Ending the cycle - page 2

What can we do to combat ******** and backstabbing in the nursing profession? I realise that the cause of this behaviour is complex and includes oppression from the medical profession and the conditions we are forced to work in.... Read More

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    I flatly told her that unless the problem was with my patient care or my clinical skills, then the discussion was over. I told her that in the future, when these people came to her to complain, she should refer them directly to me, as we are adults, not 7th graders. Again, it shut them up quickly. Calling people on juvenile and abusive behavior generally puts a stop to it, in my experience. Laying down and allowing them to treat you like crap is what perpetuates the cycle.
    Of course assertiveness is important in confronting nurse-eating behaviour, as Kday pointed out. However it is often not well-received, especially when the person trying to assert themselves are a new grad or student.

    Nowadays team work is considered to be the most important part of nursing, and I would agree that second to safety, it is the most important thing, along with patient rapport and empathy. So if more than one nurse complains that you don't "mesh in" with them, chances are it will be taken seriously and the approach of saying "if you don't have any complaints about my patient care or skills then get out of my face" won't work anymore, at least in Australia.

    Another problem is that the complaints made against other nurses because they are new or don't fit in are not limited to "personality not meshing in" with the others. Often complaints are either blown up out of proportion or invented. As a student, I was terminated from a clinical placement because the clinical nurse specialist on the unit did not like me. When I asked her a question she would scream at me to leave her alone or stop hassling her. She was the team leader about half the time I was in that unit, so I couldn't avoid asking her some questions.

    On the first day she was like that, I calmly told her that I am not hassling her, that I just needed to know her opinion as team leader. I kept using this approach whenever she would yell at me. I would then laugh her behaviour off later on. This did not change her behaviour one iota. She ended up making a big deal out of a small situation and made it look like a major safety issue, where in reality there was no safety issue at all.

    Some argued that I should have been more aggressive in confronting her, yelling back at her. I disagreed (and still do) because that would be perpetuating the cycle by giving it back to her. We have to rise beyond that. Be assertive, sure, but set a good example, don't use their abusive methods back at them.

    But one has to take into account why this behaviour happens. As one poster wrote, fear. The other reason, oppression. Another, loss of control due to over-stressed work conditions. All these reasons have one thing in common: loss of power or control, so it would seem to me that a positive step would be to empower others, and to do that we have to start with ourselves.

    Here are some ways I've been able to think up to achieve this, and I hope others have good ideas too: firstly, give compliments to your coworkers - let them know you respect them for certain things they do. Find positives in even those you don't like. Perhaps in drawing attention to their good points you will cause them to display them more and they will also be more likely to take criticism about their negative points on board. As Kday said, stand by someone when they are making a fair stand against something/someone that is unfair. Support them in being assertive, but in a respectful and productive way. Be a good example of how to get one's concerns out into the open.

    Please, if you have any other ideas, let's see them.

    [This message has been edited by Doc (edited April 15, 2001).]

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    Kday. I want to be just like you when I grow up. haha actually I am 32. but astudent nurse and the most timid person you will ever meet. Could you spare just an ounce of assertiveness. haha

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    Hmmm....Doc. Why does it happen? Welp, on my unit, I believe a lot of these nurse-eaters are really intimidated and scared of new staff that appear to be confident, happy, and articulate, because THEY are simply miserable in their own skin. FOR EXAMPLE...those same nurses who complained about my 'personality issues' are all NOTORIOUS for 'eating' new personnel on the unit, but ESPECIALLY the ones who are bright, quick learners, friendly, and well-liked by other staff. I truly believe they do what they do out of JEALOUSY. You know...blow out someone else's candle so your own shines brighter...that kind of thing. That, and they are truly miserable, unhappy people. I have found over and over again, that if someone is unhappy with themselves and/or their life, they will do everything in their power to drag the rest of the world down with them if they feel that their last stronghold is 'threatened.' Think about it. These women (and men) are often very unhappy people. They are unhappy with their marriages, relationships with their children, job situation, house, where they live, etc., etc.. The one thing they can cling to, when nothing else is going right, is to stomp on everyone around them at work...the thinking...'I may not be in control of my personal life, but by God, I'm gonna be in control of SOMETHING.' How do they gain control at work? Bullying. Pure and simple. It's why kids bully other kids. They are unhappy, their homelife is crappy, they feel unloved and their self-esteem is in the toilet. They have no control (seemingly) over their own lives, so they assert control the only way they can...by bullying. Their favorite victims are the ones who seem to 'have' what they don't perceive themselves as 'having:' intellect, loving parents, good friends, etc..

    Now, I suppose some would say that you just need to show the bully love and kindness, help them see all the 'good' in themselves etc., and the behavior will stop. Well, in the movies and on old episodes of 'The Cosby Show,' yes, that works beautifully. It even works with some children who are bullies in the real world. But these are adults we're talking about, and it rarely works with them, which is truly unfortunate. I suppose in the rare instance, the old 'kill 'em with kindness' thing works, and works well. I've gotten much better results by standing up for myself, however, in the case of a true bred-in-the-bone nurse eater.

    You can't make these people happy with themselves, their personal lives, or their professional lives. Until they cease being miserable human beings, they will continue to try to make everyone else around them just as miserable. I dunno...maybe this could be changed by installing prozac-laced air filters in the nurses' lounge... . Sorry...had to add a touch of humor to my grim psychoanalysis. Just my 2 cents.

    [This message has been edited by kday (edited April 15, 2001).]
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    I have to agree with SuzanneRN. I've worked in a lot of different jobs in a lot of different situations and have found no significant difference in behavior of men and women. I think the difference lies elsewhere. When I have worked in a hospital where backstabbing and ******** were commonplace, it seems the management seemed to encourage (reward) the behavior. I am working in a hospital now where this kind of behavior is not so prevalent. But I notice the people who engage in it are getting rewarded for it either.
    When training dogs and children it is best to ignore unwanted behaviors and reward the desired ones.
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    Kday, a very good description of the "why" behind the behaviour. It is essentially what I was saying, only you said it better.

    But really I don't see that adults are that different from children when it comes to fear, loss of power, need for love, and all the basic desires and instincts human beings go through. I originally came from a psych background and so am also a believer that adults have "child" aspects in them - these are the unresolved conflicts within themselves.

    I agree that there is nothing like assertiveness to confront the negative behaviours of nurse-eaters and what I was talking about was empowerment. What a better way to empower yourself (and thus be an example to others) than to be assertive!

    Still, there is an underlying loss of control, a fear, as you say, of not amounting to anything, of being outperformed, of looking small, of not being accepted. Why can't we do both - be assertive and be empowering to others? And yes, don't forget I came from psych and so I agree perhaps some people are too far gone for this approach, but one must never lose faith, for that is the final condemnation of a human being. By the way, I agree, lets make prozac in the air filters standard hospital policy On second thoughts, bring on the nitrous oxide


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    Hello there..
    This is an interesting discussion. I'd like to add a few of my experiences.

    I work on an all-female unit. The ******** and backstabbing is at a plateau right now. I personally feel that working with ALL one gender can be a problem, especially women. Yes, men can be just as nasty and backstabbing - in a different way - but I think working with all one gender allows the dysfunction to flourish. In an all female unit, enter one man and he may be enough to alter the unit personality slightly. In an all male workplace, enter one female and she may be enough to alter the men slightly to watch their mouths, clean up their act, etc.

    It has been my contention that nursing isn't alone in this dilemma. My husband tells me that this kind of thing also runs rampant in his profession (Information Technology) where you have project managers belittling system analysts and system analysts belitting programmers. Some IS professionals have an associates and some certifications, others have an MIS degree. I think nursing has a larger problem because the profession is so numerous. I see it a little like crime. Crime appears to goes up when the population goes up, only crime really only went up PROPORTIONALLY to the population, so it seems like a straight percentage increase. Nursing has something like 2 million nurses - that is the single largest profession in America. There are more people with varied education, backgrounds, walks of life thrown together - there is going to be problems.

    The nurses who backstab, like Kday said, are most likely unhappy with themselves, or could simply be unhappy with their current job or role. Many of them have to orient new nurses. One nurse on my floor has no choice but to orient: she is the only full time straight days person - the rest of us rotate shifts. To be consistent with a consistent preceptor, then this nurse has to do it. But these nurses who eat their young, they would have that behavior if they worked in the grocery store, in the bank, in the factory, in an office setting. I worked in an insurance company with a wide variety of people, male and female, and the backbiting was just as evident there. It's everywhere.

    It effects us as a profession more than other professions because our profession now is under scrutiny. We foresee a worse than ever shortage looming on the horizon and we are scared. Alot of us don't see a resolution to this other than to leave the bedside or stay on and ride the tide. We see our lack of organization and standardization as a means to our cattiness. I see the end being an organized, unified profession with standardized education and point of entry. I realistically don't see the backbiting to stop, because it never will. It's human nature to be this way, unfortunately.
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    Hi Doc. Under another post, it was pointed out that we can't change a person's behavior, but we can change how we respond. I believe that's the best way to deal with a situation. It takes a lot of discipline to be consistently assertive to encounters, but I believe that it can become a habit with time, patience, and practice. This applies not only how we respond to others but to our personal circumstances.

    I agree with the posters who pointed out that men can be bears in their behavior. When I worked in the hospital setting, I would see male doctors eat each other individually or in gangs. I would hear of partnerships breaking up on the same level as the couple in the movie "War of the Roses."

    I do feel that due to alot of factors, people today tend to be more methodical in how they undermine others. You do have those who engage in fist fights or worse. But, you can't tell me that someone who has diabolically sat down and strategically planned out someone's demise, individually or with a group of others, is not as dangerous as that fist fight or cattiness. Maybe even more so.

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