I Inherited A Bully

  1. I recently became the manager of a very small group of people and I want to set a positive tone, while at the same time establishing my role as leader. This is my first management position and I would like to start off right and deal with the situation effectively.

    My position was vacant for a long time before I got here - that's a different story - but in the meantime there is a person here who has appointed herself the boss. She bullies the other nurses by being rude and abrupt. When they confront her she retaliates so everyone is afraid of her. She acts like a martyr - "I do everything around here!" - and anything that goes wrong it's a REALLY BIG DEAL! Every morning starts off with her fuming about something, stomping around, rolling her eyes, slamming things around and being physically and verbally intimidating. She works hard and she does a good job but she is making everyone miserable.

    She is brown nosing me like crazy. I've only been there about three days, and every day when I first walk in she jumps at me, ranting about some horrible problem or other. She is trying to get to me before everyone else and try to be the "beta" person. Sort of like teacher's pet. She wants me to see what's going on from her point of view and try to stay in control and keep everyone from having access to me. I know the rest of the staff are watching her brown nose me and they don't know, or aren't sure, that I can see through it.

    I need to do is get her to back off and at the same time, build up the morale of the rest of the staff. I know this person is seething with envy that she didn't get the job, but they wanted someone with a BSN, which she doesn't have. i feel that once I start exercising more control and coordinating things she's going to get really angry and try and retaliate against me somehow. I'm not too worried about it except that she might go to HR and try and make me miserable too. I'd rather have her cooperation if possible, but that might not happen. I want to work on building up the confidence of the rest of the staff. She will see that as me undoing all her hard work of getting them in line. I'm afraid she'll go behind me and try and tear them down again. I want there to be open communication but that's going to take time. They don't trust me yet. I want the team to feel empowered to do their jobs because she has them feeling like they're incompetent and she's the only one who can do anything right. Hopefully she'll let go of the illusion that's she's the boss and let me run the department, but I doubt it. I might have to let her go.

    What at are you thoughts? Can this situation have a happy ending or am I expecting too much?
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  2. 28 Comments

  3. by   lhflanurseNP
    You may consider doing a "mini" sit down with ALL the members of your unit on a one-on-one...of course announce it first. This gives you the opportunity to really meet your staff on an individual level and assess strengths and weaknesses. You can then determine the dynamics of your new unit and possibly draw a "team" approach towards rebuilding/restructuring the unit to a high level. This will clearly set the tone that you appreciate everyone's input regardless of how small it may seem. Good luck. Just from your concerned post...I think you will do quite well!
  4. by   CrunchRN
    Make her feel special and get her on your team. Then she may actually help you and calm down.
  5. by   meanmaryjean
    If truly 'everyone is afraid of her' then I would say a heart-to-heart, transparent, come to Jesus meeting with her is in order.

    She is a toxic employee, and letting her know her behavior is unacceptable and WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES ARE is critical. Unless you are clear and consistent- you lose. And the department loses. And your other employees lose.

    Get on her good side? That just enables the behavior and endorses it.

    Remember, you get more of what you put up with.
  6. by   amoLucia
    Agreeing with MMJ. Your employee is spouting off sour grapes and I doubt any amount of your well-intentioned interventions will change her vinegar into good vino.

    I don't think she's a bully, I think she's a saboteur. You'll need to stop her early.

    Definitely time for that heart to heart per MMJ. Check out her past personnel history file - there might be more to her in it. And proceed from there.

    Good luck to you.
  7. by   klone
    When I came into a manager position of a unit with which I had no history, I treated everyone as having a clean slate. Everyone started at square one with regards to disciplinary stuff (although you better believe I read through people's HR files to get a feel for what other managers have dealt with). Become familiar with your facility's progressive discipline policies. Keep an anecdotal file. Document everything.

    One thing I learned in a class I recently took (Crucial Accountability - highly recommend reading the book) is that it's unfair to have coaching conversations based on hearsay or generalized "She has a bad attitude" feedback. In order for it to be fair as well as meaningful, you need to have specific examples of behavior, or you need to have witnessed it firsthand. Otherwise, you need to encourage staff to speak to the problem coworker directly about their behavior. The same goes for her - if she's pouncing on you to complain about others as soon as you walk in, a good response is "And when you talked to Jane about this behavior, how did she respond?" If she says that she didn't talk to Jane about it, let her know that you expect her to address issues with coworkers directly with them, and offer to assist in coaching on how to broach a conversation (I also recommend reading the book Crucial Conversations!).
  8. by   sanakruz
    Whatever you do, do it quick!
    I'll bet your staff cant wait for a good leader! Bet they are miserable and care is suffering.
    Best wishes!
  9. by   jrt4
    I had a similar issue when I first got into leadership as an assistant nurse manager. The nurse manager had several units so the assistant nurse manager did most of the day to day operations. There was a charge nurse who filled in a lot of those responsibilities before we had an assistant nurse manager. I was chosen for the ANM role over her partly because of some issues she had with attitude and some "bullying" behavior. At the time we worked opposite shifts but she actually oriented me when I first came on the unit so I had a good relationship with her so that may be different.

    Anyway, I pulled her aside and was very straightforward with her. I let her know that I appreciated her help immensely but I also needed her to let me do my job and asked her to support me so we could both be successful. I asked her to come to me first if she disagreed with something I was doing and I told her I would come to her if I needed feedback from "staff" so she could have input. There were several conversations after that but overall we were able to work really well together. She came to me if she had suggestions and I often went to seek her feedback (even if I didn't think I needed it) because it kept her really engaged and she actually had some great ideas that I didn't even think of at times.

    If you can't create this type of relationship than I would encourage you to reach out to your director and HR business partner for guidance. You certainly do not want to push her out if she is a good nurse that can pull it around but you also don't want to let her create a toxic environment. Maybe she will surprise you!
  10. by   Kooky Korky
    Quote from Natkat
    I recently became the manager of a very small group of people and I want to set a positive tone, while at the same time establishing my role as leader. This is my first management position and I would like to start off right and deal with the situation effectively.

    My position was vacant for a long time before I got here - that's a different story - but in the meantime there is a person here who has appointed herself the boss. She bullies the other nurses by being rude and abrupt. When they confront her she retaliates so everyone is afraid of her. She acts like a martyr - "I do everything around here!" - and anything that goes wrong it's a REALLY BIG DEAL! Every morning starts off with her fuming about something, stomping around, rolling her eyes, slamming things around and being physically and verbally intimidating. She works hard and she does a good job but she is making everyone miserable.

    She is brown nosing me like crazy. I've only been there about three days, and every day when I first walk in she jumps at me, ranting about some horrible problem or other. She is trying to get to me before everyone else and try to be the "beta" person. Sort of like teacher's pet. She wants me to see what's going on from her point of view and try to stay in control and keep everyone from having access to me. I know the rest of the staff are watching her brown nose me and they don't know, or aren't sure, that I can see through it.

    I need to do is get her to back off and at the same time, build up the morale of the rest of the staff. I know this person is seething with envy that she didn't get the job, but they wanted someone with a BSN, which she doesn't have. i feel that once I start exercising more control and coordinating things she's going to get really angry and try and retaliate against me somehow. I'm not too worried about it except that she might go to HR and try and make me miserable too. I'd rather have her cooperation if possible, but that might not happen. I want to work on building up the confidence of the rest of the staff. She will see that as me undoing all her hard work of getting them in line. I'm afraid she'll go behind me and try and tear them down again. I want there to be open communication but that's going to take time. They don't trust me yet. I want the team to feel empowered to do their jobs because she has them feeling like they're incompetent and she's the only one who can do anything right. Hopefully she'll let go of the illusion that's she's the boss and let me run the department, but I doubt it. I might have to let her go.

    What at are you thoughts? Can this situation have a happy ending or am I expecting too much?
    If she is slamming things and being physically and verbally intimidating, that might be a good place to start. You sound intelligent and thoughtful and I think you will figure out a way to get her in line. If she refuses to line up or can't do that, get rid of her. Document everything, starting now. Best wishes in your new role.
    Stop letting her jump on you at the second of your arrival. Tell her to come back in 15 minutes because you need a few minutes to take care of some things at the start of your day. That might make her realize she doesn't want to wait around.
  11. by   oldpsychnurse
    If I were you, I'd anticipate that this nurse isn't going to give up her "power" easily, and probably not at all. I don't know your facility's policies, but I'd start by going to HR and discussing the situation with them. They might have some good advice on handling this mess of a nurse, and they can also give you some guidance as to what to do when it's time for the inevitable write-up. And know that your staff is probably praying that you'll come in and do something about their little dictator. You'll look weak and lose their support if you allow her to continue. You're going to have to put the brakes on this one, but by doing so you'll let the rest of the unit know what's expected of them as well, and let them know that you have their backs.
  12. by   Tippyrn
    You can't change people like her, start working on getting rid of her.
  13. by   Orca
    Quote from Kooky Korky
    Stop letting her jump on you at the second of your arrival. Tell her to come back in 15 minutes because you need a few minutes to take care of some things at the start of your day. That might make her realize she doesn't want to wait around.
    Definitely this. This employee has serious control issues, and cornering you and monopolizing your time as soon as you arrive is an extension of this. Tolerating this kind of behavior only encourages more of it. Stop indulging her.

    Asserting your authority in a situation like this can be liberating. If she finds out that she can't push her way to the front of the line, her imaginary status as the real leader may start to dissipate, and she will either get on board or leave.

    Given how long that this has been going on, however, I would definitely begin preparing for a parting of ways. Her physically aggressive behavior is not an encouraging sign for possibly reforming her.

    Best of luck.
    Last edit by Orca on Mar 17
  14. by   Natkat
    Thanks everyone.

    I went to to my supervisor and asked if she had a history of taking things to HR. And she said "well, even if she did, if you discipline her and she wants to make an issue about it, you just say she's not doing her job. If you have to get rid of her, get rid of her". So basically she has given me full control to do whatever I need to do to get the situation under control.

    A couple of things worked against me to keep my from getting this under control sooner. The second week I was there, my supervisor was on vacation and this left me without a resource to figure out how things work. The second problem is that the bully is taking advantage of my not understanding how things work to plow over me and make decisions and control the environment. The third problem is the week after that , we moved to another location. So I barely understood how things worked at the old building, and now I have to make decisions about how things work in the new building.

    it didn't help that she was more or less training me, and she's very condescending. And again, she's taking advantage of my lack of experience to talk over and around me. She confuses me and only gives me bits of information so I can't figure out what's going on. I'm trying to deal with this by asking anyone but her if I have a question. What emerged is that she's done a good job of controlling the flow of information so she's the only one that has all the information.

    One other issue is she has a toadie who has made it clear that he sees her as the leader and openly flaunts my authority. I plan to take care of this by having a talk with him about going to her with questions instead of me. But he has to because I don't have all the infomation yet. But anyway, he was very blatantly disrespectful to me the other day and I need to address it. Another thing he did was no call, no show. So I can write him up for that and get his attention. I may be wrong, but my sense isn't he is loyal to her because she would make his life miserable if he didn't. Once he sees that I'm the authority he'll shift his loyalty to me. But again, I'm not sure. I just have to try it and see.

    I hope i can can get on top if this soon. My sense is there is no playing nice with her. She is not a team player and will not give up control without a fight. So I'll have to fight her. I have to make sure I do it effectively without breaking any rules.

    This is is a new experience for me. I've never been a manager before. I have to learn this quick before it gets any worse.

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