This article has been featured on Calling All Nurses, a Kaplan Test Prep blog for nursing students.
Workplace bullying is often described as aggressive behaviors that may include: alienating, intimating, public humiliation or sabotaging, and are usually perpetrated by someone in a higher level of authority. This behavior may involve covert or overt acts of verbal and non-verbal aggression. These types of behavior have been reported to result in enough psychological distress to nurses that it has caused them to leave the profession altogether (Dellasega, 2009).
The American Nurses Association (ANA) has identified bullying as a major barrier to enhancing the nursing profession and has provided several resources to empower nurses in ending workplace bullying and lateral violence. You can find more about those resources by clicking here.
Here are 5 easy ways that new nurses can better handle situations where workplace bullying occurs:
1.) Remain Confident – By remaining confident in your abilities, you can avoid being a target of bullying behaviors. Remember that you are a nurse and have met the minimum requirements by your school, your state and the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) to practice as a nurse. You have earned your spot alongside the other nurses and should be treated with respect and dignity. With that being said, it is also your responsibility to know your knowledge limits and seek out additional assistance, guidance and training where appropriate. By demonstrating confidence in your ability to learn and practice as a new nurse, you will surely deter bullies from picking on you.
2.) Remain Professional– It is very easy for someone who is being bullied to demonstrate unprofessional behaviors such as arguing, yelling, screaming, using aggressive body language, using profane language or creating a disturbance within operational flow. It is vital that you remain calm, collected and professional in your responses to a bullying individual. Avoid any behaviors or actions that can come back to negatively reflect your level of professionalism.
3.) Confront the Bully – Sometimes bullying behaviors are not recognized as such by the perpetrator. Regardless of whether bullying behaviors are intentional or not, it is important that you share your concerns with the individual who you feel is bullying you. This is best done after a shift and in an informal matter (i.e. pulling the person to the side, away from other colleagues). This will provide an opportunity for you to be open and honest with the individual. Please note that it is important for you to allow for the person to respond and that you fully listen before making any further judgement. In most cases the person who demonstrated bullying behaviors will apologize and your working relationship will improve afterwards. If this does not stop the bullying behaviors then it is time to report it to the nursing management, which is included in the next step.
4.) Report the Bullying Behaviors – No one wants to get to the point of having to bring someone to the managers office to be counseled. Unfortunately sometimes it is absolutely necessary to involve nursing management when bullying occurs. If the bullying behaviors continue after you confronted the individual(s), then it is imperative that you notify your nursing manager immediately. Make sure you provide detailed information regarding the behaviors demonstrated, what your actions were to try to establish resolve, and how these behaviors are affecting you at work. Your manager will then follow through with a plan that will best address the situation.
5.) Advocate for Peer to Peer Accountability – Creating a culture of peer accountability should come easy since most nurses come into the profession later in life and have gained a plethora of interpersonal skills, management skills, and have been in some form of supervisory position in previous positions. Even those of you who are entering into nursing as your very first job, you too can hold your peers accountable for their behaviors. By holding everyone on the team equally accountable for their behaviors, bullying behaviors decrease and work morale increases. If you see something, say something.
Of course there is always the potential for meeting resistance in all of these steps provided. Just remember one thing – your determination to provide a positive impact will eventually overshadow the negativity that others create. With consistent positive role modeling, you will help create a healthy workplace environment!