The Case of the Territorial Tyrant
When a nurse lays claim to a particular chair or piece of equipment
Every nurse who’d been on the mother/baby unit for more than a few weeks knew that their colleague Gretchen was extremely territorial: She had HER chair, HER computer and HER med cart. Not even the physicians dared sit in Gretchen’s chair or use her computer if she was working.
One night, one of the newer nurses, Kali, used Gretchen’s computer to do some documentation, since the other computer wasn’t working. Another nurse walked by and warned Kali, “You had better not let Gretchen see you sitting in her chair.” Kali ignored the warning.
Ten minutes later, Gretchen returned and demanded that Kali get out of her chair. Kali protested that she just needed a moment to finish her admission assessment. Gretchen refused to relent, raising her voice and finally throwing a cup of water at Kali.
A Hex on the Chair
Whenever I conduct workshops on the topic of bullying and incivility in the workplace, few examples produce as many nodding heads or lively sidebar conversations as the story about Gretchen. (It’s a true story, although I’ve changed the names.)
I think we can all recall someone at work who’s exhibited such territorial tendencies (although hopefully not as extreme as in this example!). Sometimes, it’s not another nurse, but a unit secretary who fiercely guards HER phone, HER stapler and HER pens. However, when we step back and think about it, it’s usually quite ridiculous.