A few weeks ago I was speaking with a young woman who is an energetic and dedicated advocate of the patient experience who shared something that really bothered me. “Katie” described some of the toxic comments made by her boss. She confided that she was very torn about whether or not she should leave her job and the organization. She loves her patient experience work, but feels bullied by the very person who was supposed to be her leader.
Knowing Katie is a great asset to her hospital and the entire organization, I encouraged her to talk with her boss to see if they could come to an understanding. It turns out that she has tried on several occasions. Each attempt only made her manager lash out even more. Now mind you, I’m all for following the chain of command, but in situations where I see bullying from a bad apple (which this was) I encourage moving up the chain. Otherwise, the organization will lose a valuable employee and has no opportunity to correct the situation.
I reminded Katie that her organization has a zero tolerance policy. She chuckled and recapped her two attempts to speak with the VP over the department. In both cases, the VP said, “I know she (manager) can be difficult and downright rude, but until she does something wrong, I can’t take action.” Wait. Did I hear that correctly? If being difficult and rude to co-workers isn’t wrong, then it must be okay behavior in that culture. This is exactly the type of discussion that speaks volumes about the culture. What you permit, you promote. In this situation it was a clear case of avoidance behavior. The VP didn’t want to deal with it. Unfortunately, this may mean that the healthiest thing for Katie to do is to leave the organization in search of one with a more desirable culture.
Does zero tolerance apply to everyone? It may be time to take an honest look around and see if you’re tolerating too much.