Warning: Although I’m rarely snarky, this post will contain an unusual amount for my taste. It’s my attempt to make light of what can be an uncomfortable situation.
Also, there are screenshots of messages below that I’ve received that may be triggering because of the tone. So if intimidating messages are a sensitive area for you, please take care of yourself and consider not reading any further. Or, simply scroll past the screenshots to the tips below that can help you better manage bullying environments.
A couple of weeks ago, I witnessed a well-known nurse tech blogger, from her social media account, go from nurse bully to nurse advocate and then back again… in the span of just two days when critiquing other nurses online. Just a day or two after she attempted to mock me privately.
We all know the results of nurse bullying. And bullying can come in many forms: intimidation, shaming, blaming, imposing on one’s physical space… you name it.
But what’s worse is when you have a platform to propagate it, the harm done to others can sometimes prove unbearable.
Here’s one of my stories…
Two weeks ago, I received a private message on Facebook from that same nurse blogger.
We’ll de-identify her and call her…
Now I’m rarely on Facebook anymore. However, as I was getting ready to leave for a Labor Day BBQ celebration with friends, I heard that familiar pop of Messenger on my phone. I glanced down to see a familiar face and part of a message that read… something along the lines of “Are you kidding me?”
Note: Since Bully decided to file a DMCA the day after this blog post, I decided it would be in my best interest to ignore her additional bullying tactics. Thus, I’ve blacked out Bully’s offending text messages instead of wasting tons of time on fair use arguments. Unfortunately, dealing with bullies can be exhausting as bullies will always have more energy at their disposal than most when it comes to their attempts at making others feel particularly “less than.” But fortunately for others, I choose to use my platform to help nurses in their own efforts to combat bullies and take care of themselves.
So this was the message I received…
Meaning – “[Bully text removed]”
At first I was annoyed.
Not by the message itself, but that I thought I had deleted the Messenger app from my phone. And so in that moment I did, without reading Bully’s message.
Later with my friends I decided to open up about the message I received and they convinced me that I should read it. After all, I may have misunderstood it as I didn’t take in it’s entire context.
Either Bully was having a bad day (which I concede is entirely possible), or this was part of a pattern.
After logging into Facebook to read the entire message. I noticed I still had messages from Bully four years prior. And seeing some of those old messages from Bully, I was convinced it was indeed part of a pattern.
Bullies are often repeat offenders… and below are some of those old and current messages in context.
Here, she went from helpful and welcoming…
…To concern about my lack of skill, creativity and encroachment just 2 days later…
… Then finally taunting with attempts at humiliation exactly four years later (with no other communication in between)…
Now apparently Bully may have felt threatened (who knows) by a program I’ve created that teaches nurses how to get over the technical huddle and formulate their ideas into a cohesive message to get their blog online.
And as I started this blog over 5 years ago, I experienced many of my own mistakes and wins and can teach to that. I also have a certificate in full-stack web development, so teaching the basics of techie things is a skill set in which I’m well-versed.
No one has a monopoly on that.
But Bully didn’t think so.
“[Bully’s text removed]”
That’s what Bully sent me.
But in reality, bullies may be thinking…
“You’re stepping on my toes. How could you create something similar to what I’m GOING to do? You don’t have followers. You’re not active on social media. You haven’t worked all these years like I have? I let you into my circle, and this is how you repay me. You are not allowed to do this… Because I’m THE expert!”
Later, I realized I was no longer receiving emails to participate in online nursing activities like before.
I was excluded by Bully… isolated. All because I decided to show my creativity and my worth.
So, bullying can come in many forms. Bullies can come from many backgrounds and circumstances. And bullies can even be bullied themselves.
If in a similar (or worse) situation, you’re probably looking for some ways to help you navigate this environment. So, I’ve put together a few things below. Take a look.
1 – KNOW YOUR WORTH
Because of their insecurities, bullies will attempt to amplify your impostor syndrome. They may feel inadequate about their position in life, their relationships, their skills, and their accomplishments. So they attempt to insult or admonish you. Tell you to stay in your lane. All in attempts to make themselves feel better. To make themselves seem more important.
This has nothing to do with you.
Be proud of your knowledge, what you have to offer, and the unique talents you have to give to those around you. You are worth more than what others try to take from you.
And as you see in my older messages above, I apologized a number of times… because of my insecurities back then, not wanting to be blacklisted from groups and a community that Bully had welcomed me into. However, looking back, I see that I owed no apology for simply being me and being creative.
2 – KNOW THIS WORLD IS OF ABUNDANCE
Leave behind the scarcity mindset. There is enough in this world for everyone to enjoy, take part, and take ownership.
We all have talents and skills… some of them being similar to one another. And if you do have unique talents, that doesn’t mean you have full ownership.
Bullies may want to take credit for ideas you’ve suggested and work that you’ve already created… thinking there’s not enough praise to go around.
For example, there will be many nurses who enjoy my blog and many nurses who don’t. I blog about nursing, self-care and lifestyle design topics… but that doesn’t mean another nurse can’t. We’ll have a different voice and approach our writing from different experiences and different perspectives. If a nurse chooses to read another blogger besides me, it’s simply because that other blogger has made a connection in some way that maybe I couldn’t.
And that’s more than okay. Plus… I’m willing to teach another nurse how to do just that!
There are tons of readers out there. And I’ll have that connection with those who think my message resonates with them.
That is enough.
3 – IGNORE THE BULLY
Sometimes our best recourse can be to ignore a bully, especially if it’s something that’s being done online. In my case, after receiving the most recent message above, I’ve realized that no amount of apologies, comfort, or validation will heal Bully’s insecurities. That has to come from within. I’ve decided not to waste my time or my energy on feelings that have nothing to do with me.
And if the bullying is being perpetrated in a public forum, they’ll reveal their own character and insecurities to others around them, unfortunately.
However, it can be much harder to handle in the workplace. Bullies make it a point to make you uncomfortable. They thrive on making you feel weak, less than, or inadequate altogether. They seek you out to harm you, and for some strange reason this makes them feel better.
Ignoring may not be possible if you want it to stop. In that case, you can choose to do a few things…
4 – EXPOSE THE BULLY
It may be best to confront them publicly, just as they have attempted to shame you publicly. It doesn’t require fighting words or being unprofessional. A simple and firm approach may do the trick (e.g., “That comment and behavior is inappropriate, and if it continues I will have to put in a formal complaint.”)
That may be just enough… especially if it exposes their tactics in front of others.
However, if it does continue…
5 – REPORT THE BULLY
Take advantage of the chain of command. Let them know what’s happening in great detail and make sure to document every incident. Also, when employers know you’re keeping track of the harm, they may feel more inclined to help.
If your bully is within the chain of command, go above them. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure the workplace is a safe environment. And your manager or supervisor is no exception.
If the bullying is happening online, it may be necessary to report it via appropriate social media channels. No one deserves to see disturning messages in their inbox or public humiliation take place at their expense.
But let’s face it. No matter what you do, sometimes all of these things will fail. And in that case…
6 – MOVE ON
Sometimes no matter the amount of documentation, number of witnesses, blocking of social media accounts, or harm to you health, nothing can or will be done. Your employers may not care. Your bully may not care. And the stress and trauma to you won’t stop.
And that’s when you care for yourself.
Give the proper notice and leave/block on your own terms. No apologies. You’ve endured an unbearable situation for too long.
…And oftentimes this is when your employer will promise change. Or even the bully will…
In any event, trust your gut, and do what’s best for you.
ADDENDUM – Within an hour of posting this article, I received a final parting shot. (Unfortunately, even after exposing some bullies, they really don’t care.)
Have you been affected by bullying online or at work? Would you like to share your story on The Bossy Nurse blog? Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your situtation.
And, we’ll keep your post anonymous if you’d like. Or, feel free to share in the comments below.