Workplace bullying is something we have all witness or been involved in. There is an abundance of evidence that shows the workplace is hostile for many nurses. It affects roughly 11% of all nurses at some stage. Therefore, I felt it was important to write my first post <bullying in nursing> We need to be able to identify bullying behaviours and implement strategies to cease these behaviours to end the cycle.
We have all seen it – maybe we have even been a part of it, watched in silence as a colleague berated another, circulated gossip. Bullying and gossip it is rampant in nursing and it makes a difficult, stressful job all the more difficult.
You don’t just have to worry about your skills as a nurse and your patient care but you sometimes worry about what your colleagues, your peers are saying about you. Behind your back, in the tea room, to your face or even when no-one is around. It makes you worry about how to fit in and how your day will progress. It can be just like being back at school.
These behaviours often only occur in isolation – so can be “interpreted” as office politics or as a clash of personalities rather than bullying. Bullying also evolves over time. In the beginning, it may be indirect – hard to pinpoint exactly what is happening. Then it may become more overt, leading to more isolation and humiliation. Drawing it out in the open and reporting it can help it to stopped. It should be stopped. Our culture can be changed.
It will only stop if confronted. The only way to stop bullying from destroying the profession is to band together. Where ever there is a group of people working together there is a chance of bullying.
- A victim might be able to do little on their own
- Stand up when you see it happening/witness it – it is the only way it will stop
- Don’t be the nurse with no patience for new staff
- Don’t be the gossip
- Don’t let others be gossips either, call them out on it
There are the “good” and the “bad” no matter where you are. It is how you manage and deal with it that makes the change/impact. It is a complex phenomenon – there are social, individual and organisational factors involved. Sometimes is it not conflict based but tactic based to undermine and isolate a person.
- Long standing power struggles to arise from conflict of values caused by organisational conditions and unsympathetic leadership styles
- Racism (overseas nurses)
- Self-interest: need for power and completion for promotion
- Grad nurses/new nurses threaten entrenched nurses with change
- Change threatens – increases pressure of work and organisational factors including a lack of support from management
Supporting a healthy workplace and preventing bullying
- Providing education
- Developing codes of acceptable conduct
- Zero tolerance policy
Leaders must use harmonious approach and work collaboratively to prevent any form of bullying – not I said leaders no leaders and managers, as managers can be part of the problem. Noted that nurses with a system of resilience are better able to counteract bullying behaviour, I will cover resilience in another post.
Whistleblowing is seen as a negative act. Nurses should have the opportunity to raise concerns without fear of retribution. Nurses who are bullied should be encouraged to speak to colleagues and superiors rather than just relying on friends and family. When concerns are not dealt with appropriately or sensitively many nurses will ultimately leave the profession – what a loss.
- Allegations should always be investigated
- Policies must be in place to deal with the investigations
- Zero tolerance
- Whistleblowing should be encouraged
- Suggestions/complaints boxes may make it easier
- Nurses at all levels should be expected to use empathy with their colleagues
- Physical and emotional safety
- A complaint should be escalated as necessary and solutions found identifying and confronting those involved. Fair hearing, discipline, dismissal
- Victims and perpetrators should both be counselled
I think every person who is bullied experiences a sense of shame – you feel a loss of control over the whole experience and yourself. Most of us don’t want to admit to having experienced bullying. I was even initially worried about writing this post. What would the backlash against me be? Would I get into trouble for writing it?
I think of my bullying history though I have not told you about it. You can see that it even affected my ability to write about bullying as a topic. I work hard every day to move forwards with my life. Which is why I decided to write and share these posts.