As a nurse you will, like anyone else in any other profession, encounter difficult colleagues from time to time. Dealing with difficult colleagues can be a challenge but if you are able to handle the situation well it will reflect well on your character. Nurses in particular often complain about difficult doctors who do not treat them well. Several tips and ideas exist to help nurses cope in situations like these.
Tip 1: Talk
The most important tip for dealing with difficult colleagues is to talk with them. There are many reasons why a colleague may be difficult:
- They may have a problem with you that could be genuine or that could be based on a misunderstanding – the only way to resolve this is by talking with the colleague and coming to a compromise regarding how you plan to change your behavior, or in order to clear up the mistake.
- Perhaps there is something going on in their personal life that is affecting their ability to work well with others. In this case you need to talk with them to find out what the problem is in order to offer your support in the future.
- Some people are simply not very outgoing and simply come to work to work and not to socialize. If you feel slighted by a colleague who will not have long chats with you at work or who will not spend time with you after work, discuss it with them to ascertain if perhaps it is not simply due to them having different ideals in the work place to yourself.
Tip 2: Compromise
One of the best tips for resolving conflict in any relationship involves compromise. Compromise means reaching an agreement whereby both parties work to make the situation easier and where both parties benefit to a certain degree without one being given more advantages than the other. A common misconception is that, in order to work well with someone else, you need to get on with them and be good friends. In a health care facility, where you will be dealing with many other health care professionals on a daily basis, this is simply not a possibility. You do not have to like your fellow nurses and supervising doctors in order to work well with them. If you and they reach a compromise in particularly contentious relationships there will be a significant and noticeable decrease in the amount of trouble that you have with each other. You owe it to yourself and to your fellow nurses to reach a compromise and make the working situation better for everyone.
Tip 3: Third Party
Sometimes sitting down with the colleague that you are finding it difficult to work with, in order to have a conversation, is simply not an option because of the high degree of tension in your relationship. In this case you need a neutral third party to get involved. Depending on the situation the third party could be:
- Another colleague who is neutral
- Another colleague who gets on well with both of you and who is therefore interested in finding an accord
- Your boss
Involving your boss should not be your first port of call. Your boss, usually a managing RN, will already have a lot on their plate and will not always be able to provide the level of attention and care needed in resolving these workplace disputes. In addition it may reflect badly on their perception of you and your colleague. However, if the situation is particularly bad, you need to go to your boss yourself before you are made to in the form of a disciplinary hearing or other serious action.
Tip 4: Own Your Reaction
It is very important to remember that, however you choose to react to the doctor or the other nurse with whom you work, the reaction is your own responsibility. You always have a choice in terms of how to react to bad treatment in the workplace. The knowledge of this choice can empower you because it gives you a degree of control in the difficult situation that you are faced with. There are several ways in which you can choose to react, including the following:
- You can choose to react calmly
- You can choose to react angrily
- You can choose to walk away from the situation
- You can choose to confront the person
The appropriateness of your reaction will depend on the particular situation, the nature of the problem, and the person who you find difficult. Generally speaking it is better to react calmly and walk away from the situation. Note: walking away is not the same as letting it go. You are simply choosing to deal with the problem through the official channels. Anger will make this difficult but it is by far the best option in the long run.
Tip 5: Examine Why The Behavior Is Difficult For You
When you feel that there is a college that is too difficult to work with, whether they be a nurse or a doctor, one of the important steps in finding a solution to the problem lies in looking at the problem and deciding why it is difficult for you. The problem in question may simply be the person’s demeanor, in which case it may bother you because you feel that they do not value your contribution or respect you. Actual behavior, such as harassment, needs to be considered very carefully and reported as soon as possible. Any behavior that makes you uncomfortable in the workplace must be reported so that the necessary action can be taken. This also applies if the behavior that bothers you is, in fact, directed at another nurse who you would like to help. Understanding clearly why the behavior is difficult for you can make dealing with difficult colleagues substantially easier to do as it clarifies the course of action that is best for you to take.
Tip 6: Refuse To Accept The Treatment
http://www.nursetogether.com is very clear on the fact that you should refuse to accept the treatment, either directly or indirectly, as this will simply come across as permission to the nurse or doctor who you are having difficulties with to continue treating you like that in the future. Nursetogether.com gives a few tips on how you can react in a situation where you are confronted with a difficult colleague:
- Say calmly, “I don’t appreciate you speaking to me like that.”
- Walk away without saying a word.
- Walk away while saying, “Please come speak to me when you can speak to me respectfully.”
- Stand there and don’t say a word.
Note that there is no shouting or crying involved (although it is often difficult to stop yourself from doing both of these things). Being calm is easier said than done. In order to prepare yourself for the next difficult situation that your nursing colleague places you in, you can run various scenarios through your head in which you react calmly. This will help you react appropriately the next time a real life situation arises.
Tip 7: Proof And Documentation
It is important that you document the bad behavior of the colleague who is given you problems. This could mean filing a report every time that colleague does something wrong so that there is a paper trail leading back to him or her. Any place in which nurses at your facility are able to write down information about bad experience they have had with colleagues should be taken advantage of. Often these will be confidential and anonymous, so if action is taken the colleague who is having difficulties with you will not be made aware of who raised the complaint in the first place. If you create a paper trail related to the difficulties that the individual causes for you, you will have a great deal of proof to support any claims that you would eventually like to make against that person. Unfortunately when it comes to nurses accusing doctors of bad behavior you often need to build up a very strong case before you can take it to a serious level.
Tip 8: Report
This is closely linked to the previous point but requires closer examination for one very important reason: the hospital administration cannot do anything about the bad attitude of a doctor or nurse when you make a complaint unless there have been previous complaints against him or her. Usually you will not be the only person who is having difficulties with that particular member of the health care team. However many people do not report difficult colleagues especially if it is merely an attitude problem and especially if the person who is creating the difficulty is a doctor. However there is no reason why an LPN should suffer at work due to the bad attitude of a doctor. LPNs are valuable members of the health care team and need to, therefore, be treated with a great deal of respect. So, in order to help yourself as well as in order to help your colleagues who may be treated in the same way by the same person, you need to report everything, even if it is something that seems small at the time.
Tip 9: Don’t Complain Out Loud
Reporting your problems through the appropriate channels is one thing. Complaining about it openly so that anyone and everyone can hear your views about that person is quite another. This is not allowed. In fact it could make you out to be the person who is creating the problem behavior, rather than the victim of another colleague. You don’t have to be deadly silent. Speaking to a friend at work in confidence about the problem is alright, as is speaking with your spouse when you get home. The problem lies in making a huge issue about it and becoming known as a complainer. Even in cases where nurses have had genuine evidence that they have been treated badly, their case has been ignored on the basis that they built up a bad reputation for themselves by complaining too often and too frequently in settings where everyone could hear them. Although it is indeed important to ensure that all actions are documented and reported, you do not need to make it common knowledge that you are taking action.
Tip 10: Work Together More/Less Often
When it comes to your exposure to the colleague that you are having difficulties with you can choose one of the following options:
- You can work with the person more often
- You can work with the person less often
Clearly you may not always be the person who is able to decide how much you work with your colleagues, but if you do have a certain level of control in this regard you can use it to your advantage.
Both options have their benefits. Working with a colleague more often could mean that a basic relationship forms between you. You may learn that you have more in common than you otherwise thought and this can make your job as a nurse far easier. On the other hand some people just have personality clashes that cannot be resolved by forcing them to work together. In this case you should try and work with them less often. Work different shifts or work in different parts of the hospital. Keep contact to a bare and professional minimum.
In the heat of the moment dealing with difficult colleagues in the ways mentioned above can be difficult. When your emotions are tense and you feel angry and slighted it is not always that easy to control yourself and react in the calm way required to maintain peace in the workplace. It is important that you do, however, at the very least try to deal with these colleagues in a mature and professional manner.