Nurses’ Guide to Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

Nurses’ Guide to Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

“How do you deal with difficult co-workers?” It’s one of the most common interview questions, for nurses along with everyone else. But as many nurses also know, actually dealing with difficult co-workers is too often the reality in an already-difficult job. For nurses, it can interfere with job satisfaction, as well as the ability to perform your job to the best of your abilities.

Here at CareerStaff, we’re here to help nurses navigate every aspect of their career. And that includes insights into some of the day-to-day challenges you may have not learned about in nursing school! With that in mind, here’s our guide for dealing with difficult co-workers in the nursing profession.

Nurses’ Guide to Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers

Of course, every nurse knows the basics of coping with difficult situations. Whether it’s getting through 12-hour shifts, having to work holidays, or a million other challenges, the day-to-day realities of the nursing profession require an ability to adapt and perform under pressure.

Of course, dealing with difficult co-workers will always be part of that equation, to some extent. But toxic personalities in the workplace are also a unique problem all their own. It’s a challenge that even the most adaptable, positive and professional nurse can struggle with. With that in mind, it’s important to understand your options, and how to carry them out.

Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers:
How to Let Your Supervisor Know

Difficult co-workers are the main feature of a toxic workplace, where conditions are so negative that pretty much everyone feels stressed out and unhappy every day. Yes, every job has a certain level of stress. But nobody should have to deal with the constant unhappiness caused by difficult co-workers or an otherwise toxic workplace.

If the source of your stress is a specific co-worker, your first step should be reaching out to your team lead or manager to let them know what you’re experiencing. It’s important, though, to phrase your statement as a challenge that you’d like help with — and not as an accusation against another worker.

No matter how at-fault the other person may seem, or how in the right you are, it’s important to avoid making this into a personal complaint. Doing so can quickly backfire, and make it seem like you’re the source of the problem. For this same reason, it’s important to remain calm and polite when relating this info to your manager. If you’re not sure if you can, practice at home first with a friend or loved one.  

Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers:
How to Stay on Top of Your Mental Health Needs

When dealing with difficult co-workers in the nursing space, sometimes there just isn’t much that can be done to solve the issue. At a time when every nurse is critical, people who may be contributing to a toxic workplace are sometimes still kept on staff from sheer necessity.

When that happens, it’s important to figure out how to cope. After all, a “toxic work environment is more than just an inconvenience,” as Sam Bowman writes at Minority Nurse. “It’s more than just something to ‘trudge through’. In fact, an unhealthy work environment can contribute to a variety of physical and mental health issues.”  

As Bowman explains, the constant burden of stress caused by toxic co-workers can lead to some dangerous conditions, including fatigue, muscle cramps, upset stomach and even high blood pressure or heart issues.

If those conditions sound familiar, it may be because they’re also commonly associated with nurse burnout and compassion fatigue. The good news is that many of the best practices can help you cope with both, including practicing self-care, staying focused on your own personal wellbeing, and learning how to ask for help. For more details, check out our recent guide to dealing with compassion fatigue.

Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers:
How to Handle Toxic Management

Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with difficult co-workers, the problem isn’t always one you can refer to your supervisor — sometimes, the toxic personality in the workplace is your team lead or manager!

If that’s the case, you may be able to speak to the next person in the chain of command. But that’s not always possible, since nurses don’t always have easy access to clinical team leads. And some nurses may be intimidated by the idea of doing this. They may not know the individual very well, or may be afraid to seem like they’re going behind someone’s back. Or, the two supervisors may be friends.

In this case, there are some other solutions to dealing with toxic management, like finding sympathetic co-workers. Ultimately, though, most experts have the same advice: Get out and seek greener pastures everywhere.

And ultimately, that may also be the best advice when dealing with difficult co-workers on any long-term basis. First, speak to someone who can help. Then, focus on your own mental health. But remember, too, that those aren’t long-term solutions. If you’re in a situation where one individual is making the entire workplace toxic, and there’s no sign of change, it may be time to figure out your exit strategy.

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The good news is that, as an experienced nurse, plenty of opportunities await you. In fact, choosing to escape a toxic environment could be the perfect opportunity to pursue that nursing job you’ve always dreamed of — or to work in a new setting, or in an exciting new location. If you’re in the mood for an adventure, for example, a new travel nursing job could take you to any corner of the United States!

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Done Dealing with Difficult Co-Workers? Find a New Nursing Job with CareerStaff

If you’ve tried all of the options above and still find yourself dealing with difficult co-workers, it may be time to find a new career opportunity with CareerStaff Unlimited. Not only do we offer great gigs from coast to coast, but we’re also famous for our team of recruiters, who are friendly, knowledgeable and available to help when you need it.

Experience the CareerStaff difference for yourself! Learn more about our nursing careers here, or search all jobs now.

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