Grumpy Secretary--what would you do?

Nurses General Nursing


How would you deal with a person like this??


Our secretary never smiles. She always complains whether anyone is listening to her or not. The first day of orientation I was told to go to the unit I'll work--I did. There was "the happy" secretary and "the grumpy" secretary there. All I remember is how inviting and cordial "the happy" secretary was...but "the grumpy" one made me nervous. I forget the first sentence she said--it was not directed to me--but a call she had just received and all I remember was profanity came out of her mouth.


Anyway I haven't thought of that moment until today.

I started at this hospital last January--I move around units. But this one unit I've been working at mostly lately.

"The grumpy" secretary I would just take with a grain of salt. I never would take anything serious with her. If she started yelling in my direction I knew it wasn't me--it's just the way she is.

I have to interact with her. I think most people don't get the brunt of her anger b/c they don't answer the call light. I dread call lights that don't get answered. Well the call light machine is next to her so I go answer it--ugh.

Only once has someone gone head to head with her about her attitude--the two of them had a yelling match at the desk. The one girl is one of the most calm, gratious aides we have. Otherwise she doesn't seem to "personally" attack people--at least not to there face.

None the nurses ever say anything about her bad attitude.

The last time I worked she started getting on my nerves. She was starting to complain to me--I had a question about the computer--and an order. She wasn't too happy with me. I stayed calm--tried to explain. Got through that problem. Even though she was showing signs of increase anger--I stayed remarkably calm.

I'm wondering how you would deal with someone like this??


652 Posts

Don't ya just looooove these folks..I mean come on..everyone has a bad day..but every day? I avoid these types like the plague..cuz actually they ARE the plague..ever notice how people around these folks start to act like them? all grumpy and mean? attitudes DO rub off..I just have minimal contact when needed and go about my biz..I refuse to let that negativity rub off in my direction :)


615 Posts

It may not have anything to do with anyone but her, she may just be venting her frustration and other people take it personally when it's not meant that way, that's a big problem when venting in the workplace, and it is inappropriate, but maybe she can't help herself, she may need a long vacation or a change.

I think the nurse manager or whoever is in charge of the unit needs to handle it, and do some counseling, she needs an attitude adjustment. With all the emphasis on customer satisfaction, at least where I work, I'm surprised that someone could get away with that type of behavior.


296 Posts

I've worked at 3 different hospitals. And there's always one negative person on every unit.

The toughest was my 1st job--it was my supervisor. Everyone that I've talked to that have worked for that hospital--know this nurse supervisor--even when they didn't work on that unit. And the things they heard or 1st hand knew about her weren't good.

The secretary is tough b/c you have to interact with them.

I know I'll never change her. I've never seen her happy.

whenever a co-worker acts inappropriately (including the use of profanity, or temper tantrums) they should be written up. This is a bomb just waiting to go off.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

i work w/people like this. i kill em with kindness...if they don't respond it's's not personal after all so i don't put much thought or concern into it. but i will say, well more than 1/2 the time, after killing em with kindness and being open to LISTEN to them, they DO warm up to me. i get along with nearly everyone, just by showing them interest in THEM and LISTENING carefully to what they have to say. Most people want this much, not much more.

Failing that, remember the problem is HERs, not yours and get on w/life best you can.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

i agree, however, any signs of escalation to violence MUST be dealt with.......there is a difference in venting and violence waiting to explode.

Ruby Vee, BSN

47 Articles; 14,024 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

We have a unit secretary like this as well. Management has tried attitude adjustment, but it never seems to take. And no one else wants her job, so she stays.

Tweety, BSN, RN

33,525 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

You aren't going to change her behavior or personality and it's not worth the effort.

Just be professional keep it at business level, and report any behavior that affects you and your patient care to management, over and over again. Keep a record is you like. Clarify with the manager whose job it is to answer the call light when the nurses aren't around. Everywhere I've ever worked it has been the secretaries job.

Deb's advise is good as well. Don't be a sourpuss in return. I've melted a lot of sourpusses by not escalating the situation by being a sourpuss myself.

Good luck!

ktwlpn, LPN

3,844 Posts

Specializes in LTC,Hospice/palliative care,acute care.

Put a whoopee cushion on her chair.....

I don't understand why managers don't have the guts to fire people like that.

Unit clerks are a dime a dozen.

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