A short discussion on novice nurse workplace bullying

In 2012, we published our preliminary research on workplace bullying (WPB) in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship on the effects of workplace bullying on the productivity of novice nurses. Our article focused on novice nurses. Therefore, the implications emphasized preparation and protection of novice nurses going into an environment where negative behaviors of incivility and WPB continue in spite of The Joint Commission standard to eliminate disruptive behaviors for facilities. The interventions were concerned with novice nurses. Education and discussion of the issues surrounding bullying behavior should be an open discussion in nursing schools, in clinical rotation, and new hire orientation. Equipping the novice nurse to recognize the difference between bullying behaviors and constructive mentoring is paramount. Additionally, how to successfully cope through or stop stressful or WPB behaviors is essential. Novice nurses need to receive education to mindfully consider their own stressors, and then crucially and respectfully confront the perpetrators of these WPB behaviors. This may be hard to do, given a mostly female population already are socialized to avoid conflict but confronting the behaviors will decrease the likelihood that WPB behaviors will continue towards them. Encouraging novice nurses to follow the facility protocol for reporting incidents is also essential to stopping the behaviors (Bartholomew, 2006; Berry, Gillespie, Gates, & Schafer, 2012; Dellasega, 2011; Griffin, 2003).

Every employer, not just healthcare employers and nurse leaders, are responsible for providing a physically and psychologically safe work environment for all of their employees. Many hospitals and nurse leaders are working towards that end, which include educating all nurses on what is adverse intraprofessional communication and behavior. Unfortunately, perpetrators of bullying behavior do not always recognize themselves as the “bully” unless confronted about long standing behaviors and attitudes. Progressive counseling, corrective actions, and discipline must be well document to remove the predatory bully from the environment if he or she continues to act inappropriately.

However, social norms and organizational culture take time to change (Schein, 2004). Behaviors associated with long standing hazing of novice nurses (e.g., assigning larger patient loads, sink-or-swim attitudes, assigning problem patients, micromanaging with fault-finding instead of mentoring) require novice nurses to acknowledge appropriate organizational norms and effectively confront and stop hazing and WPB behaviors instead of rationalizing incivility and WPB behavior as social norms to be used on the next novice nurse. As nurses, we need to consider self-care and work/life balance on equal standing with patient care. If we do not take care of ourselves, patient care will suffer.


Bartholomew, K. (2006). Ending nurse-to-nurse hostility: Why nurses eat their young and each other. Marblehead, MA: HCPro, Inc.

Berry, P. A., Gillespie, G. L., Gates, D., & Schafer, J. (2012). Novice nurse productivity following workplace bullying. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 44(1), 80-88.

Dellasega, C. (2011). When nurses hurt nurses: Recognizing and overcoming the cycle of bullying. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International.

Griffin, M. (2004). Teaching cognitive rehearsal as a shield for lateral violence: An intervention for newly licensed nurses. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 35(6), 257-263.

Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint.

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