Nursing Times’ resident Happy Nurse Claire Westwood on coping with bullying in the workplace
Bullying and negative behaviour – 9 coping strategies
An article from last week’s Nursing Times has highlighted the issue of ‘bullying’ in nursing as well as other negative behaviours that affect nurses in different ways. I have coached many nurses who have had their confidence affected by the negative behaviours of others. This can affect the long-term careers of some nurses as they feel the only way to deal with their emotions is to leave the unit or even the profession entirely.
How to deal with these issues:
1. Firstly we have to accept the basic principle of personal development – everyone is responsible for what they do. If someone is behaving in a manner which is destructive to the team or hurtful to others, they must take responsibility for the effect it has.
2. Most of our behaviours are unconscious – that is, we are not always aware of them or how they impact others. I am sure we have all worked with people who have been ‘rude’ or ‘abrupt’ and felt what that was like. I also know that we have all acted in less-than-helpful ways at times too. Start by noting your own behaviour and the effect it has on others when you react to others, are abrupt or don’t respond to others.
3. Dr Phil says ‘we teach others how to treat us’ so if others talk to us or behave in ways we don’t like, and we do nothing about it, then we are not helping them to change or to see how their behaviour is affecting us.
4. It is the behaviour we want to change – it is not about the person themselves. If we want to make changes, they have to come from us. We can only change ourselves, not others. The simplest way to do this is to tell others when they have upset us. Do this by talking about yourself, and not ‘blaming’ them. For example ‘I would like to you…..’ rather than ‘You always……’
5. Use the ‘compliment sandwich’ to give feedback to others. This is a way to tell others what you would like while giving them positive feedback themselves. Start with telling them what they have done well, then tell them how they could improve (do not criticise – tell them what you want) and then finish by telling them something else they have done well. This is a very effective way to give feedback and negates the need for ‘criticism’ which no-one ever likes to get.
6. If others constantly treat you in a way that upsets you, realise that it is you who is allowing yourself to get upset. They are often projecting their own fears and anger onto you – it is not about you personally. Learning ways to distance yourself from the effects can be a useful tool. You can ‘detach’ yourself and use it as a way to protect yourself form getting dragged into an argument.
7. Another way to protect yourself from getting into an argument is to simply not respond. People who are angry are often looking for someone to be their fall guy and if you keep calm you take away the ammunition they need to start a row or argument. This can work incredibly well, or simply state that you would like to be spoken to in a civil way in the future.
8. In its simplest form – treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. If all staff were kinder to each other and genuinely treated each other with respect (whether you ‘like’ the other person or not) the NHS would be transformed. It is up to everyone to start to communicate in positive, respectful ways to everyone else.
9. If you need more help, find support from your professional body or mentor, have some coaching or learn some advanced communication or NLP skills.