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Disruptive Behavior

Healthcare organizations are learning that disruptive behavior hurts morale, lowers productivity and affects patient safety and satisfaction. So much so that the Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Level Alert outlining standards by which healthcare management must respond to these behaviors that undermine a culture of safety.

Here are some tips to help get your training off the ground.

  1. Identify the Problem
    • Disruptive behaviors can be obvious, such as yelling at co-workers, being condescending, rolling eyes in disgust, criticizing co-workers in front of patients or other staff, throwing objects, making offensive comments, etc.
    • Disruptive behaviors can also be subtle, such as withholding information, purposely delaying a response to a co-worker's call or request, refusing to help someone or belittling someone who asks for help, not applying the same performance standards to all co-workers, setting someone up to fail, giving someone the silent treatment, etc.
  2. Support Each Other
    • Greet co-workers. By acknowledging their presence, you help people feel like a part of the team.
    • Learn your co-workers' names and use them, including temporary workers.
    • Treat everyone with respect – in person and in phone interactions.
    • Help others to learn. Be patient when co-workers ask questions.
    • When you think it's necessary to comment on a co-worker's actions, approach them in private, focus on the behavior, not the person, and make sure your comments are constructive.
    • Try to find an ally. Having even one person to bond with can lower your stress.
  3. Confront Disruptive Behavior
    • If you are uncomfortable confronting the person by yourself, ask a trusted co-worker to come with you, but request that your co-worker stay neutral.
    • Describe the disruptive behavior in a neutral, calm tone of voice. If necessary, you may need to wait until you are more composed to do this.
    • Tell the person how the behavior affected you and your work – you are not asking for empathy, you just want them to understand the impact of their behavior.
    • If the person seems rational and calm, listen to their point of view to find out if they have a valid point. If they do, acknowledge it, and then re-state that you want the disruptive behavior to stop.
    • If the person starts to verbally attack you or engages in any other intimidating behavior, ask the individual to stop. If they continue, excuse yourself and discuss the matter with your supervisor.
    • If your supervisor is the disruptor, speak to the person above your supervisor or someone in Human Resources.
    • Document any incidents of disruptive behavior. Include the following information: date, time, details, witnesses and effects on patients or co-workers.

Taken from the "Disruptive Behavior: Too Great a Cost" training program, part of the DuPont Sustainable Solutions healthcare training curriculum. Watch a free full-length preview.