Dr. Renee Thompson: Partnering Tips for Dealing with a Queen Bully

Dr. Renee Thompson: Partnering Tips for Dealing with a Queen Bully

This post is the ninth in 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.

Lauren is a newer nurse and has been working on a critical care unit for eight months. Unfortunately, Lauren has become Mary’s target. Mary is one of the queen bullies on the unit and for whatever reason, has chosen Lauren as her target. In Mary’s eyes, Lauren can’t do anything right. She finds fault with everything Lauren does and seems to find opportunities to attack Lauren in front of others constantly.

Lauren dreads coming in to work when Mary is there and has considered quitting.

Sound familiar?

Lauren’s story is a common one, especially for new nurses. Sixty percent of all new nurses quit their first job within their first year with the majority due to the disruptive behaviors of their co-workers. Forty-eight percent of newly graduated nurses are afraid that they will become a target for workplace bullying. We are hemorrhaging really good nurses because of nurse-to-nurse bullying.

  • Fifty percent of bullying happens in front of others
  • Fifty percent happens behind closed doors
  • Forty percent of targets never tell anyone

It’s time for bullying to stop!

What can Lauren and others like her do?

Find a partner

Chances are Lauren isn’t Mary’s only target. Mary may be picking on someone else at the same time or she may have dropped a previous target to focus her energies on Lauren. If you are working with a queen bully, I guarantee someone else on your unit has been subjected to her bullying ways and understands the pain you are going through.

Find him or her and strengthen your relationship to gain social support.

Social support is protective. People who are socially isolated have an overly active sympathetic nervous system (increase blood pressure, heart rate, etc), are more likely to have cardiovascular disease. Science tells us that social support decreases the stress response on the target.

Ways you and your partner can protect each other

Talk about what’s happening to you

Talking about your experiences with someone else who can truly understand can be very cathartic. You realize that it’s not just YOU and it allows you to begin separating yourself from the bully. Separating helps you to see her behavior for what it is – a personal attack on you, inappropriate and unprofessional.

Watch each other’s backs

Whenever you are working together (and I would try to get a similar schedule), you can keep your eyes open for any indication that the bully is on a rampage. “Warning Warning!!” You can also help each other stay out of the bully’s way by helping each other with patient care. Remember, there is strength in numbers.

Speak up for each other 

At some point, the bully will attack and if your partner is present, your partner can speak up on your behalf. The number one most powerful intervention to stop the cycle of bullying is for the WITNESS to speak up – not the victim. Once you establish a bond with your partner, you can create a pact that whenever one of you is being “eaten alive” by the bully, you will come to each other’s defense.

Bottom line: If you are the target of bullying behavior, don’t suffer in silence! Find social support through other nurses who may be able to help. 

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


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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