I have been meeting up socially with a few nursing friends recently. Talk always turns to work of course. I have become so sad by discussions of multiple hospitals and issues with bullying. We often seem to see it as bullying as outsiders looking in and discussing the issue/story but at the time it is often not deemed as a problem or as bullying within the hospital.
Pretending not to see a co-worker struggling, rolling of the eyes, a new nurse in a new area left to find her way. Are these cases of bullying, horizontal violence, sabotage or bullying?
Bullying is described as unwanted behaviour with real or perceived power. However, horizontal bullying occurs among peers and has been described as a constant pattern of behaviour. This behaviour is designed to control, diminish or devalue a person or a group of people.
Bullying is impolite behaviour from someone who has power over you. Bullying can be broken into two categories: – Overt and Covert.
Overt – name calling, fault finding, intimation, and gossip, shouting, blaming, and raising eyebrows
Covert – unfair job assignments, refusing assistance, ignoring, working only with certain people, sabotage, exclusion
Horizontal violence needs to stop; it creates a toxic work environment. It harms everyone – nurses, doctors and patients. When communications break down and teamwork diminishes errors can increase. When we are afraid to speak up for fear of being harmed the end result can be harm for others.
Maybe it’s time we promise to keep each other safe to nurture, support and protect each other. The overt and covert behaviours listed are not normal. They are examples of horizontal violence and they cause a series of long-lasting damage to each other and potentially our patients.
Often people get away with bad behaviour due to lack or response from management. Often underreported due to fears of repercussions from the bully, but it can be exacerbated by
- Managers that don’t manage staff effectively when the bullying occurs
- HR who have loyalty to management not to their employees, often they also wait for written notification of the issues
- Workplaces that undermine those who are bullied
Even when a clique isn’t behaving badly they can unsettle new nurses and affect job performance. When your colleagues ostracise, intimidate or don’t support you, you begin to feel isolated.
It can be rare for bullies to get into trouble for their behaviour. Bullies can often be favoured employees and it can often be hard to assess he said/she said that they were not present for. Nurses often keep quiet because they fear retaliation and they don’t believe the bully will be stopped or that anything will change.
Sometimes behaviours are so entrenched in the department that they become the norm – “the way we have always done that – or the way it should be done”. Often everyone knows what is going on but no-one says anything.
Nurse’s hostility has nothing to do with their high-stress work environment. There is more bullying nurse to nurse than from any other medical worker.
Communication is paramount for the teamwork required in nursing. When this breaks down errors can be made and the team, department and patient suffer. When the bully is the boss it is even harder.
It is suggested that when nurses don’t have an outlet for their frustrations they re-direct them towards each other. If they are not having time to eat, take a walk or go to the toilet for example. They end up in emotional and physical depletion meaning they have little time for themselves let alone their colleagues.
Steps to decrease the bullying
It is easier to see bullying in others, but sometimes self-reflection is helpful. Do you engage in any bullying behaviours?
- Always address people by name – it shows respect, you have bothered to learn and remember their name
- Give help when it is asked for, if able
- Accept your fair share of the workload, help other with a more intensive workload
- Don’t gossip, if you have an issue talk to the person directly. It is better not to encourage rumours and gossip
- If you see something speak up, by not speaking up you are accepting that behaviour
Sourced from nursetogether.com →
How we can manage bullying behaviour
- Mentally separate yourself from the bully. You do not deserve to be publically berated or humiliated for a mistake, no one does
- Name the behaviour. Name either the blatant (overt) or subtle (covert) behaviour. During overt tirades, there is a sense of power and it gains momentum interrupting this can short-circuit the assault. Likewise, during a covert sabotage acknowledging the behaviour can short-circuit it.
Naming must be specific and observable. It must be a behaviour that is undeniable. An example you have given me a six patient lead with the other rostered nurses have four patients.
- Walk away from the overt bullying. By walking away the audience goes too. The bullying will stop when there is no audience.
Yelling – interrupt and say, I will talk to you when you are not yelling if it continues to walk away
Openly criticising– I will be more receptive to feedback delivered calmly if the bullying continues to walk away.
- Support you conversations with facts and documentation. Keep a notebook and write down behaviours, dates, times and witnesses. Objectively sharing this information lets the bully know you won’t be an easy target. Present this information to your NUM or HR. If they don’t address the problem lodge a formal complaint.
It takes moral courage to address bullying behaviour, but it is important to protect yourself, your professional and your patients.
I feel that this could be a never-ending post, I could write about “eating your young” or just not “being supportive”. Even if you read this and you roll your eyes or you think this will never happen to me or I would never let this happen in my workplace. Think about it there might be a small grain of truth in it for you to think about…. ❤