A long time ago I used to work night shift. I chose to work that shift for a while as my kids were young then so we could save money for day care. It was very hard and stressful as I couldn’t get enough sleep. Having 2 small kids while trying to sleep after long hours of working night shift made me feel helpless then. It was something that I needed to do at that time ‘though.
But, in my experience and personal belief, there’s nothing worse than working with unprofessional coworkers or a bully. Being tired is not a good feeling but coming to work knowing that you have to deal with difficult coworkers and bullies is a nightmare and more exhausting, which gives one more stress and the dread of going back to work.
The Nightmare Began
Prior to boarding night shift I was excited as I knew I’ll be working mostly with nurses of my same nationality. I thought it would be fun and would eliminate my homesickness being a nurse abroad. The first few weeks was great. We ate together on our breaks and shared food, helped each other and it seemed like the camaraderie were there. Until slowly, I realized how mean they treat other coworkers or how unfairly they would give other nurses and assistants assignments or tasks.
At that time, we took turns being a charge nurse. So whenever these two nurses, that are good friends, were working together they feel powerful. They’ll give each other favors and would pass on most of the tasks to other staff. The more a coworker protest, the harder that person’s assignments would be. So slowly I distanced myself to them as I didn’t agree with the way they did things. When they felt my indifference towards them they made my life miserable too by giving me harder assignments whenever I was not in charge.
I remember being given a nurses assistant’s task even though they knew I was busy and of the same level as them. In fact, I found out from another coworker that they even bashed me on Facebook which I turned in to management.
They knew what they were doing as they made an intentional effort to be closer to the manager and the director. So even though these leaders were aware of their behaviors, they wouldn’t do anything about them. There were even nights where these two nurses would be spending their time plucking each other’s white hair while sitting in a documentation room with the doors locked. One night, one nurse got fed up with them and threatened to report their habits which I didn’t think went far as she was threatened back by these two nurses.
They made each staff’s lives difficult. The worst that I have witnessed was when a newer nurse was assigned to be trained by one of them. I noticed how this nurse would be left on her own trying to figure out things or sometimes she would ask another staff rather than consulting with her preceptor because every time she would consult her preceptor she would be given a bad attitude, insulted and was put down.
Needless to say, one day she made a mistake which apparently was not the first time, so she was reported by these two nurses and got fired. This new nurse was not given a chance to have a proper training to be able to prove herself. She was undermined and was not heard as she was very timid as she was new and probably felt helpless.
After a few years, eventually, the one nurse got fired due to bullying (her bad behavior and habits caught up with her) and then the other one was able to transfer to another floor before other nurses can complain about her.
Another Bully Came
One day, another nurse was hired. The director of nursing announced that this certain nurse has a lot of experience and is an RN III which makes her qualified to be a charge nurse. She’s friendly and was cordial until one day her true color showed. Before her shift, she would call and would tell the secretary what patients she would like and for her not to be given any admission right away. She knows how to manipulate people.
She’d pick the easiest patient and if she didn’t get what she asked she’ll throw a fit and would give the charge nurse from the prior shift a hard time as that’s who did the assignment for her shift. She wouldn’t allow anything from the other shift to be left for her to carry out. Everytime she’ll find out that she would have to, she’ll demand that that nurse would stay over until she’s done with those tasks.
As a charge nurse, she only does the most menial task and would not help anybody. If she’s tasked to train a new nurse, that new nurse will end up doing all the works that she’s supposed to be doing plus more. She would take the credit ‘though for what that trainee has done.
According to studies, there are 54 million Americans that has been attacked by a bully at work. Recent study says, most managers often won’t even help because they don’t know what to do neither. Below are the actions to be taken to defeat the bully or the difficult coworker.
Ways To Handle Difficult Coworkers/Bullies
The sad reality is, these type of employees lives in many workplaces. According to Workplace Bullying Institute .”workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating. It can be work interference-sabotage, which prevents work from getting done or verbal abuse”.
- Stand your ground. By speaking up in a calm and stern manner in order to defend yourself and values, which will establish the boundaries which hopefully would give the bully or difficult coworker a sign that his/her actions is not welcome and tolerated.
- Document such actions or events for the purpose of reporting and proof, if the matter doesn’t get resolved by addressing the wrong behavior to the person herself/himself.
- Report it to you manager/supervisor or director. More often than not, it’s either the person is a friend to the manager or they consider that particular person valuable due to her credentials or it’s a matter of not wanting to be short-staffed so they tend to tolerate the behavior.
- Go to Human Resources Department to report the person and those behaviors. Bring all the documentations and if there’s other that has been affected or been bullied by the person, have that person come too, so that they can investigate.
- More and more employer now or facilities has acquired the help of an outside agency to eradicate these kinds of problems so they usually have a toll free number or a hot line where these kinds of problems can be anonymously reported which is sometimes better as this will prevent retaliation from happening.
Remember, in any workplace employs different employees with different characteristics, personalities and ways. Drama and politics is always inevitable. As a senior nurse with a lot of experiences with different personalities and situations, I offer support and mentor young nurses to make their transition from being a trainee to a staff nurse easier. Focusing on our own work and by finding ways to be more productive is the key to be successful in one’s career. Don’t let workplace bullies or difficult coworker be in our way. Do not let them conquer.
If you or someone you know has experienced a certain form of bullying or has experienced working with a difficult coworker, let us know. Let us make a discussion. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them down below.