When Your Coworkers Challenge You More than Your Patients

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    Some patients are more difficult to deal with than others and can make your job harder until they’re discharged. But what can you do when your coworkers are more challenging than your patients and every day is exasperating?

    When Your Coworkers Challenge You More than Your Patients

    Each day working as a nurse can be as unpredictable as the weather, but you're ready to tackle whatever comes your way because you know you can count on your coworkers. Together everyone works to make sure the job gets done smoothly. Well, almost everyone. Some days the most difficult patients are easy to deal with compared to that one person that can make even the sunniest day feel like it's raining.

    Everyone benefits when you work well together. It can result in higher morale and better productivity. When there is discord with coworkers the negative energy can spread and defeat attempts at teamwork, result in higher turnover and basically make your day miserable.

    Oh No, She's Working Today

    You're scanning the assignment sheet and you already feel like it's going to be a terrible day before you know what's happening on your unit. It's not the patients that have your good mood pummeling, it's because you're working with ...

    Bad Mood Brenda

    Lazy Lisa

    Argumentative Annie

    Clueless Catherine

    Negative Nelly

    Gossiping Glenda

    Dramatic Darcy

    Missing Mary

    Cellphone Cindy

    So what do you do when you're stuck working with one of these, or other, challenging coworkers?

    It's Not You, It's Me

    The first step is to take a closer look at whether the problem is more with your response than the person, or their behavior. Explore your feelings and thoughts about this coworker. Are you fueling the fire? Are they reacting to your signals? Consider your body language and tone of voice when you interact with them.

    She isn't pulling her weight- You spend all day hurrying to get everything done because she is so slow. When in doubt, help her out. Perhaps she needs a refresher, and is embarrassed to ask. Offer to assist. You can model the proper steps for the procedure-and teamwork. The time you invest might be regained on future days if she gains confidence from your example.

    What is she thinking? Sometimes behaviors that are obvious to everyone else are not apparent to the person. They may not be aware of how they are perceived. Often people can become too comfortable in a position and their professional behavior wears off. Behaviors that might be acceptable at home, or in their personal life, don't belong at the worksite. Is her behavior, or comments, a violation of a personnel policy? Use the opportunity to ‘help her out' by alerting her so it doesn't show up in her workplace review.

    She's just so frustrating- Observe her interactions with others, and in a group. Do you appear to be the only one who has an issue? If it's more of a personality conflict, that's often difficult to change. You might have to learn to live with it, ignore the behavior, or request another assignment.

    No Bullies Allowed

    If someone is displaying incompetent or negligent behaviors that can risk effective patient care, or acting in a manner that could be considered harassment or bullying, you need to bring it to your supervisor's attention. These could be hostile, unwelcome comments or more subtle behaviors through isolating, excluding, or pitting employees against one another.

    Gather information about the issue and present it to your supervisor. Understand that depending upon the situation, in order for your supervisor to address the issue, it may become apparent that you brought the attention to light.

    Lead the Change

    In other less serious issues, if possible, consider trying to address the situation before going directly to management.

    • Approach your coworker for a discussion in a non-accusatory manner with the goal of determining how to work better together.
    • Don't just approach with an offer of unsolicited advice
    • Frame your communication with, "I", instead of, "You", so it sounds less like placing blame
    • Find something positive and lead the conversation with that and then continue with something like, "What I'm hearing," or "What I'm thinking," or "I find it hard to work when..."
    • Watch your body language
    • Take a deep breath
    • Resist responding with a counterattack and pause before you speak
    • Tactfully address her in a manner that doesn't cause her to rise in defense, lash out, shrink or withdraw.

    Work Toward a Better Workplace

    A few ways to begin working toward better workplace relationships include to:
    Catch more bees with honey- Perform an act of kindness or offer to help. Suggest talking in a more relaxed atmosphere outside of work.

    Agree to disagree- Realize that you won't always agree with everyone's opinion or methods and determine a compromise. Model team player behaviors and remember that it's not a competition.

    Avoid assuming- Instead ask questions that can lead to open dialogue. Engaging someone in conversation, and really listening without reacting, might help to improve your workplace relationship.

    If you feel stuck or uncertain how to begin, you could always ask your supervisor for advice about workplace relationships. This will display that you want to be a team player and that you are also looking for a solution.

    When You're the Boss

    There will always be personality clashes when you have a group of people working together. The issues arise when these cannot be resolved by those involved, or if it begins to impact the dynamics of the unit, or patient care. Don't wait until there's an issue before working with your team to ensure it's a pleasant, productive work environment. Be proactive, rather than reactive, to a potential situation.

    A few tips to get started include:

    • Set expectations at the start of employment about teamwork.
    • Reinforce this by assessing teamwork as part of the performance review.
    • Consider developing and implementing a reward, or recognition program for team players.
    • Be a role model for expected professional behavior
    • Don't hesitate to pitch in and lend a hand, after all, you're all part of the same team

    We Won't Always Get Along

    You're not always going to get along with everyone you work with, but the enjoyment of your day, and your work, can improve if you strive to make your workplace relationships more amicable. A little effort today, could make a big difference in your job satisfaction for your future workdays.
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    Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN is a fiction author and a freelance healthcare writer specializing in leadership, careers, and mental health and wellness. She is the owner of CharmedType.com and MaureenBonatch.com

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  3. by   wondern
    Quote by Maureen Bonatch, MSN, BSN, RN~"No Bullies Allowed
    If someone is displaying incompetent or negligent behaviors that can risk effective patient care, or acting in a manner that could be considered harassment or bullying, you need to bring it to your supervisor's attention. These could be hostile, unwelcome comments or more subtle behaviors through isolating, excluding, or pitting employees against one another."
    I agree 110% and am happy you point this out and also the specific bully behaviors. Thank you, Maureen. I just read what I found to be a rather concerning statement somewhere on the site where someone suggested never going to your supervisor to complain about a coworker unless it's endangering patient safety but sometimes it is their actual coworkers the bullies target. I realize this may sound unbelievable to people who've never witnessed such behavior. They can actually become dangerous, possibly even criminal. So please report the bullies to your supervisor. If the supervisor then makes inappropriate comments at that meeting; go above her to her manager. Just be careful to follow the proper chain so you don't get fired for that. Don't back down. You probably don't really want to work there anyhow. Transfer elsewhere either to another department with a non-bully manager or another fine medical facility that will appreciate and respect you ASAP out of love and respect for yourself.
  4. by   Maureen Bonatch MSN
    It is sad, but true, that there are bullies that can make your best workplace a nightmare. I completely agree that if you can't find a resolution with management, that you might consider another position for your own health and well-being. I'm happy that more light is being shed on this topic in recent years and hope that these kind of behaviors will not be tolerated.