Dr. Renee Thompson's Top 10 Responses When a Co-worker Gets Nasty

Dr. Renee Thompson’s Top 10 Responses When a Co-worker Gets Nasty

This post is part of a series of posts on nurse bullying and conflict in the workplace written by Dr. Renee Thompson, DNP, RN, CMSRN. Dr. Thompson is one of the top professional development and anti-bullying thought leaders in nursing.

If you’re like me, you think of the best responses to offensive co-worker behaviors during your morning shower the next day! But by then, it’s too late. The secret is to prepare ahead of time so that in the moment, you can deliver your response with grace and walk away knowing that you handled the situation professionally and with dignity.

Step 1: Think about the typical unprofessional or inappropriate behaviors that you experience in the work place.

Step 2: Decide how you will respond if you find yourself in that situation in the future. You may choose from the list below or create ones that are similar.

Step 3: Practice. And practice again.

Top 10 Responses When a Co-worker Gets Nasty

Great for students or new nurses

1. “I’m not comfortable with _____________ (this assignment, this procedure, this situation, etc.).”

2. “I’m concerned that patient safety will be compromised if _________ (you don’t assist me during this procedure, I am left alone to deal with this crisis, etc.).”

Great for co-workers who have behaved unprofessionally for a long time

3. “I’m not sure you realize this, but sometimes you can come across as being ________ (intimidating, aggressive, unapproachable, etc).” And then give an example.

4. “The relationship I have with you is important to me (or to our department). I’d like to talk about what happened __________ (yesterday, this morning, etc.).”

Great to redirect focus back to patients

5. “Although we disagree on some things, let’s agree to make decisions based on what’s best for our patients.”

6. “How can we work together for the good of our patients even when we disagree?”

Great in the moment

7. “You are yelling and screaming at me in front of patients and their families.” (overt behavior)

8. “I am willing to discuss this with you as long as you are willing to speak to me in a respectful manner.”

9. “I’m receptive to feedback. However, if you can’t deliver that feedback calmly and respectfully, I’m not willing to listen.”

10. “I find that comment offensive.”

Important consideration

Although you may feel inclined to give the bullies a dose of their own medicine, never, never, NEVER resort to their level. Always choose the high road and respond in a professional manner.

As the late Dr. Martin Luther King said so eloquently, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” Together, we can stop the cycle of nurse bullying!

Take care, stay connected and happy nurses week!


Do you have any additional respectful, professional responses for when a co-worker gets nasty? Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube

Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author, award-winning nurse blogger, and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate workplace bullying. To find out more about Renee, please visit her website. American Sentinel University friends and family can get 25% off Renee’s great anti-bullying products – simply enter in the code: AMSENT16.

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