Vindictiveness In Healthcare

Mar 22, 2022 | Aussie Nurse

We all know that any work day as a nurse can present itself with so many demands and pressures that can challenge our ability to cope. Somehow we constantly solve problems we didn’t see coming and at the end of the day we do complete all of our work, even if it felt impossible at the start


Mind you the day may involve many negative situations that are little and out of our own control. I often call these paper cuts as they are small enough and even if they leave a little feeling of a sting, we don’t give them much notice.

Paper cuts in the workplace may be a passing snide comment, not being included into a group conversation or being undermined in some way. These subtle paper cuts don’t effect our days too much because they happen so often that we are unfortunately used to them, even the person doing it may not even realise that they are being micro aggressive in any way.

In my career as a nurse I realised my biggest struggle has looked past the paper cuts or even past any bullying, there is another group of people who I have met a couple of times, they are mean spirited and are known as vindictive. I’ve learnt if you became a target to them you probably won’t know at all, vindictive people seem to hold grudges and are resentful. They may perceive you in a particular way and if you have done something unknowingly to upset them they will retaliate as they do not let go.

As Albert Einstein said, “Weak people revenge, Strong people forgive, Intelligent people ignore”

Unfortunately having met these characters a few times in my career, I’ve learnt that their behaviours towards me has never been direct. Maybe it is the role that they are in that affords them a ‘high wall’, these vindictive characters have always been more senior to me.

Looking back I realise that there was no way I could protect myself in these workplaces, mainly because when I was interacting with these people they had a coldness that was present when being around them, the signs were always there but I never noticed.

On a personal level, I now realise that being around these people I was putting all of my energy into ‘flight or fight mode’, I had a constant feeling of being uncomfortable in the work environment. Not listening to my gut I was treading with caution and was in a constant heightened state which is exhausting and when I got home, I would collapse into a heap. 

At the actual time it’s so hard to recognise how much the relationship is not equal of course no one can anticipate the actions that will follow later. I still often question-

What was it that I actually did?

Did I not meet their expectations?

Or did I make a mistake of unknowingly challenging that person in some way?

In each of the different situations I have encountered I was emotionally worn out and there was a cost from the retaliations. Unfortunately the only thing I could ever do has always been to leave the job I was in, I wasn’t able to stand or even fight for myself.

It’s a bit uncomfortable thinking about each situation I’ve been in as it has never had anything nothing to do with my actual work, in a way that displays to me to be cautious of a vindictive individual as they placed so much effort to cause direct harm. 

Thankfully people who are vindictive are so few yet they do use their appearance of strength through a title, mind you I will never know how I questioned or challenged their integrity. I am now fortunate to be working in a place where the work I do will always be challenging like in any workplace as a nurse, yet engagement with the different teams I meet is positive in a meaningful way.


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(Photo by ahmed zid on Unsplash)

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