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5 Ways Nurses Can Deal With Troublesome Colleagues

In their day-to-day activities, nurses deal with various issues that require problem solving and efficient solutions. While many of these health care professionals are prepared for patient struggles to arise, problems with their co-workers are more unexpected. Precarious interactions with colleagues can have many negative consequences for nurses, including exacerbated burnout.

To reduce the negative impact of troublesome colleagues, nurses should create limits.

Here are five ways nurses can deal with difficult co-workers:

1. Create boundaries

It can be challenging for nurses to feel their opinions and experience aren’t being appreciated in the workplace. When bullying co-workers are in the picture, nurses need to establish both personal and professional limits. Health care professionals need to recognize the amount of push-back they’re willing to take before it really starts negatively affecting their work. By creating boundaries, nurses can enforce mutual respect among their colleagues. Health care providers can’t allow heated or angry discussions or arguments to get in the way of administering good care to their patients.

2. Ask for support

Nurses shouldn’t have to handle burdensome situations on their own. Instead, they should request assistance from not only their peers, but leaders within their practice. Although witnessing others’ approaches to complex scenarios is a good place to start, nurses need a sense of self-efficacy to cope with these instances effectively. While some health care professionals have a high level of confidence in their ability to tackle difficult circumstances, others aren’t as self-assured. To improve this skill, managers should ensure they’re not dismissive of people’s ideas and concerns, and offer words of praise and support to build nurses’ self-esteem.

3. Be a leader

The phrase “nurses eat their young” is a statement known and used by nurses around the country. It refers to the tendency for nurses to teach the newest members of their group through harassment and bullying. While not every hospital or practice experiences this horizontal viciousness, many nurses have claimed it’s a prevalent problem. Yet, it doesn’t have to be, it is up to nurses to speak up about the issue. Open discussion, as well as stopping the behavior in its tracks, will ensure the newest crop of health care providers don’t have to deal with challenging co-workers for the rest of their careers.

4. Keep it brief

When know-it-all’s gain traction in the workplace, it can be difficult to get them to stop talking. As a result, some nurses may feel their voices and opinions are not being heard or respected by their peers. To take back control, health care professionals should keep their comments and concerns succinct. Limiting words can help resolve difficult situations easier than two people continuing to talk over one another. Direct and short words and phrases paired with careful selection of the battles they want to engage in will ensure nurses do not waste their time on disputes that could take long to sort out.

5. Listen

Every workplace has negative employees whose attitudes can have serious impacts on other employees. If nurses struggle to work with a colleague who is constantly complaining, the first step toward handling the problem is listening. These co-workers could be experiencing underlying stress and just need someone to talk to about their issues – whether they’re work-related or not. Once their peers have said their piece, nurses can ask clarifying questions or offer advice if they feel it’s warranted and appreciated. Health care providers with negative co-workers may be surprised by the effect simply listening can have on the morale of their colleague.

By simply listening, nurses may better understand what is causing co-workers’ actions.

Of course, every situation and co-worker is different, so these methods may need to be adjusted to fit the scenario accordingly. Creating boundaries, requesting help, displaying leadership, speaking succinctly, and listening, combine to make a strong starter pack to help nurses adjust to troublesome colleagues.

An online Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Arizona can prepare nurses for the various working environments and colleagues they will encounter throughout the course of their career.


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