How To Tell If You're A Bully

  1. So many complaints about being bullied, targeted, picked on or mobbed. So many claiming to be the victims of nurses eating their young. So many complaints about all women being catty, nasty backstabbers. But no bullies or backstabbers on our website? It's a miracle!

    How To Tell If You're A Bully

    are you a bully?

    i'm getting fed up with some of the threads on there's a 2000+ post thread on "do nurses eat their young?" and the majority of the posters seem to claim that they know it for a fact that nurses eat their young because they've been "eaten." usually they go on to describe one incident with one nurse which they're using to characterize an entire profession and sometimes the whole gender. sometimes the story smells of bullying, but often not. yet no one admits to being a bully. there are multiple threads about how awful it is to work in a predominately female profession because women are all sly, manipulative, gossipy or backstabbers. or all of the above. "and i can say that because i'm a woman myself!", the post will proclaim. "but i'm not that way." clearly, some of us are liars! there cannot be that many bullies in nursing without there being some on and how is it that "all women are catty, manipulative backstabbers -- except me, of course"?

    there's a thread going around right now -- there have been many of them lately, but this particular one irritated me today -- about rushing to "report" a preceptor because the student in question didn't agree with his practice. a whole lot of people jumped on the "let's lynch him!" bandwagon and someone went on to say she had no empathy for the guy whatsoever. i agree that the practice discussed is egregious -- but no one suggested that perhaps the student involved ought to just have an honest discussion with the preceptor before going off to report him. if you were the one who had developed a habit someone else found disgusting, wouldn't you want them to discuss it with you and give you the opportunity to make changes before they "stabbed me in the back by going to the manager"? and by the way, has anyone ever heard of "mobbing"?

    if you are rushing off to "report" someone and haven't taken the time or summoned the courage to discuss the situation with them or haven't tried to resolve it without involving management, you're probably a bully.

    if you and your friends think gertrude is a horrible nurse because she always washes her hands with soap rather than using purell or brings her own lotion to work or has artificial nails or doesn't like white people, do you talk to gertrude about it? and think about what she has to say? or do you and your friends get together in the break room and titter about "gertrude's going to be really upset because every one of her patients today is white" or back and forth on facebook about gertrude's nasty smelling lotion? congratulations, ladies -- you've just identified yourselves as bullies.

    if elmer snaps at you when he's stressed or cusses you out because you made a big mistake or "made you feel bad" because you didn't learn a skill fast enough, that's bullying, right?

    but if you snap at yorhonda because she's asked a "really dumb" question for the tenth time this morning and can't she see how busy you are or how hard you're trying -- that's justified, isn't it? you're just giving her what she deserves for being so clueless. and if you cuss elmer out because he snapped at you and he has it coming, that's fair isn't it? after all, he snapped at you first and you're just giving him back what he dished out. in fact, nobody gets away with treating you badly because you'll give it to them back, worse than they gave you! you're just standing up for yourself, after all.

    hate to tell you this, but it's you who is the bully.

    you get along great with all of the guys at work, and you much prefer working to guys to working with your own gender. dick and willy roll on the floor laughing when you do your imitation of cassandra who you know never comes to work for any reason except to try to "catch a doctor." cassandra actually thinks you like her, and she often comes to you with questions. after answering her questions, with or without a condescending manner, you go back to your friends and ridicule the woman.

    all those women you work with who are nasty, gossipy, catty backstabbers? you're one of them.

    reading between the lines on post after post, it seems that many of the folks who are complaining the loudest about bullies or about catty, backstabbing women are guilty of the same behaviors that they claim to deplore. but it's different when they do it, isn't it? after all, they're not the bully.

    or are they?

    i'm going to don my flame retardant suit here and go out on a limb by saying that if you're not treating others with decency, honor and respect, you might be a bully. now, about those young you've been eating . . . .

    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 16, '18
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  2. Visit Ruby Vee profile page

    About Ruby Vee, BSN, RN

    Ruby Vee is human and knows that she has probably insulted someone without meaning to, hurt someone's feelings without knowing it, cussed out someone who didn't deserve it or gossiped because it's just so darned fun. But she tries very hard not to make a pattern of it. And she strives to be an honorable person.

    Joined: Jun '02; Posts: 14,213; Likes: 59,569

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  3. by   Chin up
  4. by   realnursealso/LPN
    Couldn't have said it better myself Ruby. Good job!
  5. by   Faeriewand
    I don't think a bully would ever recognize themselves as being a bully. So it goes. <sigh>
  6. by   chubby40
    Bullies never considers themselves a bully. I came accross a few during my eight years in nursing, i also realized the ones who tend to get bullied are the new nurses on the unit. I learned quickly that when one nurse have a problem with you, they all have a problem with you. It's sad to say that eventhough, there is so many laws in the workplace thats against this time of thing, when it comes to reporting the management are reluctant to do anything about it or they just don't want to be bothered. I remember i showed a nurse how to administered blood therapy for her pt because she was new at the time and didn't have the hands on experience, i was happy to help, few years later that nurse had to help a nurse that was in the same position she was few years back, and the way she insulted that nurse, targeted her and talk about her at the nursing station; i felt it in my gut not only for the nurse but i remember when i helped her with the blood and other things now that she is comfortable she forgot what it is like to be the new nurse.
  7. by   BabyLady
    To me...if a nurse thinks that all the physicians are stupid, all the residents are incompetent and every nurse but them is lazy...then well, they are usually the bully.
  8. by   nursel56
    Thank you Ruby! I do so try not to be like an old geezer muttering about the those @#!!%$ whippersnappers - but it seems we've swung the pendulum a little too far from making nursing less rigidly hierarchical to -- well I'll just come right out and say it - my jaw literally drops when I read some (some some some) of the responses from students and new grads to your basic 10+ years of experience nurses. They're rude, they're in your face, they think the employees at their clinical sites are "supposed to teach us", be endlessly patient, step on eggshells so as not to bruise their delicate feelings, and when they are behaving badly most of them want the nurse to apologize to them.

    I have a gigantic culture clash with those things, and even when an older nurse is conciliatory, there's sort of a "well that's a great first step" thing happening along with advice to be sure and be more kind, patient, calm, generous, nurturing, understanding with the big cherry on top "remember what it was like when you were a student/new grad". I remember it vividly. We sort of adhered to that old-fashioned ritual known as when you are new you should listen more than you should talk.

    Also, it's always a terrible idea to turn a nurse in for some infraction you observe while you are being oriented by him or her without telling her about it first, and that goes triple if you say "she's really nice to me, but. . ." or "she seems to be great with the patients. . .but" or the worst of all "she's been there for 39 years but. . ." Pretty sure I'll catch more flamage than Ruby! Possibly someone will reprimand me for the "geezer" reference.
  9. by   Purple_Scrubs
    Great post and 100% true, but I think the best part about it is the names of the characters. Gertrude and Elmer, lol! I pictured the little old couple in that famous picture with the pitchforks, except they were in scrubs.
  10. by   Armygirl7
    Excellent article Ruby!

    I've been on the lookout for the "eating the young" phenomenon ever since I started school. I would say that in general I see the same number of bullies and gossips and just plain mean people in the hospital setting as I have seen in every other job or workplace I've even been in. One of the joys of nursing school has been that it has taught me to keep an open mind, not take patients or co-workers (or anybody's really!) attitudes or behaviors personally, and to apply the nursing process when I see a problem. When I apply the nursing process to a clinical personnel situation or apply it to myself when I find myself feeling resentful, put down, or angry, it is simply amazing how much I can grow and change and let things go!

    I've certainly seen bully nurses on the floors I've rotated on, both men and women. I steer clear, kill them with kindness, and don't take it personally or give it any energy.

    I recently had my rotation through the ED. The nurse I shadowed had been working in that ED for 25 years! She was totally awesome, totally strict and yet completely fluid in her technique. By 4pm we were at code scarlet (overloaded w. pts cramming every hallway) I watched her handle difficult cranky patients and difficult cranky PAs and MDs, and when she had to step in as charge I watched her report off on 12 patients to a cranky difficult nurse. She wasn't nasty back, she just did what needed to be done, gave me the occasional wink, and moved on. A real role model.

    I think I haven't been "eaten" yet as a student because I am respectful to all the RNs on the floors during my rotations, and to the CNAs. I try to be sensitive - stay out of the way when that seems obvious, and offer to help when the nurse seems overwhelmed and I know there is something within my student scope that I can do to help. Even with defensive nurses who I can tell are wary of students I've found that offering to answer a call bell, or asking if I can grab something for them when I see them poke their head out of a room in an isolation gown and obviously need something etc., goes a long way to not being their next snack! Simple manners and respect, which appear to have deteriorated in our culture, are the key to getting off on the right foot and not being a target.

    I can see which students I am traveling with who will some day be the bullies on a unit - because they are arrogant or rude or insecure even in nursing school. I can only hope that the endless Psych lectures and endless application of the nursing process will somehow open their eyes/mind and they will have a change and truly be the nurse they seem to think no one else is except them!

    I loved this article Ruby because through honest self-reflection and changing our own behavior, and by finding the courage to speak up respectfully to people who are contributing to an unacceptable work culture we can effect real change and grow in our humanity.
    Last edit by Armygirl7 on Mar 5, '11
  11. by   SummitRN
    Great post!
  12. by   phyllis stokes
    Discriminated against at ---- HOSPITAL.
    I really hope someone talks about BOSS BULLYING on the job. It doesn't matter what color we are. Pain is pain, it comes in all colors. There's no law against it and a lot of our human rights are being violated. Getting up early just to face... another day of this is horrifying. It's very sad that children have to face bullying at school and adults have to face bullying at work. Please, can someone start a topic at a TV station on this. I want to bring my story public. I know it will help a lot of people.

    Boss Bullying

    It needs to stop!

    If I had known back then what I know now,

    It would have NEVER happened!

    I’m employed at ---- Hospital. My rights has been violated at this work place for the last seven years and no one, not even my union has done anything about it. I have been discriminated against because of my voice, harassed, verbally abused, suspended for a day for no reason without any delegate, and nothing has been done.

    I was born and raised in America. When I go to work, I feel like I’m entering a third world county.

    Being raised to go out into the world and make it on my own not knowing that one day down the road someone would be waiting to take it all away from me.
    In all the years I have worked, I never thought that I would end up being supervised by a malicious, vindictive person.

    Sure, no boss is perfect but who expects, especially at the latter stages in your life that you would be coming to work to be talked down to, lied on, insulted, criticized, yelled at, screamed at, degraded, tormented, lunch time being stolen from you, being told how lucky you are that you was transferred because if you had to be interviewed they would have never hired you, making fun of your voice and other employees join in making fun of your voice also, making fun of the way you talk, making fun of your headwear, making you cry while they sit there smirking at you, denying you from making more money but making sure other people get it, making sure that whatever positions you apply for that you will never get it, threatening to suspend or fire you if you don’t go see counselors, talking in front of co-workers and outside people about your personal business, telling you you’re not doing enough no matter how hard you try, ordering you to walk quickly to them as if you’re a little puppy dog, telling you how pretty you are while you’re crying and they’re smiling as if it’s a turn on to them, nitpicking at you from the time you walk through the door, always creating small meetings with their friends and their friends sit there staring at you as if they want to help you but they know they better not because they fear him/her, insulting you because of your height, questioning about your personal life, telling you their personal problems, trying to make you feel sorry for them, telling you how stupid other employees are, talking about you when you’re off, making plans for you, telling you what they feel is good for you and what they don’t feel is good for you and whatever else they can think of to put you down and keep you miserable while on the job and as time goes on you find yourself miserable off the job because you know you have to come back.

    The weird part is that they will always tell you that you are a very good person, how kind you are, caring, smart, a very good worker and then turn around and start tearing you down again. Every time you think it might get better, it gets worse.

    You try to transfer from their department and they stop it. You go to a different department and they stop that also. You know there’s higher paying positions coming up and before you even apply for them, you’re being told that you’re not getting it anyway and not to bother putting in for it. The people that are suppose to help you ends up leaving you to fend for yourself.

    They’re always comparing you with other co-workers saying how you should be like them.

    Over a period of time you start to wonder if it’s personal or is it an obsession. You begin to feel as if you’re in a world of your own. It can become very scary when they start telling you things like they’re never going to let you go, they have to keep you there, then they raise their voice at you saying that they’re trying their best to make you a better person than what you are and while saying these things their expression changes as if they’re getting annoyed with you because you’re not living up to their standards.

    How do we expect our children to tell when they’re being bullied if adults are afraid to tell when they’re being bullied and keeping quiet for fear of losing their jobs.
    Last edit by dianah on Mar 6, '11 : Reason: Terms of Service
  13. by   susanhrn
    AMEN Sister!!
  14. by   GadgetRN71
    Good post, Ruby. Bullying does exist among nurses, the trick is not to mistake differences in opinion for it or constructive criticism. I am among those that still think you need to confront these fools and lay down the law- after all, that's what usually takes care of a bully, because they're cowards.

    At the end of the day, everyone deserves basic human respect and dignity whether you're a new grad or someone who has been in the field for 40 years.