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My journey to assertiveness

The dynamics changed recently with the group of nurses.

Now, some of them respect me more and the chief nurse who was very cold was coming to me talk about patients. This happened after a nightshift where they were all gathered: the two chiefs, the nurses I worked the nightshift and a couple of other nurses. I brought two packs of biscuits the evening before as I always do when working nightshifts.

My understanding: now I have a good reputation as they talked between themselves and their opinion of me (based on prejudices and badmouth) changed. After 6 months!!! Also after 2 weeks of detachment as my default behavior.

My reaction: when people treat me like that, I respect them less. Whatever their change of behavior afterwards. If you've been ostracizing me, being hostile and putting obstacles before me instead of helping me based on what others people have told you about me, you're a dick. Plain and simple. The only behavior I changed is that I took distance with them and I made progress. But they're complainers as they complained yesterday in front of us that there will be a new batch of residents. So every 6 months they complain about the new batch of residents in many hospitals with the same kind of people. So, it's hopeless.

That is why I want to move so bad. It's because this ostracizing/judging behavior is the norm where I live. They think they're so good! I also saw them put pressure on one another. So it's just lame attitude all-around. They don't know how to pull people up. Just putting pressure on people is such bad management in my opinion. So they really manage and control by fear. And I cannot respect people who do that.

The End.


Rock on, John.
Sounds like it's been a great power dynamics training.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks, Lucio. It was indeed. My mistake was at the beginning. Next time I will ask more questions and be more humble.

To clarify about the pack of biscuits: I bought two of them the night before so in the morning there was one left still. So there was a physical proof to the nurse managers that I was contributing to the team.

It costs 2-7 euros each time but it is worth the investment. As in a culture which is quite selfish, if you're willing to give part of your salary for your co-workers, it is a powerful and honest signal. You can't fake giving money for the team. Also, I choose what kind of cookies I bring. I think about what they would like. So it is a powerful signal of being a good teamplayer.


I'm not sure I get it right, what did you think you could have done better in the beginning?
Be kinder / more of a team-player / showing more eagerness to learn from others you mean?

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Hello @lucio,

I see your answer now. I would say now that what I should have done is ask more questions and not be so hell-bent on truth (science) but more on doing things as they do in the beginning. Also, to be more detached in the beginning to get warmer as I know people and as I can see who are the narcissists. So actually I should have been both more submissive regarding the way to do things and more assertive regarding my personal boundaries. I would say in the beginning the priority is to adapt to the rules, habits and traditions of the place.

Anyway, I came here to share 2 wins in assertiveness:

Story 1: As I talked with the male nurse, he gave me a good advice is that as soon as there is a problem, to talk about it with the other person. So I did that with my supervisor. On a nightshift, she tasked me with checking regularly on a patient and went to sleep as it's supposed to be. I came back 1.5 hour later and the nurse in charge told me that she just came by. So I was a bit shocked and thought it was a lack of trust. So yesterday I talked about it with her and she told me that she couldn't sleep because she was worried. Whatever it's the truth or not, I'm happy I confronted her. I also told her that I thought she was coming very early when I was not finished with my patients' evaluation. So I think it's a mix of both and she hast not told me the whole truth. She thinks I'm a beginner and she's right. She's afraid I will fuck up because of my level of experience and her own high level of neuroticism.

Story 2: I was with a nurse with a patient and his parent in the ER and the nurse proposed to do something. I said I thought it was not such a good idea because I thought this patient could throw up. Long story short, I decided not to insist because she proposed it in front of the mother and I would not have liked to have an open disagreement in front of her. So we went to a 3rd party as another experienced nurse (my supervisor was not to be seen) and she agreed with the other nurse. So we did as she proposed as people told me: "you don't want to have the nurses against you". Later on, the child vomited as I had predicted. So I talked with the nurse about how it was my responsibility (male nurse advice) and so on. I spoke in a soft and calm voice. She said that if I would have insisted she would have had agreed (but it would have been a fight for a small thing). I said this in front of the head nurse and I think he was uneasy because I spoke the truth. He kind of agreed with us both. I also said it was a common problem that nurses would do things in front of us and the patient and that after that I could not disagree anymore.  Anyway, long story short, I have one more assertive encounter under my belt.

Another victory:

The criticisms from the nurses team I learned indirectly from one of my allies among them is the following:

They thought I was not following protocols. So now I’m all about the protocols (and their jaw drops when they hear me talk about the protocols).

They thought I was arrogant. People mistake setting the bar high with arrogance. It has nothing to do with it.

Oh. And I had my final evaluation today and it was an excellent one. I owe you guys a lot for that as it has a lot to do with your advice to adapt my behavior.

Rock on, John!

It sounds like over these 6 months you have grown by leap and bounds and you managed to really make a good name for yourself in the organization.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I think you might be right. Thank you very much!

Hello guys,

here is today's bitter victory against the toxic nurses.

Context: there is a child in an emergency situation. So they're calling a doctor and I go right away. We start treating the child and the supervisor comes as they're always called in this kind of emergency because the head doctors are control freaks. So as I'm doing my evaluation my supervisor is making decisions because the nurses are turning to her for decisions instead of me. Anyway...

Assertion 1: I pull my supervisor aside and I tell her that during my evaluation I've been told that in these kind of emergencies I should tell the supervisor that I'm in control. That there is a parallel management of the situation and that she's shortcutting me. That I'm not emotional or hurt about it but that's what is happening. She says that she understands and that in the next team it will be different.

Assertion 2: the nurse is worried by the child some time later and she asks me to come. I come and I evaluate the child and I'm wondering if the things are going the right way. And behind my back. Actually really physically just behind me the nurse calls my supervisor. After that I talk to her and I say that I'm right next to her that if she thinks I should call my supervisor she should tell me. And she starts pretending that she was worried and she told me, which is false. I told her that she should tell me: "John I think you should call your supervisor" which she did not do. I think this is my mistake: I told her also that when she calls my supervisor when I'm in the room evaluating the patient, it makes me lose my confidence. That she should at least trust me to call my supervisor when things are going sideways. She said nothing and turned around. So I think I should not have been vulnerable with her but insisted on the collaboration. For instance: "it's better for the collaboration if you talk to me before calling my supervisor".

So I'm proud I asserted myself with calm. That's the key. That's why detachment, once again is such a powerful tool because it opens new horizons and access to new tools, such as assertion. I'm also sad because I see other residents who get along well with these nurses. So I have to let it go. I understand that it's the environment which is dysfunctional, not me. However, I take personally the lack of trust. I take it as a sign of not being competent, which is wrong. I knew what to do in this situation, I only had to do my evaluation but was prevented by the nasty group of nurses.

Here is how dysfunctional this environment is: this morning I went to a meeting and I could see what a mess the organization was. There was some very simple new procedures and nobody knew about them. People were doing things a certain way for a few years and the people two floors below did not even know about it. So I think for my standards, it's just a bad organization with bad management and leadership overall. It's an organization run by technicians, not by leaders or managers. At least not by good leaders nor good managers. They are good technicians and good politicians (chess players). I'll continue asserting myself with calm as I now see it's a very effective communication strategy in all endeavour. Now the next step is to do it with POWER and COLLABORATION FRAMES.

Also on the way back, the nurse was taking the same bus as me. I did not talk to her and did not sit next to her. So I understand you must not show your enemies that they hurt you. Do you think my behavior was adequate? Or should I have kept her closer?

Going by gut reaction, I think you did show your hurt to a degree, but that's okay, it's a learning experience. When I felt hurt by others too, taking the time to recognize and let go of whatever hurt was there, as well as why I felt hurt, helped a lot.

Reading over the setting, it sounds like a place where people are not only set in their ways, but those ways become almost religious in importance to them. They create a hierarchy based not only on seniority, but on degree of compliance and sacrifice to these ways. It's a mentality that can ensure cohesion, especially in a setting where traumatic events are an inevitable part of the field, but greatly reduces flexibility and adaptability. And of course people aren't put in on the know on the rules, both overt and covert, unless it's useful to do so for their own advancement.

Overall, it has potential if they could clean up their act, but I get the feeling they're not going to do that. I think you're made for so much more than this, to be honest. Your strong individual identity, drive for advancement, and keen logical mind all clash with the established order. You're well on the way to being an overall high-quality man, and this is a low-quality place. Learn from them, but don't let them drag you down!

In short, yes, you are surrounded by quite a few frenemies, and the humble, learner mindset you encourage will help you. Treat them like any predator, show no fear, detach as much as you can, access the situation, and either find a way out or a way to bring them down.