Do you feel left out at work? The rest of the nursing staff get along, but you seem to be on the outside of the group. You know something is wrong, but everyone you have approached denies any problems with you. Here are four steps to figure out what the problem is and solve it.
1. Get help from your manager
When I started working at an occupational health office, the nurse practitioner I was replacing oriented me. A few weeks after she left, I noticed the rest of the office staff seemed to be avoiding me. They stopped talking when I approached them. They responded to my questions or requests with curt answers. I thought I saw one of them roll their eyes as I left the room. No one I talked to would tell me what was wrong. I explained what was happening to the practice manager. She did not know, but agreed to hold a staff meeting to talk about what was going on.
2. If you expect them to be honest with you, be honest with them.
When we met, the cold, unsmiling faces of the office staff surrounded me. I shared my feeling that something was not right between me and them. At first they denied any problems. I didn’t believe them. I expressed doubt that everything was fine and described their behavior towards me.
Finally the office receptionist said, “The problem is, You are a witch.”
3. Avoid getting defensive. Ask questions to understand the problem.
“Wow,” I thought. “She really hates me. I have no idea why.”
I was so surprised at her answer, I did not have time to get defensive or feel badly. I said the first thing that came to my mind.
“What makes you say that?” I asked.
“Because you sit in your office and don’t help Sara (the office LPN) when she needs it.” she explained.
3. Help the group solve the problem
I was beginning to understand. I turned to Sara, “I didn’t know you felt this way. Why didn’t you talk with me?”
“Because I thought you knew you needed to help me. That’s what the previous nurse practitioner did. I assumed she told you that when she oriented you to the job.” Sara answered.
“No, she didn’t.” I said. “I didn’t know that was the expectation. At my last job I was told not to help the other staff but to put all my energy and time into seeing patients. When you need help, tell me and I’ll do what I can to help you.”
I could see the faces of the office staff soften as they understood what had happened. They realized that Sara and I had a misunderstanding. She made an assumption that I knew what her expectations of me were. Then, instead of talking with me, she went to the other staff in the office. Working with this LPN for years, they took her side against the newcomer- me. The woman who called me a witch apologized. From then on, everyone in the office got along.
I learned from this experience that it is better to talk directly to the person when there is a problem instead of making assumptions and talking behind their back. If you are in a similar situation, follow these four steps to get to the root of the problem and solve it. You may not become best friends with the rest of the staff, but you may end up creating a more positive work environment.