POWER HOUR: Handling Bullying Culture in Schools and on Nursing Teams

By Donna Clark Love posted 08-11-2020 16:28


It was such a joy to connect with all of you during my session, “POWER HOUR: Handling Bullying Culture in Schools and on Nursing Teams!” I so appreciate your attending my session. During the chat session, I was not able to answer all of your questions. I have included replies to many of your chat questions we didn’t have time to discuss. I wish you much success as you become a change agent by addressing and confronting bullying incidents in your school or among your nursing teams.

What is a Safety Plan and how do you create one?

Sample 4-Point Safety Plan for someone who is being victimized by bullying:

  • Keep records and detailed documentation of any and all incidents of workplace bullying you personally experience.
  • Research the specific procedures for reporting an incident when the alleged harasser or bully is a co-worker, parent, principal, and/or district supervisor.
    Line-up at least one personal advocate who will be supportive.
  • Create a physical safety plan that targets all the places in the school or on the schoolgrounds where you might encounter the perpetrator alone. Avoid these places, if at all possible. If not possible, enlist a buddy to accompany you. If the perpetrator enters your health office, immediately text a S.O.S. to your advocate or other safe place on staff to come to the health office. Refuse to interact alone with this person.
  • This safety plan needs to be adhered till the bullying has been reported and while bullying is being addressed by a supervisor.

Sometimes I find that speaking up makes it harder for me in the workplace. I'm almost seen as a trouble-maker. How do you suggest I deal with a bullying culture on the job when it puts me in a vulnerable position on the job?

Yes, I understand. Sometimes people want to punish the messenger or the whistle-blower. I found for me that it was less painful to endure the scapegoating after I would speak up, than keep silent. A person has to decide for himself/herself. A school or district who is addressing bullying effectively does everything and anything to protect and support the person who reports bullying and/or speaks out publicly against injustices. In order to not be put in such a vulnerable position, you might want to make a report anonymously or enlist a colleague(s) to stand with you when you speak out. I applaud you for speaking up and I am sorry that you are being labeled as a troublemaker.

Do you feel that by standing up for yourself, and confronting the person, can stop the bullying?

This is a question that has multiple answers. Many times, when we stand-up for ourselves and confront the bullying, the bullying stops. The bully backs down because he/she does not want to endure another confrontation. Repeat offenders or bullies who get way with exhibiting bullying behaviors without having to suffer any consequences, sometimes will escalate the bullying. If this happens, you will need to follow the safety plan that is listed in the first question above. An administrator will need to address the bullying. If the bullying continues after you have reported incidents to the administrator, go to the next level of administration. FYI—When someone makes a bullying report and then interviewed by an administrator, nurse supervisor or HR representative, the first question asked is, “Have you attempted to confront the bullying personally?

How do I best counter my fear of bullying behavior from staff & teachers who may disapprove of my neutral /or disapproving stance?

Fear can immobilize us. My experience is that we have to walk through the fear to get to the other side. The way I conquered my fear when confronting my supervisor was to prepare and practice a script beforehand of exactly what I wanted to say. If you will review my PowerPoint of “Toppling the Tyrant”, you will find some scripts that work very well. We will always have people in our lives who will disapprove of our actions and opinions. If this results in bullying, one must have an action plan which includes a pre-scripted confrontation and/or a report to an administrator. The fear may be triggered by the stories/lies you tell yourself in your head such as, “This bullying is never going to stop. They will always pick on me. I can’t defend myself. Every time I disagree with someone, I am going to be a target of bullying.” To address these stories I am telling myself, I need to write each one down and then write the truth next to them. I wish you the best as you walk through your fear! You can do this!

You mentioned witnessing a nurse being dressed down by a parent. What do you recommend we do should we be present as a witness in a similar situation, be it parent or staff dressing down another staff member?

My best recommendation is for you to be the UPSTANDER. Our peers need us to stand in the gap for them. If you do not feel comfortable saying anything to the bully, walk in the middle and say “Excuse me, I need to meet with Sally (the target) and immediately latch onto Sally and move her away from the proximity of the bully and then keep on walking.” If confronting the bully, the less said is better such as “Stop it, now. This is cruel or this is not how we treat our staff at this school.” If you refer back to my PowerPoint, there are some viable suggestions of what you can say when addressing the bully.


1. Bullying Manual for Educators and School Staff
2. Thrive: Channel Your Courage, Speak Your Truth, and SHINE in the Midst of Life’s Challenges