Strategies for Nurses to Handle Workplace Incivility


Oncology nurses often face incivility from their peers, but there are methods they can use to combat the stress of a toxic work environment.

An old adage says, “older nurses eat their young,” but age is not the only factor that can drive gossip, bullying, and overall workplace incivility for health care workers. Tension in the workplace can affect nurses personally and professionally, but there are steps that can be taken to promote a more respectful environment, according to Penne McPherson, EdD, RN-NPD, OCN.

McPherson, group oncology educator at Centura Health, recently spoke with Oncology Nursing News about her presentation at the 2020 ONS Bridge virtual conference that focused on workplace incivility.

What Is Incivility?

“I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years, and I have seen a lot of incivility,” McPherson said. “It’s pretty devastating.”

Workplace incivility can include — but is not limited to – the following actions:

  • Eye rolling
  • Finger drumming
  • Texting while someone is speaking to you
  • Gossip
  • Bullying
  • “Throwing people under the bus”
  • Triangulation

“A lot of times, our social norm is to allow incivility to creep in as a part of the normal,” McPherson said — particularly when it comes to texting.

Nurses can experience these issues from fellow nurses, clinicians, hospital/clinic staff, and more. But McPherson said that this phenomenon is not unique to the world of healthcare. Bullying and incivility touches nearly every workplace.

How Nurses Can Handle Issues

Luckily, there are simple phrases and techniques that nurses can have on-hand when they are faced with an unprofessional or uncomfortable interaction at work.

For example, if a coworker is trying to spread gossip or create drama, a nurse can handle it 1 of 2 ways. The first way feeds into the drama and can lead to further issues. The conversation may go like this:

Nurse A: Did you hear what so-and-so said about you?

Nurse B: No! What did he/she say?

Conversely, nurses can stop the spread of gossip or drama by using the following phrase that McPherson recommends:

Nurse A: Did you hear what so-and-so said about you?

Nurse B: No, but if it is important, he/she will tell me directly.

McPherson leads a class where she teaches these strategies. She emphasized that nurses — and everyone – is valuable and does not deserve to be disrespected by anyone. So, nurses can use the same tactics, regardless of if they are facing incivility from another nurse, a maintenance worker, doctor, or their boss.

Empowerment Is Key

Using techniques that can decrease workplace drama can empower nurses, which can, in turn, prevent burnout. But it is also important that nurses practice self-care and acknowledge and validate their feelings — and the feelings of their peers.

“There’s so much change right now. That may be why you’re feeling a bit of anxiety or depression,” McPherson said. “Get a buddy who can look at you and remind you of all that you’re going through right now.”

Related Videos
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.