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Workplace Bullying Story 3: The Hospital Bully

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Hospital Workplace Bully: Shifting 'Goal Posts', False accusations, Mobbing
Submitted by:  S Carroll, Nov 2013  


Note from Know Bull!:
Of all the professions, the Healthcare sector comes up 'trumps' time and time again with regard to the extent of workplace bullying. In fact, some of the Know Bull team have worked in, and have seen first-hand just how pervasive workplace bullying is in the 'caring professions'. When it comes to the volume of workplace bullies, Nursing in particular, seems to be over-represented - with nurse 'bullies' ranging from hospital nurses - to nurses within professional organisations and academia - to some of the highest ranking nurses in the country and at international levels.  

The profession is under enormous strain. There's too few nurses, and the profession is ageing. Adding workplace bullying into the mix only serves to increase that strain. We've often wondered how much workplace bullying within the healthcare sector actually contributes to hospital 'errors'?

What we've repeatedly found, is that while there are nurses in 'management' roles - the profession is extremely lacking in 'leadership'. A lot of healthcare organisations just don't get that there's a distinct difference between being a 'manager', and being a 'leader'. And nursing, like the military...requires good 'leaders' quite simply because the lives of others are in their hands.

Story Content (Know Bull! notes in

1. Singled out for workplace bullying due to perceived 'difference'. (This alone reveals an awful lot about the workplace bullies. WORKPLACE bullies choose 'targets' they perceive as 'competent', 'professional', and 'well-liked'. On the other hand SCHOOL bullies, choose targets they perceive as 'weak', or in some way 'different'. This workplace story highlights the 'immaturity' of the workplace bullies involved i.e. they undertake the workplace bullying in a fashion similar to bullying in schoolyards.)

2. Shifting 'goal posts'. (This tactic is used to set-up a target for 'failure'. When you don't know the goals...or worse if the goals keep changing/moving...the target has no chance of succeeding in the workplace. This is essentially 'job sabotage'. This tactic is used to remove/push a target from the workplace. The target either resigns through the sheer pressure applied to them...or they're fired. Bullies use this as a 'tool' to place the target on some type of 'performance schedule/review'...where the target needs to meet certain criteria, or they're dismissed. Often used is the '3 strikes and your out' scenario. Of course the shifting goal posts mean the target is doomed to failure from the outset.)

3. Lack of 'leadership'. (Unfortunately this is typical of many healthcare workplace settings, especially nursing. The 'immature' nature of the bullying also supports the lack of leadership within the work environment.)

4. Bully's 'boss' believes the bully's lies. (Targets find they're facing an uphill battle when drawn into the he said/she said scenario, especially when the bullying takes place behind closed doors. What targets often don't realise, is that long before overt 'signs' of bullying are apparent...the bully has been hard at work 'ingratiating' themselves further up the food chain i.e sucking up to their bosses/senior management etc. By the time the target tries to highlight the bullying events that have occurred...the bully already has their 'team' of protectors, enablers, and supporters in place. More often than not the bully's allegations sound well-thought out, and solid. And the bully delivers these allegations, (usually about the target's 'job underperformance'), with calmness and clarity. The target, on the other hand, having been exposed to unrelenting bullying behaviours shows signs of anxiety, hyper-vigilance, etc i.e. the outward signs of a bully attack. Faced with having to defend themselves, targets often come across as a gibbering wreck...thus making the bully even more 'believable'.)

5. Mobbing. (This can occur in both schoolyard and workplace bullying...where there is a bully 'gang-up' on the target... i.e. the 'main' bully and their 'protectors', 'enablers', and 'followers'.)

6. Workplace bullying leads to resignation. (About 73% of those targeted by workplace bullying leave the organisation. When faced with unresolved workplace bullying, bully 'targets' will leave a job in order to make the bullying stop.)

7. The 'Jekyll & Hyde' nature of workplace bullies...bullies suddenly show 'pleasant' behaviour. (This behaviour is often reserved when the bully and their followers get what they want i.e. the resignation of the 'target. The main bully will generally retain their bullying demeanor, but for many involved in the 'mob', once the goal is achieved there's no need to continue the pressure on the target. Typically, a bully will 'rest' for about 15 days after removing a staff member, or securing their resignation. After 15 days, a 'new' target will have been selected...and the workplace bullying begins all over again.)

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