Burned Bridges

Nurses Relations

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3aremyjoy

63 Posts

For starters, I once had a major problem with interpersonal skills and ended up burning bridges with people at the workplace throughout my working career (from age 16 onward). I didn't realize what was wrong until I was approaching the age of 30.

My best friend, who has worked with me at several facilities, stated about five years ago, "Coworkers like me because I know how to play the game. I have a way of stroking people's feelings and getting them to like me. I pretend to enjoy their company and give compliments, even though the person receiving the compliment might stink or wear ugly clothes. When people have the choice between a phony person and a truthful person, they will almost always pick fake because most people can't handle the truth. I'm a fake and you're the real deal. People cannot handle the real deal, which is why people don't like you as much."

I responded, "That sounds like kissing ass. I won't stoop to that level, even if it means I don't build good workplace relationships like you." My friend just shrugged and said, "It is what it is!"

To the OP: my problems at work disappeared almost overnight once I started playing the game. Playing the game involves a repertoire of interpersonal skills, professionalism, social skills, likeability and charm. You must learn to play the game. You need to present a certain image of yourself while in the workplace and, unfortunately, pretend to enjoy the company of coworkers that you might personally dislike.

Superiors stopped messing with me once I sweetly started telling them, "Thank you for all that you do!" Seriously, many of your problems will start to disappear if you pretend to appreciate these people, even if they might be horrible managers. You will never, NEVER, never get anywhere by confronting a superior or superordinate about disrespecting you. You will not win their game, so learn to play it.However, there's a delicate way in which you need to walk the political tightrope. If you lack the likeability factor and rub your superiors the wrong way, your behind is toast and you will forever be a target. Learn to play the game!

Good luck to you.

Thank you for this articulate and kind post. I'm 40 years old and just fully understanding this now I'm ashamed to say.

Grandma was right, you'll catch more flies with honey!

Specializes in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

I have worked with people like this who were much worse off and without any modicum of a sense of their own responsibility for their situation so you have that working for you at a minimum.

Like everyone else said, you have to play the game. You can start by shrugging off being reprimanded by superiors in front of other coworkers. That has never bugged me. If I made a mistake, I'll own up to it and I don't care if other people watch. If I'm being wrongfully corrected, then at least now I have witnesses to let me know I'm not crazy and commiserate with me later on down the road and I for them (because everyone is in the same boat).

It's hard to let your pride go. But, in the grand scheme of things, if you intend to go far and be successful and climb up the ladder, you have to give a little bit (and then you can be successful and be in the position to treat people better -- and the profession is once more uplifted). It's hard to feel like maybe you're whoring yourself out a bit or compromising your integrity but you aren't. You're doing your best to compromise with others' shortcomings and your own as well. It makes for a better work environment overall, regardless of what type of job you're in. I worked in retail for 10 years (from age 16) and the best way to get somewhere is to pick your battles and shrug people who act like jackasses off (but this is so HAAAAARRRRRRD). But, it's one moment in time -- when you let it go, it fades away and rarely will have any further effects. If you choose to hold onto, however, the resentment and anxiety and anger builds in you and that's when going to work becomes hellish -- but, you alienate yourself. I've learned that people, regardless of how nifty or not-so-nifty they are, just want to have a good day and generally aren't out to get anyone (as a group or individually). It's really the person who is bringing the issue to the table and makes everyone else cringe or roll their eyes when they walk in the door.

It takes a lot to try to unlearn this internal dialogue but once you do and you start seeing the good effects (which are immediate), it reinforces itself and becomes a piece of cake to turn into a habit. You just have to let go a little and shrug off the bad stuff -- and, then try to walk in the door with your heart open and full of love to give (that, for me, has been the highest evolution so far). You must feel so heavy carrying all that negativity other people left behind as soon as their shift ends. :hugs:

3aremyjoy

63 Posts

TheCommuter,

Will you please be my mentor? I am working on this.... and its so hard!

jadelpn, LPN, EMT-B

9 Articles; 4,800 Posts

Your personal and professional life are 2 different things. You can not and should not internalize workplace direction (no matter how it comes out) and make it affect you emotionally.

If you are a good nurse, if you practice in such a way that the patients are cared for and you have a goal of function to the highest degree feasible, then the other stuff needs to be not in your line of sight.

Do NOT engage. I repeat Do NOT engage!! If you know that the "political bru-haha" gets you to take focus off of the professional you, and turns you into the parts of the personal you that are the "I don't have to put up with this stuff" you need to walk away. You need to learn to say "thanks for pointing that out to me, I will take it under advisement" and then WALK AWAY.

Workplace violence, bullying, that type of thing is not to be taken lightly. If this is occuring, then it does need to be dealt with--however, you are perhaps not the person to deal with it until, and only if, you can become impartial.

Playing the game doesn't mean doormat. It does, however, mean that you keep your professional life seperate from your emotional self.

jadelpn, LPN, EMT-B

9 Articles; 4,800 Posts

And literally, I say in my head "do NOT engage...."

As far as your resume......I would most certainly focus on what I have learned to be a better interpersonal communicator.....you are not a bad nurse, you just don't play well with others....and that can be changed. Think of it this way--there's a ton of travelers who change jobs every few months.....If you have anyone who you formerly worked with who can attest to your nursing SKILL that could be a good thing. Addtionally, have you thought of travelling? It is a great way to have just a touch without having to get to the emotional part of yourself that reacts. It is interesting, because in all of this, you passed your orientation period or you would have been asked to leave. It is just seemingly when you become invested that the issues come up. Invest in yourself, the facility can and does invest in itself.

Any saracstic flair, dark humor, or passionate debate (

And I would see someone about this if you can not self regulate. There are many therapists who can help you to put this all in perspective. As unfortunetely, nursing doesn't hold the exclusive rights to playing the game.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

102 Articles; 27,612 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
TheCommuter,

Will you please be my mentor? I am working on this.... and its so hard!

Certainly! I'm younger than you, so hopefully you will not be bothered by the differences in age and life experiences.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

102 Articles; 27,612 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
It's hard to let your pride go. But, in the grand scheme of things, if you intend to go far and be successful and climb up the ladder, you have to give a little bit
Exactly! I can choose to hold my pride high in the sky, fight every little battle, never back down when pressured, and stew over every single injustice inflicted upon me. As a result, I'll need to find a new workplace frequently because I'll forever be a target with the bright red bulls-eye on my back.

Or I can swallow my pride, carefully pick my battles, back down when appropriate, practice some humility, and let most things roll off my back like a duck. As a result, I mix well with coworkers, receive management's respect, stay employed at one company for several years at a time and leave on my terms.

To the OP: stop allowing managers and coworkers to rent valuable space inside your head. Let it go. Once you allow yourself to practice humility and come to the realization that some things in life are not worth it, you will see your workplace relationships blossom.

Humility is the art of being humble. The truly humble person has a grounded, reasonable opinion of oneself and is not too proud to let things go.

3aremyjoy

63 Posts

Certainly! I'm younger than you, so hopefully you will not be bothered by the differences in age and life experiences.

It's not the age of the car, it's the mileage! ;)

Specializes in ER, TRAUMA, MED-SURG.

Definetly some good advice! OP, I have also burned my share of bridges - well, I guess I drove a truck full of c4 under my bridges before I struck the match.

Anne, RNC

3aremyjoy

63 Posts

Humility is the art of being humble. The truly humble person has a grounded, reasonable opinion of oneself and is not too proud to let things go.

Well said TheCommuter!

I think you could put together a great article with what you've written here!

Ruby Vee, BSN

17 Articles; 14,027 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.
I AGREE WITH YOU that I need to learn how to step back from various situations and NOT TAKE THINGS SO PERSONAL. To be honest, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT; when someone is acting aggressively towards me, I automatically believe that they mean to do so and, no, they are not sorry for it. I also agree that I have to learn how to be the bigger person; it's very, very, very hard when you're in the "moment." LOL! I believe it will come....IT HAS TO! I also agree that talking to someone is a good idea for me to try as well. THANK YOU SOO MUCH FOR YOUR ADVICE!:)

Ruby Vee let me say this first because I don't want this response to come across as aggressive, defensive, or argumentative; and if it does, let me apologize to you upfront because it isn't meant to be that way. I'm confused as to how you came to the conclusion that I am a bully or might be a bully; where in my post did you get that impression? I'm just asking. I've only been referred to as "mean" or having a "bad attitude" after I didn't respond in the way they thought I would. As for not getting along well with others is simply not true. I have always had a great working relationship with my co-workers whom I work the floor with whether we work the same shift, I relieve them or vice versa; we work together as a team making sure our assignment and floor runs like a well oiled machine. If any of my co-workers didn't care for me, they hid it very well and maybe they know "how to play the game", and I'm cool with that; maybe I could learn a thing or two from them. To say that it's "probably correct" that I'm mean with a bad attitude is very judgmental of you and is not conducive to my personal growth as a professional nurse or as an individual; and it is not "constructive criticism," it's a personal attack. I thank you anyway for your post!:)

Being told that they may be a bully is offensive, but I didn't bring that up just to be offensive. I brought it up as something worthwhile for you to consider. A string of short term jobs, being told that you are mean and have a bad attitude, switching shifts to "avoid the foolishness" and "standing up for myself because they're being disrespectful" speaks to the idea that perhaps you should consider your actions toward others. I'm sorry -- I don't know how to soften this any more without sugar coating it, and I'm doing you the honor of expecting you to be able to deal with feedback that isn't sugar coated, and of being able to give me the benefit of the doubt as to whether I'm telling you this to try to help you figure things out or for some nefarious purpose.

I may be wrong -- it could be that you're not a bully and that all those managers and all those co-workers from all those jobs are wrong. Maybe it's perfectly OK to react aggressively when someone gives you negative feedback because you KNOW they don't have your best interests at heart when they deliver it. Perhaps meanness and bad attitude have nothing to do with bullying. I'm usually the last person to cry "bully", and I'm usually the first person to suggest that maybe the perceived bully is just having a bad day or a bad week or even a bad year. It happens. But you say you've been terminated from more than one job over a seven year period, that you take offense easily and that you "snap back at" your coworkers. I think it's interesting that when the subject of bullying comes up, you're quick to jump on the idea that your past supervisors have been bullying you. Maybe all those managers aren't the bullies.

No one wants to believe that they could be the bully . . . and I don't believe that bullies exist in nursing above and beyond the level that they exist in the general population. But much of what you've said about your relationships with others in the workplace rings of "bullying". So perhaps rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and denying the possibility, you could at least consider it. Consider that even if you don't consider yourself a bully, you could be perceived as one by others. I'm sure you don't want to be perceived that way.

You've asked for advice, and I don't expect you to like the advice I've given you. But please do me the courtesy and yourself the favor of fully considering the advice before you reject it out of hand.

I think you have some good self reflection going on. Reacting in the moment isn't working for you. you have to find a new strategy. That doesn't mean you have to let people step all over you, but instead of reacting in that moment you need to privately and respectfully talk to a superior when something offensive occurs. Best wishes.

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