difficult staff-feeling lost

  1. I took a job as a nurse manager a while back to be available to help my co-workers and new RNs coming to the medicine floor I worked at tha time. It was great, a few personaility issues - nothing unmanageable. A few months ago, my director asked me to switch floors - now I feel like I'm surrounded by wolves. The day staff are very aggressive, loud, verbally abusive and demanding. It seems like they look for something to complain about. I work nights and the night staff has been mainly a good group, however it seems that I'm having problems with a couple of them to. The worst is this group doesn't even bother to tell you to your face when they feel slighted, they just dash off a letter to the DON. I feel like all I want to do is hide in the office or run away. My stress level is through the roof. This is not the type of person/leader I wanted to be. Communication seems to be the biggest issue - problem is when I was quiet and just sizing up the floor - they thought I was up to something. Then if I say something - they twist it so that what was a simple inqiry is suddenly the Spanish inquisition revisited. Does anyone out there have suggestions? I like being a manager - spending time with patients, teaching new staff, handling codes etc.
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   Adrena
    Hey Pam,
    I don't really have any advice. I just wanted to extend my empathy. It sounds like a real rough situation. What about a staff meeting? Concern box or something like that?
    I feel for ya and I hope that it works out soon.
  4. by   canoehead
    I think the best thing your DON could do to support you is to send back all those complaints to the writer until they have discussed the situation with you directly. If you and the staff person can't resolve it then it can go up the ladder, but nip them in the butt for going over your head and behind your back.
  5. by   ACNORN
    Hi Pam,
    It sounds like you have your hands full. If I were in your shoes, I would first go to the DON and let her (or him) know about the situation from your perspective and get an agreement from her that she is going to support you and send all of the letter-writers right back to you before she even gives them an audience. If you can't get this commitment from the DON then you will not likely get control of the situation.

    Then it sounds like you need to have a serious, open meeting with your staff during which you outline your management style, your expectations of the staff, and it would probably be good to have the staff tell you what they would like to have from you as well. Part of the meeting needs to address how you need for them to communicate with you and the fact that they need to be honest to your face. In passive/aggressive staff behavior, I would try to figure out how they have been managed in the past. Are they just manipulative by nature or are they afraid of punishment. If they are worried about what your up to when you are quiet, they may have had previous managers who acted this way just before employees got disciplined and/or fired. They need to know that you are just assessing the unit and that they are not necessarily in trouble.

    Lastly, I would evaluate each of your "wolves" as you put it and determine who your informal leaders are among your staff. These are the people who get the rest of the staff to see things as they do and get the staff upset about their issues. After you figure out who the informal leaders are, ask yourself whether you think they have pure motives and bring up legitimate issues about patient care and unit functioning or whether they just like to keep things stirred up and they enjoy having the attention from the rest of the staff. If they are good clinicians and have good motives, I would try to get them on my side. If they are just trouble, you may have to do some corrective action.

    I recently had a staff RN who is very smart and good clinically, but was negative around the unit and certainly anti-management. I decided that she just wanted things to be better and she wasn't really aware of the effect she had on others. I promoted her to shift supervisor, listened to her ideas, had her orient with me for several days so she could see what I spend my time doing every day, etc. and now she is one of my champions. There were a few others who had to weeded out too.

    Also, you said you work nights. Are you supposed to work nights only? I also wonder if you are having to work some shifts as a staff RN due to short staffing. If so, they may not really view you as a manager. If most of the "wolves" are on the day shift, I would spend more time working days. I would also be interested to know why your DON asked you to switch units in the first place.

    Let me know how it goes.
  6. by   MiniRNC
    Hi Pam,
    I know just what you mean. I'm a charge nurse and the group I have on my shift now is the same way. My NM is going to arrange a shift meeting after work soon. Then they can voice their complaints about me and each other to our faces. I truely believe we need to set rules that cause us to approach each other when we have a problem with someone before going to the next level.......stories may not get as twisted, miscommunication/understandings can be corrected & adults would act more like adults. I believe if I do not talk with someone I have a problem with, then it's my fault and I deserve to continue to suffer.....same goes for other so called "adults". This kind of behavior is childish and I've had enough to cause me to be job hunting!! Sad since I have given a lot of time and work, ideas and programs to this hospital in the last 23 years.
  7. by   live4today
    My experience with nurses is they love to b---h to each other on the side, complain about what should or shouldn't be, yet when the Nurse Manager finally holds a unit meeting so the nurses can voice their concerns/complaints and suggestions/ideas, I could hear a pin drop in the room it was so darn quiet! (grinching teeth)

    Things won't change for nurses because women - in general - are backstabbing, envious, cat-scratchers, which is why I PREFER working with men vs. women. Sorry, but IMHO, this is truly how I perceived the nurses I have worked with in past years to be. If you agree - fine, if not - remember that this is MY personal opinion to which I am entitled to voice.


    "It's easy to get good players. Gettin' em to play together, that's the hard part." -- CASEY STENGEL
    Last edit by live4today on Feb 16, '02
  8. by   night owl
    I totally agree with you Renee! Give me the men any day...Well put
  9. by   Brownms46
    Dear Pam,

    I sincerely understand your plight, and I totally agree with ACNORN. I once was a supervisor for a Home Health program in Arlington, Tx. It was a United Way program that on a sliding fee scale, provided Home Health Aides to help home bound pts. with personal hygiene, errands, light housekeeping, and so on.

    Before I came there had been a Social Worker in the positon from which she was "let go". I worked under a absolutely wonderful RN, who was the best manager I had ever encountered. But...from day one I had nothing but problems dealing with the Home Health Aides. They would tell me what they were and weren't going to do. What pts., they would or wouldn't go see. I hated each time I had to change their schedules, or send them out on a new case. Finally one of the oldest HHAs decided she was going to let me know who was in control.....and set me "straight" Since SHE knew my manager's boss personally, SHE felt SHE would call a meeting and have me brought out on the carpet.

    Fortunately the meeting didn't go as she had wanted it to. But it also did go as I thought it would either. In the process of this meeting...I began to understand why there was such a feeling of resentment when I came into the position. She and others had been allowed by the former SW to do as she pleased. This SW would take off half the day, and just about let them do as they pleased. She and others resented me coming in changing that.

    Initially when I started the position it had been downgraded to part time, because those above had felt since she was hardly ever there, the position didn't need to be full time. But when I got there I showed them that to run the program effectively, full time hrs were needed, and it was changed back to full time. I also learned many of them also felt that one of THEM should have been promoted to the position....not someone from the outside.

    I ended up backing down from having this person disciplined for her insubordination, and solicited her assistance and imput. The meeting ended with her hugging my neck.

    I also started having inservices and staff meetings, which had never been done before. I would provide the refreshments. I was amazed at how soon their attitudes changed.

    Finally I had some certificates made up to commend each and everyone of them for the services they had provided. I mailed them out to each one. One day one of them came to my office...in tears. She had the certificate in her hands. She told me that in the 17yrs she had been there, that NO ONE had EVER so much as given them a pat on the back. She was overwhelmed with emotion...and so was I. The job from hell suddenly had turned into the best one I have ever had, and was the hardest to leave.

    Believe me things can change around in a heart beat if you can get a handle on what maybe the underling problem (s).

    I wish you all the best and I hope it works out as well for you as it did for me.
  10. by   NurseRachet
    I have been a nurse for 32 years and a manager for 22 years. I like the quote of Harry S Trumen. If you are in charge, then take charge. I think these nurses may be testing you and kind of "feeling you out" to see how much they can push you. I had a wonderful supervisor that had a philosophy..."If you haven't talked to your immediate supervisor prior to coming to me, I don't want to hear it...take it back to her first...then if you get no where, come see me". This approach stopped this "going around the first line manager". Communication is tough, especially if your new in the position and to this group of nurses. If the nurses are form Critical Care area's, they are by nature, very strong willed individuals, which they should be. Call a general meeting and discuss your concerns and how they make you feel. Tell each one of them prior to coming to you with a complaint, you want them to have 2-3 possible solutions to the problem. I tried this approach, and it worked for the most part. Some would say, "that is why I came to you, if I could figure it out on my own, I would take care of the problem myself". I reassured them that it takes a team to resolve issues, because most issues affect everyone. Listen, listen, and listen. You will quickly see who the "pot stirrers" are. Good luck!

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