Keep calm

So that one coworker has managed to get under your skin.

Again.

The non-constructive criticism. The passive aggressive behaviors. The gossiping. The outright rudeness.

You have had it. You’re ready to blow a fuse.

Don’t.

As hard as it may seem, take a deep breath and keep calm. Easier said than done, I know. This one individual has made it their mission to drag you, and probably others, down to their level of misery. That’s exactly what it is. Misery. Perhaps their home life is falling apart. Perhaps they are struggling in school. Maybe someone they know is extremely sick.

Or maybe they are just an asshole.

Either way, they bring their misery to work and try to project it on others. It’s not your job to deal with their poor coping mechanisms.

I am not saying you need to ignore their behavior. I am saying don’t let them get you so worked up that you snap. When you snap you look like the aggressor and they get to play the victim. That’s why I want you to stop and take that deep breath. Walk away if you need to. Go take a break in the bathroom. Once you feel you are ready you need to pull them aside, if you’re comfortable, and speak your mind. Let them know you do not appreciate their behavior. Stand up for yourself. Calmly. Respectfully.

Then continue on about your day.

Two things will come from your conversation:

  1. They realize they need to change their behavior.
  2. They take no accountability and try to play the victim.

At this point, you have done what you need to do to handle the situation. If the behavior continues, take it to management. It is their turn to address this person. If you have a good manager they will step in and handle it. Conflict resolution is a part of their job. If your manager sucks, they’ll try to place it back in your hands and make you feel like you need to handle it. If your manager is the latter, take it higher. Make sure you communicate with management (through email so you have proof of escalation) that you are not comfortable with the way the situation was handled. Most places of employment have an HR department. Report the toxic behavior. You aren’t being a “snitch”. You are standing up against a toxic individual creating a toxic atmosphere. You are bringing attention to the fact that the behavior has been allowed to continue. You are taking a stand against lateral violence. You are taking the opportunity to fix a situation that has probably gone on for FAR too long. You are doing what is appropriate to create a positive work environment. You are doing what needs to be done. Take pride in that.

If you need to distance yourself from the individual(s) do so. If you can schedule yourself on the days or shifts they don’t work, do so. If you need to find a better place to work, DO SO. You became a nurse to help people, not deal with coworkers crappy attitudes for 8-12 hours. Self-care can mean removing yourself completely from a bad situation if need be. If you are treating those you work with respectfully, you deserve respect in return.

Keep calm and make moves.

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The toxic work team

“Nurses eat their young!”

Have you ever heard that before? To my new nurses out there, you may not have heard it yet but you will. To my experienced nurses, you’ve probably heard and experienced this first hand.

What exactly does that statement mean? How is that statement meant to be taken?

Honestly, to me, when I hear that statement I instantly hear “no one treats nurses worse than other nurses.” That mentality is what leads to a toxic team.

My current coworkers are amazing, I cannot say that about a previous place of employment, however. It was the true definition of a “toxic team”. The older or more experienced nurses there took pride in “eating their young”.  At that time I worked with a team that spent more time criticizing my every move and looking for mistakes than teaching me what I need to know as an inexperienced ICU nurse. There was a nurse that took PRIDE in the fact that other nurses were afraid to give them bedside report! It did not matter what you did. You could have coded a patient 3 times that shift, just come back from a repeat head CT, after emergent OR. This team member would question you on why the room is messy or why the 1900/0700 (depending on the shift) med was not given. img_1898Really? REALLY? I JUST SPENT 12 HOURS TRYING TO KEEP THIS PERSON ALIVE AND YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT A TYLENOL NOT BEING GIVEN?

I asked other coworkers why this person was like that, and that’s the first time I heard “nurses eat their young”. Not only was this the answer but it was also given with a “justification”. Nurses that believe in this motto try to explain it as giving you, a nurse, a “real world experience”. They want to “break you in”. They want you to understand that the “NCLEX” world isn’t real. They want to toughen you up and make you a “better” nurse. They have countless reasons for why they are a bitch. It is NOT ok! There are plenty of ways to help a nurse develop and constantly being toxic is not one of them

I finally got sick of the crap so I went to my nurse manager. Her response? “Give them the same crap back. Stand your ground.” Not what I expected her to say but exactly what I needed to hear.  I did just that. Whenever this team member started with their shit I shut it down. Quickly. It did take a few times but ultimately this young nurse did not get eaten.

If you are a senior nurse please take a moment to remember a few things: There are ways to ask questions during report about an uncompleted task without being accusatory. There are positive ways of giving feedback to a nurse that may be lacking knowledge in an area. There are positive ways to help the “baby nurse” to transition from the NCLEX world to the real nursing world (and it is a big transition). Basically, there are ways to address issues where a nurse may not be up to par without being an asshole about it.

If you are the baby nurse please understand that you do not have to accept this toxic behavior. You can speak up, and you should. You don’t have to be confrontational. If you are not comfortable speaking to that nurse directly, address it with your nurse manager. If your manager chooses not to address the behavior then just know you are *probably* working on a shitty unit and you should *probably* start looking for a better place of employment.