Dealing with Workplace Bullying

So I decided to write this blog after having so many nursing students and new grad nurses share their awful experiences with me! I was so disheartened to find some of you thinking of leaving your own dream job due to work place bullying. I myself have experienced it in all phases of my life as a health care worker. In fact, the ONLY job I never had to deal with poor treatment was in home health. It’s easy in home health since you basically work for yourself. Whether you’re a CNA, nursing student, or new grad RN, you can and most like will deal with unfair treatment at some point in your career. Speaking from experience, I know this can leave you feeling defeated and like you’re not good at your job. It can make you feel isolated, alone and miserable about work. But I wanted to write this so that you understand you are not alone and it’s time to grab hold of the situation and put power and control BACK into your hands.

First things first…

What is work place bulling and how do you know you’re experiencing it?

Bulling can come in many forms, but the main concept is that it is more than just teasing. It is inappropriate comments, often either in front of other staff or in front of patients. I find these comments are usually ones that make YOU look like you’re not doing your job well. The comments can come quick, like a snake bite and leave you lost for words to even defend yourself. Sometimes, it comes in the form of gossip (grosssssss). These are often the WORST people. You’re new and you will make mistakes! That’s just part of the growing process! Personally, if I’m making a mistake, tellllll meee. To this day I am extremely annoyed by the gossiper who see’s you make one mistake and feels the need to go tell everyone. LIKE COME ON GROW TF UP PLZ! Sometimes bulling is just plain ignoring you. Purposely not helping you, ignoring you when you talk or making faces at others when you’re trying to hold a conversation with others.

Did you notice something about everything I just described?? Doesn’t it all sound a bit.. immature? Right. Remember that and choose how you react wisely.

Are you sure it’s bullying, or does someone at your job just not like you?

Ouch? Okay sooo I’m going to be slightly harsh for a sec. Reality is, people are allowed to not like you and they do not have to have a legitimate reason for it either. There IS a difference in someone actually going out of their way to make your day harder, attempting to tarnish your name and reputation vs. some who just doesn’t like you! Having someone who doesn’t like you at work can be awkward, but it doesn’t exactly call for action. Someone can be sassy to you, think you’re stupid or annoying, and maybe even tell other people they don’t like you BUT that still doesn’t mean you should give it any attention. It doesn’t mean you get to be like “okay so FU too. See if I help YOU anymore” or report it to HR. Nah fam. We are grown professionals now and we handle things with grace and maturity.

Now, lets go over some facts..

FACT. Its NOT YOU! Okay, so this person is pointing out every little mistake you make and it’s starting to make you feel like shit right? There is nothing wrong with making (non-deadly/harming) mistakes! Whether you’re new to your job or not, you can and will still make mistakes. In fact, a nurse who thinks they already know it all is more dangerous than a nurse who doesn’t but is willing to learn. The medical field is always growing, always changing, always evolving. Guess what.. SO ARE YOU! You won’t know everything and no one should expect you to either. Nurses who actually care about your growth won’t be tearing you down at every mistake you make, but they would be encouraging you to push yourself more! Let me repeat that! A NURSE WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR GROWTH WILL TEACH YOU NOT PUNISH YOU!! Any great nurse will tell you, they’ve all made mistakes INCLUDING THE DREADED MED ERRORS (hey I made one in nursing school that scared the poop out of me). Stay humble and except criticism when it’s due but NOT maltreatment. Constructive criticism should never be expressed in front of other staff or a patient. NEVER IN FRONT OF A PATIENT! – Report that type of behavior immediately as that is extremely unprofessional and damaging to your career as well as your own mentality. You can’t properly complete your job if you feel like you are walking on eggshells around the other staff. Also, a patient should never be thrown in the middle of someone else insecurities and bullying.

FACT. People don’t like change! You, especially being a new grad RN, are a huge change to a work place environment . They are often easily frustrated by the fact that you don’t know random things like door codes or doctors names or the hospital phone number. Maybe its even the way you stock rooms, pace yourself or even chart. Some people are legit crazy enough to check your charting without you knowing and confront you about it… Some nurses will even barge into your room and stand over you while you are completing a task! Worse is they won’t even pull you to the side to say what they think you were doing wrong. Instead they will go run their mouth to others about “omg she did this like what an idiot amirightttt”. If they aren’t your preceptor then it’s really not their place to be monitoring you. BE CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO DRAW BOUNDARIES. Some people even have this type of mentality that you have to EARN their respect and earn your place on the unit. It’s childish mentality.

FACT. Misery loves company. You’re probably not going to like me saying this.. but honestly you should feel bad for these people. I often found, everywhere I’ve gone in life, I always find that one person who doesn’t like me right away. I used to ponder why this always happened to me. Was it because I talk too loud or laugh too much? Then I remembered, misery truly does love company. Being kind and happy isn’t going to makes you all the friends in the world, but PLEASE don’t let it stop you from being that way. These people clearly have insecurities and deep internal issues in their life. You should feel sorry for them because it’s sad someone is so unhappy with themselves that they feel the need to drag others down. This should be in the back of your mind each and every time they attempt to get to you, RISE ABOVE. They love to see you hurt, so rise above girl/boy.

FACT. If you specialized right out of nursing school, not everyone is going to feel like you belong. You know, those “all nurses should start on med surg units” type of people *rolls eyes*. WEELL THEY STILL HIRED YOUUU. Med surg should be a choice one makes, not a form of punishment for being a new nurse. If a hospital is offering a residency with L&D, ICUs or the ER, then you should feel confident in the fact that they hired you. Starting out in a specialty won’t be easy and you’re going to have to work your ass off, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t completely deserve that job. It’s also no ones business other than the hiring manager. That’s one issue I won’t keep my mouth shut about if I catch a nurse running his/her mouth about. We ALL start somewhere and we ALL have to learn at some point. Personally, med surg is completely different than ER, so I don’t see how starting there would have helped me one bit. Anyone who feels some type of way about specializing as a new grad can kiss your ass. You earned it and you’re not going to have your shit together all the time but it’s really okay. I know nurses with YEARS of experience in the ED that still have days where they can’t get their shit together. Just keep learning and growing and the others can learn to mind their own business.

So.. How should I handle it?

We are all different, and not everyone will feel comfortable handling situations the same! I will share a few ideas on handling it and you all can pick the one you feel most comfortable with. The most important thing to remember is professionalism. These are not your friends, so there is no need to bring emotion into the situation. These are coworkers, and not the type you’d keep in touch with in your personal life. Having little to no emotion will keep the power in your hands. Getting emotional will make you lose control and could lead you to say things that could land you in HR. What ever choice you make, be confident, be assertive, and be firm. You’re demanding respect and, sorry to say this, but people won’t take you seriously if you whine like a baby or act insecure when demanding attention to the issue. Put on your big girl panties! Some managers may try to be like… is this really happening thooo and you need to be confident enough to say “if you don’t address this issue I will speak to YOUR boss about it”. Don’t ever let your concerns get the “yeah yeah okay” from anyone. Here are the different ways you can handle it, and remember.. if one doesn’t work, move on to another. Don’t settle for mistreatment because only YOU can allow yourself to remain getting bullied.

1) SPEAK UP TO BULLY. This is not for everyone, but I have found this works pretty great. Remember again, be careful with how you speak up. Under NO circumstance should you ever ask them “do you have a problem with me or something”, or “I know you don’t like me but..” or “are you mad at me?”. No girl.. save that for your friends. These people don’t have to like you! It’s also none of your business if they like you or not and addressing them in that manner is a good way to get your feelings hurt. I mean, you’re not going to like it when they look at you and go “nope, I don’t like you actually! You’re slow and I don’t think your fit to be a nurse”. No, you’re gonna cry and be like “why you so mean bruh”. Lolz. It happens literally all the time and I’ve seen nurses be this harsh so don’t open that door of opportunity for them. If you want to say something, then go along the lines of “If I have offended you, I apologize, but your behavior towards me has been extremely inappropriate and unprofessional”. See, keep it about work and keep it simple. If you can’t, then this isn’t the best option for you. These situations are best handled in moments when they speak extremely harsh to you in front of staff or patients. Personally, I’m not one to report a nurse for just being an outright bitch. Like yeahhh you’re a bitch but I won’t try to get you fired for it! So for me, I prefer to address a situation right to the person. I feel like this gives them the opportunity to change their attitude on their own. That way, if I do have to escalate it to HR later on, I don’t feel bad about what happens to them.

2) Ignore it. You may be like, I’m sorry what?? But not everything deserves your attention. If you’re working in a smaller space then this might be harder to do, but in larger spaces try to just ignore them. Let their actions speak for itself! I assure you people will notice, even if you say nothing at all. If you’re going to ignore it, also be sure to avoid gossiping about it. It’s okay to open up to one or two people but don’t tell everyone. You’re honestly just as bad at that point and people will be less inclined to stand up for you if you’ve been a gossiper. Sometimes this is a great option if at all possible! If you’re being bullied as the newbie, then it will pass with time. Some times it takes up to 6 months but people will suddenly just change! It’s rather bizarre that people are this way but somehow, after 6 months of treating you like shit they decide to like you. It is important that, while you may ignore them, don’t ever put a patient in danger while doing so. If this nurse needs help, then just do it.

3rd) Bring the issues up to your manager. I have found this to often have some backlash and could label you as not trust worthy. This is an important option to take if you feel as though your mental health has been severely compromised due to the mistreatment you are facing. When I was a PCA, I was treated so poorly that I’d wake up sick to my stomach at the thought of going to work. I would be humiliated by a screaming nurse in front of everyone and it was only two or three staff members who treated me this way, but it was enough to severely compromise my ability to do my job. I didn’t want to report it as I was scared of the backlash I would get. I endured miserable treatment for over six months before another nurse finally reported it to managers. I recommend taking this route if you are dealing with mental issues due to treatment, decreased worth ethic, and endangerment to patients.

***Any type of sexual harassments should be addressed immediatly through management and HR***

Final Thoughts

There is no dream job worth your sanity. If it leaves a bad taste in your mouth then maybe these aren’t your people and this isn’t the place for you. If you find you are working with people and management who don’t give a damn about you, then go somewhere they do. Health care is a hard profession in itself and you need to be working with people you can rely on. Some work place environments are just plain TOXIC, with no hopes of change. Instead of changing you into someone toxic yourself (which can happen), change your environment to a positive one. If you’re stuck in Nurse Residency contract, try to find a new job who will pay off the rest of your contact. Only YOU can allow yourself to remain unhappy and only YOU can make the proper changes to be happy. Regardless of the choice you make, make it with confidence and never look back.

One thought on “Dealing with Workplace Bullying

  1. Thank you for posting this. Very powerful! I didn’t endure workplace bullying until I was in my late thirties and working in a nursing home at the time. Because I was horribly bullied in middle and high school, I knew to keep a CYA file, some recordings, documentation of it and protect myself from termination and possible blacklist. I ended up quitting on my own terms and moving on to greener pastures. However, I saw many other victims of this type of thing who weren’t so lucky and ended up losing their jobs.

    Later, about six months after I quit, the owners of the nursing home did a clean sweep and many of the bullies, who were actually committing embezzlement and stealing narcotics from the med cart got caught and were terminated, one of whom was the DON.

    The DON got fired, her license later revoked, and she ended up working as a waitress at the local cafe. Bullying does eventually come back to bite them.

    This is a great post! Have a wonderful week.


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