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What can nurses do when a manager is hostile and unit morale is low?

Wednesday July 31, 2013
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Dear Donna,

My entire department has become frustrated and discouraged by our unit manager's lack of leadership. She is manipulative, condescending, devious and, at times, hostile. She is the reason for low morale, dissension and all-around job dissatisfaction. Most of us are looking for new positions. The most frustrating part is our department has the potential to really be a great unit. The hours are good, the job is easy and the members of the team, other than the manager, really are good people and easy to work with. The satisfaction surveys sent out by the administration annually consistently reflect low scores related to management and leadership questions. However, this does not seem to change her behavior. Everyone is afraid to speak up or make a move for fear of retaliation, which this manager has exhibited numerous times. Who holds managers accountable for their performance? What steps can the staff take to inform the administration about what's going on?

Frustrated and Discouraged

Dear Donna replies

Dear Frustrated and Discouraged,

If this is an issue that has existed for some time and if annual evaluations consistently show dissatisfaction with this manager's performance, then there is some reason why she is still there doing the same thing. It could be she has connections in high places, or that whomever she reports to chooses not to do anything for whatever reason — perhaps the facility is afraid to take more drastic action fearing a lawsuit or other consequences. Just because someone is incompetent or even hostile, doesn't mean that anyone in authority is willing to do anything to change it.

Most employers have strict policies against hostile workplaces. There should be a mechanism in place with human resources to report something like this. It is always more effective when you go as a group or more than one person makes such a complaint. Understand that there is still no guarantee that the employer will do anything about the situation. You might want to consult a nurse attorney for advice and to protect your rights, and protect against retaliation should you decide to take this step.

You can only do what you can do. Sometimes the only option is to look for employment elsewhere.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.