How to handle difficult co workers when you're the new kid on the block?

Updated | Posted
by BeatsPerMinute BeatsPerMinute, BSN, RN Member

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 8 years experience.

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I am an experienced critical care nurse (~7 years) and currently the noobie at a different hospital’s ICU. Overall good team, situation, pay. Boss has been there for years and is great. Both a straight shooter and kind. Had a great preceptor. Work with some pretty cool people. 

Been working there for approx 2 months now. There are 2 nurses I dread working with. Initial feeling is that they’re the walking contradiction sort. Can’t always rely on the accuracy of their report and knowledge of the patient nor what I am going to run into. 

Nurse 1: Always eager to leave, with no cares about how many tasks they’re leaving me with, & there no offer to help me with those tasks. However, if I dare leave them with a room that isn’t 100% clean (ceiling to floor) their response to me is loud and belittling and public. Like, they’ll call me out in front of others and it seems like they just want me to look bad. After hand off the other night, this nurse came back up to me with a list of complaints, had immediately reported how “messy of a room I had left” to charge nurse, and when I approached her to tell her that I had planned to give report to her and the other nurse and then return to clean up (so that both could start their shifts and then I would clean up / prepare them for a smooth shift) she had cut me off and stormed off without allowing me a word. The next nurse I was giving report to I think felt bad for me. Even though he had the messier room to deal with, he quickly and kindly told me that “sometimes its not your fault” “we all have busy days and bad days” “nursing is a 24 - 7 job" "I'll take care of it - don't' worry about it. you've been here all day." I went up to charge, shared my side of things, and ended with: “whatever I need to do to make things right, I will do. I have no problem staying to take care of a task I have left nor am I opposed to cleaning up a messy room. That’s easy to do.” I cleaned both nurses rooms thoroughly. 

Nurse 2: Not long before becoming my preceptor, the preceptor had precepted "Nurse 2" as well. My preceptors very good at being cooperative and patient and kind to everyone even when its not reciprocated. Preceptor watched one day as this particular nurse (2) rejected my offers to help and it seemed like she wanted me to look bad even if I was really helping her out with something. Preceptor summed it all as Nurse 2 just being a very immature human, and advised that I not take it personally. The issue is that Nurse 2 is unusually challenging and dismissive and actively shuts me down or pushes me away like she just doesn’t want me around and it’s even gotten to the point where she puts me down (and also, does so, loudly, as in front of others). Even if do her a solid favor (ex: she is somewhere far away from her patients, and her patients are right next to mine, and I notice that her propofol or levophed drip has nearly run dry, I will pull the med and replace it for her). Her response is “don’t touch my drips; I’ve got it; just leave them alone, OK??” I figure its not worth it to get into battle, do /say something stupid, or give energy to the situation.. so I usually say nothing, shrug, walk away,  and leave her to deal with her own patient care, as requested. Super unprofessional though, and I wouldn’t trust her to have my back. She doesn’t seem to care. I think my preceptor is correct about Nurse 2 just being immature. Almost makes me think there’s a pride issue with Nurse 2 or something? IDK. Figuring that out still.

Anyway, working with people who don't want your help, nor are they ones you feel like will cover you or have your back, is unsettling.

I’ve also seen Nurse 2 do some really awkward things… She’s a very pretty girl. On my first day on my own I was assigned a “buddy” (+ charge was also made aware that it was my first day on my own). The support were all males. While asking clarification questions, questions about practices, protocols and policies and for advice from these guys - this girl would swoop in and do things like tell them about how amazing hair they had, and brush her hand through their hair. She would sit on their laps. She would interrupt because she insisted on taking selfies with these guys to post on social media. She gave no cares that I was in convo about legit work things - she’d interrupt and demand their attention. She talks about sexual things way to much.. like, if a patient heard the words that came outta her mouth I’d be super embarrassed ... 

When I go to work, I focus on work. I do what needs to be done to (the my ability) keep things running as smoothly as possible. I look to help my co workers out. A good team makes or breaks any job - so that is really important to me. Alls good with the rest of the staff as far as I can tell. My other fellow nurses thank me when I help them and I thank them for helping me. It really is only these two odd ball nurses that I do not feel comfortable working with because of their behaviors. 

So, those are the current things (and people) I am trying to figure out how to work with better. Hearing about these situations, what would you do? Or what have you done (or even what have you avoided doing) when working with difficult co workers? I don’t really care about what they think or how they feel about me. I just want to do what I can do to build the trust up a bit more or make things as professional as possible so we can all do our jobs and keep our patients safe and make our already demanding job a little bit easier for everyone. 

JBMmom, MSN, NP

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC. Has 10 years experience. 4 Articles; 2,290 Posts

It sounds like both of those nurses have issues that actually have nothing to do with you, so there's nothing you can do. And if you bend over backwards to try to appease them, they sound like the people that will take advantage but still throw a tantrum when they feel like it. Since it's only two, I hope you won't have to hand off to them too often. 

If you agree that something legitimately was your mistake, I would start off report with something like "after we're done with report I'm going to fix x, y or z in the room before I leave". If it was just a busy shift and something got missed, if someone wants to call me out, I don't get defensive or try to explain- I just say okay and leave it at that. Other nurses on the unit clearly see the behavior of these nurses and they aren't going to judge you based on their tantrums. 

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 29 years experience. 2 Articles; 4,047 Posts

If some makes a scene about something, I find it helpful to calmly explain that I prefer to be spoken to in a courteous way. It really does foster stronger communication. Do it in the moment. 

I like people to be polite and direct. I'm not a mind-reader, but prefer not to be berated or yelled at, thank you very much. 

JKL33

6,391 Posts

Don't entertain any of this. I used to try to talk reason to people like #1 (such as informing her what you planned to do when you were done with report), but when you run across someone who is there for drama rather than resolving a problem you are not only wasting your emotional energy but fueling their fire with it. They know where to get a reaction--avoid being that place.

Sometimes you can develop a rapport by just being patient and letting time pass, also taking small opportunities to make inroads during low-key moments, e.g. "that was a hard situation with that family, you handled it really well." Etc.

As for #2: Maintain strict professionalism. More than strict. Walk away if there is inappropriateness in the vicinity. And you don't need to run around doing favors.

Just put your head down and take care of your patients.

Edited by JKL33

nursej22, MSN, RN

Specializes in Public Health, TB. Has 37 years experience. 2,778 Posts

Of course, you want to fit in and be a part of the team. You only have control over your actions and thoughts. Let them think whatever they want, you cannot change them. period. Let their issues be their issues. 

Easy to say, not so easy to do. But as others have said, keep it professional and direct. Leave off with judgements about what their motives are, it won't change anything. 

#1 sounds like she wants to pick a fight, but if you don't have to engage. 

And yeah, #2 sounds like a sexual harassment complaint waiting to happen. Stay out of it, or possibly keep a log of where and when inappropriate interactions take place, in case you are called in as a witness. 

RatherBHiking, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Oncology, OB, School Nurse. Has 30 years experience. 1 Article; 563 Posts

Yep I’ve known both types of people. Don’t waste your time or effort with them. Even if you think you have won them over they’ll be the first to stab you in the back.


Trust me when I say this, everyone there already knows what they’re like. I guarantee the manager has heard number 1 complain many times. She sounds like a spoiled baby who wants everything done her way and for her but don’t expect her to  help you because she’s the princess. Ignore her, don’t be nice or try to win her over. Act respectful and polite of course. The more you ignore her (don’t say hi, don’t smile at her, don’t ask how she is) and act like you don’t care that she exists the more she will start trying to win your approval I bet. I’ve seen it happen. Either way you can’t force her to be the kind of nurse/person you want  her to be. Be nice and friendly or just polite but expect nothing from her. Let it go.

I agree number 2 is skating on thin ice. She feels threatened when you try to help her out. In her eyes she is assuming you think she can’t handle her own stuff and/or she’s afraid you will want/expect help with your own stuff and doesn’t want to. Respect her wishes and don’t help her unless she asks. Avoid her too. She’s they type if you befriend her will throw you under the bus faster than you can blink and\or will expect you to have her back if she gets in trouble for being too “ friendly” with the male staff and if you don’t will make your life a living hell. 

In every job you have to learn who you can trust and count on. These two are not it. We all have people we work with we wish were different and don’t like. Spend your time helping the ones that you can trust and appreciate you. 

BeatsPerMinute

BeatsPerMinute, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 8 years experience. 326 Posts

A follow up..

I worked with Nurse #2 for a couple days in a row and on this ICU, charge nurses expect that we support and help out those neighbor nurses and created a buddy system. When you are buddied with someone you're supposed to cover each others breaks and just in general help and watch over one another. It's written on our assignment sheets - which are dispersed throughout the unit at the start of shift - who each nurse is buddied with. Unfortunately, Nurse #2 and I were assigned to be that support to one another and Nurse #2 pretended that it didn't exist. She refused my offers to help, loudly pushed me away from any attempts to help, and she made it obvious that she did not want to help me, cover me, ... and how she did not care. 

On top of the on going snaps at me for even going near her patient and/or her gtts over the last couple shifts (even when I was actually just walking up to tend to my own gtts when my own pumps began alarming), she publicly refused to help me in other "cute" ways -_-  ... quick example: I had to give a fresh post op patient a pain med. I needed a witness to waste the left over pain med. My room was near the charge desk and when I approached the charge nurse there to ask for a witness, Nurse #2 appears and asks that the charge nurse do the same favor for her. I offered to Nurse #2 that we witness and waste each others meds. Nurse #2 responded with: "Um... no thanks!" summoned the charge nurse to witness her own narc, and bounced away. The charge nurse witnessed both our meds. I know that the charge nurse and Nurse #2 are friends and so kinda expected that nothing be said about it. 

Thankfully, I had fantastic co-workers close by / in the same hall as me who were happy and thankful to receive my help and vice versa. Others covered me when I needed break. I felt like I could trust them to watch my patients when I needed it. It was easy and comfortable to ask any of them to co-sign a new bag for a gtt, to witness / waste a narc, and in general to help one another with patient care stuff without attitude, sass, and public announcements about how much they didn't want my help and did not want to help me... 

After report / handing off care, I began thinking to myself that if I did not speak up to someone, that I'd potentially be setting myself up for unsafe situations in the future. Going to the day shift charge nurse who was Nurse #2's friend didn't seem like a great idea though either. I mulled over options and after learning that the night time shift charge nurse was one of the more experienced, well liked & respected nurses on the unit.. someone very approachable and reasonable.. I decided to bring the issue up to her. 

I asked to talk privately about something. We went to a quiet, private area and I shared that I wanted to ask her opinion about a situation and what she would do if she were in the same situation .. I quickly summed up the last few shifts and most recent, specific experiences working with Nurse #2 and her refusal to help me + the challenges and concerns that I was thinking about and what I was feeling if this continued... I added that I do not expect that everyone like me or that we all be BFFs. However, I could not count on Nurse #2 for help and support. This has happened multiple times now. 

The evening charge nurse asked me who the nurse was that I was having difficulty with. When I shared who, the evening charge nurse sighed and said that I am not the first to come to her about this nurse in particular with situations like my own, and that this will be addressed.

She thanked me for bringing this to her attention and affirmed Nurse #2s behavior is unprofessional and unsafe. I really appreciated her adding on that people notice that I work very hard, that I help others often, and its very much appreciated (by most nurses anyway) and to keep up the good work. She also let me know that she will do what she can to prevent me from being "buddied" with this nurse in the future. 

I want to share this in hopes that it's helpful to others, to remember this to look back on / learn from. General thoughts, ideas, concerns, etc ya'll have would be much appreciated. Thanks! 

Edited by BeatsPerMinute
NA

LibraSunCNM, MSN

Specializes in OB. Has 10 years experience. 1,612 Posts

17 hours ago, BeatsPerMinute said:

A follow up..

I worked with Nurse #2 for a couple days in a row and on this ICU, charge nurses expect that we support and help out those neighbor nurses and created a buddy system. When you are buddied with someone you're supposed to cover each others breaks and just in general help and watch over one another. It's written on our assignment sheets - which are dispersed throughout the unit at the start of shift - who each nurse is buddied with. Unfortunately, Nurse #2 and I were assigned to be that support to one another and Nurse #2 pretended that it didn't exist. She refused my offers to help, loudly pushed me away from any attempts to help, and she made it obvious that she did not want to help me, cover me, ... and how she did not care. 

On top of the on going snaps at me for even going near her patient and/or her gtts over the last couple shifts (even when I was actually just walking up to tend to my own gtts when my own pumps began alarming), she publicly refused to help me in other "cute" ways -_-  ... quick example: I had to give a fresh post op patient a pain med. I needed a witness to waste the left over pain med. My room was near the charge desk and when I approached the charge nurse there to ask for a witness, Nurse #2 appears and asks that the charge nurse do the same favor for her. I offered to Nurse #2 that we witness and waste each others meds. Nurse #2 responded with: "Um... no thanks!" summoned the charge nurse to witness her own narc, and bounced away. The charge nurse witnessed both our meds. I know that the charge nurse and Nurse #2 are friends and so kinda expected that nothing be said about it. 

Thankfully, I had fantastic co-workers close by / in the same hall as me who were happy and thankful to receive my help and vice versa. Others covered me when I needed break. I felt like I could trust them to watch my patients when I needed it. It was easy and comfortable to ask any of them to co-sign a new bag for a gtt, to witness / waste a narc, and in general to help one another with patient care stuff without attitude, sass, and public announcements about how much they didn't want my help and did not want to help me... 

After report / handing off care, I began thinking to myself that if I did not speak up to someone, that I'd potentially be setting myself up for unsafe situations in the future. Going to the day shift charge nurse who was Nurse #2's friend didn't seem like a great idea though either. I mulled over options and after learning that the night time shift charge nurse was one of the more experienced, well liked & respected nurses on the unit.. someone very approachable and reasonable.. I decided to bring the issue up to her. 

I asked to talk privately about something. We went to a quiet, private area and I shared that I wanted to ask her opinion about a situation and what she would do if she were in the same situation .. I quickly summed up the last few shifts and most recent, specific experiences working with Nurse #2 and her refusal to help me + the challenges and concerns that I was thinking about and what I was feeling if this continued... I added that I do not expect that everyone like me or that we all be BFFs. However, I could not count on Nurse #2 for help and support. This has happened multiple times now. 

The evening charge nurse asked me who the nurse was that I was having difficulty with. When I shared who, the evening charge nurse sighed and said that I am not the first to come to her about this nurse in particular with situations like my own, and that this will be addressed.

She thanked me for bringing this to her attention and affirmed Nurse #2s behavior is unprofessional and unsafe. I really appreciated her adding on that people notice that I work very hard, that I help others often, and its very much appreciated (by most nurses anyway) and to keep up the good work. She also let me know that she will do what she can to prevent me from being "buddied" with this nurse in the future. 

I want to share this in hopes that it's helpful to others, to remember this to look back on / learn from. General thoughts, ideas, concerns, etc ya'll have would be much appreciated. Thanks! 

I'm glad you found someone trustworthy to confide in and ask for help, and that their feedback was positive and affirming.  I'm sure that was a relief given the behavior you've had to deal with!  It just sticks in my craw that it's so common for the response to be the above--"I'll make sure she isn't buddied with you in the future," rather than "She'll be written up and dealt with for her blatant unprofessionalism."  It's not unique to nursing, but the employees who manage to keep their jobs despite making everyone else's jobs harder because of their own psych issues just annoy me to no end.

vintagegal

vintagegal, BSN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 3 years experience. 249 Posts

Just ignore them when they are throwing a tantrum. One of my co workers goes passive aggressive and won’t talk to anyone for days. I return the favor and don’t try to engage it. Ultimately childish. I ignore them and do my own thing, after a few shifts they get normal again.

beachynurse, ASN, BSN

Specializes in School Nursing. Has 37 years experience. 299 Posts

I simply don't understand this kind of behavior in what are supposed to be professionals. We should all be striving for the same goals, the well being of our patients. In doing that it takes nurses that are willing to work as a team, willing to work together and help each other when help is needed. This is such a childish display of unprofessionalism, and can only potentially end up in harm to patients. How disappointing....

BeatsPerMinute

BeatsPerMinute, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 8 years experience. 326 Posts

Maybe she was written up; maybe she wasnt. IDK enough to recognize the difference. Im guessing that would not be shared with me though. 

Whether or not anyone was written up doesnt matter to me as much. As long as things were addressed in a way that allows me to just do my work without non sense like this, Im good. 

IDK if “tested” is the right word but with that idea neither of the two nurses have “tested” me since I made my complaints. So something probably happened. Nurse #2 esp has really toned things down… 

I hate these situations.. Either way im gonna have to watch my back ?

On 1/10/2022 at 6:47 AM, beachynurse said:

I simply don't understand this kind of behavior in what are supposed to be professionals. We should all be striving for the same goals, the well being of our patients. In doing that it takes nurses that are willing to work as a team, willing to work together and help each other when help is needed. This is such a childish display of unprofessionalism, and can only potentially end up in harm to patients. How disappointing....

I hear ya 

BeatsPerMinute

BeatsPerMinute, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 8 years experience. 326 Posts

Also, my response is being compiled so the rest is just a general response to this thread:  

When I say I feel like I need to watch my back: I understand that its just a feeling… but ignoring, pretending their poor behavior doesnt exist, “burring your head in the sand” hasn't been helpful in the past. Been there done that. I've been burned a few times when I ignored the people and pretended the behaviors didn’t exist - so I push back on that a bit. Sometimes you do need to stand up for yourself, speak up, even when youre new. 

Im no new grad and am also far from being a seasoned nurse. Still figuring out some if the nuances. 

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