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How to Handle Bullies in Nursing

How to Handle Bullies in Nursing

Marijke Durning | NursingLink

Bullies and Bullying

Physical bullying, the kind we often associate with the schoolyard, is not usually associated with workplace bullying, but it does happen. A hard “nudge” as someone passes you in the hall, or having objects thrown at you, are examples of physical bullying. However, in the hospital and on the job, it’s mostly emotional or psychological bullying that takes place.

Emotional or psychological bullying includes verbal abuse, threatening behavior, humiliation, intimidation, or even workplace sabotage. Bullying is a way to cause harm to someone, physically and emotionally. In 1999, the International Labor Organization (ILO) included bullying in their definition of workplace violence.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a bully as someone who is “habitually cruel to others who are weaker.” And it’s very easy to be cruel without being big and physically tough.

Not all bullies are as obvious as a physical shove, or abusive behavior. Some people bully without outwardly appearing like one. They pick their victims behind closed doors, singling them out as easier targets.

Why Do Bullies Bully?

There are many theories about why people become bullies. One of the most common theories is that bullies don’t have a lot of self-esteem. By picking on someone, whether it’s their looks, personality, or work ethic, the bully builds himself up.

Other research disputes this idea, arguing bullies have a healthy level of self-worth and bullying is just a way to gain power over someone else. Or, bullies may act out because they feel inadequate, weak, or incompetent, and are trying to put the focus on someone else’s shortcomings.

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