Fight back against workplace bullying with education, culture of accountability

Workplace bullying can take place in all types of settings ranging from coffee shops to aerospace engineering boardrooms. But in healthcare---where bullying among employees is reportedly rampant--the victims are not just the mistreated employees but also patients.

Bullying "in a healthcare setting can hurt concentration, collaboration and information transfer and therefore endanger patients," noted an article in Medscape.

Eliminating the dangers of workplace intimidation, harassment and other bullying behaviors requires a multi-pronged approach that emphasizes employee education as well as creating a culture of accountability, according to experts. 

Part of dismantling a culture that tolerates bullying is identifying systematic harassment and separating it from the inevitable display of so-called "disruptive" behaviors typical of high-pressure work settings such as healthcare, Marie McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics, told the publication. "As soon as you label someone a bully, you label yourself as a victim," she said. "Instead, let's talk about him or her as a difficult person and how you can handle the situation."

Once problems are identified, peers should speak to difficult physicians, nurses or staffers in a non-confrontational manner, McIntyre said. Power differentials at work are real, she noted, and it can be more helpful when disruptive workers are approached by their colleagues, to whom they will be more inclined to listen.

Moreover, nursing personnel should be empowered to call out bullying within their own ranks, Amra Mekic wrote in an essay for Advance Healthcare Network. A "Code Bully" can allow a nurse to signal when someone's behavior is unacceptable. "Most nurses are aware of the problem and may have been a victim during some point in their career," Mekic wrote. "Everyone agrees that the culture needs to change, but we don't have the tools to start the change process."

One of the most effective tools in combatting horizontal violence is education, Mekic added, which should emphasize communication and facilitating a healthy workplace and positive outcomes. 

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the essay