Frustrated, Frustrated Nurse!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about conflict with boss:

I’ve read with interest several work situations that mirror mine to a small degree, but my situation is reaching horrific levels now. I have been a nurse at a large teaching hospital for 13 years. I had an excellent rapport and reputation as a nurse and coworker until going to day shift 8 years ago after a new manager came to our unit.

We had one bully nurse who singled me out to ridicule and criticize, and the manager always sided with the bully without checking into the truth. I dealt with this helplessly until I became familiar with workplace intimidation and saw my situation for what it was. I kept thinking the bully would hang herself, and she finally did threaten to bring a gun to work because of a parking deck problem so she was finally terminated after someone called the risk management hotline when the manager hadn’t addressed the situation for several weeks.

After the bully was gone, I thought things would improve, but apparently my manager has been keeping EVERY LITTLE PIECE OF INFORMATION either from me or about me for YEARS. She doesn’t try to remedy the situation, but during the few meetings I’ve scheduled to try to talk with her, she insists on a witness of her choosing and she refuses to talk about the issues I want to address but rather presents with a large stack of papers and refers to e-mails or statements however innocuous from even years ago.

I’ve gone to Employee Relations and her director to no avail. What haven’t I left? Aside from a great work schedule and doctors/coworkers whom I enjoy working with, two years ago, my coworkers elected me to represent our unit on a practice council, then the practice council elected me to a chair position. I lead a large council of bedside nurses and we make decisions regarding practice, equipment, etc. Workplace intimidation has been identified hospital-wide and we have invited the Chief of HR to attend a future meeting; however, I’ve kept my personal story private in hopes that another position may present itself or that I would be gain enough merit on my own to address what has happened to me to the chief nursing officer…and to that end, I’ve made great progress and am well respected and liked by the council members and administration as well.

Okay…to the present. I suffered a skiing accident with fractured arm last month and am currently on sick leave. I came to the hospital with a friend who was seeing a doctor and went to our council’s facilitator to give her access to my work e-mail so she could prepare the next meeting’s agenda. I did not access the e-mail myself, did not prepare the agenda, did not clock in. I visited my unit while I was at the hospital and my manager demanded that I come in the office and said that I was not to do any work at all during my sick leave. I jokingly said that I was just a volunteer and a visitor. She emphasized that I was to do no work at all and I said that I wasn’t. Since then, she has written to Human Resources and lied about what was said between us…made it appear that I was defiant and worked anyway. She has added this incident to her “paper trail” against me.Any advice now? I have 6 months left in my chair position with the council. I don’t know if now is the time to go to the chief nursing officer with the whole sorted mess or if I should try to ride it out a little longer. I do not want to present myself as being a troublemaker and have worked diligently to prove myself trustworthy and dedicated to the hospital in spite of my manager’s efforts. If it matters, I work at a state-owned teaching hospital; however, it appears that my manager is capable of distorting all the policies.

Signed, More Than A Little Frustrated

Dear More Than A Little Frustrated:

It seems time for you to take action other than that which you have already taken. Make a list of your complaints/negative incidents and present them in a scheduled conference with a representative of HR. At the same time you might consider filing a grievance in keeping with your workplace policies. You might begin your conference by stating that you sought professional advise after the latest “lying episode” and have chosen to follow it.

Present your list of concerns in a written professional document and ask how you can overcome this workplace harassment. That terminology should gain immediate attention form the HR person. At the same, time I suggest that you determine if age or race discrimination is occurring. If so, you have standing to initiate legal action. Begin immediately maintaining a log of actions against you. It should include date, time, witnesses, and a summary of the incident. This log can become a legal document in the event you file a grievance or seek legal action. Also, turn the tables on your manager. In future meetings, take you own witness even if it is someone outside the workplace. An alternative to this approach is to record the conference for future reference. Study your workplace employee manual carefully. The infractions you state should be addressed. Cite these violations by policy and page number in your HR conference. At the end of this meeting, ask for a follow up date for a second meeting. This will serve two purposes. It will emphasize your determination to get results and will motivate action that can be reported back to you.

It appears that you will need to be aggressive in solving your problem. Your other tactics have not worked. Step up the level of your attack. After all, what do you have to lose? Your work environment is intolerable. Remember that nursing employment is currently at a premium. If worst comes to worst, you should have no problem finding other employment. Good luck. Let WEGO know how things progress Barry Hester.

Guest Respondent Barry Hester