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.

Conflating abuse and incivility in the academic workplace

Teachable moments with the attitude it is business may be excellent use of reframing to maintain ego in that kind of environment.

Minding the Workplace

In an advice piece titled “Coping with Verbal Abuse” in a recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert J. Sternberg offers advice for those who have experienced this form of mistreatment in the academic workplace.

Sternberg, a former university administrator and past president of the American Psychological Association and now a professor of human development at Cornell University, offers his short list of common types of verbal abuse in academe:

That abuse comes in many different forms: book reviews, referee reports on journal submissions, evaluations of grant proposals, questions and comments during presentations, offhand comments by less-than-collegial colleagues, and on and on.

Rather than simply giving it back and “telling off your abuser” (a potential “career-ender”), Sternberg recommends that one adopt approaches more likely to “pay off in the long run,” such as:

  • “Ignore the abuse and, if possible, the abuser.”
  • “It’s not always personal…

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AMA study: The costs of reduced employee loyalty

You get what you give. If more employers treated employees as assets and treated employees justly, employers would get more loyalty. When there is an uneven exchange, stress in exchange occurs, causing one individual to have power over another (Emerson, 1976). Stated succinctly, the organizational culture influences the behavior of its employees interpersonally and towards the organization based on positively or negatively perceived organizational support, justice, and reciprocity.

Emerson, R. M. (1976). Social exchange theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 2, 335-362.

Minding the Workplace

Reduced employee loyalty is costly to companies, but it appears that too many of them aren’t taking this seriously.

In an article for Workforce, American Management Association vice president Sam Davis reports on a new AMA research study showing that 52 percent of managers “see their employees as less loyal than five years ago.” He further notes that this perceived reduction carries negative costs: “A lack of loyalty can clearly be detrimental and result in loss of trust, higher absenteeism and turnover, shoddy work, gossiping, the formation of cliques and, in extreme cases, incite a mutiny.”

The December 2014 study included survey responses from some 1,200 North American executives, managers, and human resources professionals.

Unfortunately, the AMA study also suggests that a lot of employers aren’t taking the cultivation of employee loyalty very seriously. According to Davis, “One in five respondents said ‘yes,’ loyalty is a major focus at…

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The importance of stopping workplace #bullying in healthcare

Recently, I have been part of an advisory panel with the American Nurses Association on workplace violence, incivility, and bullying in healthcare.  Actually, I have been studying why these behaviors continue in the “caring” community. I like to laugh at myself, and with that, comes the unique sense of humor of a nurse.  I asked the wrong question when I first started. I asked “why do we bully?” I should have asked, “How can we stop it?”

I have learn that all of us can be “the bully” in an environment fueled by stressful events, lack of control over the care to be given, the time to give the “care” to our patients we have been taught is right, and the continued imbalance of power associated with gendered roles outside and inside of work. For those HR people who say coach the bully, coaching also includes progressive discipline. Nurse managers/leaders need to be educated and coached to be able to use progressive discipline not to fire the bully nurse but to rehab him or her back into the group. Parity occurs when the process for disruptive behaviors (bullying) is equally applied to physicians and nurses, which includes Employee Assistance Program intervention.

However, I would like to illuminate the fact that nurse peers and leaders continue the “nurses eat their young” by minimizing or rationalizing the behaviors of others, even their own behaviors. During transition from novice to competent nurse, nurse peers and leaders bully each step of the way creating the next generation of nurses who believe that bullying is normalized behavior. Humans use aggression within  families, some more than others. The violence, incivility, and aggression is global, societal, and the healthcare culture reflects normalization of aggression towards its employees. Nearly 35% of those men and women we work with have been affected by bullying or intimate partner violence prior to their license. We all appear to have a willful blindness or personal bias of wanting to be seen in the best light. God forbid we show any weakness least it become amplified by rumors or personal dislike. Authenticity, trust, and work relations are lost behind the façade that must be maintained.

Our profession is fragmented between the various specialties as human care become more complex. The one value linking all professional nursing specialties is nurses “care for” patients. This “caring” makes professional nursing the most trusted profession in the United States. As we work to dissolve the internal work conflict, incivility, and bullying between each other, each nurse is going to have to push the changes necessary to stop the behaviors from continuing to the next generation of new novice nurses by creating a systematic onboarding process for new nurses nationally, advocate to control our own work, advocate for a physical and psychologically safe work environment, and co-create a better work-life balance between employees and employers.  it is not the individual nurse that must change. The entire system has to change.

Healthcare organization also need to work with professional nurses for this change to happen for safe patient and cost-effective care, not profit. Profit will increase when quality of care is predicated on safe staffing levels and a “just culture” when there are no gender discrepancies in pay. Nurses are capable of creating and sustaining great change. It is time to create a great change in our response to violence inside and outside the profession.