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Joy stealing: Stopping happiness thieves

By: Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, CPPS, FAAN Editor-in-Chief

Learn how to deal with coworkers who take the joy out of work.

THE AMERICAN NURSES ASSOCIATION (ANA) and my state organization, the Texas Nurses Association, give me inspiration and practical ideas I use every day to enhance my mindset, improve my skills, and add to my professional toolbox. With so much gun violence and workplace incivility grabbing our attention these days, finding joy in the workplace can seem like a distant goal. ANA has published frequently about the pervasive problem of incivility in the workplace. Incivility and lateral violence in nursing has been estimated at 10% to 15% higher than in other professions, and 90% of new nurses report incidents of incivility and bullying from other nurses.

The Spring 2019 issue of Texas Nursing Magazine offers sound advice for addressing this dilemma in a piece called: “Joy stealing: How to stop peers from making you dread the workplace.”

Four types of nurses are workplace joy threats. Do you know any of them?

1. The bully
2. The uncivil peer
3. The tall poppy cutter
4. The credit-taker

Try these strategies to deal with each type:

The bully. Start with yourself and self-awareness. Are you the bully? How would you know? Ask your colleagues and coworkers. Does your organization have clear policies that detail zero tolerance for these behaviors?

The uncivil peer. A range of characteristics (such as rudeness and disrespectful actions) define the uncivil peer. Understanding the difference between bullying and incivility is important. Incivility is experienced laterally with peers, and bullying is often perceived when a power gradient exists in the relationship, such as with a manager. Ask yourself, “Am I a role model for positive communication?” Can your workplace and communication strategies be defined as psychologically safe with no fear of retribution?

The tall poppy cutter. Tall poppies possess commendable qualities that may be viewed as a threat by envious poppy cutters who seek to undercut or discredit them. The key practices in the field of emotional intelligence (such as self-awareness and relationship management skills) can help you deal with poppy cutters. Many nursing units benefit from building teamwork through emotional intelligence strategies. Ask your human resources department if this organizational development approach is available.

The credit-taker. Professional cultures in academia and clinical practice must deal with the reality of people taking credit for another’s work. I’ve had it happen to me. Anger and frustration can easily consume you. Think of it as incivility with a scholarly twist. The credit-taker thrives in places with a lack of trust plus unclear boundaries about work roles. A good way to begin to ignite change is to give more credit to others. Seek out ways to honor and reward your leaders and colleagues. They may begin to reciprocate.

A healthy work environment is critical to improve patient safety and enhance patient outcomes. Contributing to that healthy environment by dealing with the coworkers who are happiness thieves is a good place to start.

lillee gelinas msn rn cpps faan editor in chief




Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, CPPS, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Although these behaviors are so common it’s amazing how the innocent become the victim.

  • Excellent job at summarizing the real issues that impact nursing professionalism every day. I especially like to begin the exercise with an introspective evaluation as many may have begun with identifying others.


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