Bullying. Lateral violence. Interpersonal hostility.
You probably have someone in mind who’s guilty of workplace bullying. We typically associate bullying and lateral violence with overt verbal abuse. But there are less obvious tactics, too. And if we’re being really honest with ourselves, we’re all guilty of them from time to time.
Some subtle bullying tactics include:
A nurse leaves the breakroom and everybody discusses the things she’s does wrong or her quirks.
A coworker has done something you don’t agree with. You respond by completely withdrawing, becoming silent and interacting with that person as little as possible.
3. Passive aggression
Passive aggressive behavior is a means of indirectly saying what you want. For instance, you’re asked to take an admission, even when you feel your assignment is too challenging and someone else may have a lighter load. You agree, but with a little attitude, instead of speaking up.
Humor is a great tool for health care survival. Sarcasm, though, can be another form of passive aggression. A way of deflecting under the guise of humor. If you find yourself making sarcastic digs, there may be something you’re resenting that you haven’t addressed.
Are you completely innocent of these tactics?
It’s easy to point fingers at workplace bullies. But it’s highly likely that we have each used some of these tactics from time to time. Noticing those moments and changing them is the beginning of changing the entire culture of your unit.
What if others are doing it?
1. Stop participating
The simplest step is to not take part in these kinds of behaviors. That may not make a huge difference at first, but there will be a shift within you when you consciously stop making some of these hostile transgressions.
2. Gently redirect
When you feel safe enough to speak up, give it a try. If a co-worker has a grievance with someone, encourage them to talk to the person directly. If a group is dishing about a fellow nurse, see if you can steer the conversation to a different topic. If a co-worker makes a sarcastic comment, ask them more about what they’ve said to see wheter they’re willing to open up.
In an open group discussion, without pointing fingers, talk about these more subtle forms of bullying. Chances are most of us have been the aggressor, the victim and the bystander, at different points in our career.
Are there other subtle forms of bullying? What have you experienced? What has helped?