You will face conflict at various points throughout your career. For some people, conflict can elicit feelings of fear and dread, and a desire to avoid the issue, but conflict is a normal part of relationships of all kinds. Learning to navigate conflict productively is a good life skill to have.
Employing a collaborative, problem-solving approach is key to effectively working with conflict. In conflict, we can employ active listening, empathy, and assertive communication skills to help work through problems. Viewing conflict as a learning opportunity can help to reframe the issue. Through conflict, we can learn more about others and ourselves, increase self-efficacy, and overcome obstacles. Relationships Australia has an excellent guide for how to address and resolve conflict. Check it out here: Managing Conflict in the Workplace (PDF).
Bullying goes beyond healthy conflict. According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, “everyone has the right to a workplace free from bullying”.
You may encounter bullying at work, but it can be hard to quantify what separates bullying from normal conflict. We encourage you to learn how Fair Work defines bullying, so you can use the information to empower yourself. Here’s what Fair Work has to say:
What is bullying?
Bullying happens at work when:
- a person or group of people repeatedly behave unreasonably towards another worker or group of workers
- the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.
Examples of bullying include:
- behaving aggressively towards others
- teasing or playing practical jokes
- pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
- excluding someone from work-related events
- unreasonable work demands.
Learn more at FairWork Australia.
Knowing the definition of bullying will empower you to take the right steps if you do become the target of bullying. Safe Work Australia offers this resource that will be helpful: Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying.
Addressing the behaviour as soon as possible is recommended. If you feel able to, responding to the bullying behaviour by speaking up and letting the person/s know how you are feeling can be a proactive and effective way to put a stop to bullying behaviour. If you do not feel safe or confident approaching the other person you can seek the support of a manager, human resources department, your health and safety representative or nursing union representative. They will provide you with information about how to address the matter further.
You can also check out these Nurse & Midwife Support resources:
Nursing and Midwifery Board Australia (NMBA) has a Code of conduct for Nurses and Code of Conduct for Midwives. The NMBA codes apply to all nurses and midwives in Australia, even if your employer also has a code of conduct. The codes describe the responsibility of all nurses and midwives in relation to prevention of bullying and harassment.