January 15, 2009 | | Comments 1
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Dealing with verbal abuse

It’s inevitable that some of your decisions will be unpopular. However, you are not a manager to win a popularity contest. If you made the decision with thought and consideration and not as a reaction to an event, it should be understood and accepted in time. If you make staff understand the rationale behind and unpopular decision (or any decision, for that matter), they will be more likely to keep rowing in the same direction as you are.

Often, nurse managers are on the receiving end of verbal abuse, which is an example of horizontal violence. But you can deal with it by using some calm and well-rehearsed responses and techniques:

  • Smiling and stating, “Perhaps we should continue this conversation when we’ve both had time to calm down”
  • Taking a deep breath and reviewing mentally all the positive things you can think about the situation/person
  • Softly stating, “Thanks for sharing that with me”
  • Stating, “It is really not necessary to speak to me with that tone of voice”

What are your techniques for coping with verbal abuse?

Editor’s note: This excerpt is from the newest book in HCPro’s Stressed Out Series, Stressed Out About Your Nursing Career.

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About the Author: This post was compiled by members of the Strategies for Nurse Managers staff.

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  1. If an employee is verbally abusive, this is when it is necessary to pull the manager card, to give the message that their behavior is unexceptable and will certainly not be tolerated by their manager. “We need to go to my office” usually makes employees rethink what they have said. Once in the office, this works for me. “Now can you give me the information in a more acceptable manner so we can talk about it?”

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