Nursing

Expert spotlight: Help staff rise above horizontal hostility

Nurse Leader Insider, February 9, 2009

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This week, learn strategies staff can use to confront a peer's unprofessional behavior with expert advice from Kathleen Bartholomew, RC, RN, MN.

Q: Do you have any tips to help staff deal with a coworker's unprofessional behavior?

A: Unprofessional behavior between peers fall into the category of horizontal hostility, which are the overt and covert ways staff put each other down: from eye-rolling and silence to backstabbing and gossip. Sociologists have found that when a group of people feel like they don't have any power, they start lashing out on each other. Fortunately, everyone in the group has the opportunity to change the group dynamics as, one by one, they start realizing the tremendous affect of their behavior on each other. The following tips can help staff when faced with a peer's unprofessional behavior:

  • Don't wait—the sooner you confront the behavior, the better.
  • Always ask to speak to the person in private.
  • Take a few deep, centering breaths before you begin the conversation.
  • If you are sitting down, sit at right angles instead of across from each other.
  • Remember the goal: Speak your truth. You can't make people change, but when you speak your truth, people can see the effect, and another's behavior change is more likely to happen.
  • Remember: When someone is loud, aggressive, or mean they are angry or afraid. Anger is the secondary emotion; try to get to the primary emotion, which is hurt.
  • Whenever you don't know what to do, repeat what the other person said: "Let me get this straight. You are saying that . . ."

Editor's note: Do you have a question for our experts? Email your queries to Editor Keri Mucci at kmucci@hcpro.com and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.



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