Let’s face facts: Some nurses relish in eating their young. Some aren’t kind to their colleagues-new nurses, older nurses. Some get their kicks by playing the saboteur or bully, committing acts of treachery and betrayal ranging from damaging or destroying others’ property to spreading lies about colleagues and trying to destroy their reputations or have them fired. When these behaviors are tolerated, the workplace becomes toxic.
With the economic challenges that are being faced today, few nurses are saying, “That’s it, I’m out of here.” Instead, they bite their tongue, dreading another day at work. And, the perpetrator of nasty behavior knows that they are getting a free pass-no one’s confronting them. In fact, rotten behavior has escalated in many workplaces just because they know that the “target” of their bad behavior doesn’t respond in a confrontation mode.
How do you confront the offender-the “staboteur” as I like to call the backstabbing variety-without setting yourself up for further attack? How do you convert the saboteur or bully into an ally, or at least a non-aggressor? And how do you deal with the pit bulls who get a charge out of intimidating coworkers?
The Sabotage Savvy Questionnaire was created in 1986 and has been modified eight times-each time as I set out to do a follow-up study on the workplace. It looked at preferences in working with gender; whether horizontal violence and conflict had increased or decreased since the previous study; and what the cost to the victim was; what the gain to the perpetrator was. Questions were presented in a true/false, multiple-choice and open-ended format.
And, did the respondents ever respond! Over 3,000 women and men completed the survey that became the genesis for Stabotage! How to Deal with the Pit Bulls, Skunks, Snakes, Scorpions & Slugs in the Health Care Workplace.
The results of the survey, coupled with hundreds of personal interviews, coined the word stabotage, a whole new breed of women and men who’s primary objective was to make their target’s life a personal hell. These staboteurs actually enjoyed their negative action, receiving a “kick” out of it like someone who has taken a drug hit. It’s the staboteur’s “fix.” And people who need a fix, need subsequent ones-the same target, or continuing ones.
Stabotage is the intentional undermining of another. The objective is to lessen or destroy credibility, reputation ad confidence of the target. The action can be delivered overtly or covertly.
Ask most nurses, and they will tell you that they deplore bullying and sabotage in their workplaces. Yet, they will also tell you that they witness it, or are subject to it, on an almost routine basis.
What’s the result? Toxic, bullying and stabotaging behavior lowers morale, magnifies stress, reduces productivity, and increases turnover. Collectively, it costs employers millions of dollars annually. Unless the perpetrators are dealt with, the victims either quit their jobs or stay but become emotionally detached from the workplace.
There Is a Gender Factor
Healthcare workplaces are overwhelmingly female. In the nine national studies I conducted on workplace issues that focused on conflict, sabotage and bullying behaviors, each time a large percentage of respondents have reported that they prefer not working with gender. Unfortunately, that gender is female.
In the study for Stabotage!, 26 percent of the female respondents stated that they preferred not working with other women. Have you look at your nursing population lately? My latest count showed that the percentage of male to female nurses was still in the overwhelmingly in the female sector. Think about it, if you have roughly a quarter of your co-workers preferring not to work with the majority, what kind of workplace will you end up with? Guaranteed, not a highly productive nor collaborative one!
Style matters as well. Women are more inclined to sabotage in a covert way while men have a more overt style. In other words, if a woman is a staboteur in your midst, she is more inclined to be a “backstabber” (meaning behaving covertly) while men were “front-stabbers” (behaving overtly).
Confronting the Staboteur
A toxic workplace is bad for everyone-but confronting a bully or saboteur isn’t pleasant, either. Most of us would rather have a root canal than have to confront the toxic dude or dudette you have to work with.
Can workplace sabotage and bullying be stopped? Yes, if you use the right strategy and tactics.
First, call things what they are. Many women are reluctant to label undermining activities as sabotage. But that’s exactly what backstabbing, gossiping, taking another’s credit, and not passing on vital information are.
Confronting is crucial to eliminating any bad behavior. The sooner, the better. Don’t let yourself wallow in a conspiracy of silence. Too many don’t speak up-at least, not to the right people. Women are more inclined to confide in a colleague, friend or relative than confront the person who’s making them miserable. For many of us, confrontation is scary.
By staying silent, you’re condoning the saboteur’s or bully’s behavior. You’re saying, “Keep doing it-to me, to anyone. It’s OK.” That’s the wrong message to convey. Confronting, on the other hand, lets this person know that you’re not easy prey. Back off-and away.
Use the CarefrontingScript Model
Carefronting (meaning caring enough to confront) is a communication model you can use to confront disrespectful behavior face-to-face in a caring but assertive way. It’s based on a standard conflict resolution script that’s been around for ages. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 20 years to tweak the old dialogue and come up with one that had meaning, clout, confronting, buy-in and a consequence to it.
When you _________________________________________ .
(What was the action?)
I felt ____________________________________________ .
(What was your reaction-were you angry, upset, feeling betrayed?)
Because __________________________________________ .
(What does it look, sound or feel like-does it look like the person never credits anyone on the team, does it sound like she purposely spreads rumors, or does it feel like she is deliberately stabotaging the team?)
Was it your intent to _______________________________ ?
(Repeat what the action was … then STOP!!! Do not respond until
there is a response from the other side.)
In the future _____________________________________ .
(What behavior do you want to see? Be specific-say what you want.)
Are you committed to _______________________________?
(What you want them to do.)
If there isn’t a change, _____________________________ .
(What’s the consequence-for example, will you include everyone on the email distribution list so credit is appropriately given?)
The more practiced and comfortable you become with using the CarefrontingScript, the more successful you will be with handling any bully and staboteur in your midst. She may even become your ally because she perceives you as someone she shouldn’t mess with.
Toxic behavior is bad news for everyone. Your confidence, mental (and sometimes physical) health is at stake. Saboteurs and bullies choose their victims carefully, constantly scanning the environment for people who seem to lack confidence. By acting in a confident manner (even when you have to bluff it), you remove yourself as a target. Why? You’re simply too much work for them to try and bring down.
The final step in changing sabotaging or bullying behavior is to implement your commitment not to play the game.
Don’t just talk about it; put a bite behind your bark. When someone does something unacceptable, call that person on it, to his or her face, overtly. Carefront it. The CarefontingScript will change your life.
It takes courage to confront a tormentor. But it’s worth it. No workplace should be toxic. If yours is, and you are not successful in altering the behavior of the staboteur, get out. Now.
©2008 Judith Briles
Source by Judith Briles