Dr. Renee Thompson – Female-to-Female Nurse Bullying

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.

Bullying in the nursing profession is rampant. One reason is that nursing is a female dominated profession. Ninety percent of all nurses are female and let’s face it ladies, we are not always that nice to each other. Why aren’t women nice to each other?

It started many years ago when women used to compete against each other the win the prized male. Their goal was to marry the physician, banker, or lawyer. The way women “won” their prize was to squash their competitors – other women. Fast-forward to the 21st century and now women are the physicians, bankers, and lawyers but we still haven’t let go of our squashing tendencies.

When women entered the work force, there were only a few leadership positions available, and again, women had to compete against each other. However, not all women behaved that way in business. We certainly had our share of trailblazers too: Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was one of the leading figures in the women’s rights movements. Harriett Tubman, a civil rights activist, freed a thousand slaves. These women changed history.
If we were to place these women on a panel next to women bullies, what do you think our female trailblazers would say? “Great job – way to squash your fellow women to get ahead!” Or would they say, “You can make more headway by building your legacy through hard work and unity than by tearing each other down.” No greatness can be achieved without determination or grit, but sadly, many women take that message to the extreme and see bullying as the only way to ensure their career success or survival.

Why haven’t women learned over the years that we can do more when we grow, nurture, and support each other? According to Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute, women comprise 40 percent of the bully population; and of their targets, 71 percent are women. Why in a healthcare workforce, which is built on a foundation of caring and compassion do we see female-to-female bullying in epidemic proportions?

Whatever the cause, the solution is simple. Bring the pervasive bullying issue out of the closet and into the spotlight. As women we must ask ourselves how we can be part of the women vs. women bullying solution. Do we take advantage of some women at work, based on their level of push-back, confidence, or passiveness? Do we make snarky comments to people we just don’t like? Are we keeping quiet when we witness other women facing abuse?

These behaviors, seemingly innocuous, contribute to the problem either through action, or inaction. We need to repeatedly check ourselves to ensure we are fostering support, growth and teamwork. We need to stand up for ourselves, call the bullies out, and protect each other from abuse. Doing anything less keeps women one-step back.

Competition coupled with comparison leads to feelings of inferiority – not believing we are good enough. And then to compensate, we treat other women badly, downplay their accomplishments, and sabotage their efforts. Women can be their own worst enemies. Isn’t it time for this to stop?

STOP and START strategies to end female-to-female bullying

  • STOP thinking that women are your competitors.
  • STOP tearing other women down through gossip, backstabbing, and downplaying accomplishments.
  • START thinking that women are your allies.
  • START building each other up.
  • START complimenting other women. Every day find a reason to compliment another woman.
  • START recognizing the accomplishments of other women in front of other women.
  • START going out of your way to support other women and help them succeed.

Nobody is going to fix this problem for us. We women need to fix it. And we can. Nurse bullying happens because we allow it. Isn’t it time we stopped eating our female colleagues and start growing each other instead? Share your thoughts on female-to-female bullying with us on Facebook

Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!

-Renee