In the opening address at Nursing Management Congress 2012, Sharon Cox presented ways that managers can “add value in a time of volatility.” While this was a conference geared toward nurse managers and other administrators and executives, her words and ideas are applicable to us all, both as nurses and as human beings.

One thing that she said (it’s on my list of favorite quotes from the conference) was “We teach people how to treat us.” While looking back at my notes, I found these words in all capitals and circled several times. This was a powerful statement!

Think about it. Do you have colleagues who aren’t true “team players?” Any bullying go on in the unit where you work? Are some nurses bullied more that others? Why?

You can ask yourself similar questions about any relationships, not just in the workplace. If we allow ourselves to be treated poorly, people will continue to do so. I agree with this statement by Sharon Cox because by allowing others to treat us with disrespect, it’s as if we are condoning that behavior.

So what is the solution? In my mind, the trick is to be “respectfully assertive,” that is, stand up for ourselves without being aggressive or becoming defensive. This is one of those things that is often “easier said than done,” but by being aware of how we receive and react to certain behaviors and making any necessary changes on our own end, perhaps we can make a difference.