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Confrontation with Coworkers? 4 Ways How Nurses Can Handle Them

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By Kristen Smith, R.N.

Do you ever disagree with a workmate or physician and really feel like giving them a piece of your mind? The only thing stopping you from letting out a mile-long string of curses is the fact you will likely lose your job. So, you glare back at the nagging person, tasting the blood in your mouth from biting your tongue. You’re hardly listening to his or her words because all you can think about is how much you want to respond with physical violence. We can all relate. Unfortunately, your assumption is correct. You will lose your job, or your license, or both. So, I’ve compiled a list of pointers on handling these situations professionally.

1. Treat the other person with respect –always.

It doesn’t matter what they did, failed to do, or should have done. We’re all human beings who deserve to be treated with the utmost respect regardless of the disagreement at hand. Even if the coworker doesn’t initially approach you with respect, respect them anyway. It will help diffuse the hostility.

2. Stand your ground

Don’t back into defense mode. When a co-worker confronts you with a problem, don’t back down. Take responsibility for your actions. Listen to the accusations. Respond politely but firmly. Don’t let the matter at hand get away from you by allowing the coworker to go on a rampage about every problem that gets under their skin.

3. Turn the Focus Back

If a coworker gets loud, point it out. Say something like, “Why are you shouting at me?” or “Why are you losing your temper?’ This will force the person to analyze their own behavior. Hopefully, he or she will realize they’re acting the fool and calm down, therefore making it easier to resolve the problem.

4. Avoid the terms ‘Always’ and ‘Never.’

If you use these terms, you’re opening a new can of worms. This puts the other person into defense mode. More than likely, saying the person ‘always’ does one thing and ‘never’ does another isn’t true. Remember to focus on the matter at hand. Don’t let past issues come into play.

5. Take it to Management

If the confrontation can’t be resolved, or the other person is too emotionally charged, back away and take it to management. Don’t give into the argument. Allow a manager to step in and resolve the issue.

What other pointers do you have for handling confrontations with co-workers?

I am a full-time registered nurse, wife and new mom. I've recently started writing part-time and I love it! My family is my life. I enjoy spending time with them in my free time.

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