How To Tell If You're A Bully

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    So many complaints about being bullied, targeted, picked on or mobbed. So many claiming to be the victims of nurses eating their young. So many complaints about all women being catty, nasty backstabbers. But no bullies or backstabbers on our website? It's a miracle!

    are you a bully?

    i’m getting fed up with some of the threads on there’s a 2000+ post thread on “do nurses eat their young?” and the majority of the posters seem to claim that they know it for a fact that nurses eat their young because they’ve been “eaten.” usually they go on to describe one incident with one nurse which they’re using to characterize an entire profession and sometimes the whole gender. sometimes the story smells of bullying, but often not. yet no one admits to being a bully. there are multiple threads about how awful it is to work in a predominately female profession because women are all sly, manipulative, gossipy or backstabbers. or all of the above. “and i can say that because i’m a woman myself!”, the post will proclaim. “but i’m not that way.” clearly, some of us are liars! there cannot be that many bullies in nursing without there being some on and how is it that “all women are catty, manipulative backstabbers -- except me, of course”?

    there’s a thread going around right now -- there have been many of them lately, but this particular one irritated me today -- about rushing to “report” a preceptor because the student in question didn’t agree with his practice. a whole lot of people jumped on the “let’s lynch him!” bandwagon and someone went on to say she had no empathy for the guy whatsoever. i agree that the practice discussed is egregious -- but no one suggested that perhaps the student involved ought to just have an honest discussion with the preceptor before going off to report him. if you were the one who had developed a habit someone else found disgusting, wouldn’t you want them to discuss it with you and give you the opportunity to make changes before they “stabbed me in the back by going to the manager”? and by the way, has anyone ever heard of “mobbing”?

    if you are rushing off to “report” someone and haven’t taken the time or summoned the courage to discuss the situation with them or haven’t tried to resolve it without involving management, you’re probably a bully.

    if you and your friends think gertrude is a horrible nurse because she always washes her hands with soap rather than using purell or brings her own lotion to work or has artificial nails or doesn’t like white people, do you talk to gertrude about it? and think about what she has to say? or do you and your friends get together in the break room and titter about “gertrude’s going to be really upset because every one of her patients today is white” or back and forth on facebook about gertrude’s nasty smelling lotion? congratulations, ladies -- you’ve just identified yourselves as bullies.

    if elmer snaps at you when he’s stressed or cusses you out because you made a big mistake or “made you feel bad” because you didn’t learn a skill fast enough, that’s bullying, right?

    but if you snap at yorhonda because she’s asked a “really dumb” question for the tenth time this morning and can’t she see how busy you are or how hard you’re trying -- that’s justified, isn’t it? you’re just giving her what she deserves for being so clueless. and if you cuss elmer out because he snapped at you and he has it coming, that’s fair isn’t it? after all, he snapped at you first and you’re just giving him back what he dished out. in fact, nobody gets away with treating you badly because you’ll give it to them back, worse than they gave you! you’re just standing up for yourself, after all.

    hate to tell you this, but it’s you who is the bully.

    you get along great with all of the guys at work, and you much prefer working to guys to working with your own gender. dick and willy roll on the floor laughing when you do your imitation of cassandra who you know never comes to work for any reason except to try to “catch a doctor.” cassandra actually thinks you like her, and she often comes to you with questions. after answering her questions, with or without a condescending manner, you go back to your friends and ridicule the woman.

    all those women you work with who are nasty, gossipy, catty backstabbers? you’re one of them.

    reading between the lines on post after post, it seems that many of the folks who are complaining the loudest about bullies or about catty, backstabbing women are guilty of the same behaviors that they claim to deplore. but it’s different when they do it, isn’t it? after all, they’re not the bully.

    or are they?

    i’m going to don my flame retardant suit here and go out on a limb by saying that if you’re not treating others with decency, honor and respect, you might be a bully. now, about those young you’ve been eating . . . .

    Last edit by brian on Feb 24, '11 : Reason: typo

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    About Ruby Vee

    Ruby Vee is human and knows that she has probably insulted someone without meaning to, hurt someone's feelings without knowing it, cussed out someone who didn't deserve it or gossiped because it's just so darned fun. But she tries very hard not to make a pattern of it. And she strives to be an honorable person.

    Ruby Vee has '38' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ICU/CCU'. From 'the Midwest'; Joined Jun '02; Posts: 8,615; Likes: 31,148.

    Read more articles from Ruby Vee

    22 Comments so far...

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    Couldn't have said it better myself Ruby. Good job!
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    I don't think a bully would ever recognize themselves as being a bully. So it goes. <sigh>
    SnowShoeRN likes this.
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    Bullies never considers themselves a bully. I came accross a few during my eight years in nursing, i also realized the ones who tend to get bullied are the new nurses on the unit. I learned quickly that when one nurse have a problem with you, they all have a problem with you. It's sad to say that eventhough, there is so many laws in the workplace thats against this time of thing, when it comes to reporting the management are reluctant to do anything about it or they just don't want to be bothered. I remember i showed a nurse how to administered blood therapy for her pt because she was new at the time and didn't have the hands on experience, i was happy to help, few years later that nurse had to help a nurse that was in the same position she was few years back, and the way she insulted that nurse, targeted her and talk about her at the nursing station; i felt it in my gut not only for the nurse but i remember when i helped her with the blood and other things now that she is comfortable she forgot what it is like to be the new nurse.
    nurse0520, VICEDRN, and GadgetRN71 like this.
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    To me...if a nurse thinks that all the physicians are stupid, all the residents are incompetent and every nurse but them is lazy...then well, they are usually the bully.
    oklahomagal, 3dayRN, Altra, and 2 others like this.
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    Thank you Ruby! I do so try not to be like an old geezer muttering about the those @#!!%$ whippersnappers - but it seems we've swung the pendulum a little too far from making nursing less rigidly hierarchical to -- well I'll just come right out and say it - my jaw literally drops when I read some (some some some) of the responses from students and new grads to your basic 10+ years of experience nurses. They're rude, they're in your face, they think the employees at their clinical sites are "supposed to teach us", be endlessly patient, step on eggshells so as not to bruise their delicate feelings, and when they are behaving badly most of them want the nurse to apologize to them.

    I have a gigantic culture clash with those things, and even when an older nurse is conciliatory, there's sort of a "well that's a great first step" thing happening along with advice to be sure and be more kind, patient, calm, generous, nurturing, understanding with the big cherry on top "remember what it was like when you were a student/new grad". I remember it vividly. We sort of adhered to that old-fashioned ritual known as when you are new you should listen more than you should talk.

    Also, it's always a terrible idea to turn a nurse in for some infraction you observe while you are being oriented by him or her without telling her about it first, and that goes triple if you say "she's really nice to me, but. . ." or "she seems to be great with the patients. . .but" or the worst of all "she's been there for 39 years but. . ." Pretty sure I'll catch more flamage than Ruby! Possibly someone will reprimand me for the "geezer" reference.
    shehunts4deer, Altra, Chin up, and 1 other like this.
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    Great post and 100% true, but I think the best part about it is the names of the characters. Gertrude and Elmer, lol! I pictured the little old couple in that famous picture with the pitchforks, except they were in scrubs.
    nursel56 likes this.
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    Excellent article Ruby!

    I've been on the lookout for the "eating the young" phenomenon ever since I started school. I would say that in general I see the same number of bullies and gossips and just plain mean people in the hospital setting as I have seen in every other job or workplace I've even been in. One of the joys of nursing school has been that it has taught me to keep an open mind, not take patients or co-workers (or anybody's really!) attitudes or behaviors personally, and to apply the nursing process when I see a problem. When I apply the nursing process to a clinical personnel situation or apply it to myself when I find myself feeling resentful, put down, or angry, it is simply amazing how much I can grow and change and let things go!

    I've certainly seen bully nurses on the floors I've rotated on, both men and women. I steer clear, kill them with kindness, and don't take it personally or give it any energy.

    I recently had my rotation through the ED. The nurse I shadowed had been working in that ED for 25 years! She was totally awesome, totally strict and yet completely fluid in her technique. By 4pm we were at code scarlet (overloaded w. pts cramming every hallway) I watched her handle difficult cranky patients and difficult cranky PAs and MDs, and when she had to step in as charge I watched her report off on 12 patients to a cranky difficult nurse. She wasn't nasty back, she just did what needed to be done, gave me the occasional wink, and moved on. A real role model.

    I think I haven't been "eaten" yet as a student because I am respectful to all the RNs on the floors during my rotations, and to the CNAs. I try to be sensitive - stay out of the way when that seems obvious, and offer to help when the nurse seems overwhelmed and I know there is something within my student scope that I can do to help. Even with defensive nurses who I can tell are wary of students I've found that offering to answer a call bell, or asking if I can grab something for them when I see them poke their head out of a room in an isolation gown and obviously need something etc., goes a long way to not being their next snack! Simple manners and respect, which appear to have deteriorated in our culture, are the key to getting off on the right foot and not being a target.

    I can see which students I am traveling with who will some day be the bullies on a unit - because they are arrogant or rude or insecure even in nursing school. I can only hope that the endless Psych lectures and endless application of the nursing process will somehow open their eyes/mind and they will have a change and truly be the nurse they seem to think no one else is except them!

    I loved this article Ruby because through honest self-reflection and changing our own behavior, and by finding the courage to speak up respectfully to people who are contributing to an unacceptable work culture we can effect real change and grow in our humanity.
    Last edit by Armygirl7 on Mar 5, '11
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    Great post!

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