No, we’re not talking about whips and chains and safe words, although healthcare workers do seem to attract narcissistic lovers more than average. I’m talking about negative work situations that may or may not qualify as bullying, even after familiarization with related definitions. Let me explain with a story instead of yet another helpful link that might take you away from this life-changing blog post.
I (Nick) am typing this from Greece. It doesn’t rain all summer, and the landscape turns so brown and dry I fear that halitosis from all the garlic I’m eating might set this island ablaze. My first time here, when I was 10 years old, someone scolded me for wasting water while brushing my teeth. I was a precocious, old-soul type of child, so I didn’t resent the scolding (which we Greeks invented about the same time as democracy and geometry). Instead, I thought, “Oh great, I just reinforced this lady’s stereotypes of wasteful Americans.”
Well, just now as I tried to wet my toothbrush with a trickle of water, I realized something. Greek life features many paradoxes. The precious H2O they try to conserve roars out of the faucets like a pressure washer. It wasn’t my fault at age 10. Careless engineers smearing tsanziki and spanakopita filo all over the plumbing blueprints are to blame. I’m not encouraging everyone to search through every memory and find new people at fault in boring stories about indoor plumbing like mine or even life-altering situations. However, re-visiting memories, even those with black and white details lacking shades of gray, does allow for new perspectives–that’s why we emphasize role playing in our anti-bullying programs. Sometimes we can’t see the crucial detail our perspective is missing in the moment or by ourselves.
Granted, the concept of truth gets watered down when we reduce any situation to individual perspectives, but singular perspectives limit learning and creativity. This is the sentence in almost every BEHAVE post with the word “holistic” in it. We don’t naturally focus on what matters while ignoring the microscopic that will take care of itself. The water tower at the beach where I live (in Florida, not Greece, because remember, they don’t have water here) features a beach ball on top. Every tourist spends twenty minutes taking a perspective picture hugging or squeezing the beach ball, as if they were the first ones to think of it.
Trying an objective approach by taking yourself out of the equation and/or empathizing with the other person’s point of view is one technique to expand your understanding and limited perspective. I’d also suggest you ask friends at work, “Am I being bullied?” and “Is this normal?” I’ll tolerate a naturally surly person much longer than someone who chooses not to be nice to me. All of us at BEHAVE Wellness have real jobs. We’re much more practical than bullying activists who would insist on not tolerating incivility for a second. They’re right, in a sense, but who really wants to hire or work with an overly sensitive person? By waiting to bring up an issue until you validate exactly what’s going on, you’ll be taken more seriously. If no one at work is trustworthy enough to ask these questions, that’s a problem right there. We’ve mentioned before that any relationship can tolerate so much more if there’s grace, occasional pockets of fun and joy, and the freedom to be who you are. Friends at work act as shock absorbers when customers, managers, and co-workers start grating you like a good Greek cheese.
Grated Alive vs Hanging Out with Coworkers
Do I really have to spend unnecessary time with them when I already see their unattractive faces five days out of seven? The point is not to make fellow employees your besties or use them as an invincible bullying shield. It’s simply that enjoying their company makes “microaggressions” and annoying slights disappear, so when unruly behavior catches your attention, it probably is bullying. When someone is being rude to me at the hospital, one of my first thoughts is, “This is going to be a great story. I can’t wait to change enough details so it’s not gossip and tell all my work friends about this.” Granted, I’m weird and pride myself on being unoffendable, but grit your teeth and be friendly–it’s the only way to make friends.
What do you think? Am I making light of behavior you should report right away? Tell me your perspective in the comments, even if it’s wrong. Just kidding. If part of the problem is the learning curve at a new healthcare job, I’ve recently written guests posts about ventilators and CRNAs (including more thoughts about paradoxes and OR culture) you’re welcome to use as a resource.