The number one reason people leave their jobs is because of poor interpersonal relationships. The culprit most often cited is the boss and running a close second is a toxic co-worker (Heathfield, 2018). Harter (2018) reported for Gallup that the culprit reigns over the work environment, wielding their power with dysfunctional and counterproductive behaviors that often render the work group ineffective at best, miserable, disengaged, and stressed at worst. Often these behaviors go unchecked by senior leadership, peers, and colleagues. Unfortunately, failure to address these behaviors lead employees to become unhappy, disengaged, and pursuing work elsewhere (Harter, 2018). People cite workplace bullying, harassment, lack of respect, and invasion of privacy as their motivation to leave their job.

Toxic behaviors left unchecked strip people of their dignity and create a sense of powerlessness. Bartholomew (2015) explained over time the consequences of working under this level of stress leads to physical, emotional, social, and psychological issues ranging from depression and PTSD, anger, irritability, strained relationships with friends and family, and decreased immune responses, cardia arrhythmias, and hypertension to name a few.

As a consultant, It has been my experience that the data collected by Gallup is spot-on; because, the bulk of the referrals I get are from leaders reaching out to me over concerns of high absenteeism and they cannot keep employees or there is evidence of incivility and disruptive behavior in the workplace. This level of disruption and dysfunction prevents people from working together effectively towards a common goal or outcome; ultimately, impacting the organizations bottom line.

What can you do to combat this issue?

  • Speak up;
  • Support zero tolerance;
  • Acknowledge the problem;
  • Treat everyone with respect;
  • Treat everyone fairly;
  • Participate in educational events;
  • Communicate clearly and openly
  • Respect boundaries and remain neutral if colleagues are at odds
  • Accountability—stop the gossip, role model professional behavior, confront the behavior without being aggressive
  • Follow the American Nurses Association’s Position Statement
  • Work toward creating a friendly environment

Work relationships based on mutual trust and respect lead to a healthy work environment that helps us to deal with the inevitable stress that arises in daily work. Nursing is hard enough without adding having to deal with difficult colleagues as part of everyday work life. You can create the culture you want by working together to establish a ‘collective norm’. You can do this by deciding where you want to go as a team.

Be kind to each other and build each other up.

Dr. Denise



Bartholomew, K. (2015). Team-building handbook: Improving nurses-to-nurse relationships.

Danvers, MS. HCPro

Harter, J. (2018). Dismal employee engagement is a sign of global mismanagement [Gallup

October 26, 2018]. Gallup mimanagement.apx

Heathfield, S. M. (2018). Top 10 reasons why employees quit their jobs [Blog].