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Oct 10

Once again: enter the NO BULLY ZONE!

I cannot believe how many nurses I speak with that feel bullied in their workplace–and I have been asked to repost these comments on the “No Bully Zone”. This is very concerning; is it symptomatic of the pressured workplaces registered nurses are now in? The academic literature calls it “horizontal violence”. By any other name, it is old-fashioned bullying. It has been described as classic behavior for oppressed groups—are registered nurses an “oppressed group”? Surely not. We are well educated, self-regulated professionals, working in a profession that is always described in public opinion polls as one of the most trusted, and respected. Is the workplace of today oppressive? Is it a leadership issue?  The literature also tells us that those who bully are typically profoundly insecure, dealing with their insecurity and often their incompetence by being overly aggressive and demeaning to colleagues. Many of us have seen this in action, and seen it explained (often by the bully him or herself), as unintentional behavior that has been misinterpreted as bullying when it is ‘really’ misunderstood assertiveness, or strength. Not a chance.  In my experience, the bully knows exactly what he or she is doing, and  thrives in a workplace where there is no will to hold him/her accountable for their destructive behavior. Behavior that emerges from assertiveness and strength of character does not leave others feeling diminished, ridiculed or demeaned. True strength and assertiveness in a person nourishes team efforts by seeing challenges and struggles as TEAM struggles, to be overcome by individuals that are secure enough in their abilities to recognize and value the strength and wisdom in each other—secure enough to help each other shine. I have observed that bullies are jealous of shared success, and have a singular, self-serving agenda.  If this sounds like anyone you know, take heart. There are more non-bullies than there are bullies—and the secret of our strength is in the very thing the bully seeks to destroy—our sense of team and community. From that secure foundation, we can confidently and respectfully challenge bullying behavior—it is tough, but if you see it, take the next step and name it, and then give voice to its corrosive effects on you, and on your team. Mutual respect is the key, it can’t be an interaction that turns into bullying of the bully! Make it clear that ‘we don’t treat one another that way here’, and back each other up. Do this consistently, and I think you will be amazed at the results.

Do you have a story of bullying in your workplace? Let’s talk about it—and about what you did about it.  Have you found effective ways of dealing with this tough issue? Please, share your comments, stories, and wisdom!

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