For a CNA, working with other caregivers you can trust and depend upon can make a bad shift tolerable and a good shift even better. In an environment where workers often feel like they’re under siege, maintaining a positive relationship with the people you work with can take the edge off the worst aspects of the job and can provide a sense of security and comradery. It is not unusual for caregivers who work with one another for an extended period of time to develop close personal relationships, sometimes lasting a lifetime.
But it’s not always that way. Right?
You don’t have to work direct care very long to realize that caregivers do not always get along. A brief survey of caregiver related social media will support this. One of the most common rants in the CNA Facebook groups is about other coworkers. These describe fellow workers as “lazy, whiners, cliquish, back-stabbers, know-it-alls, butt-kissers, bullies, wimps, rude, inconsiderate, uncooperative, mean,” and – of course – “judgmental.”
To be sure, social media rants tend to be motivated by the emotion of the moment and they only tell one side of the story. Also, some of the discord among caregivers can be attributed to the ordinary conflict that occurs in any workplace. There are politics in every organization and at every level. Personalities clash, agendas conflict and sometimes people with good intentions simply don’t agree.
And yet, there just seems to be something about the nature of Long Term Care that makes worker on worker conflict especially prevalent – and harmful. Almost as if it’s woven into the very fabric of the system itself.
I’ve often thought that the LTC brand of coworker friction was a product of the nature of our work. Since we work hands-on with residents, almost everything we – or don’t do – has a direct impact on the well-being of another human being. The moral element is immediate and powerful and when someone implies that you’re not doing your job, it doesn’t just mean they’re calling you a bad worker; they are also saying something about you as a person. Even the slightest hint of criticism can be taken as a personal attack. On the other hand, LTC management is often disconnected from the day to day realities of caregivers and workers in genuine need of correction do not always receive it. The injustice and unresolved resentment grind on people daily and sooner or later, there’s going to be trouble.
However, there may be much more to caregiver vs. caregiver conflict than hyper-defensive workers and disengaged management. I recently received a request from a reader who asked if we could do a post on “horizontal violence.” Not being entirely certain what that phrase means, I did a little research. What I found was pretty interesting and may provide some additional insight to why caregivers don’t always get along. In my next post, I’ll give a brief summary of horizontal violence and how I think it applies to the LTC workplace.