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9 Ways to Destroy Your Team Relationships


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By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor

June 13, 2012 - “No nurse works effectively in a vacuum.”
“It takes a village.”
“All for one, and one for all.”

All of these axioms are true when it comes to nursing and teamwork.

Experts have shown that the rewards of working toward common goals, cooperation and good teamwork are improved quality of patient care, a higher degree of safety and improved patient satisfaction. When all team members are on board, nurses also experience greater job satisfaction.

Studies of well-functioning teams have also shown that when one or two team members experience problems like fatigue, others will compensate. From flight crews to nursing units, helping co-workers carry the load results in fewer errors. And in the health care setting, where patients rarely see just one nurse, it’s especially important that all caregivers are on the same page.

But, as humans, we make mistakes and can do things to mess up our working relationships and make our jobs even harder. 

To find out what some of the worst team-destroying offenses might be, NurseZone gathered opinions from a panel of nursing experts, including: Yvonne Wesley, RN, PhD, FAAN, an independent health consultant in Rahway, N.J.; Paula Davies Scimeca, RN, MS, a substance abuse specialist and author of From Unbecoming a Nurse to Overcoming Addiction; Joanne Barnett, RN, MSN, director of inpatient and emergency services Pomerado Hospital in Poway, Calif.; and Sue Heacock, RN, MBA, COHN-S, author of Inspiring the Inspirational: Words of Hope From Nurses to Nurses.

Here is their list of the top behaviors to avoid if you want to keep your health care team healthy and functioning at its optimal level.

9 ways to destroy your team relationships: 

1. Practice lateral violence. One of biggest destroyers of nursing teamwork is lateral violence, or bullying, Barnett explained. “Lateral violence has been in the workplace a long time and it really affects teamwork and morale of the unit. We’re just starting to recognize it more, probably because we give our staff a safe forum to talk about it (i.e. via staff satisfaction surveys). As time goes by, we give more and more responsibility to the bedside nurse, and sometimes bullying is the response.” 

2. Undermine your co-worker's project. Nurses have a hard enough job; if you want to build each other up, “Don’t be a naysayer and destabilize your co-worker's evidence-based practice project,” said Wesley.

3. Treat others unkindly and utter derogatory remarks about them. “I will never forget the vicious remarks a former boss made in a restroom about a colleague who had resigned,” said Scimeca. “The incident left such a distressing and lasting impression on me that I resigned a few months later.”

4. Be “that nurse,” with a chip on your shoulder. “We all know a nurse whom we try to avoid at all costs,” explained Heacock. “He/she seems angry and uncaring and we don’t want to upset them. We look at them from afar and wonder why they are so angry…Don’t be ‘that nurse.’”

5. Be a naysayer or make sarcastic comments about others’ ideas. Instead, Wesley suggests that nurses should “let the newly arrived know that their ideas are really appreciated.” Barnett concurs, explaining that making fun of or shooting down others’ ideas really diminishes the team spirit.

6. Use belittling gestures. An example? “Rolling your eyes while in staff meetings whenever your co-worker makes a suggestion to improve staff engagement,” suggested Wesley.

7. Be a mess and/or leave a mess. Portraying nurses in a bad light or leaving messes for others to clean up can quickly cause ill will. “Clean up after yourself (you share your workspace), dress appropriately and speak professionally,” said Heacock.

8. Neglect to thank your co-workers. “Due to increased demands on nurses, we sometimes forget to thank our peers for helping,” said Barnett. “At Pomerado Hospital, we have a variety of thank you cards in a box at the nurses’ station. Nurses can write a note to their peers and leave it in their mailboxes. They want the praise and recognition, and it’s important that they get it from their peers.”

9. Say, “It’s not my job,” “That’s not my patient,” or “It’s not my fault that the new nurse is overwhelmed.” As Heacock pointed out, “You are there to provide the best service for everyone. Refusing to help your peers will be a black mark on your records.”


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