I Know Another Attack is Coming
By Corina Wilkin, BSN, RN
The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) recently held a ‘Day of Dialogue' to discuss how incidents of violence are currently addressed in hospitals. AONE includes lateral violence, or bullying, between colleagues (e.g. nurse/nurse, doctor/nurse) in their definition of workplace violence. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) workplace bullying is partially defined as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that:
- is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- sabotages or interferes with work impacting productivity of the victim
- includes verbal abuse
- is non-physical violence and is sub-lethal (unless the victim commits suicide)
- is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s)
- is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods
- includes acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others)
- requires consequences for the targeted individual
- escalates to involve others who side with the bully (through peer pressure or coercion)
- undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself
- is akin to domestic violence
"Being bullied at work most closely resembles the experience of being a battered spouse. The abuser inflicts pain when and where she or he chooses; keeping the target (victim) off balance knowing that [lateral] violence can happen on a whim, but dangling the hope that safety is possible during a period of peace of unknown duration. The target is kept close to the abuser by the nature of the relationship between them -- husband to wife or boss to subordinate or co-worker to co-worker," (WBI website).
The WBI states that the "most easily exploited targets are people with a desire to help, heal, teach, develop, and nurture others. Targets generally do not respond to aggression with aggression. But the price paid for apparent submissiveness is that the bully can act with impunity (as long as the employer also does nothing)." According to the 2007 WBI - Zogby Survey, 45% of targeted individuals suffer stress-related health problems. WBI reports that victims suffer negative consequences to end the abuse as follows:
- 28% quit voluntarily
- 25% were forced out (constructive discharge)
- 25% were terminated
- 11% transferred to other jobs in the same organization
As a victim of workplace bullying, I can relate to other WBI. When I have talked to my direct supervisor about these issues, she has spent time counseling me to improve my response to my bullies. This leads me to question my own behavior when it is not my behavior that is the problem. The most recent bullying incidence involved a coworker popping a latex balloon in my presence and announcing to our entire office that people with latex allergies should not be in the office. Yes, I have a latex allergy. When I complained to my boss she asked what I could have done differently. The ‘dream job' has turned into a living nightmare.
I have a history of childhood bullying. The cumulative effects of a childhood history pockmarked with bullying along with the past 20 months of being victimized in the workplace has led me to withdraw a little more every day. I suffer because of my bullies' behavior. According to the WBI that is generally the case. They wrote that only 11% of perpetrators experience negative consequences (5% terminated, 6% punished) resulting in a ‘no consequence rate' of 89% for bullies."
I have myriad questions. Questions a battered spouse likely asks him- or herself.
- Why me?
- Is it my fault?
- Do I need to change?
- If so, how?
- Am I crazy?
- Am I awful?
- Do I deserve it?
- Am I ‘that' person no one wants around?
- Why don't ‘they' like me?
- Is it true when my boss tells me these are issues I'd have at any other hospital?
- Would another hospital even want me?
- Am I the problem?
Every day it is a little harder for me to come to work. As my family's primary wage earner, I don't have the luxury of removing myself from the situation without making provisions. And the longer I stay the more the harmful effects accumulate and whittle away my professional sense of self as well as my sense of safety in the workplace.
Hell, what am I talking about? I have no sense of safety in the workplace. I know another attack is coming. But I am not ready for it. I will never be ready for it.
American Organization of Nurse Executives, Mitigating Violence in the Workplace, http://www.aone.org/resources/PDFs/Mitigating_Violence_GP_final.pdf 2014
Workplace Bullying Institute, http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/being-bullied/, 2014