Dr. Renee Thompson: A Management Solution to Stop Bullying: Fire the Bully!

Dr. Renee Thompson: A Management Solution to Stop Bullying: Fire the Bully!

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.

The new schedule started today and Emily felt a pit in the bottom of her stomach. When she graduated from nursing school, she was so excited to start working as a professional nurse so that she could make a difference. Although she was warned about bully nurses and problem employees in nursing school, she never expected it would be this bad. Emily was stressed out, hated going to work, and started questioning her decision to become a nurse.

The sad part was, most of this stress was attributed to the behaviors of one entitled, aggressive nurse, Janice. While Janice was clinically excellent, she was nothing short of a nightmare to work with. Everyone hated working with Janice. The problem was that even though she had a reputation for eating the young, old, and everything in between, management failed to do anything about it. You see, patients and physicians loved Janice for her clinical expertise and so the rest of the staff was left to suffer from her horrible behaviors.

I bet you have a “Janice” on your unit too.

This story is a common one, although it’s prevalence makes it no less absurd. Wouldn’t it seem logical that if a hospital employed a nightmare nurse, administration would do something about it?

Sadly, no, and here’s why:

Typically, people who misbehave keep their job because their skills are exceptional. In some way, that nasty employee provides great value to the organization. Because of this, many managers try to justify their bad behavior by either helping the other employees cope or by just ignoring the problem. They worry that if they discipline this employee, he/she will either quit, retaliate, or worse – administration won’t support their decision.

However, keeping toxic employees in your organization is a mistake!

Instead of justifying or ignoring toxic employees, managers need to FTB – Fire The Bully!

Fire the bully!

Stop allowing your toxic employee to remain employed just because he/she is a good clinician or works as much overtime as you need!

Stop making excuses and justifying their behavior!

Stop protecting one toxic employee at the expense of the remaining 75+ good employees.

Start advocating for the rest of your employees by taking action against bad behavior no matter what. Adopt a philosophy that to remain employed, employees have to be clinically and professionally competent.

Three steps to take necessary action and FTB

  1. Communicate expectations – Meet with the bully and set behavioral expectations. Tell this employee…”Starting today, this is how I expect you to behave.” And then provide them with specific behaviors you expect to see.
  2. State consequences – State clearly what will happen if the bully fails to comply (disciplinary process up to termination). Be very clear that you are willing to terminate this person if he/she doesn’t change behavior.
  3. Follow-through – If the bully continues the negative behaviors, follow through with the consequences you stated. 

Note: An important part of step 3 is to make sure you’re communicating with someone from human resources and your boss about this toxic employee. Make sure you have their support to hold this person accountable. You will need their blessing to FTB. Read more about working with HR to hold employees accountable.

If you are allowing a bully to run rampant in your department, you are contributing to the problem. It’s time for you to stop justifying and start doing something about it.

What we ignore, we condone.

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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