Sabotaged at Work

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Dear Nurse Beth,

I have left my current job after 7 years of employment at a Hospital that was my very 1st job as an RN. I worked in a few areas (med surg, OR and then a surgical clinic) during my time. A new nurse manager was hired to replace my current one , whom I had a good relationship with, and I felt like she was targeting me for unknown reasons. she tried writing me up for something I didn't do and always seemed to approach me negatively when I have never had any issues with my other manager until she came along. 

She even accused me of calling in 6 times in a month after only being on the job for a month as a new manager! (It was vacation time granted by my other manager). She also favored my other co workers, who seemed to always sabotage my work in front of her, painting me in a bad light. I have excellent work ethics and have never been written up.

Needless to say, as much as I tried, this new manager and I just didn't see eye to eye even though I always remained professional and communicated with her. I felt as though my job was becoming a toxic work environment so I decided to leave my state job and resign. This hospital has been my only employer as an RN. I was a new grad when I first started there in 2014. I recently applied for another job and they turned me down for an "unfavorable" reference. I didn't list the new manager; I called and asked my first manager of the clinic who hired me if I could list her and she agreed. How will I ever find another RN Job if I have no clinical manager to list? I feel duped by the manager; she knew that I didn't get along well with the newly hired manager, but her & I never had any working issues and she gave me good marks when I was under her management. What should I do now? I have personal references , including Physician assistants I can list that I worked for , but most people want you to list a clinical nurse manager. Help! 

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Sabotaged at Work,

I really wish you had looked for another job while you were still working, for 2 reasons. It's easier to land a job when you're employed, as opposed to unemployed, and it's acceptable to say "No" to "May we contact your current employer?" if you are still working. Employers understand that you may not want your current employer to know you are looking for a new job.

Saying "No" to "May we contact your previous employer?" is a red flag. But saying "Yes" isn't ideal, either, since even your first manager gave you an unfavorable reference. Is there anyone at your previous job who you can trust to give you a good reference? The PAs you worked with are better than nothing- it may not help, but it can't hurt.

Your situation is puzzling. It would be helpful to know what's really going on. Can you contact your first manager who gave you good marks (but later gave you an unfavorable reference) to find out the full story? Explain your situation and ask for her help. You have nothing to lose.

You might even consider contacting your most recent manager and having a discussion. After all, her reference is costing you jobs, and according to you, there's no basis for it.

Another thing that's curious is that many (most) employers refrain from giving a negative reference because of liability and limit themselves to providing your dates of employment and title only. Is it possible HR does not know the managers are giving unwarranted negative references? You say you have never been written up, and have an excellent work ethic. If you have no write-ups and good performance evaluations, then this is an HR issue, and you could try to talk with HR.

Moving forward, you must find a job as soon as possible because you do not want a lengthy employment gap. When you land an interview, do not say anything negative about your previous employer.

Best wishes and best of luck,

Nurse Beth

Specializes in Medical-Surgical.

Sorry to hear about your situation. I have great news though. Nursing is one of those fields that is always in demand. Even during this time where people are scared of getting sick, you are valuable. 

I've seen nurses argue and fight with managers and walk off the job and get another one the next day. This is your opportunity to be bold! Puff out that chest and know your worth. Every work environment is susceptible to change. Take this as the sign to move on to bigger and better things. This is how you do it.

Don't use your ex-managers as a reference if you get wind that they are going to throw you under the bus. Use people that know your work, but are interested in helping you get to your next job. At this point, call your ex-manager and give them a talking to. Let them know that their review cost you your job. Let them know the gravity of what they have done. Then let them go. 

Call your ex-coworkers and see if any of them would give a good reference for your next job. If they agree, then use them as a reference. Be a boss. Get that courage to use your co-workers as references. 

Next job interview, tell them not to bother your references because they get a lot of calls. I've told just about every job I had in nursing not to call my references and harass them. It never stopped me from working. Yeah, people will say, "oh that's a red flag" in reality, they need a nurse and you're here ready to work. If they like you, they'll take a chance

Nursing is half about technical skills, the other half is working with people. People that are awful, scared, excitable, weird, and straight out bullies. You have to show that you're in charge of all situations and that you are valuable. You do this with courage and risk (small risk). Set yourself up for success and win.  

Thank you so much for your advice Nurse Beth, Nurse Shannon.  I applied to another hospital and was hired so I am beyond excited!  I am the utmost professional so mentioning other jobs negatively is not my forte; however, 7 years of skills would certainly be mentioned by me just to let them know my broad range of knowledge, if they ask me. I"ve thought about contacting the previous managers, but I have done this in recent past, I've communicated my concerns over being targeted etc and it didn't seem to do anything. I feel like I just ended up being labelled a "troublemaker" and "not a team player". Such a common occurrence if you speak up for yourself in our field, smh.  I've put the toxic workplace behind me and I am ready for a new start.  You are correct, nurse bullying certainly exists and as a slightly older nurse (54) I feel as though it remains prominent. It's a shame, as we are all supposed to be a team and helpful to one another, yet somehow certain nurses feel threatened by others.   I will keep you updated with the new position!  Thanks again.  

Specializes in BSN, RN, CVRN-BC.

And you learned a valuable lesson.  Never quit one job until you have another.  Good luck in your new position!

Specializes in Public Health, TB.

Yes, I have felt targeted by a manager. I transferred to a new procedural  unit but shortly after, there was a reorganization and a non-nurse was named the manager. She wanted corners cut and felt that nurses should only do what doctors wanted, even if it was not safe. I even blew the whistle (anonymously) about her delegating a task to an aide that was clearly out of her scope. Perhaps she figured out it was me.  And I was expected to be on call every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night for add-on cases, even though there were 8 other nurses who could take call.

She often made inappropriate, crude remarks to staff. For instance, an aide reported her pager wouldn't work at her home because it was in a "dead zone". The manager said, "I hope that doesn't apply to your bedroom." In the middle of a staff meeting.

She wrote me up for  a false accusation of sexual harassment, but with the union's help, that was dismissed. I was determined that she was not going to run me off, so I stayed one more year before transferring out. 

I didn't want to be run off either, however, my working environment was toxic and affecting me physically and psychologically. You know when people are treating you poorly but in ways in which you may not be able to "prove". No, I am not paranoid.  Backstabbing and plotting to make nurses look bad happens all the time.  One example? : One of my coworkers went through all of my prep work one day and re-dated it and erased my initials and put her own down. (we chart prepped for surgeons). sound crazy? Yep, it sure was and when I questioned her about it, she ran to the new manager and cried that I was bullying her.  I was then labelled "not a team player".  All I did was ask her, in a professional way, WHY did you re-label all of work and change dates and put your initials down? "That looks like sabotaging my work to me". Thats all I said to her. Was I annoyed? of course, but I did not behave in an unprofessional way.    These were the sort of incidents I dealt with.  That's why I had to leave. I wasn't going to be fired after having a satisfactory record after 7 years  and I had a feeling the new manager was trying to just find reasons.  I hope things work out for you also.  People don't realize how much bullying really occurs in our field.

Specializes in Supervisor.

Dear Beth,

Likely personal and does there really have to be a reason?  Managers often pick and choose regardless of your ability to perform your job.  After 30+ Year career, I have found 2 types of management.  1.  Those who surround themselves by weak skills and knowledge so they can feel smart and in control.  2.  Those who surround themselves with strong skills, knowledge and yes, often vocal, staff.    A unit or agency that does amazing work takes amazing staff.  Those staff didn't get there by laziness or lack of knowledge.     I find that when a manager feels the need to push you out, it is because you, your skills, your knowledge or sometimes just your relationships at work intimidate them.    

I have had a few of them,  I always see it as their loss and my gain.  Time to learn a new unit, new job, something to challenge me.  In those instances I have used physicians, PA, nurse coworkers or a previous manager as my reference.  Don't feel locked in to that manager as your reference.  

Nursing is wide open.  Challenge yourself, go a different direction, learn some new skills.  It will only enhance your overall practice , knowledge base and confidence!!  Good luck! Go for it!!  You can send her a thank you note later

Specializes in NICU (neonatal).

I'm glad you got out of that toxic environment. Congrats on the new job! I hope it's going well.

Specializes in NICU.

Yes, I went through a time in a unit with an abusive, nasty, lazy Head nurse. Every week she would pick on the meekest, attack, deride and make them cry. Yell and scream, pull on their uniform.  I had never seen such a turnover in staff, yet the administration continued to turn a blind eye. She abused residents, Chiefs of staff. One time a patient complained of hunger and this HN told the patient that she was too fat anyway. She would remark on other workers' ethnicity. Eventually, threat of being sabotaged was quite evident so I left, but the exit interview was while on duty, so one could not speak up honestly. I did overhear the VP asking her "so,...why is this nurse leaving?"

Specializes in Medical Surgical.

Dear Sabotaged at work . I also experienced nurse work bullying too and my situation was very very similar to yours . It's called "black listing" when a manager spreads negative things about a coworker . It's a form of bullying too especially if you had no issues before . Same thing happened to me. I transferred before I got fired (my manager was setting me up as well as certain coworkers part of the clique). I'll admit it was awful bc I had to transfer to a job that I disliked . It was a unit nobody wanted to work at and they hired me immediately because of desperation. I stayed 3 months and transferred back to the hospital setting as a float ! I ended up floating to my old unit and sure enough the ex manager from hell wrote me up about a poop sample to my new manager who really liked me. Nothing happened to me of course bc my new manager figured it out . Anyways this manager from hell ended up getting fired after a few years . I think many people were celebrating !

Nursing is known for work bullying !! It's nothing new . I also suffer now from PTSDS from work place bullying !! I was bullied for over 10 years !! 
Do not give up ! Hang in there and keep looking !! If you can change careers that would also be an option ! I know I would if I was young or had to start over again ! My heart goes out to you . Evil people suck !! 

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.
1 hour ago, Heartnurse24 said:

Thank you so much for your advice Nurse Beth, Nurse Shannon.  I applied to another hospital and was hired so I am beyond excited!  

I am so glad! Getting a new job is the best solution to the problems you had. Now you can put all the negativity behind you and move forward without worrying about ever using them as a reference again ?