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Don’t Let Them Steal Your Joy

While thinking about what to talk to you guys about, I was throwing around many ideas. The holidays are coming – so what about recipes or craft ideas to make gift-giving easier. The New Year is right around the corner – so what about recommendations on a good self-improvement book. While tolling through my thoughts, one of our team members heard a nurse say something about a unit “eating their young” – so what about coworker bullying?

Well, I am an older nurse who survived the years of rude physicians and hostile coworkers. Everyone needed to pay their dues. That is just the way it is. Bullying – I thought, what are they talking about? Just put on your big girl panties and get over it.

But, just because that is how it was, it shouldn’t be how it is. Recent surveys show that 90% of new nurses report incidents of incivility and bullying from their coworkers. An American Nurses Association publication shows that workplace violence in nursing is 10 – 15 % higher than other professions. That can’t be right. We are a profession of caregivers – why aren’t we taking care of our own?

The more I thought about this, the more disappointed I became. Have we not progressed to a culture of nurses taking care of nurses? What can we do to make things happier? Then I saw my November copy of American Nurse Today, Vol. 14, November 11. The Editor in Chief, Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, CPPS, FANN, had an editorial titled “Joy Stealing: Stopping Happiness Thieves.” This article focused on four types of nurses who can take the joy out of a unit: the bully, the uncivil peer, the tall poppy cutter, and the credit taker.


The Bully

First, be sure you are not the bully. We older nurses need to remember what it was like to be the new kid on the unit. How can you find out if it is you – ask your coworkers. They will eagerly tell you if they see you as the bully.


The Uncivil Peer

Incivility is bullying on a lateral scale. It is coworker to coworker – management is out of this one. Characteristics such as rudeness and disrespectful actions equate to incivility. As a travel nurse, you may be subject to this type of communication more frequently than others. Rudeness is not acceptable or professional. Ask yourself if you are a role model for how you would like to be treated. Is your style of communication considered positive and open?


The Tall Poppy Cutter

Tall poppies possess commendable qualities that may be viewed as a threat by those envious poppy cutters. As an experienced travel nurse, you may be that tall poppy that is subjected to the jealous actions of the other team members. Remember to maintain your self-awareness, confidence without arrogance, and professional demeanor. You are the guest bouquet in their house, show your beauty but don’t make them feel withered while doing it.


The Credit Taker

We have all worked with that person who takes credit for the excellent job someone else has done. As a travel nurse, you stand in the shadows of those full time, long time employed nurses. You may think of credit taking as incivility with a scholarly twist. When someone takes the credit for the job you have done, anger and frustration can consume you. Remember, you did a magnificent job, and no one can take away the way you made that patient or his family member feel.


How to Deal

I have to admit I had not thought of nurses as bullies, uncivil, poppies, or credit thieves. They have always been coworkers just trying to work through an environment of mixed personalities and high-level stressors. There is a direct connection between a healthy work environment and patient safety, enhanced patient outcomes, and staff job satisfaction. The best way to deal with any of these happiness thieves is to communicate directly with them. Respectfully let the coworker know how their actions are perceived. Aim to be an example of the joyful coworker and not the happiness thief.


I want to wish each of you a wonderful holiday season. I look forward to communicating with you more in the New Year. Always feel free to reach out to me at – I would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions.


Angela Totora, MBA/HA, CHP, RN


Material adapted from:

“Joy Stealing” by Amanda Chappell, Texas Nursing, Spring 2019

“Joy Stealing: Stopping Happiness Thieves” by Lilee Gelinas, American Nurse Today, November 2019.



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