bully, bully boss, incivility, workplace violence, horizontal violence, vertical violence, RTConnections, Renee Thompson

As soon as Sharon applied for a transfer, she noticed that her boss stopped being nice to her. It was subtle at first – not saying good morning, only speaking to her when it involved business, and walking away whenever Sharon entered the nurses’ station. Sharon thought it was her imagination until she got called into her boss’s office – several times for minor things – to the point where Sharon started feeling as though her boss was deliberately trying to stop her from transferring.
Is Sharon’s boss a bully?

Nurses being bullied by their boss are one of the most common complaints I hear from nurses who contact me. A few years ago I wrote a blog post titled, “What if the bully is your boss?” which received a lot of attention (click here to read). If we are going to eliminate bullying behavior in the workplace, we have to start at the top.
To figure out if Sharon’s boss (and possibly yours) is a bully, follow these 3 steps:
FIRST, we must understand the definition of bullying because not EVERYTHING is bullying!
Definition: bullying is the repeated patterns of destructive behavior with the CONSCIOUS or UNCONSCIOUS attempt to do harm. In other words, the behavior has to be destructive in nature AND it has to repeat for a period of time.
In Sharon’s case, it depends on how long her boss has been treating her this way. Let’s say her boss is mad because she is leaving. She might treat her differently for a few days or week because she doesn’t want her to leave. However, if over the course of weeks/months, her boss’s behavior doesn’t improve or actually gets worse, then we can call it bullying.
SECOND, pay attention to the way your boss treats others. For example, if you get written up for leaving your medcart unlocked but nobody else does, chances are, you are being targeted. Is your boss inconsistent regarding discipline?
In Sharon’s case, I would find out if anyone else put in for a transfer and if the boss treated him/her that way too. We all know nurses who move around from unit to unit, find them and ask about the boss’s behavior.
THIRD, get a copy of your code of conduct policy and compare your boss’s behaviors to the list of unprofessional/inappropriate behaviors within the policy. How many behaviors have you experienced? How often have they repeated?
In Sharon’s case, she was able to clearly identify that her boss was indeed bullying. As it turned out, her boss was on a performance improvement plan and if she had one more nurse request a transfer, she was at risk for termination. So, so tried to keep Sharon from transferring by trying to demonstrate that Sharon didn’t have good standing and therefore, not eligible. BADNESS!!!!
Sometimes the bully IS the boss, which is sad because it is the leader within a unit that determines the culture. If the LEADER is the bully, the culture and everyone who works on the unit suffers.
I hope this blog posts helps you to determine if YOUR boss is the bully. I’d love to read your comments about this below AND please share with post with other nurses who may be suffering too.
Nurses (especially bosses!) should be kind – not cruel!

Take care and stay connected
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About the author: Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, click here.