Help,...a passive-aggressive bully at work,...

  1. Let me first say, I am an ICU nurse with 8 years of experience that returned to ICU nursing after several years of a break. I am learning a new hospital and new ways of treating diagnosis but the nursing part has come back fairly easily.

    I fill "holes" in the staffing needs for both the weekday crew and the weekend crew. My problem has been on weekends, was very cliquey and there were times that they were talking, surfing the web or I had a obviously more loaded assignment in comparison. My problem has been with one RN who I reported for not helping me with specific questions when she was charge. When I was forced to have to enter my own lab for a pt (it was extensive very unusual lab on a difficult pt) because we had no secretary, I told her that I have alot of lab on both my patients and some of the tests are things I have not entered before,....her response was less than supportive,...she was talking on the phone and had NO PATIENTS for eight of twelve hours and when she did,...she had one easy tele overflow pt while I had 2 complex pts all day. She would not help me enter lab and I felt like she never jumped in to help me all day unless I asked even though I was running my *** off. The point of the charge RN to have a light to no assignment so that she can assist those who need it.
    Needless to say, I went to management with this lack of support from our weekend leader and it has gotten so much worse.

    She is no longer allowed to be in charge but she makes a point to not do anything but the bare minimum in contact with me. She overly talks to everyone on the unit that day and his very excluding of me and my attempts at teamwork with her pts. I am the type of person that hops in and helps without being asked if there is a need in the unit. She is literally looking for things to find me doing wrong to report me as incompetent. She throws that word around to other staff members that have not worked with me although I have never been present when she says this, it has gotten back with me.

    Working weekends are **LL, when we are on the same side of the unit. I do not trust her to be professional and back my narc witnesses or even bounce info off of her and others. Unfortunately, she sees this as a chance to comment of my lack of knowledge. We had a sit down "conference" with our new nurse manager because others in the unit noticed that she avoids me and will not assist or associate with me on the unit. It literally felt like we were in the principle's office and the whole class was being punished. "you all need to find a way to get along,..blah blah blah,...

    I am trying to move on and cont my team approach with WHOEVER I work with and it is squashed by this bully of the unit on weekends. There have been other nurses that have had issues with her and have left for greener pastures. Managers are afraid to address this bullying behavior and lack of team effort. She did not deny her "dislike" for me in conference and admitted to not responding to my greetings or needs. Why are people like this allowed to stay? Sorry so long,.....
  2. Visit momthenRN profile page

    About momthenRN

    Joined: Aug '07; Posts: 74; Likes: 13
    Charge Nurse of busy med/surg 15 bed ICU
    Specialty: 15 year(s) of experience in ICU


  3. by   TheCommuter
    Here's my observation...I have noticed that bullies target certain individuals, while 'magically' leaving others alone. Unfortunately, it's all about perception. If you are perceived as one who will not stand up to the bully, you'll be targeted for further harassment. If you're perceived as someone who will put up resistance and not allow anyone to run over you like a doormat, then the bully will quickly know to leave you alone.

    Bullying is a crime of opportunity. Bullies pick out the most opportune targets: people who are less likely to respond in a defensive manner to the bullying. Also, if nothing is done, the bully will continue the antisocial behavior, because this person knows that he/she can get away with it.
  4. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from momthenRN
    My problem has been with one RN who I reported for not helping me with specific questions when she was charge.....Needless to say, I went to management with this lack of support from our weekend leader and it has gotten so much worse.
    In addition, people hate to get reported, even if they're clearly in the wrong. They begin viewing you as a snitch for reporting your concerns, and they increasingly 'retaliate' by giving you the cold shoulder, not helping, and finding dirt that they can someday use against you.

    I have noticed that people who have been reported secretly hold a vendetta against the 'reporter.'
  5. by   SoundofMusic
    I have one like this -- and she is a relatively NEW nurse who went through orientation with me! She's older, though, and has prior experience in a doc's office (so what, I say) and just has a major big mouth. I am 2 inches away from letting her have it one day if she pulls it again with me.

    I actually told her to "cool her jets" the other day and she just walked away. You do have to snap back at them, and hard -- or they won't quit.
  6. by   DusktilDawn
    Management dealing with these types of issues with the chastisement of "You need to find a way to get along" is not only ineffective, but it is also a relection of their own lack of leadership skills. They've already lost other nurses because of the behavior of this one individual, yet they CHOOSE to allow this behavior to continue.

    I would be surprised if this facility did not have any policies regarding workplace harassment. Look into them and present those policies to your manager. Either management should deal with the bully or they should ensure that you do not have to work with that person.
  7. by   RNOCN2311

    I've worked with many a p-a nurse in my 20+ years. Truly the only way to get a tiny bit of respect from them its to give it back to them. I know it's hard, but if you kind of call a bully on the carpet, they are usually shocked. What you have to be careful of is don't choose a situation that in turn makes you look bad. Management that give the "you should talk to her/him..... we all need to get along" are just doing what they can (I'm now in management) but it really isn't an effective approach.

    A good ole, "get over yourself" when you get a smart remark might help. Good luck!
  8. by   MS._Jen_RN
    I took an assertive communication class in undergrad because I "had" to. I actually learned a few very important things. One of these being a kind of generic sentence structure for confrontation. It is "When you _________, I feel_______ and _______. " For example, "When you try to find fault in me I feel angry and I don't appreciate it." It is surpizingly effective. It's not namecalling, but to the point. It's hard to argue about how you feel.
    I've used the trick more than once, and it's worked everytime. Think of what you'd like to say before you even are in the situation. It sounds like she's pretty consistant.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edit by MS._Jen_RN on Jun 29, '08 : Reason: more info
  9. by   mauxtav8r
    Another thing you might try is to find out what sort of legal standing you have since the employer is aware that they have a bully and their actions were to remove her from a supervisory position but not to eliminate the bullying behavior.

    This is very similar to other forms of harassment. Filing a complain with HR rather than with the manager might yield a different result, since those in HR are generally highly aware of the consequences for failure to act on abusive situations.

    Good luck.
  10. by   Daytonite
    wow! to have such a level of immaturity in an rn in an acute hospital icu setting is really kind a rare! i was accustomed to seeing these kind of childish shenanigans coming from nursing assistants in nursing homes. and that's all it is--childish behavior. the degree of pouting and obstinence is beyond incredible. you've got this particular rn on the run. . .she's having nothing more than childish tantrums and everyone is aware of them which is why people are coming to you and reporting what she is saying about you. it's not so much that they are afraid of her as much as she has worn people down and they don't have the time or energy to want to deal with her. she's smart enough to know how far she can go to not get into trouble. but she knows one thing either consciously or subconsciously that you may not--assertiveness, or aggressiveness, merely requires repetition. manipulative, pesky, pouting little kids do this to get what they want from parents--wear them down until they get what they want. this lady wants to run the show and has been able to do so for some time. if the manager is not willing to get behind you and enforce changes in this rns behavior, it won't matter what you do. in the meantime, you continue to report her every time she fails to respond to a request for help from you or, worst, deliberately sabotages you. and, put it in writing and get names of witnesses so the manager has something concrete to work with. the fact that she is no longer allowed to be in charge would indicate to me that the manager is aware that there are problems with her. she'll hang herself if she's given enough rope and i'm going to suggest that everyone else knows it and are probably hoping that you, the new guy on the block, are their newest best hope. stand your ground. any honest mistake you make is nothing to be ashamed of. it is unfortunate that in addition to learning this new hospital's ways that you also have to deal with this big baby, but her comeuppance sounds like it is long overdue. one of the hardest things to deal with emotionally is brats like this. you're doing everyone a favor if you can help to successfully get her out of the unit.
  11. by   Jolie
    The advice I'm going to offer is unconventional and quite possibly unprofessional, but in my experience, highly effective.

    When bullies sense insecurity or the need for assistance or protection on the part of a co-worker, it is like a shark sensing blood in the water. They move in for the kill. The only way I know to back them off is to never show any of these traits.

    So, while it is appropriate and necessary to speak with your manager and document episodes of bullying, I suggest you ask you manager not to intervene on your behalf, at least not at first. Handle it yourself by rehearsing the following exchange:

    The next time you experience bullying, use a calm, level tone to insist on an immediate meeting in a private place. Insist that another nurse watch your patients for 5 minutes while you "address an urgent situation". Once there, let the bully know, in no uncertain terms that you know what she is attempting to do, and you will not tolerate it. Dominate the conversation; don't let her get a word in. Tell her to bleep off, then turn and leave with your head held high, and without looking back. Make sure no one can overhear your conversation (reverse threat) so it can't be used against you. (And be sure to use that phrase, or another equally offensive one. You need the shock value.)

    I am quite certain this will be effective. I've had to do this twice in my nursing career. One time the bully stood stunned, apologized, and offered to be of help to me. The other time, there was no acknowledgement of inappropriate behavior, but at least the bullying stopped.

    I am quite certain that will prove effective, and your status as "doormat" will change.

    Good luck!
  12. by   FireStarterRN
    Actually Daytonite, this type of behavior is unfortunately NOT totally rare. Sometimes, well established, aggressive personalities become expert at avoiding work through social manipulation of the workplace.

    The OP describes it perfectly. These people know expertly how to schmooze with the right people, and simultaneously ostracize or undermine anyone whom they perceive as socially weak or isolated.

    There's no easy answer, because this type covers their bases well. They know the job well, they carve out a little empire for themselves in their workplace, and they hold on to it by ruthlessly driving away anyone who doesn't go along with their game.

    Unfortunately, I've seen this over and over. I doubt if it is unique to nursing. I don't know the answer to it, there are probably some books or seminars that might help the OP.
  13. by   chenoaspirit
    Ive learned, thru experience, that if you dont stand up to them, they will continue their aggressive behavior toward you. Im battling the same thing at work with a nurse on my floor. I am an introverted, timid person who has a hard time dealing with this type of person. In your situation, try to stay away from her. Be cheerful with everyone else and offer your help when needed. But as far as this one particular nurse goes, I would not offer to help her unless she asked and I wouldnt ask her for help either. Dont talk about her to the other coworkers and dont acknowledge any negative behavior on her part. Maybe in time she will see how rediculous and immature this whole thing is and how her behavior isnt helping matters. I know its hard, believe me, I know. Its a shame people have to act that way. Good luck.
  14. by   loricatus
    Quote from momthenRN
    Why are people like this allowed to stay?
    Because they stay, as they drive off others.

    I think the problem lies more with management not only condoning this behavior but encouraging it. If it wasn't indicative of management philosophy trickling down into the unit, you wouldn't have heard that 'find a way to get along' speech-the other nurse would have been chastised.

    Things aren't likely to change since the bullying, in reality, actually is coming from a higher source than that nurse. Best to start looking elsewhere and state her actions & management response to it, as the direct cause of you leaving. I did this after having a work environment similar to yours. A year and a half after I left, I found out that the DON, dept DON, NM (there over 20 years) & problem staff were fired within 8 months after I left-kinda confirming my assumption about origins of bullying behavior.