Negative Workplace Behaviors: An Ethical Dilemma for Nurse Mangers

Tuesday, 14 July 2009: 2:25 PM

Cheryl Novak Lindy, PhD
Florence Schaefer, MS
Nursing & Patient Education, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Houston, TX

Learning Objective 1: Cite current research regarding negative workplace behaviors

Learning Objective 2: Discuss implications to minimize the impact of negative workplace behaviors on nursing practice

Purpose: According to the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses (2001), nurses are expected to contribute to a workplace that provides high quality nursing care using established professional standards. Nurse managers support staff as they provide care.  However, incidences of negative workplace behaviors or bullying affect the way people feel about their jobs, the ability to perform their jobs and whether they stay or not. The negative effects of bullying are increased turnover, decreased quality of work, increased absenteeism, decreased employee commitment, and loss of productivity (Simons, 2006). Managing incidences of bullying has created ethical dilemmas for nurse managers.
The literature reports staff do not discuss bullying incidences with their managers (McKenna et al., 2003). While some studies suggested managers tolerate the bullying behavior (Einarsen, 1999; Namie, 2007), others found organizations fostered the behavior through inaction (Speedy, 2006). No studies were found that investigated the perception of the manager regarding negative workplace behaviors or bullying.
The purpose of this study is to explore the nurse manager perception of negative workplace behaviors experienced by nursing personnel.
Methods: Qualitative research methodology using investigator developed questions gained insight into the phenomena of negative workplace behaviors experienced by 20 nurse managers. Transcripts were reviewed for patterns and themes.
Results: Six themes were identified that included: 1) characteristics of the bully, 2) characteristics of the victim, 3) triggers resulting in negative behaviors, 4) strategies by the nurse managers to manage the incidences, 5) long term effects on the work environment, and 6) support needed by the nurse managers to manage incidences.
Conclusion: All nurse managers had observed and/or experienced negative workplace behaviors. While some felt comfortable in addressing the behavior, others experienced an ethical dilemma in trying to treat all individuals involved fairly. They required additional support from their manager and the Human Resources Department.