How to handle unhealthy work environment?

Updated:   Published

  • Specializes in cardiac. Has 8 years experience.

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Hello, I am a nurse in CA with over 5 years bedside experience, specifically ICU. I recently left the ICU for a position at an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) as a preop/recovery nurse. I was excited leaving bedside after being super burnt out from the typical hospital like environment plus working the ICU during the pandemic.

My issue is my new place of employment is toxic.

Everyone except maybe 3 people at the most are incredibly petty, passive aggressive, gossips, backstabbers, etc. The director herself is hard to work with. I think her job stresses her out and she will outwardly demean employees in front of everyone. She will throw things when she's mad and slam doors. There is no support. Everyone talks crap about each other behind each others back. There is no teamwork, Etc. (I can go on but you get the picture).

My other issue is we're understaffed and they expect me to work over time. It is not mandatory per my offer letter and I always decline when they ask if I can stay. They ask why can't I stay and I just make up excuses like "I have a doctors appointment", "I need to pick up my kids" etc. I can tell they get extremely upset with me. I get really upset too that they expect me to give them a reason as to why I can't stay when its personal matters at the end of the day. I do not want to share me life outside of work with these toxic people and I feel like I don't need to give them an explanation but at the same time they make me feel bad for not staying.

1.) How do I deal with an environment like this? I keep to myself, I don't gossip with them, I eat lunch in my car, etc but I just hate being in that negative environment. 

2.) Can I be reprimanded or suffer consequences for not staying over time when they ask if it was not a condition of employment?

I'll take any advice you can offer. 

I don't want to quit this Job because I haven't been there long and I don't like to be that type of person that job hops and I also recognize no job is perfect. I would like to learn how to deal with difficult situations like this.

The thing I am struggling the most with is overtime. I have thick skin and can let the negative vibes just brush off but I don't like the position they put me in when they ask me everyday to stay. When I work in the recovery room I often stay over time up to 2-3 hours Because no one is available to relieve me to go home and I can't abandon my recovery patient of course. So in my head I figure "Well if I know I going to stay over time anyways on the days I work in recovery why is that not good enough for them? I am not going to stay over time on the days I do have the opportunity to go home on time and I hate that they make me feel bad for it when I'm already forced to stay over time when I work in recovery anyways."

HiddenAngels

790 Posts

Has 9 years experience.

My advice, in this instance, be that person that job hops. Get out of there.

mfci

14 Posts

I've worked somewhere very similar sounding.  I didn't care one way or the other what they said or did, but they eventually started to threaten my job.

Be that person that doesn't take that kind of crap.  Leave.  It's not good for you.     Nursing is hard enough on it's own.   IMO.

 

RatherBHiking, BSN, RN

1 Article; 568 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Oncology, OB, School Nurse. Has 31 years experience.

I have worked at more than one place like this and unfortunately it never got better. Staying out of the drama (which I did) did not help me at all. These toxic people would then make comments like oh she thinks she’s better than the rest of us and then proceed to talk about me and throw me under the bus every chance they got. Also if everyone else is willing to work over all the time and you aren’t (which is perfectly within your right not to) they will target you even more. That’s one of the biggest complaints from my friends who work outpatient is never getting to leave on time.  The manager is probably not allowed to hire another person to work in the evenings to cover and it’s not like the hospital where they can pull from somewhere else. 

It sounds like no one is very happy here and the manager has no control and is beyond stressed herself. 

My advice is to start looking for another job. When you get an interview ask how common it is the nurses are having to work over (even if it’s not required) and let them know up front you do not want a job you have trouble getting out on time. 

2BS Nurse, BSN

677 Posts

Has 10 years experience.

"The director herself is hard to work with".

There you go. She is setting a bad example so it will never change. Move on.

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

164 Articles; 21,189 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

Once people started slamming doors I would be outta there. It's more than toxic, its violent.  A person that can't control their temper has no business being in charge and their lack of leadership will trickle down. 

Tommy5677

110 Posts

You Quit. That's how.

londonflo

2,342 Posts

Specializes in oncology. Has 46 years experience.
On 3/23/2022 at 8:05 PM, angelsigns said:

So in my head I figure "Well if I know I going to stay over time anyways on the days I work in recovery why is that not good enough for them? I am not going to stay over time on the days I do have the opportunity to go home on time and I hate that they make me feel bad for it when I'm already forced to stay over time when I work in recovery anyways."

Just say that! 

On 3/23/2022 at 8:05 PM, angelsigns said:

I hate that they make me feel bad for it

No, ignore the 'guilt trip". Walk out of there with your head held high. 

JKL33

6,465 Posts

On 3/23/2022 at 9:05 PM, angelsigns said:

they make me feel bad for not staying.

As thoroughly common as this feeling is, it isn't rational.

Here's a thought exercise. Say the manager comes up to you and says, "I would like your shoes, please." When you ask why, she responds, "because I want them and I asked for them, that's why!" Now if you declined to comply and she threw a hissy fit, you would think she has a problem. You wouldn't feel bad about not giving her what she wants.

What about your stethoscope?

What about your lunch? What about if every day you were expected to hand over your lunch so that an administrator at your workplace could eat it? What if you noticed that others often do hand over their lunch so these people can eat it? What if they start asking why you can't be nice like your coworkers?

 Staffing their place is their responsibility, just like getting their own shoes, their own lunch and their own tools are their responsibility.

They can try to make people feel guilty for not giving them what they want, but that is silliness. Give yourself permission to see it for what it is and recognize that it has nothing to do with you personally. Then deliberately choose not to feel bad.

HiddenAngels

790 Posts

Has 9 years experience.
4 hours ago, JKL33 said:

As thoroughly common as this feeling is, it isn't rational.

Here's a thought exercise. Say the manager comes up to you and says, "I would like your shoes, please." When you ask why, she responds, "because I want them and I asked for them, that's why!" Now if you declined to comply and she threw a hissy fit, you would think she has a problem. You wouldn't feel bad about not giving her what she wants.

What about your stethoscope?

What about your lunch? What about if every day you were expected to hand over your lunch so that an administrator at your workplace could eat it? What if you noticed that others often do hand over their lunch so these people can eat it? What if they start asking why you can't be nice like your coworkers?

 Staffing their place is their responsibility, just like getting their own shoes, their own lunch and their own tools are their responsibility.

They can try to make people feel guilty for not giving them what they want, but that is silliness. Give yourself permission to see it for what it is and recognize that it has nothing to do with you personally. Then deliberately choose not to feel bad.

Love this💗

Peachpit

128 Posts

Has 33 years experience.

As others have said, find another job. Your experience/skill set I'm sure is in high demand for hospital and non-hospital based jobs.

You don't owe the employer anything but the time you agreed to be there and work. If overtime isn't mandatory and you are continually asked just repeat the same thing over - that you already have after work commitments and leave it at that. You are right, you don't owe them an explanation but if it makes you feel better to give one, keep it the same and general.

As far as staffing, that is your employers problem, not yours. Let her/them handle it and look out for yourself. Maybe the reason they have the staffing issues is other people saw the writing on the wall and decided not to be caught up in the office drama and more than they had to be. Hopefully you will follow suit and leave asap.