Expert advice

Workplace: How to deal with bullying in the workplace

I have been contacted by a nurse who witnessed (not for the first time) a manager intimidating a more junior colleague. What is the best way to help her?

Question: I have been contacted by a nurse who witnessed (not for the first time) a manager intimidating a more junior colleague. What is the best way to help her?

Before you arrange to meet the nurse, ask her to write down precisely what has been happening in as much detail as possible.

This should include dates, times and locations, as well as the names and job titles of everyone who may have witnessed the bullying.

This will help you to determine the seriousness of the incidents.

Support colleague

At your meeting, commend the nurse for showing concern for her colleague, and advise her that she should continue to do this and agree to be a witness if needed. 

One option is for the nurse who is being bullied to report the manager herself.

Advise the nurse to make sure her colleague is aware of the trust’s grievance policy, and that she should offer to help her colleague write a letter to the manager.

Too frightened

However, the nurse you are advising may have already had these conversations with her colleague, who could be too frightened to report the manager. 

Staff are often apprehensive about making complaints due to a fear of bullying and harassment, and the nurse may feel especially vulnerable because of the complaint nature.

The second, and preferred, option is for the nurse to encourage her colleague to report these incidents to a union representative, who can advise and act on the nurse’s behalf. 

Affirmation and support are vital in these circumstances, and this may be the trigger her colleague needs to be spurred into action to address this unacceptable behaviour.

About the author

Zeba Arif (@ZebaArif) is chair of the RCN forensic nursing forum and was an RCN steward for 23 years

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