Original Article Featured in OR Today Magazine, November 2016 Edition
Do you believe that workplace bullying and incivility are the same?
No. Workplace incivility can best be defined as low-intensity unpleasant behavior that is rude, impolite, or inconsiderate. While the target can feel insulted or angry; an actual desire or intent to harm the other person is ambiguous. Anyone has the potential to behave inappropriately towards a coworker given the right circumstances coupled with a lack of self-management.
Workplace bullying however, is ongoing, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior or actions directed at a person(s), causing the target to feel threatened, abused, humiliated or vulnerable. The person experiencing prolonged bullying can feel a range of psychological and physiological symptoms. The research supports that, those who bully, are very aware of their behavior and its effect on the others; even though they may deny that there is intent. Fortunately, there is only a very small percentage of the workforce that is capable of such sustained disregard for another individual.
So these behaviors are very different. Should the management be different as well?
Yes, they should and I want to be clear as to why. The two keys here are insight and sustainability. The person who behaves in an uncivil manner has the ability to self-reflect on that indiscretion, feel remorse or regret and make the active choice to work on their self-management skills and achieve personal growth. A bully does not have this ability.
It is vital that we understand and accept that a nurse bully is a narcissist with a license. A narcissist lacks the capacity for empathy. The ability to reflect empathically on the consequence that one’s poor behavior has on another is vital for driving the desire to change. Bullies (narcissists) are incapable of this.
An uncivil staff member can gain insight though coaching and training. Positive, sustained changes in behavior can be noted within six to twelve weeks of working a clear emotional intelligence improvement action plan. A narcissist typically reacts in one of two ways to someone attempting to hold them accountable. They may escalate their behavior and retaliate or they will tell you what you want to hear and vow to reform. However, they cannot sustain any improvement because they lack a connection with the need to improve.
So why is managing bullying behavior in nursing so challenging?
This is a complex issue but one reason is that nurses are professional caregivers. Nursing leaders have a good deal of difficulty coming to terms with the fact that a bully/narcissist cannot be fixed. It is not a part of our caregiver DNA to “give-up” on someone. We talk ourselves into believing that if we just try a little harder that this individual will have an epiphany and the problem will be resolved.
The bully/narcissist is hoping that you will react exactly in this manner. They are experts at taking your wonderful qualities of empathy, patience and the need to heal and use them against you to achieve their goal of never being held accountable to sustained improvement. Essentially, we need to get out of our own way in order to take charge of this situation. Nurse leaders must try to accept that once someone shows you their true colors, you need to resist repainting them.
The only performance improvement plan for a bully/narcissist is a collaborative effort put forth by administration, human resources and the nurse leader that is time sensitive and rich with mandatory training. The documentation should discuss the need for improvement to be demonstrated within three to six months then sustained for six months as well.
Most bully/narcissists will not be able to withstand this type of scrutiny and may decide to move on. The others may stay but will find it very challenging to sustain the improvement. Should termination be the only option left, you can have the peace of mind that a sincere effort was made on your part; and twelve months’ worth of documentation to support your action.
Originally published in the AORN Periop Insider Weekly Newsletter July 28, 2016. Authored by Carina Stanton
The term “bully” is often used incorrectly to classify both bullies and those expressing incivility. Understanding the distinction between the two can help to put structure around communication and action in attempts to weed out bad behavior in perioperative nursing care, according to nursing Career Coach Phyllis Quinlan, PhD, RN-BC.
“The 10% of nurses who are true bullies have a personality defect,” Quinlan says. “Knowing the distinction is key to protecting your staff and deciding whether to develop a plan of remediation or to get rid of a toxic staff member.”
Understanding Incivility vs. Bullying
Quinlan describes bullying as a threatening behavior based in intimidation that stems from the bully’s issue with personal power. “For a bully, their personal power is far more important than the other person’s needs—if the other person needs to feel supported, a bully says ‘tough.’”
A person who indulges in bullying is very egocentric and has far more limited opportunity for personal growth, introspection and a commitment to change.
In the practice setting, a bully will intimate to someone that “you are on your own, if you don’t do what I want I have the power to isolate you,” Quinlan explains. She says bullying is not distinct to one professional level because this bad behavior knows no direction. It can be top down (leadership to staff), down up (staff to leadership) or lateral (peer to peer).
Although incivility is also bad behavior, it stems more from not being fully respectful of the other person’s perspective. Incivility is commonly seen by Quinlan during patient hand-offs or when a patient is transferred to a different area of care, such as from the OR to PACU. “As the nurse is explaining the patient’s state and previous care, an uncivil reaction by the nurse listening is to act as though they are being inconvenienced or worse to provide negative judgment about the previous care, making the nurse handing off the patient feel as though they must justify themselves and their actions.
With 80% of communication being non-verbal, much uncivil behavior is expressed with a less-than-polite facial expression or a toe-tapping type of stance indicating the nurse talking should speed it up and finish what they are saying.
Seeing Bad Behavior as Neurotic Need
One common thread between incivility and bullying is denial of wrongdoing. “If you ask an uncivil or bullying nurse to assess their behavior, they will report they were unaware of wrong doing and may say the nurse who reported their behavior was ‘too sensitive’ or ‘took it the wrong way.’”
Yet research indicates that both uncivil and bullying nurses essentially know exactly what they are doing because it fills a neurotic need.
Quinlan recalls the words of Abraham Lincoln, in which he suggested you can see the character of a person when you give them power. “Someone with good character will take a role in power and be collegial, find common ground and be generous enough to give praise for a job well done. On the flip side, someone with problematic character will use a power role to offer criticism and make remarks that are self-serving.”
Catching It Early
For new employees, Quinlan recommends a set time frame for a probationary period in which the hire is observed for both clinical and behavioral performance. Quinlan says nurses who are good clinically but lacking in collegial behavior are often kept on staff to work on the behavior piece, what she hears nurses refer to as the “soft stuff.”
“Nonsense, behavior is the tough stuff and should be viewed as equally important to clinical skills,” Quinlan stresses. She advises a strong collaboration between nursing, hospital administration and human resources to establish strict behavioral boundaries that are reviewed wisely through the probationary period to measure knowledge, skills and behavioral benchmarks that are demonstrative of culture.
“Make sure everyone is on same sheet of music with clear descriptives of bullying and incivility weaved into your code of conduct and stand behind a zero-tolerance approach to toxic behavior,” she suggests. “If a true bully is identified, cut your losses quickly, otherwise you will lose good staff members.”
Register now to attend “Bringing Shadow Behavior into the Light of Day: Understanding and Addressing Incivility and Bullying Behavior,” AORN’s Nurse Executive Leadership Seminar with Phyllis Quinlan, and get the skills to build your own zero-tolerance policies and practices against bullying and incivility.
When I was 22, I scored what I thought was my dream job. I moved from the snowy Midwest to sunny Florida with a group of fellow former college athletes to help a global athletic brand launch a sports academy. But within two years I and many of my peers had left our jobs.
We had fallen victim to a work culture rife with bullying, rudeness, and other incivility that was set by a dictatorial head of the organization and had trickled down through the ranks. Employees were at best disengaged; at worst they undertook acts of sabotage or released their frustration on family members and friends. By the time I left, many of us were husks of our former selves.
That experience was so formative that I decided to spend my professional life studying workplace incivility—and its costs and remedies. My research has shown that it is almost impossible to be untouched by incivility during one’s career. Over the past 20 years I’ve polled thousands of workers and found that 98% have experienced uncivil behavior and 99% have witnessed it. In 2011 half said they were treated badly at least once a week—up from a quarter in 1998. Rude behavior ranged from outright nastiness and intentional undermining to ignoring people’s opinions to checking e-mail during meetings.
As I and my colleagues at the sports academy discovered, incivility in the workplace drags down performance and takes a personal toll. In laboratory settings I’ve found that simply observing it makes people far less likely to absorb information. Seeing or experiencing rude behavior impairs working (short-term) memory and thus cognitive ability. It has been shown to damage the immune system, put a strain on families, and produce other deleterious effects.
Unfortunately, people’s resilience to incivility is partly out of their control. Research has shown that responses to threat, humiliation, loss, or defeat—all commonly associated with incivility—are significantly influenced by genetic makeup. Perhaps as a result, the most effective way to reduce the costs of incivility in the workplace is to build a culture that rejects it—to adopt “the no asshole rule,” as Robert Sutton calls it in his best-selling book by that name. But very few organizations can comprehensively enforce this rule. So when individuals encounter incivility, what should they do?
My research has uncovered some tactics that anyone can use to minimize the effects of rudeness on performance and well-being. I wish I could have shared these with my younger self as she floundered in a hostile work environment many years ago.
The Usual Responses Often Fall Short
Many people decide to tackle incivility head-on—through either retaliation or direct discussion. Another common response is to try to work around the problem by avoiding the perpetrator as much as possible. Although these approaches can help in certain situations, I don’t usually advise people to take them. Avoidance often falls apart, because sometimes you have no choice but to collaborate with discourteous colleagues. Confrontation can make the dynamic worse. In my surveys I’ve found that more than 85% of people who chose to avoid or confront perpetrators were unsatisfied with how the situation ended or how they handled it, and those who attempted confrontation were no more satisfied than those who didn’t respond. Relying on institutional remedies rarely works either—a mere 15% report being satisfied with how their employers handle incivility. In fairness, organizations often have no opportunity to act: More than half of survey respondents say they don’t report rudeness, largely out of fear or a sense of helplessness.
A Holistic Approach
Just as medicine is shifting from a focus on fighting illness to one on promoting wellness, research in my field—organizational behavior—has begun to discover that working to improve your well-being in the office, rather than trying to change the offender or the corrosive working relationship, is the most effective remedy for incivility.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t report a rude or bullying colleague to HR, or try to manage conflict directly. But a more sustainable way to deal with bad behavior is to make yourself impervious to it—or at least a lot less vulnerable. To do that, it’s helpful to look at what we know about thriving—the psychological state in which a sense of vitality and self-improvement fortifies people against the vicissitudes of life.
Few people are satisfied with how their employers handle incivility.
In my research I have found that thriving people are healthier, more resilient, and better able to focus on their work. They are buffered against distraction, stress, and negativity. In a study of six organizations across industries, employees characterized as high thrivers burned out less than half as often as their peers. They were 52% more confident in themselves and their ability to take control of a situation, and their performance suffered 34% less after an unpleasant incident.
If you’re thriving, you’re less likely to worry about a hit or take it as a personal affront, more immune to the waves of emotion that follow, and more focused on navigating toward your goal. Yet despite these obvious advantages, fewer than half the people I’ve surveyed focus on themselves and work to foster a thriving mentality after a brush with incivility. Rarely do they consider that the antidote might be totally disconnected from the incident at hand.
How can you help yourself thrive? I suggest a two-pronged approach: Take steps to thrive cognitively, which includes growth, momentum, and continual learning; and take steps to thrive affectively, by which I mean feeling healthy and experiencing passion and excitement at work and outside it. These two tactics are often mutually reinforcing—if you have energy, you’re more likely to be motivated to learn, and a sense of growth fuels your vitality. But distinguishing between them can help people recognize in which area they may be lagging and take steps to bolster their defenses for the next hostile encounter.
If you’ve dealt with a rude colleague, you probably know how hard it can be to get over it. Perhaps no feeling is more difficult to overcome than a sense of injustice. Neuroscientists have shown that memories attached to strong emotions are easier to access and more likely to be replayed, and ruminating on an incident prevents you from putting it behind you. This can cause greater insecurity, lower self-esteem, and a heightened sense of helplessness.
I encourage people to shift their focus to cognitive growth instead. Your conscious brain can think about only so many things at once—far better that it keep busy building new neural connections and laying down new memories.
You can allow yourself to feel hurt or outraged—but for a limited time only. Tina Sung, a vice president at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, shared with me a saying that captures this advice: “You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there.” I might add that Pity City is a good place to drop off your baggage.
Journaling and other rituals can help bring closure. As David Brooks documents in his new book, The Road to Character,Dwight D. Eisenhower often wrote furious invective in his journal to release negative emotions related to colleagues. He started the habit while working as an aide to the famously tyrannical General Douglas MacArthur.
Once your attention has shifted to more-productive avenues, several steps can help you focus on cognitive growth. First, identify areas for development and actively pursue learning opportunities in them. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have shown that progress is a more powerful motivator in the workplace than even recognition or pay. It can be equally effective in helping employees bounce back from incivility. One young woman working in marketing told me, “A toxic environment was chipping away at my soul.” She saw no quick or easy path out of her position, so she decided to pursue an MBA at night. Events along the way, such as achieving a great GMAT score, provided excitement and confidence. Although her future remained unclear, she became more resilient to her corrosive workplace.
It’s worth noting that these development efforts need not be linked directly to your job. Taking on a new skill, hobby, or sport can have a similar effect. It’s simply harder to be dragged down when you feel on the upswing.
Another way to promote cognitive growth is to work closely with a mentor. Mentors have a knack for helping their protégés thrive by challenging them and ensuring that they don’t stagnate or get caught in an unproductive churn. For example, Lynne, a consultant working in an uncivil environment, built a close relationship with a mentor who urged her to steer clear of any unnecessary drama and focus on her own performance. When Lynne felt that she was slipping into rumination, recrimination, and anger, her mentor reminded her of the toll on her happiness and productivity and pointed her in more-fruitful directions. Following the advice, Lynne was able to dramatically improve her well-being—and her performance, which scored her a promotion.
I find it useful to think of rude behavior in the workplace as an infectious pathogen, like a virus. Your defense against it depends in good measure on how well you are able to manage your energy. In fact, my research suggests that many of the factors that help prevent illness—such as good nutrition, sleep, and stress management—can also help ward off the noxious effects of incivility.
Sleep is particularly important: A lack of it increases your susceptibility to distraction and robs you of self-control; makes you feel less trusting, more hostile, more aggressive, and more threatened even by weak stimuli; and can induce unethical behavior. In short, sleep deprivation (usually defined as getting less than five hours a night) is a recipe for responding poorly to incivility and perhaps even damaging your career.
Exercise is another surefire way to protect yourself against the negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and sadness, that are typically brought on by rude behavior. It enhances both cognitive firepower and mood, distracts you from your concerns, reduces muscle tension, and improves resilience. It has been shown to slash symptoms of anxiety by more than 50%, and in one study it even proved to be more effective at treating depression than sertraline, a leading prescription for the illness. Those who exercise regularly are far less likely to sulk and better able to rebound in the wake of negative interactions.
Maintaining your energy in other ways, such as eating healthfully, will also help put you in top form to respond smoothly to an uncivil encounter. When famished, most people tend to respond to frustration by lashing out.
But it’s not just about caring for your body. Mindfulness—shifting your consciousness to process situations more slowly and thoughtfully and to respond with greater premeditation—can help you maintain your equilibrium in a difficult environment, as can finding a sense of purpose in your job. I and other researchers have discovered that when people are engaged in work they consider meaningful, they are more productive in uncivil teams than their colleagues are. Reminding yourself of nonmonetary attributes that attracted you to your work in the first place may foster gratitude and satisfaction.
If You Choose Confrontation
If you’re thinking about confronting a colleague who’s been rude, ask yourself three questions: (1) Do I feel safe talking with this person? (2) Was the behavior intentional? (3) Was it the only instance of such behavior by him or her?
If you answered no to any of the questions, do not discuss the incident with the offender. Concentrate on your own effectiveness and, in future encounters, follow the acronym BIFF: Be brief, informative, friendly, and firm.
But if you answered yes to all three questions, consider telling the offender how the behavior made you feel. Some things to keep in mind:
Prepare for the discussion. Think about a good time and a safe environment in which you’ll both be comfortable. Consider whether to invite other people to be witnesses or mediators.
Rehearse your ideas with someone who will give you honest feedback. Ask that person to role-play the perpetrator, complete with temperament.
Be aware of your nonverbal communication. This includes posture, facial expressions, gestures, tempo, timing, and especially tone of voice. People practice what they plan to say far more than how they will say it. But studies show that words convey far less meaning than does the way they’re delivered.
Proceed with the goal of mutual gain. During the discussion, focus on the issue (not the individual) and how the specific behavior harms performance.
Prepare for an emotional response. If the perpetrator starts venting, try to tolerate it: It may lead to a more productive place. Use wording such as “I get that” or “I understand.” Admitting blame when appropriate may also be helpful.
Be an active listener. Paraphrase what you hear and repeat it. People gain credibility and are better liked when they ask humble questions.
Focus on establishing courteous norms for the future. How will you interact so that neither of you suffers degraded performance moving forward?
Positive relationships within and outside the office also provide an emotional uplift that can directly counterbalance the effects of incivility. Research I conducted with Andrew Parker and Alexandra Gerbasi shows that across industries, organizations, and levels, “de-energizing,” negative relationships have four to seven times as much impact on an employee’s sense of thriving as do energizing, positive ones. In other words, you need a small group of energizers to offset the effects of each jerk. So think about the people in your life who make you laugh and who lift your spirits. Spend more time with them, and ask to be introduced to their friends.
Finally, in studies of MBAs, executive MBAs, and employees, I have found a consistently strong correlation between thriving outside work and resilience to incivility. In a study of people who experienced rudeness, those who flourished in nonwork activities reported 80% better health, 89% greater thriving at work, and 38% more satisfaction with how they had handled the encounter. Seeking leadership roles in the community—particularly if you have no immediate opportunity within your organization—bolsters both cognitive and affective thriving. One executive I interviewed decided to join the board of a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of patients with dup15q, a condition his daughter had inherited. He spearheaded fundraising efforts, helped build scientific interest, and stewarded the group’s finances. These experiences and rewards, he told me, made him feel nearly bulletproof at work.
Incivility exacts a steep price. In extreme cases a job change or relocation may be needed to avoid burnout and to preserve your health and well-being. My research shows that for every eight people who report working in an uncivil environment, approximately one ultimately leaves as a direct result, and, looking back, I know I was right to exit the Florida sports academy. However, when I encounter rude behavior now, I’m better armed to offset its effects. Like everyone else, I’m still a work in progress, and my response is rarely perfect. But I can say with confidence that focusing on a sense of thriving has made me a more engaged, productive, and happy professional. You can be too.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2016 issue (pp.108–111) of Harvard Business Review.
Christine Porath is an associate professor of management at Georgetown University, a coauthor of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace (Grand Central Publishing, forthcoming), and a coauthor of The Cost of Bad Behavior (Portfolio, 2009).
I find it frustrating to acknowledge that despite all the work of recent years to implement initiatives aimed at creating healthy and safe workplace environments, that lateral and horizontal hostility still remains within the nursing profession. I think we all hoped that when the idea of Zero Tolerance bloomed into an actual Human Resource policy the darkest days were behind us. Disappointingly, this is not what I hear from my private coaching clients and other professional caregivers across the country. The elephant remains in the room and the reluctance to talk openly about it continues as well.
I do not feel the need to define bullying behavior or outline the toll such shadow behavior takes on individuals. You are all too familiar with it most likely because you have been on the receiving end of it. What I want to shed some light on is the nature and makeup of someone who engages in bullying tactics. Having insight into the mindset of the enemy goes a long way to taking the power away from them and empowering yourself.
First I want to point out that we often use the term Bully to describe a coworker or leader that exhibits uncivil conduct but is not a true bully. Unfortunately, we live in a time where uncivil behavior is celebrated. Just consider some of the popular reality TV programs currently enjoying high ratings let alone the antics demonstrated along the campaign trail of 2016. Engaging in uncivil behavior is the consequence of a low emotional intelligence and an unrefined ability to manage one’s emotions under stress in the workplace. Keep in mind that we are all capable of giving into the needier side of our neurotic selves under pressure.
People who are, at times, uncivil usually have the ability to step outside themselves and reflect on a disagreeable interpersonal exchange and take ownership of their behavior when they cool off or are held responsible and accountable by others. They are also capable of expressing genuine remorse and of taking steps to improve in the future. Bullies do not have that capacity.
Consider the following characteristics of an individual with the neurotic personality disorder known as narcissism. They include but are not limited to:
Having a strong need for control
A desire to dominate people and situations
Perceiving themselves as a special, elite individuals that are deserving of VIP treatment
Lacking in empathy toward others
Having a tendency to be exploitative of others
Now think of someone you work with that is knowingly intimidating and/or cruel; someone who has no desire to consider how their words or behaviors affect others. That’s right! Bullies are narcissists. Investing time and efforts into trying to appeal to their higher nature and grow from coaching sessions or disciplinary actions will prove very frustrating. An individual must first be capable of acknowledging that there is an issue before they can buy into their responsibility to remedy the issue. Narcissists lack the ability to grow from insight and introspection.
Addressing both uncivil and bullying behavior requires a true collaboration between administration, the human resources department and in organizations with collective bargaining agreements, labor. All stakeholders must agree on a unified definition of bullying behavior and a unified approach to bullying conduct. The finish line for tolerating this type of misconduct must be fixed and unaffected by the manipulating skills of the bully.
Managing someone who is given to uncivil behavior is very different than addressing someone with a true bullying mentality. The person given to regular demonstrations of low emotional intelligence must understand that we are now in a time in the industry of healthcare and the profession of nursing when skills and knowledge are not enough to secure your professional future.
The literature demonstrates that the level of one’s emotional intelligence directly correlates with that person’s ability to demonstrate a consistent caring behavior to patients and families as well as own their responsibility to maintain a healthy work environment (McQueen 2004). If these individuals are not willing to grow from in-the-moment feedback, coaching and in-depth discussions during the performance evaluation process then; the conversation must move onto asking if they are in the right working environment.
Unfortunately, the personality of a narcissist does not make them amenable to demonstrating sustained improvement with conventional managerial interventions. In these instances, clear performance improvement plans must be crafted and immediate and sustained improvement demonstrated. The push-back will be relentless but there are very few options.
So my question becomes, if we are not willing to put an end to abusive conduct in the workplace now, when will we be willing? Let us resist getting caught up in finger pointing and complaining about how our inter-professional colleagues may mistreat us. Let us decisively address the issues in our own house first. We must commit now, not later, to peace in our time.
Bakr M, Safaan S (2012) Emotional intelligence: a key for nurses’ performance. Journal of American Science. 8, 11, 385-393.
Benson G, Martin L, Ploeg J et al (2012) Longitudinal study of emotional intelligence, leadership, and caring in undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education. 51, 2, 95-101
Codier E, Codier D (2015) A model for emotional intelligence and patient safety. Asia Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing. In Press
Codier E, Kooker B, Shoultz J (2008) Measuring the emotional intelligence of clinical staff nurses: an approach for improving the clinical care environment. Nursing Administration Quarterly. 32, 1, 8-14.
Holbery N (2015) Emotional intelligence: essential for trauma nursing. International Emergency Nursing. 23, 1, 13-16.
McQueen A.C.H. (2004) Emotional intelligence in nursing work: Journal of Advanced Nursing 47(1), 101–108
Most of us have experienced incivility in the workplace. Inappropriate behavior toward coworkers typically stems from a variety of factors: increased workloads resulting in stress and fear, inflated self-importance, the desire to win at all costs, and insensitivity to the needs of others. But what it all boils down to is a lack of respect for colleagues.
Many of my executive-coaching assignments have been triggered because talented professionals simply treated their coworkers badly. The worst part is that these managers weren’t even aware of how inappropriate their actions were.
The good news is that a hopeful countertrend to incivility is emerging: the rise of an increased emphasis on emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace. EQ is the ability to recognize both your emotions and those of others, and to use that information as a behavioral guide.
The concept of EQ has been around for a while, but its increased value has been spurred by the new workforce, especially Millennials. Employees want to feel understood, appreciated, and respected at work. An emotionally intelligent leader will fulfill these needs. It’s no secret that organizations that foster high levels of EQ have more engaged and productive employees.
Being emotionally intelligent doesn’t imply that you’re soft; it means that you have higher levels of self-awareness and self-regulation. It also means that you have empathy and an ability to interact effectively with others.
Can EQ Be Taught?
Absolutely, but as with any skill, there must be a desire on the part of the learner. People who want to improve by replacing a bad habit with a good one are likely to have greater success in change.
The “why” that motivates such a change is an internal or intrinsic desire. When people think they have to change, the motivation is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. If your job hangs on the thread of a behavior change, you might be extrinsically driven to make the change. You’ll do it because you have to, but the impact of the change will be less effective because it will take so much more effort.
Self-awareness is the starting point for change. If you don’t possess a reasonable understanding of your behavior, it’s hard to make a change. My experience is that many badly behaving professionals aren’t conscious of their behavior because it’s so ingrained and because few people call them out on it. Even frustrated executives who are painfully aware of the repercussions of such managers aren’t as direct as they should be when delivering feedback.
A Case for Change
I worked with a client who was clueless about the degree to which his lack of emotional intelligence was contributing to his professional downfall. He was horrified to learn how his coworkers perceived him, and claimed that his manager hadn’t told him about the extent of the complaints. Upon further examination, I discovered that his manager had indeed skirted the issue because she was self-conscious and embarrassed to confront him.
After this rocky start, we made excellent progress. The client intrinsically wanted to change and was determined to reverse his behavior. We went through a self-awareness exercise where we mapped the “bad” behavior against the direct impact on his coworkers, as well as the indirect or “ripple effect” impact. The ripple effect is equally as important as the direct effect because people are usually shocked by how one cruel or insensitive remark can go far obsolete beyond the immediate recipient of the comment.
After he gained clear (and painful) cognizance of the impact of his conduct, he was highly motivated, and positive changes came relatively quickly. We worked for several months to anchor and solidify the improved behaviors. The feedback from his manager and coworkers was encouraging, and he had renewed confidence about his performance.
In today’s business world, leaders who understand the value of EQ will render obsolete badly behaving bosses. As employees continue to call for an end to incivility in the workplace, increasing EQ at all levels of leadership will become critical.
Tips to Build Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the starting point for improving emotional intelligence, so consider the following steps:
Keep notes on how you react in stressful situations at work. Review these with a trusted friend or colleague and ask for feedback.
Pay attention to the impact your behavior has on others.
Compare your patterns of behavior at work with those at home to determine consistency.
After you have reflected on your behavior, ask your trusted friend for direct feedback and really listen.
Pick one aspect to work on, and make one small change. When you’re ready, select another area and repeat.
Why do some people bounce back from adversity and misfortune while others fall apart? How can some companies and businesses keep up with changes or setbacks, while others have difficulty managing? Resilience is not only a person’s or organization’s ability to bounce back, but it is also about growing and thriving during adversity, challenge and change. These eight keys provide answers on how resilient individuals bounce back in life and business.
The first step to building resilience is understanding how to manage your emotions and release yourself from that feeling of being stuck. Resilient individuals go through three steps to build emotional resilience.
First, they’re very aware of their senses. You want to become sensory intelligent by noticing the images you’re bringing up (visual cues) and the things you say to yourself (auditory cues). Notice what happens inside your head and body when I ask you to think of the last time you had an argument. What images, thoughts, sounds or even smells come up?
Second, our negative emotions have a positive intent. For example, if you’ve been asked to present at the next board meeting, you may start feeling anxious and even scared. Resilient individuals feel that too, but instead of focusing on how they’re feeling, they tend to acknowledge the reason behind those emotions and accept them.
Third, they manage their emotions by parking them to one side and stepping out of that state so they can focus on what they want rather than what they don’t want.
Resilient individuals move forward by re-programming their though patterns so they can find solutions rather than dwell in worry. Most people stay stuck in the worrisome state and think the problem will just go away. A tool that resilient individuals use most often and what I call, Mentor Magic. Pretend you are your mentor and step into your mentor’s shoes and ask yourself, “What would I do to overcome this problem?” Make sure you are seeing life through his/her eyes and listening through his/her ears. You’ll notice that you’ll have solutions right away.
As human beings, we are motivated to take action because we’re in pain or because there’s a reward to be had, but resilient individuals are consistentlytaking action and completing the task or project. Their action blueprint consists of three critical questions:
a. Why do I want to do this? (Purpose has to be greater than themselves)
b. How am I going to feel after I’m done? (end result has to be a good feeling)
c. What are my consequences of taking or not taking this action?
Passion and Purpose
Resilient people know they need both passion and purpose to fulfill their goals and you can’t have one without the other.
Passion is about what you like to do? What do enjoy doing so much that you are not watching the clock? I’m not talking about hobbies and playing video games. I’m talking about where you feel fulfilled, where you find you’re making a difference. My husband’s passion is massage therapy, and he’d massage his friends in the past without charging a fee to relieve their pain.
Purpose is why you want to do it? What do you get out of pursuing your passion? My husband’s purpose is to heal and better the health of his clients, and if he can do so, then he has made a difference.
Psychologists define attitude as a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way. When resilient individuals approach a difficult situation, they have an attitude of being curious, patient, and optimistic, thereby diminishing fear of change. When I researched resiliency in individuals, I found that positive attitude encompasses the following traits that are guided by values and beliefs:
Creative and solution-thinking
Hope and gratitude
Expectation of some success
Lessons from setbacks
Belief in their capability
Flexibility and fulfillment
Sounds similar to a scientist, doesn’t it?
Resilient individuals create a supportive network and are apt at handling and reducing conflict because they’ve learned the intricate language and skills of building and maintaining relationships. Think of a leader or manager whom you admire and notice how she interacts with you or with others at all levels in the company. You will notice the following, and the easiest way to remember this is LIMP:
Listen: She’s listening for words that indicate the person’s communication style and then communicates back using that style.
Intention: She’s listening for the person’s underlying reason.
Match and mirror: She subconsciously picks up the opposite person’s body language, tone of voice, and mirrors that.
Perspective: She behaves respectfully and shows genuine interest in what’s important to the other person.
When you follow the theory of LIMP and practice the skills, you will create great rapport, be a master at reducing conflict, positively influence others, and have a supportive network around you.
When resilient individuals are faced with challenges, they have two streams of thought running through their minds: one is about finding solutions and the other is about all the things they appreciate in life. It’s as though there’s a subconscious REFRAME button they push whenever their thoughts and emotions turn to worry and fear, because after a short time, they’ve perked up and are more positive and appreciative about what they already have. They were not born with this ability, but they were taught by other influencers; they’ve trained themselves to look at what they already have rather than stewing in worry.
Vlad Dolezal says it best: “A belief is your best explanation of the world, based on your current evidence.” Resilient Individuals are faced with limiting beliefs and they feel fear and doubt as well, but they have a 3-step approach in dealing with a limiting belief so they can squash it:
The find counter evidence that doesn’t support the limiting belief.
They imagine what their mentor or coach would tell them about that limiting belief?
They imagine what sort of behaviours they’d continue to have if they accepted that limiting belief and how it would affect others around them.
Passive aggressive behavior is a common problem in communication. We are accustomed to dealing with aggressive people. They are not very difficult to deal with, once you have some experience, because they are expressing their feelings and so, you know what the issue is, which allows you to deal with. Passive people tend to keep their problems to themselves but with a little skill and some gentle coaxing, you can get them to open up and tell you what the problem is. Again, once you know what the problem is, you can set about dealing with it. That is the crux of the issue with conflict and communication; if you want to solve a problem, you must first know what the problem is.
Passive aggressive behavior is a completely different animal. The person who is displaying passive aggressive behavior is telling you that they do not have a problem. However, their body language and tone of voice are communicating something entirely different. There is definitely something wrong and you know it but you cannot even get the passive aggressive person to acknowledge that there is a problem, let alone tell you what the problem is. This makes passive aggressive people incredibly difficult to deal with.
9 Tips for dealing with passive aggressive behavior
With passive aggressive behavior, you need to create an environment where it cannot thrive. One of the best ways to do this is to be proactive and create an environment where people feel that they can open up and tell you anything. Doing this, you build trustful and respectful relationships where passive aggressive behavior ceases to be the first choice communication method for people who would normally choose that route.
1. Don’t make demands of others
It doesn’t matter if you sit higher up the hierarchical structure; those who sit below you do not like being told what to do. If your message comes across as a demand, the recipient is more likely to think of it as disrespectful and authoritarian.
Most people are happy to oblige when you ask them to so something. Always choose the polite and respectful route first. The very act of asking makes them feel appreciated and respected. When people feel that you appreciate them and respect them; they are more motivated to help you and work with you.
Pulling the authority card unnecessarily only encourages resentment and bitterness. Two traits which encourage others to do the bare minimum or less.
2. Be systematic with procrastinators
Passive aggressive behavior often manifests itself in the form of procrastination. The passive aggressive person resents being told what to do so, in order to get to you, they leave it until the last minute, or later, to complete their work. They know full well that this has a knock on effect on others.
It is their intention to have a knock on effect on others. They want to get back at you, or somebody else, but they do not have the courage to raise their issue in a constructive manner. They believe that by impacting your work, they can make you suffer without you noticing that their actions were deliberate.
When somebody is procrastinating, it is best to take a proactive approach. Check in with them before the job is due to be completed to see what progress is being made. If the job is a big job which will take some time then set regular milestones where you can check in with them to see progress. People are less likely to procrastinate when they have to provide regular updates.
Of course, if the individual is falling behind, it may be for genuine reasons. Consider whether they are being given too much work or require additional training. If they need extra support, give it to them. People are less likely to be passive aggressive with those whom they feel are supportive.
This approach doesn’t just have to be used with procrastinators. It allows you to identify any problems which are likely to occur and deal with them before they become a big issue.
3. Stick to your values
Sometimes passive aggressive people deliberately make mistakes and perform poorly in the hope that they will not be asked to perform such work again. It is a very underhanded method and symptomatic of what passive aggressive behavior really is i.e. they are annoyed at something but refuse to just come out and say it.
There are 2 important things to remember in this type of situation. The first, as with any time that you assign work, is to ensure that you are assigning the job to the right person. A lot of conflict can be avoided by taking your time to identify the best person to do the job.
The second thing to remember is that you must stick to your values. If you believe that you have done everything right and that this person was the right person to assign the task to, you need to follow the same processes that you would for any other person who is performing poorly. Making exceptions for the passive aggressive person would only encourage more of their behavior as they would feel that they achieved a victory.
4. Refuse to accept unacceptable behavior
Hostility is one of the most common traits of passive aggressive behavior. It can be subtle or it can be overt but either way it is not acceptable and it is not conducive to a good working or living environment.
Unacceptable behavior must be addressed. If you are experiencing hostility, you need to sit them down in a safe environment and address the issue.
What is the other person’s issue i.e. the cause of their hostility?
Why is this issue important to them?
How would they like to move forward?
Only when you are certain that you have identified the issue and understand the full importance of the issue to the passive aggressive person should you move on to finding a way forward. Try to find a way forward that is acceptable to both parties. Even if you cannot meet all of their needs, you will have built some trust and respect by demonstrating that you genuinely want to understand their needs and build an amicable relationship.
Many people are afraid to use this method when they encounter passive aggressive behavior but not only are you making it clear that you will not accept unacceptable behaviour; you are demonstrating an effective model for dealing with conflict.
5. Praise great work regularly and sincerely
People should not only hear from you when you have something negative to say. Many people who adopt passive aggressive behavior do so because they feel that they are not appreciated.
If somebody does great work or does something which helps you, make sure that you take the time to offer some positive feedback. Be sincere and tell them specifically what they did well and, how it helped. When you do this on a regular basis they will understand that you appreciate their efforts. They will also be more willing to listen to constructive feedback when you have to offer it.
6. Reflect, reflect, reflect
Passive aggressive behavior is often subtle. Sometimes the person wants to have a little dig at you but pretend that it was unintentional. On others occasions, passive aggressive behaviour has become so ingrained in the individual that they genuinely may not have noticed what they said/did.
In either case, it is best not to ignore the behavior. It could lead the individual to believe that they got one over on you which may encourage a repeat performance of the behaviour at a later stage. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, passive aggressive behavior is unacceptable and as already stated, unacceptable behavior should never be accepted. Reflection is a wonderful tool for letting others know how that their conduct has been noticed and how it has been interpreted. By bringing the behavior into the open, they are forced to acknowledge it and deal with it.
7. Reaffirm the agreement
So you’ve spoken with the person who was behaving in a passive aggressive manner and they have agreed to eliminate the behavior and act more appropriately; does this mean that the situation is now dealt with? Of course not.
Like any form of change, their is likely to be some resistance. They are going to fall back into all habits. In fact, in many situations where a conflict is ‘resolved’ the passive aggressive person will attempt to get the last punch in. It’s usually a subtle little dig but this does not mean that you should accept it. When these situations arise, it is time to reaffirm the agreement. You are reminding them that you will not accept passive aggressive behavior and; you are reminding them of exactly what they agreed to.
Don’t get angry or aggressive, just reaffirm what has been agreed.
8. Refuse to be manipulated
The silent treatment is the classic symptom of passive aggressive behavior. You are greeted with stone wall silence and expected to be a mind reader and understand what has gone wrong. In reality, the silent person does not really want to you to figure the problem out. They want you to feel guilty about having upset them without you actually knowing what upset them. After all, if you knew what it was that upset them, you might actually fix it.
With the silent treatment, it important that you don’t bite. Be realistic with yourself. If you know that you did something wrong, by all means apologize and fix it. However, if you do not know what you supposedly did wrong, you should remember that you cannot fix a problem that you don’t know exists. Refuse to feel guilty and be manipulated.
Of course you should make it clear that you are open to dialogue and address any issues if you have done something wrong. Once you have done so, leave the situation be. To keep trying to get them to talk is only going to reward the behavior and encourage more of it.
9. Model the desired behavior
The most important thing that you can do to tackle passive aggressive behavior in your environment is to ensure that you are always open to communication and honest discussion. Be willing to both give and receive feedback. Demonstrate that you are trustworthy and respectful of others.
Most people who adopt passive aggressive behaviour do not really want to behave in that way. They want to be able to communicate freely and honestly. Maybe they have been hurt in the past when they tried to communicate openly and that has caused them to adopt a different approach. By demonstrating that they can talk openly with you, they will be more inclined to choose that approach in your future discussions. As Gandhi said ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ Show them how you would like them to behave by behaving that way yourself.
If you, or someone who interact with, is struggling with Passive Aggressive Behavior, check out tackling passive aggressive behavior
Passive aggressive behavior is a topic that I receive a lot of emails about. Unfortunately, many of the emails tend to demonize a partner, loved one, colleague or boss. Do not demonize the person. Passive aggressive behavior is a learned behavior which was rewarded and so the person chose (often subconsciously) to behave that way more often. While it is important that you communicate your refusal to accept the behavior, it is just as important that you provide them with an alternative method to communicate their issues. These 9 tips for dealing with passive aggressive behavior will help you to do that.
Peg is a legend. Not because of how great she is. Peg is a legend because of how HORRIFIC she is! Peg is a bully and everyone knows it. Her stories are legendary and are told by her victims around the campfires of the 21st century – Starbucks and wine bars.
Peg befriends new nurses until she gains their trust and then she stands back and watches them drown.
Peg deliberating withholds important details (like the patient needs to lie flat for 4 hours) when giving report to the nurses she secretly hates so that they make mistakes.
When in charge, Peg assigns the most acute and complex patients to the newest nurse on the unit while her “friends” get the easiest assignments.
Everyone knows Peg’s reputation, even administration. Yet Peg is still employed and terrorizing new and existing employees.
Because nobody can ever really catch Peg in the act.
Peg is a professional bully.
Peg and bullies like Peg are some of the biggest challenges nurse leaders face. These are the employees who they KNOW are bullying others but they can’t seem to catch them. They can’t find a clean way to fire them. However, these folks pose the greatest risk to the organization.
Workplace bullying has been linked to intent to leave, poor patient outcomes and poor productivity.
How to Catch a Professional Bully
STEP 1: JOIN FORCES
Just like tracking down a criminal, numerous departments get involved – FBI, Secret Service, local police, CIA, etc. They meet to discuss the criminal and then use their specialized skills to capture him!
Schedule a meeting with human resources, the bully’s front line manager, clinical director, CNO and CMO.
Discuss the bully and ask these questions: What has been done so far? Is there anything documented in their file? Any disciplinary actions? Any written documentation, etc?
Develop a strategic plan for how you will collect information and confront bullying acts.
Determine what you need to terminate the bully. Your human resource representative can help with this piece.
STEP 2: CONFRONT THE BULLY
When I ask leaders if anyone has actually had a conversation with the bully about behavior, the answer is either no or they don’t know. Using silence as a strategyis one primary reason why professional bullies remain employed. It’s because when called into the HR office, they often can’t be held responsible if nobody sets the expectations.
Meet with the bully. Tell her that you KNOW she is behaving in ways that are compromising patient safety and a healthy workplace.
Look her in the eye and say, “This is what I expect from you starting today.” And then spell it out very clearly how you want her to behave and what will happen if she violates your expectations.
Get a commitment from her by saying this, “Can I count on you to meet these expectations?”
STEP 3: REMOVE HER POWER
Why do we put people who we KNOW are destructive into power positions?
If she is a preceptor, stop letting her precept new nurses.
If she is in charge, take her out of that role.
If she is leading any committees, remove her.
Strip her from anything that gives her power.
STEP 4: BUILD A CASE
I know you think you can’t catch her. That she is so stealth – always hovering under the radar. However, SOMEBODY knows and witnesses what she’s doing – ALWAYS. You need to figure out who are the witnesses (they are usually the victims and support staff) and empower them to act.
Meet with folks individually who work with her. Ask for their help by documenting any incident involving a patient safety risk. I would even go so far as to admit that there have been reports of this person putting patients at risk by behaving in unethical ways and that you need their help so that you can protect patients (again, this will all be decided in your strategic meeting).
Gather any and all documentation about behaviors. It doesn’t matter if this documentation is anonymous, has a signature, is something verbalized to you, etc. Gather ALL EVIDENCE. Because what you’re doing is building a case. Just like a jury, they make decisions based on the preponderance of evidence.
STEP 5: FIRE THE BULLY
Stop letting one person have control over you and your organization. Focus all of your efforts on the steps above until you have enough evidence and then FIRE THE BULLY! Don’t wait until you have everything – remember, you’ve just built a case. Now do something with it!
A culture of silence must be replaced by a culture of safety. Disruptive behaviors happen because they can. It takes willing individuals and leaders to stop it.
About the author: Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior.
Confidence is crucial. If yours is in short supply, maybe it’s time to change the things you’re saying. Are any of these confidence-killing phrases familiar?
Confidence comes easily to some–but for most of us, it involves some degree of struggle at least once in a while.
When you’re not feeling confident, your mind goes in directions that will feed that uncertainty if left alone. These phrases are signs pointing toward those bad directions.
If any of these sound like something you can hear yourself saying, make a point of replacing it with something more assured. You’ll sound more confident right away–and in time, you’ll feel it as well.
1. “Why me?”
We’ve all said this, or at least felt it, occasionally. But it’s a damaging thought. Aside from how whiny it sounds, its underlying message is that you should be exempt from the same laws of the universe that apply to everyone else. When you’re feeling confidant, you have faith in your ability to overcome, and you can take a longer perspective and know this trouble won’t last forever. Try saying “I’ll get through this.”
2. “I can’t.”
Nothing sounds more fatalistic. One of the best steps you can take toward confidence is to ban the word can’t from your vocabulary completely. It says you’re not even willing to try. Try saying, “I’ll give it my best”–or, if you’re really stuck, “I could use some help with this.”
3. “I suppose.”
Unless you want to be seen as halfhearted and timid, stay away from I suppose and its synonym I guess. Be straightforward with your response, even if you have to qualify it. Instead, say “I know”–or “I think or I believe or I am certain.”
4. “I won’t.”
When you say “I won’t,” you leave no room for growth, no room for learning, no room for doing better. It is filled with negativity. Instead, say “I will.”
5. “I never.”
Used to describe something in the past (“I never saw the memo”) it sounds defensive; used as a general statement (“I never stay late”) it sounds inflexible. Either way, there’ s not much room for confidence. Instead, say “I don’t remember or I try not to.”
6. “I might.”
If some words undermine us with inflexibility, might does it by being too passive and noncommittal. Instead, use a phrase that demonstrates a thoughtful approach and an open mind: I’m considering or I’m deciding.
7. “I failed.”
Dwelling on failure–and especially on the negative aspects of failure–is the surest path to lost confidence. We know failure is the greatest teacher and a necessary component of success. Instead say “I tried or I have learned. ”
8. “I give up.”
Are there any words that sound more despairing? These words brand you as a quitter. Instead, say “I’ve done everything I know to do for now or I’ll try again.”
9. “Good enough.”
Settling. Mediocrity. The status quo. This shrug of a phrase communicates not only a lack of confidence but lowered standards and a willingness to cut corners. Instead, say “Let’s make this great.”
The things you say to others help determine how you’re perceived, and the things you say to yourself help determine how you feel. Listen to yourself and make the adjustments you need to sound, and to be, wonderfully confident.
We’ve all experienced the side effects of a negative friend, colleague or co-worker. Perhaps you work with someone who complains endlessly about his job but never offers any solutions. Or, a good friend speaks unfavorably about others in your circle and creates drama.
These negative people are markedly pessimistic and will exhaust anyone. Destructive energy and drama follow them everywhere. If you’re not careful, they can pull you into their chaos — disrupting your focus and sidelining your goals.
Use these seven strategies to better deal with negative people in your life.
1. Set boundaries.
Don’t feel pressured to sit and listen to a negative person. Their negative energy will seep into your own life and affect your attitude. Set limits and put some distance between yourself and this individual. If you must be around a negative person, try to keep your interactions short. You can’t control the negative behavior, but you can control whether or not you engage.
2. Avoid complainers.
People who complain about everything will never enhance your life. They don’t offer solutions, only point out problems. They will knock your ideas and suck you into their emotional pity party. If a friend, family member or colleague displays the classic symptoms of a complainer, stop socializing. Only deal with him or her if you absolutely must.
3. Weed out negative employees.
Your company culture is a critical part of your brand. One toxic staff member can affect the entire culture of your business. Formerly positive employees may show signs of dissatisfaction, or worse, they may begin to adopt the behavior habits of their negative co-worker. The quicker you deal with a negative co-worker, the quicker you will be able to resolve the situation. Have a meeting, convey your concerns and give the person a chance to change. If his toxic behavior continues, it might be time to let him go.
4. Choose your battles.
Don’t engage every time someone irritates you. Not only will you be seen as argumentative, you’ll be welcoming the toxicity into your own life. Rather than argue, try to ignore any negative comments. Control your emotions and prevent the situation from escalating. Walk away from unnecessary conflict. You’ll be respected for taking the high road.
5. Don’t over analyze the situation.
Negative people can sometimes behave irrationally. You will waste valuable time and energy if you try to make sense of their actions. Do whatever you can to prevent yourself from becoming emotionally invested in their issues.
6. Develop a support system.
Build a network of positive friends, acquaintances and professional contacts. If someone knows exactly how to get under your skin, you may not be able to manage the situation by yourself. Have the emotional intelligence to recognize when you need help. When you find yourself becoming overly emotional, call a friend or mentor and calmly explain the situation. Oftentimes an objective person can provide you with a different perspective or a new approach.
7. Embody positivity.
Your happiness and wellbeing are too important to let anyone’s negative opinion or rude comments bring you down or affect how you view yourself. Remain positive and begin to limit your time with the negative individuals in your life. With any luck, your positivity will be repugnant to toxic people and they will gradually fall away naturally.