3 Common Types Of Bullying In The Workplace

Mar 28, 2023 | Aussie Nurse

Unfortunately many nurses will be familiar with some sort of bullying, it can impact anyone in any stage of their career from students, graduate nurses and established nurses of all levels may have experienced some sort of harassment or bullying

The environment that nurses work in are like ‘pressure cookers’, the work area is with a group of people with all the different personalities adding heat to the pot and that lid being shut so firmly, exisiting inside with the rising heat and pressure can make a nurse feel trapped when being bullied.

There’s so many reasons why bullying can happen, sometimes by the nature of a senior persons job role they hold status and their egos can be inflated to the role, some nurses have formed groups where only a select few understand the in jokes or older nurses who have become over protective of their workplace can exclude younger nurses. 

We all came into nursing to feel like we’re making a difference, especially to others as we care for them in times when people are in need with their health. But being bullied can make you have feelings of being criticised, shunned, intimated or made to feel lesser.

All these ways of being treated can affect anyones total confidence and can cause negative feelings towards your work with a lost of trust with the people you work with. Being in the work environment and facing these people may put you in a state of survival and affect your life outside of work as you carry these feelings home too.

Bullying that has been repeated and unreasonable that I’ve seen regularly in my career have been where some sort of relationships with social dynamics have broken down, power imbalances that influences a group have happened or even where people just want to fit in and be accepted, peer pressure can happen.

3 Different Types Of Bullying In Nursing Are –

1. Favouritism –

Favouritism is when a senior person like a manager or associate manager is treating a person differently to everyone else and usually at that nurses expense, some examples are-

  • The same nurse receives heavy or unfair workloads constantly 
  • The same nurse receives unfair rotation to different wards, even when its not there turn to be moved
  • Being given menial tasks to complete 
  • Regularly being given unfair rosters & poor allocation of days off between shifts 
  • Not included with groups during break times or social events
  • Not suggesting a nurse appropriately for new opportunities or promotions

By not treating everyone equally the senior person is favouring someone else at work without real merit, there may be serious feelings of resentment and lead to a nurse being more reserved with being unnoticed and unheard.

2. Group Think –

Group think is when there is conformity of both decision making and opinions in a group of people. Its very limiting as only one person makes all the decisions and usually they are left unchallenged, this can lead to bad behaviours being normalised in the group. Because a group has a number of people in it, it becomes difficult for one nurse to have an independent perspective as more than likely it won’t fit the ‘status quo’ of the group. 

Group think is usually peer to peer and can cause a nurse to be isolated by not ‘fitting in’ or feel that they can’t speak openly which is a difficult situation to be, especially if inside the group there is gossiping and name calling.

3. Nurses Eat Their Young –

In nursing the term ‘Nurses eat their young’ is used sometimes, it’s unfortunate that it stills happens today in many workplaces, this is when young nurses face hostility towards them from experienced nurses. Some people see it as an initiation or a rite of passage, its so unnecessary as a young nurse may experience being harassed, ridiculed, criticised or even have complaints made about them even if a little error is made, immense embarrassment follows. Of course, never forgetting as humans we all make mistakes.

We all had a day one as beginners at the start of our careers, I remember my first year of nursing it was extremely formative as I still remember all the nurses with their characters and all what I learnt from all these many years ago. Leading by example is important as brand new nurses are observing and imitating the people around them, plus setting a good example with how we behave and treat others sets a benchmark as new nurses may carry this behaviour with them for the rest of their careers.

Also, new nurses coming into the role bring a beginners mind with – ‘How does this work?’ and not the rigid ‘This is how we do things!!’. They are up to date with theories and new innovations happening in healthcare, they bring with them a new set of knowledge which can be shared with more established nurses and on the other side don’t forget older nurses have so many learnings from experience too, theres a lot that can be shared together.

If you’re being bullied, going into work day after day brings an uncomfortable feeling and may have you consistently on high alert as there could be pending threats from the work environment. The negatives of being bullied is the strain it puts on you and your work colleagues, plus losing trust in the workplace. Workplace bullying can affect the psychological and physical health of any person, once it is affecting your health it already is a serious issue and the need is to prevent long lasting effects.

5 Questions To Ask If You Think You’re Being Bullied At Work –

  1. What specific behaviours or actions by my work colleagues are making me feel bullied?
  2. Have I talked to anyone about my concerns?
  3. Does my company have a policy on bullying or harassment? (review it to understand the procedure for reporting & resolving the bullying)
  4. Am I keeping a record of incidents?
  5. What are my options to resolve the situation?

Seeking support and speaking up is not easy, if you can trust you are safe in the workplace with a manager and they are giving you appropriate focus when you are asking for help, then its definitely worth seeing them to resolve issues early as it can reduce the risk of workplace bullying from becoming acceptable behaviour. Depending on the seriousness of the situation you are in, the manager may escalate to a human resources representative to follow the workplace grievance procedures. 

Out side of work unions can help you to seek advice and find out more about your rights, including if you need to seek legal advice because employers have legal obligations to manage bullying in the workplace as it can be a risk to your health and safety.

Logging & Documenting Any Bullying –

A private record is something many nurses who are being bullied in the workplace use to start to document their specific experience of bullying and then use it when reporting the events. This helps by collecting evidence that is objective and accurate at that time, as later on its hard to remember the details exactly. 

Its worth writing an explanation of why you think the bullying started in the first place and keep documenting every incident of bullying especially if it happens regularly. Once you have documented several incidents, report the bullying.

Keep the log of events in a safe place that is outside of your place of work and keep all copies of documentation.

Whenever an incident of bullying happens document – 

  • A description of the incident, write down what happened in detail
  • Record the date & time of the incident
  • Where did it happen in the workplace?
  • Include what was said & done
  • Who was involved
  • What kind of bullying or behaviours are you receiving
  • Identify any witnesses to the incident
  • Keep a record of any physical evidence (emails, social media posts, etc)
  • Document your emotions, how did you feel?

Bullying should not be part of yours or anyones workplace, yet when it is you can help protect yourself and potentially hold the bully accountable for their actions.


Resources –


Support Resources –

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalised and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered”

– Michael J. Fox

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