Ask the nursing expert ... about dealing with workplace 'sabotage'

I have just started a new job as director of nursing in a 160-bed long-term care facility. I have worked as a DON for over 15 years now, so I have experience in working with a nursing team. My ADON, although smiling and seemingly cooperative, talks about me behind my back and is very critical of my leadership. One of my nurse managers came to me and talked about how frustrated she was with the ADON and some other team members, whom she says bully and create unnecessary conflict. The previous DON and administrator have not addressed her behavior. It’s creating an atmosphere of tension and conflict. Do you have any new reference tools to address this issue?

Well, it is my understanding that this is an ongoing problem in many healthcare settings — those who “sabotage” the workplace with their behavior. This behavior must be addressed if you want a healthy environment. 

Take some time to develop a written philosophy, rules on behavior expectation from nursing leadership and your guidelines for leading by example. Your “unhealthy” members will rebel, so be prepared. 

Set up a one-on-one meeting of expectations with your ADON and document your interaction with her. Recommended reading for all DONs is “Principle Centered Leadership” by Stephen Covey and “Stabotage!” by Judith Briles, D.B.A, M.B.A. Your real help with these issues is contained in these two books.

Do you feel that joining nursing organizations is helpful?

Absolutely. But do not just join.Actively participate. The support, encouragement, educational tools, sharing of ideas and mentorship are so important to any nurse practicing.