Friday, July 13, 2012

What is in a name?

Just to give anyone an awareness of what this blog is about, I use it as my own personal sounding board on workplace bullying, in particular nurse to nurse workplace bullying.  This blog is a way to get it out of my head in order to articulate it better down the road.  Many nurses wonder why a nurse bullies another nurse when it is such a helping profession.  When I began this process three years ago in my PhD program, my goal was to get at the why we bully each other and what to do to stop it. I understand the why as it entails many, many different whys - frustration, oppressed group behavior (Roberts, 1984), stress, need for control/power, practice/theory gap, monkey see, monkey do, many, many different reasons why - escalating conflict also.

In nursing research, we are suppose to write a conceptual analysis of what it is we want to study.  I realize after three years, it is not workplace bullying I want to study but how we react to the perception of being the target of workplace bullying.  I want to know how we act, what we feel, and what we can do to strengthen our reaction to this stressor so we can continue to thrive in our work environments and  not suffer the consequences physically and mentally.  with so many terms, so many reasons became too broad.  How we survive and thrive is more important while we try to change the psychosocial and physical environment that increases workplace bullying.

As someone pointed out to me, I can write an editorial some time in the future explaining my rational for calling perpetrators only perpetrators.  Perpetrators may not even be aware of the emotional reactions their behavior ignites.  Of course, they could very well know the stress they are exerting and the why they are doing it: to increase productivity, to put someone in their place, escalating conflict with power imbalance, instant dislike, competition, boredom, frustration, and stress are the low hanging fruit one can use to explain the behavior.  However, the target of the behavior should be the focus from a research perspective.

I tend to look at the target as someone who is not yet aware they are being targeted or as someone who avoids, deflects, ignores, or confronts the bullying behavior of the person (no matter what the behavior is) by calling the person by their name and point out that the behavior is the problem.  This person is a moving target.  The emotional turmoil doesn't stick or brushes away easily.  The victim is no longer a moving target.  The perpetrator has intentionally or not, acquired and essential hit the target, disabling them towards victim.  The victim perceives themselves as bullied and feels the helplessness and powerlessness in the situation.  Again, just as with workplace bullying, I believe there are many reasons for that behavior pattern. They may fight but the bullying affects them physically and psychologically, socially, and economically.  Their coping, social support strategies and any resiliency is just drained from them. 

I want to add two more terms to this process, that of survivor and thriver.  You can survive bullying but it has affected you in some way.  Survivor means you survive but you are not living to what you believe your potential should be.  A survivor needs to move through the stages of grief, anger, blaming, or bullying to protect themselves.  Better yet is to be a thriver, who moves beyond what has been done by the perpetrator or our own thought processes who tries to implement changes by becoming a nurse educator or someone who shields others from the bullying behavior, or who works to change the system like myself or others who point to the the psychosocial environment to suggest or implement change in the organizational culture.  It can be done and for each blog that is posted, for each healthy workplace bill submitted, and the more we talk about it, the more recognition will occur that how employers and how we treat each other is important.

Please remember, these are my opinions as I read copious articles on workplace bullying.  Now, since I have gotten this out of my head for future reference,  I  can go back to writing how I am suppose to write as a nursing scholar.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tribute to old friends at work

Today, I honored  a past friend and coworker who died by going to his viewing.  He was a manager where I worked as an occupational health manager.  This is the third death this summer with people I really knew and laughed with at work.  Rough around the edges, he held the respect of those who worked under him. He did right by his people and road them hard to get the work out in a timely matter. After 20 years as a Master Sargent in the Air Force, he knew how to command but he also learned to stress the safety of his people. His sense of humor also keeps him present in my memory.  When our unit closed, I gave him a framed picture of a collage made by another nurse of those who came in for testing, injuries, or just to say hi.

The first death was an occupational health nurse who worked as a casual for the in-house Employee Health Services unit.  She was one of the first nurses who opened the unit.  Her life passed with a scarce few from my old company attending. But, I remembered her.  She had a wonderful sense of humor.  She told me I would be a great manager because of my attributes (I won't reveal what those attributes were just yet). Nurses' use humor, not always appropriately  for mixed company (non-nurses).

The second death was a man who also worked as a nurse in the Employee Health Services unit.  He was meticulous regarding standard operating procedures. And obsessive with the need to have his tools as a paramedic or he was not only uncomfortable, but anxious.  When 911 occurred, he was unable to come into the company with his tools so, as his manager, I purchased his utility belt and tools for him  all ready in the facility.  It would have been a violation of The American's with Disability Act to not accommodate his anxiety to feel confident and he only felt confident with his tools and utility belt.  As a nurse, he also had his unique sense of humor- this thing about blonde jokes, real groaners.

I miss my group of nurses. We covered three shifts, up to seven days a week with 3000 employees at our zenith.  We did not always play well together because of our diverse backgrounds.  I was not allowed to be their friends as their manager, something I regret but I was always held accountable for their errors or complaints from other employees, other paramedics, or hospital ERs.  They were all strong personalities.  In some ways,  we were dysfunctional communicating with each other but highly performing when an injury walked through that door or the injury was severe enough for us to go in an ambulance to render care to stabilize before transport.  We saved lives, saved the company in money, lost time, and pushed for personal protection equipment (PPE) easily justified through the OSHA PPE law.  It was the right thing to do and saved a couple of eyes too.

After working there for 13 years, the facility was purchased and closed.  However, it was done with total transparency with jobs offered to those who wished to continue working along with good severance packages for those who stayed on to the end until complete closure. It helped pad my income for a master's in Occupational Health  and towards a PhD in Nursing Research.  With this closure,  I lost an extended family, a place I felt safe behind the fences and security guards. I miss that environment sometimes.  But, I miss people most of all. A company is not the product it produces or transports. It is the people who work together and form an intricate community of caring.  I wish we could all have that type of community at work. It is that type of environment I want to work in again when I am done with school.