A close friend and colleague of mine, a charge nurse, was hauled before the manager because of supposed job performance-related issues, based on the complaints of another nurse.

It’s ugly. I think most experienced nurses will know the scene: someone with an axe to grind decides to target a colleague, makes some unsupported allegations to the manager, who then feels she has to act. The accused gets called in, the manager says something like “some people have raised some concerns” and and suddenly the victim is forced to defend himself/herself against “some people” and “some concerns”.

Documentation is always non-existent, or so it seems.

How do you defend yourself against such slippery concepts as “some people” and “some concerns” without ever knowing such bothersome details as times and places and people?

Publicly, my friend was able to brush it all off as the embittered moanings of some slightly deranged nurse. Privately, she was devastated by the character assassination and by the betrayal of trust. She’s left wondering in whom, in fact, she can rely.

It’s grotesque, as I said. And so very typical of the nursing profession: all passive aggressive, and gossipy and nasty. Nurses need to grow up: sister, it ain’t high school. Act like the professionals you are.

Since I’m this week about to take on the charge position, I’m again left wondering, is it worth the grief? And what can I do to protect myself against the malicious and backbiting among us?


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  1. #1 by Zoe on Monday 12 April 2010 - 1647

    Our newest manager (and when I say “newest” I mean, in the 11yrs I’ve worked in this dept, we’ve had no fewer than 8 different managers — is this typical of all ER depts?) has a psychiatric background, and can be little “touchy-feely.” Which, initially, I groaned about.

    However, he doesn’t act on anonymous complaints. If you have a concern about someone, either their behaviour or practice, you have to a) put it in writing; and b) be willing to meet face-to-face with said person and manager for a 3-way conference. This way you can discuss, in person, the issue at hand, and hopefully come up with a mutually agreeable solution.

    As much as I (at first) rolled my eyeballs, it seems to have cut down on the situations you describe.

    So, I guess that would be my suggestion….refuse to defend yourself against anonymous complaints. You shouldn’t have to defend yourself against vague concerns or accusations. I might insist to your manager, should the situation arise, that you be able to meet with your accuser, hear his/her side of the story, and have him/her listen to yours as well.

  2. #2 by JennJilks on Monday 12 April 2010 - 1937

    Your patients need you, and you can make a difference being a great manager.
    The women with whom I have worked seemed to handle management well when they developed their own style, rather than adapting a style not their own. In the early days, in education, the new female principals tried to emulate the male model of top down. They then figured out how to collaborate, and they all learned how to work together.
    The worst were afraid of not getting respect, and were bosses in nylons! They were bosses not leaders.

    Be fair. Be honest. Admit if you have made a mistake.
    Most of all: Be yourself, for you have energy, a sense of humour, and you care about people!
    You go, girl!!

  3. #3 by Maha on Monday 12 April 2010 - 1954

    I feel awful for your colleague. A good friend of mine had something similar happen to her and it wasn’t so much the complaint that got her down, but the bitchy high school back stabbing.

    But I like Zoe’s advice about refusing to defend yourself against anon complaints. That’s completely unfair to you.

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