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Co-worker feels left out & referred to me as a bully today

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by Nurse162 Nurse162 (New) New

I would really like some advice on how to handle this. I transitioned from inpatient to outpatient about 2 years ago. Two of the girls felt quite threatened for some reason, & at first I did feel a bit bullied. One of them wouldn't acknowledge me or look me in the eyes. In time we all grew & became good friends. We laugh & share problems & help each other now - we make a nice team. I am great friends with one of those women now; I'll call her Bretta. We tell each other everything & just connect very deeply. My coworker "Erin," however, has always seemed to be quite bothered by this. It started out pretty passive, like if Bretta & I walked to grab a coffee & came back, Erin would passive aggressively mention that we didn't ask her if she wanted one. I literally felt uncomfortable leaving the ward w/ Bre to get coffee or grab water or take a walk. I'm very friendly to Erin. We crack jokes & I'm always willing to help. She seems to be very fixated on my friendship w/ Bretta though. She now says things about how we can't be without each other when we aren't around. She told my boss we don't do work... although yesterday I received an award for going above & beyond during COVID... which probably perturbed her. She tells people we are mean to her. I have never once been rude to this girl, & if I had been, I would have apologized. Today we were given our annual competency & one part is on lateral violence. In front of my co-workers, she randomly said to my ANM, "if you ask me, we sure have A LOT of bullying & lateral violence around here." When asked what she meant, she said "um them" & pointed down to where Bretta & I usually sit. She said, "me vs. them." When a co-worker reacted & said "what are you talking about?" She said, "them leaving me out of everything is bullying." Later, Bretta was standing w/ a portable computer around the corner & I was sitting at the nurses' station next to Erin. Bre mentioned she re-scheduled something to Sept. I knew what she was talking about - an entrance exam as she is an LPN wanting her RN. I said I thought that was great if she didn't feel ready but she had to have a plan. She said "I don't like talking to you through a wall," & laughed. Erin then immediately grabbed her things angrily & said "I'LL JUST GO YOU CAN SIT HERE BRETTA" & started to walk away. I was a bit confused & kind of lightly said "Emily why would ya do that there are five open seats right next to us." She kind of brushed me off w/ her hand & said something I didn't hear. She then left the clinic.

I have never gone to a supervisor w/ an interpersonal issue. I usually just work it out as I am an open communicator. But this has been going on for about a year & a half. I am a grown woman who has a friendship w/ another grown adult. We like to take our breaks together & we are laughing a lot because we get along great. I am also friends w/ my other co-workers - never ignore anyone or do anything weird/mean-girlish. I can usually anticipate peoples' moods & needs & am very empathetic.

This however, makes me feel like I should draw a line. Sitting & talking to my ANM saying negative things about me after I leave work is inappropriate (he's kind of useless & just tries to say nothing). And not to be rude, but this girl literally does the bare minimum & no extra work. I have done major efficiency & workflow improvement projects. It's not a competition but she has no grounds to say I do no work. It doesn't make sense. I can brush it off, but when she starts referring to me stating I am a bully/lateral violence... That's unacceptable. It's my professional reputation & it's also really annoying. I get it, she feels left out. I don't know what else I can do for her. But I am not bullying this person. I see her getting more upset lately & I think I need to talk to my ANM about her odd fixation on my friendship w/ Bretta & resultant inappropriate behavior & offer a mediation or ask what he suggests I do. I don't think she knows that I am aware of all the things she's saying - she's hoping my image is tainted behind my back.

Am I overreacting or is this an appropriate response?

19 hours ago, Nurse162 said:

But I am not bullying this person.

No, you aren't. She is trying to manipulate you.

There are people who come off brusque because of their own way of communicating, there are people who find fault with others easily because of their own high standards, there are people who are just mean and catty....there are lots of less-than-ideal types of differences. But some of the very worst are people who employ this tactic of trying to manipulate others by attempting to make it appear that others' normal and pleasant interactions are in someway abusing them, bullying them, or making them a victim of some kind. This is a manifestation of their own lack of self-acceptance, self-confidence and self-esteem. It is really sad...but their attempts to impugn others are wholly inappropriate regardless of the reason. And...they are every bit as dangerous as traditional types of bullies because they are often able to convince others that this non-existent poor treatment of themselves is actually taking place.

I would talk to your ANM. They don't need all the detail and backstory, just have a couple of good examples ready. Then tell them that you have never been involved in nor had to speak to anyone about a workplace problem before, but you feel you need to on this occasion. Let them know that your main focuses are to work hard, take good care of patients, and be a kind professional and that you have no desires or plans to participate in workplace drama or have any part of it. Then...let them know that, despite trying to have a kind and friendly relationship with your coworker, you are aware that she has begun insinuating that there is a problem at every turn. Tell your ANM that you are not pleased about this and that it is unacceptable for someone to impugn your work reputation in this way. Let them know that you feel no need to escalate the matter or really pay any attention to it, but that you need their support in handling it this way. (In other words, I'm not going to take the bait here, and I need you not to, either.)

This is just my opinion, but I have successfully BTDT. A reasonable manager usually is neither blind to nor stupid about what is actually going on. Don't forget that they often see quite plainly who is working and getting along and who isn't. Nothing needs to be escalated if you have your manager's support. If you have your manager's support you are no longer in danger of having your reputation tarnished and you can move on with simply continuing to treat the person kindly and maintain professionalism while ignoring their negativity and their attempts to manipulate you.

Best of luck with this~

 

 

Edited by JKL33

amoLucia

Specializes in LTC.

I'm sorry, but I feel like I've just read about some teenage angst straight out of junior high-school mean girls clique.

This is exactly why I pretty much chose to stick to myself when I worked and avoided being too chummy with 'the gang'. And I liked NOCs!

There will be not-nice, troublemakers no matter where most folk work. I think OP, you found that out there.

FolksBtrippin, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Public Health.

It isn't your fault that Erin feels hurt about how close you and Bretta are.

It also isn't Erin's fault that you feel upset that she expresses her feelings to the NM.

You aren't bullying her by being close to Bretta, but it could turn into bullying if you start questioning her professionalism and going on the attack because you feel worried when she makes a complaint. Just let her complain and be the nicer person. 

Sounds like a cushy job. Do what you need to do to get along. 

 

 

Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience.

You need to address Erin's behavior with her yourself. Each and every time she pulls the junior high routine, call it to her attention and let her know you don't want to hear it. 

The ANM really doesn't want to get involved in petty squabbles.  Sounds like you, Bretta , and Erin have too much time on your hands. Focus on work.

I'm usually a fan of being direct. But I will not argue with or confront someone whose MO is to make it appear that they are being bullied. TPTB are waaaay too unreliable in the ways they do or don't support staff being "empowered" to handle interpersonal difficulties.

I probably wrote too many words above (as usual 😂) but my general handling of this comes down to basically two options:

1) ignore

2) Inform ANM then ignore

The only thing that's gonna happen with confronting someone with serious issues is that it will "prove" the OP is the bully she is accused of being.

She is saying these things so brazenly TO get a rise/cause a problem/entice a confrontation to begin with.

No way I would engage.

There's a saying: Don't roll in the mud with pigs. They like it and you get dirty.

This does not mean that we shouldn't be adults and professionally engage in order to clear up a misunderstanding, but it does mean that we don't have to engage in behavior that would be ridiculous for us, but that others thrive on.

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 10 years experience.

On 8/27/2020 at 7:05 PM, Nurse162 said:

I would really like some advice on how to handle this. I transitioned from inpatient to outpatient about 2 years ago. Two of the girls felt quite threatened for some reason, & at first I did feel a bit bullied. One of them wouldn't acknowledge me or look me in the eyes. In time we all grew & became good friends. We laugh & share problems & help each other now - we make a nice team. I am great friends with one of those women now; I'll call her Bretta. We tell each other everything & just connect very deeply. My coworker "Erin," however, has always seemed to be quite bothered by this. It started out pretty passive, like if Bretta & I walked to grab a coffee & came back, Erin would passive aggressively mention that we didn't ask her if she wanted one. I literally felt uncomfortable leaving the ward w/ Bre to get coffee or grab water or take a walk. I'm very friendly to Erin. We crack jokes & I'm always willing to help. She seems to be very fixated on my friendship w/ Bretta though. She now says things about how we can't be without each other when we aren't around. She told my boss we don't do work... although yesterday I received an award for going above & beyond during COVID... which probably perturbed her. She tells people we are mean to her. I have never once been rude to this girl, & if I had been, I would have apologized. Today we were given our annual competency & one part is on lateral violence. In front of my co-workers, she randomly said to my ANM, "if you ask me, we sure have A LOT of bullying & lateral violence around here." When asked what she meant, she said "um them" & pointed down to where Bretta & I usually sit. She said, "me vs. them." When a co-worker reacted & said "what are you talking about?" She said, "them leaving me out of everything is bullying." Later, Bretta was standing w/ a portable computer around the corner & I was sitting at the nurses' station next to Erin. Bre mentioned she re-scheduled something to Sept. I knew what she was talking about - an entrance exam as she is an LPN wanting her RN. I said I thought that was great if she didn't feel ready but she had to have a plan. She said "I don't like talking to you through a wall," & laughed. Erin then immediately grabbed her things angrily & said "I'LL JUST GO YOU CAN SIT HERE BRETTA" & started to walk away. I was a bit confused & kind of lightly said "Emily why would ya do that there are five open seats right next to us." She kind of brushed me off w/ her hand & said something I didn't hear. She then left the clinic.

I have never gone to a supervisor w/ an interpersonal issue. I usually just work it out as I am an open communicator. But this has been going on for about a year & a half. I am a grown woman who has a friendship w/ another grown adult. We like to take our breaks together & we are laughing a lot because we get along great. I am also friends w/ my other co-workers - never ignore anyone or do anything weird/mean-girlish. I can usually anticipate peoples' moods & needs & am very empathetic.

This however, makes me feel like I should draw a line. Sitting & talking to my ANM saying negative things about me after I leave work is inappropriate (he's kind of useless & just tries to say nothing). And not to be rude, but this girl literally does the bare minimum & no extra work. I have done major efficiency & workflow improvement projects. It's not a competition but she has no grounds to say I do no work. It doesn't make sense. I can brush it off, but when she starts referring to me stating I am a bully/lateral violence... That's unacceptable. It's my professional reputation & it's also really annoying. I get it, she feels left out. I don't know what else I can do for her. But I am not bullying this person. I see her getting more upset lately & I think I need to talk to my ANM about her odd fixation on my friendship w/ Bretta & resultant inappropriate behavior & offer a mediation or ask what he suggests I do. I don't think she knows that I am aware of all the things she's saying - she's hoping my image is tainted behind my back.

Am I overreacting or is this an appropriate response?

There is a lot to unpack here and I can't begin to forecast how this all started or where it is all going or what the motivations are. You are right, she feels excluded. I will be honest - I can understand that if you are the three nurses in the clinic. Exclusionary behavior contributes to a toxic work environment. The AACN names it explicitly. Why not include her and see if the relationship changes?

Chickenlady, ADN

Specializes in ER, GI, Occ Health. Has 7 years experience.

I would probably ask her to describe what the ideal situation would be.  That will give insight on if her expectations are reasonable.  I'd start with "Hey, I heard that you feel bullied by me.  What things am I doing that give you that impression, because it isn't my intent, and I want to have a pleasant environment for everyone."  If she denies feeling bullied, and can't articulate the issues and what she'd like to see instead, then she is playing games. 

Our night shift is very tight, to the point of excluding day and mid-shifters.  I won't deny that when I'm asked to cover night hours, that does go through my mind.  They ignore me if I speak and don't include me in conversations.  It's not just me though, it is everyone not regular night shift.  I don't take it personally, but it isn't pleasant.  

Maybe try to look at your actions objectively and see where maybe you can make a gesture to include her.  

This sounds like a Judy Blume novel! 🤣🤣

6 hours ago, Nurse SMS said:

I will be honest - I can understand that if you are the three nurses in the clinic. Exclusionary behavior contributes to a toxic work environment. The AACN names it explicitly. Why not include her and see if the relationship changes?

I have a little bit of a problem with this (not with you). 😬

Actual exclusionary behavior definitely not cool.

But there are some adults who don't really want to actually adult, but do want to reserve the right to complain loudly when others then aren't clamoring for their company.

I work pretty hard to develop rapports with difficult people. Like, really go out of my way (not pandering or being cloy, but just staying in the game and trying to be pleasant/fun/low-key/respectful and non-reactionary and working to find a common thread, etc.). But if the other person chooses not to try and instead decides to make catty insinuations about my character, well, I will not engage--and I also disagree that I have an obligation to continue subjecting myself to that treatment lest I be further accused being exclusionary, by AACN or anyone else.  That kind of thing is why I dislike this more than other kinds of bully situations: Others can easily recognize a traditional bully. But when the individual in question is fixated on their wrong beliefs about others and how others are constantly making them feel, they are absolutely manipulating everyone around them while at the same time not being recognized as bullies. Then everything they feel is always everyone else's fault. Maybe it's one of my weaknesses, but this raises my hackles big time. There is no way to defend yourself if you can't change someone's beliefs and feelings. And I don't like that.

Secondly...the person who is actually feeling bullied or left out doesn't usually sit around loudly talking trash about the situation. Usually. That behavior is more often coming from someone 100% hoping to stir up trouble.

 

7 hours ago, Chickenlady said:

"Hey, I heard that you feel bullied by me.  What things am I doing that give you that impression, because it isn't my intent, and I want to have a pleasant environment for everyone."

I think a direct approach is kind of a good idea if one can manage to pull it off in just the right way, but overall I give it about 70/30 that they will see it as a confrontation (or claim such). Now you've humiliated them and challenged them....(is what I would expect to hear).

Rough.

OMG this sounds like high school/nursing school drama all over again! 🤣

amoLucia

Specializes in LTC.

23 minutes ago, Crystal-Wings said:

OMG this sounds like high school/nursing school drama all over again! 🤣

Glad you agree. I said much the same a long time back!

vintage_RN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 7 years experience.

This is a tough one...on one hand I can see her position...because I have felt that way and it isn't fun. I work in a large NICU, and it is very catty. There is a "cool girls group" like we're in high school that excludes others...it really makes for a toxic work environment. I know you said you don't feel you are excluding, but can you take a really good look at yourself and evaluate if maybe you are contributing to that environment? I say this because it has been brought up at my own workplace about this catty group and all of them claim to have no idea they are portrayed this way. Something to consider.

On the other hand, some people persistently feel left out and no matter what you do or your intention they will feel this way because it is a problem with THEM. how do I know this? Because I am that person. I often irrationally feel left out of things, over think things etc....I recognize this and have been working on it.  Maybe this person is much the same, and in that case it is a problem with her. I would continue to include her and be pleasant, but I do like the suggestion above of directly asking her to explain how she feels bullied, in a genuine way.

Try asking her to join you after work for coffee or something like that.  Make it a time in which she has your undivided attention.  Then see if you can figure out why she is so troubled.

Some people do often or usually feel left out, as Vintage stated above.  It is interesting that she expresses that sentiment openly, as some people are embarrassed to admit this type of personal problem.

Do you think she is dangerous?  That is, might she snap and become violent?

Good luck.

 

The fact that she is pushing for a friendship with someone who has made it pretty clear she really doesn't want to be friends points to other issues going on in her life. Depression, anxiety, poor self worth, I don't know. I'm a big believer in the concept that people accept the love they think they deserve

This kind of reminds me of my cats and dog. Personally, I don't really like animals that much. But they were all strays who managed to find their way to me whether I liked it or not. They are indoor/outdoor (doggy door) and mostly just chill on the patio doing whatever it is they do all day. They take such a small amount of my time and energy to tend to, but if it wasn't for me they would likely not be alive.

It's always cool to be kind. Is it really that big of a deal to invite her next time you and your friend take a snack break?

Thank you, Nurse162, for sharing your workplace experience with all of us.

My initial thought while reading your post came from a Ted talk “how not to take things personally” that I recently watched because the speaker discusses what we can do when others are verbally aggressive towards us.  
In his talk, the first thing he says to consider is this: 1) Is it about me? or 2) is it NOT about me? Without knowing more about your situation, it seems like Erin’s issue is about you.  

The next step to take, if it is about you, is to give yourself empathy (if you feel like you actually have done something wrong) and to speak to the other person about how her actions and words have negatively affected you and what your professional expectations of her are.  I would personally do this without anyone else, especially management, because I believe it is important to create a comfortable and safe environment for her and yourself to share your thoughts and feelings.  

From my experience, these talks are more difficult the longer you wait to have them because the incidents and problems will be harder to remember, and there is also the possibility of new issues arising.

Good luck, Nurse162, and I look forward to hearing about how everything goes.

Take care.