last seven on mother infant. I was bullied the whole seven. I feel that relief charge nurses are the worst. My first night off of orientation I was written up 5 times by a relief charge nurse. I had never been written up for anything my whole nursing career. My story is too long to tell. Bottom line I resigned from my position. They fired me anyway. Then I had to hire a lawyer, to preserve my license. This has been 5 years. I’ve had a couple jobs but because of my experience I’ve been thrown under the bus. Other nurses thinking I’m a threat. I’ve lost all of my self esteem, and don’t have the confidence I once had all due to bullying. I keep my license current. I’m ready now to do some volunteer work. I feel for all of you, but there is no quick solution. My first encounter was as a student observing a delivery. By a nurse who told me to get out of her way and shoved me up against the wall. On the maternity floor, go figure. Maybe it should have been a sign not to work that area.We
    asked our instructor why that happened. She replyied. Oh it just happens. Good luck everyone. SB

  18. I was given the best advice from
    A manager before I completed my RN degree and it was to confront anyone you have an issue with face to face. If that doesn’t work then get your manager or whoever is above them involved. I have found that when I confront the bully and call them out on their irrational, unprofessional behavior they usually tuck tail and run. Most bullies are insecure and cowards. It usually shocks the hell out of them since I am quiet and kind of shy, but also very strong and confident and a good nurse so my actions always speak louder than their words. -Dawn

  19. I always try to smile and stay up beat at work because I enjoy being a nurse.Unfortunately, this is taken as a sign of weakness or lack of intelligence.Therefore, I have been bullied a few times.I resolve the situation by standing my ground and confronting the situation.I just recently switched jobs d/t the worst situation of bullying that I have encountered in 30 years of nursing.This began silently in my first few weeks at a new job by a person who was in charge daily and tried to get me fired.I was not going to allow this person to cause me another day of heartache or provide more comments leading to poor reviews.I quit after 6 months. l spoke to management as others had done previously but d/t multiple management issues, nothing changed.Thank God I got out!

  20. I am sad to say that I have been working within a hostile work environment for the last 3 years. I have been a nurse for over 30 years and I have NEVER been treated like this! My nurse manager targets nurses who are not within ‘her favorite’ group. Her type of ‘leadership’ is to belittle, scream, or verbally beat you down. She will micromanage and then turn around and The union and HR know about her and do nothing. In fact one union representative stated to me, prior to me saying what was going on, that I needed to stop doing what wrong.
    Nurses need to advocate for oneself, just like we do with the patient in our care.

  21. I have been bullied in the workplace by a person who to this day I would walk away from her no matter what her need, she is the only person in my 60 years of life that I can say that about, she also enlisted others to harass, they were so sure that nothing could happen that they sent a card (all signed) by the 7 of 14 people working in that unit, telling me how miserable they wanted to make my life but they were really followers, and probably afraid that she would turn on them, her major problem? In short, I was a Male RN , she didn’t think men should take those jobs, and she resented all Male doctors as well it became so bad that after 3 years I had a nervous breakdown and left employment after 23 years, d/t health issues directly attributable to this day after day hostile environment by people who were supposed to be Professionals. Management was fully aware of the situation and did nothing to improve it . To this day I can only say that some people are truly evil and bullies and they come in all shapes sizes and genders

  22. I disagree with seasoned nurses eating the young nurses. I feel that has reversed with the young going after the older nurse. I have experienced bullying. When I report, I just get told it is my perception and I am wrong. When coworkers make perceptions about me, they are always correct. Also the younger nurses imply that I cant handle the work. I finish my work myself and never ask for help. Because it will be used against me.

  23. We have a “suggestion box” that is in a location that permits anonymous drops. It is almost 100% used for complaints about other employees. I call it the bully box. Sadly, despite being advised that this box neither provides suggestions nor is helpful, the administration continues to allow its use. It is the same situation as online/cyber bullying because you do not know who complained, you cannot defend yourself and, to top it all off, the administration acts like it is important to tell you when there is a complaint – even unsubstantiated! Morale is suffering and people have been hurt by untruthful statements or mean-spirited accusations. I cannot stand how this is making others feel.

  24. In 41 years of nursing I found that bullying started at the very top with the DON’s and filtered right down to the very bottom, especially because it was tolerated at all levels. It was exacerbated by long hours, lack of sleep, abuse from patients and their families, and a totally unbalanced work vs personal life mentality. These conditions became much worse when medicine began to be regulated by politicians and government instead of the medical staff.

  25. Bullying is motivated by a persons lack of self esteem. People who bully others are trying to cover ip their own incompetence and feel insecure and inadequate.
    In my experience as an RN the best way to deal with a bully is to confront them in a firm yet professional manner and to also deal with the incident as close to the time it happened as possible. As an RN or any other
    professional one must set boundaries right out of the gate. Unacceptable behavior needs to be addressed swiftly and firmly.
    I have never backed down from a bully.
    I have handled bullies on the unit as well as reporting them to my Director of Nursing.
    Nobody messes with me at work!!
    I have the right to go to work and feel comfortable and safe in my work environment.
    I hope this helps!!

  26. I’ve been always easy target by bullies. I’m small and short. I’m Asian. I’ve been a nurse for 25 yrs and until now I’m still learning to stand up against bullies. At one point I had Human Resources involved to deal with the bullies but unfortunately nothing was achieved-the bullies are still around working. My last manager was even worst-he did not do a good job in protecting me against the bullies. So I end up leaving the old job/unit to avoid the bullies. Now,I have a new unit and of course new bullies come in. But thank God,my new manager is the most amazing thing that ever happen to me!! She protects me from these new bullies!! Rest assured I can do my job without being intimidated!!

    • What does the manager do to help? Is there anyway you can use some of the manager’s examples to help yourself? I used to tell my staff if they see someone being bullied, have the person being bullied come with them away from the bully. Suggest, in a polite way, the bully discuss it with the manager, even if it’s a doctor doing the bullying.

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