update from the reader who was yelled at for calling her coworker by her first name

Remember the letter-writer yesterday whose coworker yelled at her for calling her by her first name and insisted that she call her “Senior Staff Nurse Smith”?  She was engaging a wide range of bullying with our reader — telling her she looked dowdy, calling her “girl,” and more. Here’s the update:

After reading (the column yesterday), I went in for my eight-hour shift. I called Senior Staff Nurse Smith as she had requested, handled all of the patient charts that she dumped on my desk during my tea break, and then went to my supervisor during dinner break.

I informed her that I was feeling uncomfortable working with SSNS and that I would appreciate any advice she could give me on how to deal with my colleague’s behaviour. My supervisor was surprised by what I had experienced and, after talking to my fellow trainees, went to talk to the head doctor at our centre.

Twenty minutes later, Dr Jones came to see me personally and, after inviting me into his office for tea and a chat, informed me that he was pleased with the way I had handled my discomfort with SSNS. She is now no longer allowed to allocate paperwork to the trainees – her paperwork must now go to a fully trained administrator – and an e-mail was circulated informing all staff members that our company culture relies upon a smooth relationship between all departments and staff, and at the next staff meeting there will be a discussion on ways we can make sure everyone is kept reasonably happy despite the amount of stress placed upon everyone on-shift. I’m also told that Dr Jones has had a talk with SSNS, but my supervisor and I do not yet know if any further action will be taken against her.

I’m actually looking forward to my shift tomorrow! I love interacting with the patients and their family members, and I’m really enjoying the opportunity I’ve been given to learn as I work. This staff member’s behaviour was the biggest blot on my day, and I’m hoping that that has now been cleared away.

I can’t thank you enough, Alison, really. Oops, sorry! Senior Blogger Green, ma’am!

Me again. I want to point out that the OP used a very effective technique when she went to her manager — rather than complaining about Senior Staff Nurse Smith, she asked for advice about the situation. This is a really good way of bringing an issue to your manager’s attention without seeming to just dump a problem on her lap. (That’s not meant to say that there aren’t times when it’s appropriate to complain; there absolutely are … but this is a really effective way to broach something with your manager when you’re not sure how to do it.)

Update #2: I received this update the following week:

Another quick update – formal disciplinary action has been taken against SSNS. I’m told that, along with my colleagues’ talks with our supervisor, the head doctor believes that I’ve been a victim of workplace bullying. According to our company policy, this requires formal action as it is unacceptable. Obviously, I’m pleased that my concerns have been taken seriously in the management forum after such a short time here. I admit that one of my biggest fears had been that I’d be told to ‘suck it up’ and ‘take it like an adult’. That the head doctor has been taking an interest in me and my issues is encouraging.

{ 35 comments… read them below }

  1. Ivy*

    Thanks for the update OP! And way to go! You handled things quickly and beautifully… You’ve set up boundaries that will help you avoid these kinds of things in the future! :)

  2. Kris*

    Its good that your management worked to get this resolved so quickly. It sounds like it will be a good place to work.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yes! We hear about (and experience) so many poor managers, that it’s incredibly encouraging to read that your supervisors promptly acted on this so well.

  3. A Bug!*

    It’s good to hear that you’re getting the right support from the other staff there! It really does make so much difference.

    I’m glad for the update but hope that you provide another a little further down the road to see how it’s affected your relationship with this nurse long-term!

      1. Ann*

        Well, her major complaint was that she was corrected on what name to call her, and it’s good manners to wait to get permission to call people by their first names. Especially when you’re 18 and they are significantly older.

        I mean, it wasn’t nice of “Senior Staff Nurse” to correct her that way, but I don’t think it requires a major production, and that’s basically what it’s turning out to be.

        In course of your working life, it’s almost inevitable you’re not going to like everyone you work with. You’re not going to be liked by everyone you work with. I don’t think being corrected over a name-and that’s the only specific complaint she had (outside of being ironically called “dowdy”) is something to complain about.

        I’d probably be understanding if she’d given other specific examples, but I think the call me “senior staff nurse” was impolite but not take-it-to-the-supervisor rude. And the dowdy comment-well, that’s can be very context-specific and could’ve been said with an easily-misunderstood dry sense of humor, since they’re all wearing the same thing.

        You kind of have to suck up people not being sweetness and light all the time, and this is especially true in nursing, where you’re bound to see people in pain lashing out and at their very worst. You have to develop a thicker skin. It would’ve taken a lot for me to risk getting a reputation as a complainer one month into a new job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The way she corrected her and what she told her to call her was ridiculous. Plus, she yelled at her, insulted her appearance, and called her “girl.” Those things are all waaaayyyy over the line for any professional workplace. There’s a reason the OP’s bosses jumped on this.

          1. Ann*

            Well, clearly the nurse had felt she was being disrespected, and I don’t think that was extremely unreasonable: the OP is very young and it’s considered a sign of respect to address both your elders and people in higher positions-and Smith was both-as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or other title until given permission to do otherwise.

            I know I’m not the only one who waits for permission to do this.

            And I assumed when the OP said “shouted” that was simply hyperbole and just blowing the whole thing even more out of proportion. In my mind, OP showed the lack of respect first-which Smith responded to poorly-but OP didn’t acknowledge that calling someone by their first name could be seen as a lack of respect. And she still doesn’t seem to realize that it can be seen as such.

            I don’t like titles, I’m a first-name person, but I refrain from calling people in a professional setting by first names for quite a while unless given explicit permission.

            I’ll get off now; the horse is dead…

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              In a workplace where everyone in certain departments is on a first-name basis with each other, assuming you can call someone by their first name isn’t that offensive. But if the nurse didn’t like it, she could have corrected the OP politely. I think you’re reacting to the first-name concept, while not acknowledging the full context in the OP’s letter (where nothing indicates this nurse is acting as anything other than a spiteful bully).

            2. Jamie*

              I go by the rule of calling people the name I’m given at introduction until I’m told otherwise.

              What was weird about this – OTT rudeness from the Senior Staff Whatever aside is that not all work titles lend themselves to being actual titles of address.

              Professor and Doctor do. But if anyone ever addressed me as Chief Information Officer Keyboard-Monkey that would be completely bizarre unless I was standing on the bridge of the Enterprise.

              Although, back when I first made my last position I did try to get my husband to call me Madame Director. He was big into NCIS at the time and I thought it would fly…not so much.

              1. GeekChic*

                Now I so want someone to address me as “Senior Systems Admin Code Freak” in William Shatner’s voice (and patented over the top inflection).

            3. Anonymous*

              I’m getting the vibe that you have an issue with this OP being 18, and for that very reason, you think she exaggerates and is disrespectful.

              You don’t know the OP, and here, with the write-ins you have to take their word for it.

              Remember 18 is adult in this country with the exception of drinking alcohol. Therefore, we are talking about all adults in this situation.

        2. Student*

          It’s only “good manners” to wait for permission to call people by their first name if you are in a significantly subservient position (or a child – once you hit 18, you are an adult in this country).

          Where I work, you would be considered completely bizarre if you waited to call your co-workers by their first name until invited to do so. This includes addressing the highest levels of management as a relatively low-level employee. I’d be upset if a janitor acted so servile towards me, and they’re about as low on the totem pole as you can get around here.

  4. Jenn*

    Instead of assuming that the OP – or ANY OP – is “blowing things out of proportion”, why not give them the benefit of the doubt that what they’re saying/interpreting is accurate? Because really, you have no idea.

  5. Another Job Seeker*

    I don’t think that the OP overreacted at all. We don’t know the OP’s age, but if the OP is young – and “Senior Snob Nurse” decided that OP’s age was a reason to treat her differently, that is age discrimination. It is not protected by ADA, but it is still age discrimination.

    I see something else at play here, also. The OP did not allow this nurse to get away with disrespecting her – she addressed the OP’s attitude immediately. If the OP had not chosen to do so, it is likely that “Senior Snob Nurse” would have felt free to continue to disrespect the OP in that (and other) ways. OP, I’m happy for you. Rock on!

    1. Anonymous*

      Mrs. Senior Staff Nurse Smith was trying to see what she could get away with and got burned immediately. Bet she wasn’t expecting that!

  6. Anonymous*

    I also like the fact that you asked for advice from your manager rather than complain about your situation, which probably made it more likely for your supervisor to do something about it. The dr. did a good job in handling this too.

    Just out of curiosity, is this from the U.S…. because you mentioned “tea break.”

  7. Kelly*

    Good for the OP that her superiors addressed the situation head on instead of burying their heads in the sand. After reading this and based upon other experiences, I’m reminded of my uncle telling my rather assertive cousin “You may be bossy but you’re not the boss”. Granted, she was a teen at the time but he felt she needed to more respectful. My uncle is also not known for his tact either and that hasn’t changed at all She’s since turned into a responsible and mature young woman and has a good job.

    It’s a rather blunt way of addressing the issue of someone with no defined or official authority who thinks they have the right to boss other people around. They sometimes are the people who have been at a particular workplace the longest without moving up in role either by their own choice or not being chosen to move up. They also seem to be the type that thing that all the existing rules and policies of their workplace apply to others but only certain rules apply to them. Depending on how blunt you want to be, the terminology would range from long time employee, institution to sacred monster and dinosaur on the ruder end of the scale. I think that based on the OP’s description Senior Nurse Smith would be more accurately described with the less polite terms.

  8. Sara*

    From both letters, the OP comes across as a respectful teenager who has a sense of professionalism. Unfortunately I’ve known too many “young” people who behave terribly in jobs–screaming at coworkers, no call no show, openly defying the dress code/uniform etc, and it’s all explained away because they’re young.When I was 21, I may not have been the best employee but I was professional and didn’t act like a douche, and I’m no exception or think I’m better than everyone else. [/end soapbox rant]

    OP sounds like a respectful and level headed person….I hope she has a bright future ahead of her!

  9. Sonata*

    This was one of my favorite updates! Applause for the professionals who banded together to stop a potential bully! Congrats to the OP!

  10. OP - Laura*

    Thanks for all of the replies, everyone. It’s nice to see that you’re glad that things seem to be working out now.

    However, I don’t understand the concern that some posters are having with my age. Yes, I’m eighteen and I’m the youngest currently employed at the nursing home, but age shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I was taught that respect was earned, and I was more than prepared to give SSNS all the respect she deserved for her job – which she is very good at, even if she’s making it difficult for me to interact with her proficiently – but it is entirely unacceptable for her to talk down to me, especially if it is just because of my age.

    If I had been fifty and writing in to ask for advice because a much younger lady was treating me the same way SSNS has been, would you be so concerned about my age? I feel that it’s incredibly unfair for me to have to put up with that kind of behaviour simply because I’m eighteen and I’m supposedly meant to respect people who don’t give me the common courtesy of affording me the same respect in return.

    1. Job Seeker*

      Laura, Yes you do deserve respect. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect on a job. I am old enough to be your mother so I am going to share something with you. On my last job, a co-worker was young enough to be my daughter. She at first treated me terrible, very rude and downright mean. She had been employed there for a couple years and was very good at her job. I was re-entering the job market as a stay-at-home mom part-time. I was learning things all over again. I overlooked her behavior for a long time. Finally, I told her you need to stop talking to me this way. I explained that the respect she would show her mom she should show someone her mom’s age. I was referring to common courtesy and I was always polite and helpful to her. She got mad and pouted. It worked out in the end because I needed to remind her we were on a job and respect works both ways. I am sorry you have had to deal with this sort of thing at such a young age. I hope things get better.

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