How do I handle this behavior?


I am the nursing supervisor for a nursing home. This last weekend I was on call and came into work to make sure everything was running smoothly. I walked into a mess.

Five of my seven aides were on break at the same time. There was an emergency with a patient and the other two aides were working with the two nurses, so the rest of the patients were unattended. I asked them to clock in and return to their prospective work stations.

I was met with resistance from one employee with whom I have had issues with before. She became irate, using foul language, raising her voice, slamming doors and yelling at employees of other departments. I sent her home for the day and I finished the shift in her place.

As she exited the facility she slammed a door open so hard that it ricocheted back at her. I went outside to talk to her and she refused to discuss her actions. I advised her that if she left the facility that she would be self-terminating. She chose not to discuss her actions.

This week at work my entire staff, as well as staff from other departments, are being very unprofessional toward me, acting as if I did something wrong. I have the full support of my supervisor as well as her supervisor. I feel I acted professionally and appropriately, but I'm not sure how to handle the unprofessional conduct from the staff. I am very frustrated.

Kathy, Maine, USA

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Penny de Valk's Answer:

It sounds as though the 'issues' you had before with that employee were unresolved and might explain her somewhat extreme reaction to what sounds like a reasonable request.

Perhaps she also shared her version of previous events with her colleagues. You therefore need to address this issue with your staff to understand what the real reason is behind their behaviour towards you and what behaviour of yours they have taken exception to.

Is there a staff meeting forum where you could raise the issue of what their problems are as you have noticed a deterioration in atmosphere since X's departure? They may tell you directly about things you could take quite personally, so try just to listen and not defend yourself.

If you get stone-walled ask why they think X is no longer there, they may tell you a version quite different to yours. Then you have an opportunity without any personal references to explain that there are standards of professional behaviour around patient care and between staff that cant be compromised and that is the only issue you had with X.

Don't get drawn into 'he said, she said'. Keep referring to professional standards of behaviour and ask them if they think they are fair and reasonable and whether it is unreasonable to expect everyone to manage their behaviour accordingly.

This may unearth misunderstandings that you will be able to help clarify and it may also unearth behaviours of your own which are having an effect on their motivation and goodwill that you might need to moderate.


About our Expert

Penny de Valk
Penny de Valk

Penny de Valk is the Chief Executive of the UK-based Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), the largest qualification-awarding and professional membership body in Europe for managers.