Confronting the Bullies
Everybody's talking about it and too few are doing anything about it. "It" is bullying in the nursing workplace.
When we published an article on the subject in January, readers posted an avalanche of responses. Many related personal stories of unresolved bullying at work. One stated she is "ashamed to be part of this profession"; another said "I tell anyone I know: Be a teacher, not a nurse!"
Where does it come from? One theory is the stress experienced by nurses is in many ways unique. Inadequate staffing, lack of autonomy, overwhelming responsibilities and constant life-and-death decision-making in numerous settings can make some nurses feel backed into a corner, and they display displaced aggression. While there might be some truth there, it doesn't help the targets of abuse.
The American Nurses Association has added a new resource on the subject with the recent release of the 28-page book Bullying in the Workplace: Reversing a Culture. Although the price of the brief book raises some eyebrows ($19.95 for ANA members, $29.95 for nonmembers) it's significant the nation's most prominent professional nurses association is acknowledging the problem.
The ANA publication outlines zero-tolerance policies against bullying, which is a sensible step to combat such behavior. Bullying exists within organizations because it's allowed to exist. Most everyone can point them out; bullies are seldom subtle and often flaunt their power. If it's a nurse or nurses on a unit creating a hostile environment for co-workers, it's up to their manager to confront them. If the manager is the problem - and have I ever heard those stories - the manager's direct report is responsible for allowing it to continue. And so it goes up the line.
The buck has to stop somewhere, even in the c-suite. Perhaps workplace atmosphere should be a prominent part of Joint Commission or similar appraisals. If accreditation was on the line, it would be gratifying to see how fast the bad apples would be weeded out.
Have you been a target of horizontal violence at work? What is your idea to put a stop to it?