Any nurse who has been rejected by a nurse clique or has been the victim of another nurse’s malicious gossip wonders, “Weren’t we all supposed to grow out of this?”

Unfortunately, no.

According to one study, 38 percent of working adults have experienced bullying at work and 42 percent have witnessed bullying behavior. And while most workplace bullies are men, women can be bullies, too: 40 percent of all workplace bullies are female, according to the “Workplace Bullying Institute.”

What exactly is workplace bullying? For the most part, you can rely on the old adage “I know it when I see it.” If you prefer something more concrete, try this definition: “any vexatious behavior in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that result in a harmful work environment for the employee” (Canada Safety Council, 2005).

If a fellow nurse is bullying you, refuse to stoop to her level. Don’t answer her rude or unfounded allegations; she’s just trying to get a rise out of you, and if you respond, she wins. Instead, hold your head high and continue to do your job as competently and professionally as ever. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should simply ignore the bully. If you can, confront the bully in a professional manner. Don’t scream, yell or cry; simply call her on her behavior and tell her you will not tolerate it anymore.

Start a file and document your interactions with the nurse bully. You may need this material later to provide evidence of hostility over time. Keep your statements as objective as possible: who, what, where and when. Include quotes whenever possible.

Report the bullying behavior to your nurse manager as well. She needs to know what’s going on, and ideally will take steps to stop the behavior. If not, you may need to progress up the chain of command.

It’s also important to seek support. Talk to a trusted coworker, friend or spouse, and find a way to release some of the stress you may feel as a result of the bullying. Whatever you do, don’t let the bully get the best of you. You’re better than that.