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On my unit, I am beginning to notice some hostility between nurses, and was wondering what effect this behavior will have on the rest of the staff if the issue is not addressed immediately?

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The terms lateral violence and horizontal hostility are used to portray aggressive behavior between individuals on the same power level, such as nurse-to-nurse and manager-to-manager. Research on anger, aggression, bullying, and verbal abuse is relevant because these behaviors are all ways in which hostility expresses itself.

The effects of a hostile work environment cannot be minimized. Research shows that verbal abuse significantly affects the work environment by decreasing morale, increasing job dissatisfaction, and creating hostility. Bullied staff report a decreased sense of relaxation and well-being at work, increased mistrust, low self-esteem, and lack of support from both staff and superiors ).

Victims of horizontal hostility experience a wide range of emotional, social, psychological, and physical consequences.

From an organizational standpoint, horizontal hostility creates such an environment by producing feelings of inferiority, anger, powerlessness, and frustration, which are counterproductive when working in a group. When horizontal hostility enters the picture, it detrimentally affects the environment by producing a host of physical ailments that result in a loss of time from work and reduced productivity while at work. These responses affect not only the organization's bottom line but also the efficiency of the entire facility.

Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, RC, MN

(February 2010)