Sunday, 20 May 2018

Moving Forward - the Law of Attraction



"If you build it, he will come."

Famous, and oft misquoted, line from the classic 'Field of Dreams'.

And that is what I going to mention today. Not that actual line, but the meaning behind it.

How does any of this relate to bullying I hear you cry... all three of you who follow my blog!

Well, I'll tell ya. 

Law of Attraction.

Never heard of it? 

Heard of it and think it's a load of bobbins?

I fell into the latter. All part of my negative view of all of life until I accepted I was suffering from a mental health problem. And again, I will say compared to many, many, so many people, my problems are minor. I absolutely acknowledge that.

But, it is relative and it being remiss of me to discuss others individual’s issues, I can only relate to my own.

So, once again, you say "What does this have to do with bullying, what you blogged about and what you are doing about it?"

Well, it has to do with you get what you give and deserve.

More technically, the law of attraction is a simple principle that works on the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. 


Jump off the sofa, you'll fall. Water your plants, they'll grow.


You don't have to believe in gravity; whether you believe in it or not, you will still fall off your sofa if you jump. Your belief will only allow you to predict what will happen. 


Look at this another way. Your relationship breaks up; wife, girlfriend, boyfriend - and you are sad, devastated, melancholy. Suddenly, everywhere you seem to go, you hear sad songs on the radio, notice sad films on television and think it is a global conspiracy.


But those songs were always playing, and those films were always on. They haven't just done it to mess with you. Your mind just wasn't attuned to noticing them because, mentally and spiritually, you weren't in a place where they would affect you emotionally. 


Like attracts like. Like migrates towards like.


This is true in life - in my humble opinion - and is true with bullying and those who bully.


Someone I once worked with had a long period of time off due to mental health problems. I visited them on a few occasions and would regular message or call them to make certain they were okay, see if they needed anything, but it was heart-breaking to see someone who had been your mentor and who you had worked with for so long in so much pain. 


I didn't know enough then on how to deal with it, as I was trying to understand my own car crash of a brain, but I did my best and just wanted them to know that people did care for them and just wanted them to know they were loved and missed.

My manager at the time would go to see them, making everyone think they were doing it because they cared. 

I like to believe they did.

However, when that person returned to work, my manager was not happy at all.

My colleague had come back on the standard reduced hours as instructed by Occupation Health, various mechanisms in place, technical and emotional, to try and make their reintegration as painless as possible.

All this time, my manager had a plan to line-manage this person out of my place of work.

The conscientious was that they were useless, wouldn't be able to pull through and provide a useful contribution to the workplace, mean and unsupportive thoughts from someone who purported to be supportive of mental health. Other individuals had their say too, believing I was devoting too much time helping them, but it was the right thing to do. Humanity is humanity. You do things because they are the right thing to do, not because you should or have too.

I argue that it was wrong and, given time and support, they would prove not only were they as great as they had been at their job, they would be better. Having a plan to line manage someone out of their job was underhand and deceitful.

They agreed and, as far as I know, this person has gone on to be not only the person they were but better.

I found out later and throughout the course of my suspension that pretty much no one likes this former manager. I mean, really don't like. The amount of staff, current and former who contacted me to say "Why weren't you surprised so-and-so did this to you? They are renowned for it."

Moving forward in time, the main antagonist and instigator of my whole situation were known as 'the miserable xxxxx' on many of the wards (I only found this out much later).

But do you know how that made me feel? Sad.

Sad because you reap what you sow. You behave a certain way and a reputation is created for you, one that sticks. And that goes full circle back to the problem of bullying in the NHS.

I always try to be honest about my failings. Christ, I have made so many mistakes in my 43 years (baby/toddler ones notwithstanding!) that I wouldn't know where to start.

I used to be accused of being manipulative in certain situations. But manipulative is a word used by those who are ignorant of mental health situations. 

Now, don't misunderstand me. there exists in the world, many people who have this trait on purpose for nefarious means. 

Mariana Fotaki (2018) said that narcissism is increasingly being observed among management and political elites and that productive narcissists are often dangerous as they are divorced from the consequences of their judgements and actions, striving at any cost to avoid their own painful realisations of failure that could tarnish their own image (Narcissistic elites are undermining the institutions created to promote public interest. British Politics and Policy)

But, as I discussed in a previous piece, people who suffer from anxiety sometimes can come across as manipulative, not because they want power, but because, in order to alleviate their own anxieties, they need to try and control the world around them to limit as many vectors as possible that could trigger their fears.

Selfish? 

Absolutely. It is selfish. Mental health issues often are, because you are only concerned about you. The sad side effect is, whilst you are busy trying to control everything to make you less anxious, your behaviours that do so are making other people anxious.

Ironic, eh?

The trick and the thing I found so difficult at first is to appreciate this is what you are doing. Not intentionally, but tacitly you are having a negative impact on those around you as you try to make your little world safe and free of fears.

Admitting you are selfish is so hard to do, but it is a first step in facing your problems. 

And this comes back to the law of attraction.

When I decided I wanted to become a writer, I make a promise to myself that I would not fail. No matter how long it took, I would be a published author.

65 literary agent rejections later, I succeeded.

If you believe something and get in tune with it, it starts to happen for you.

You don't have to understand how it works, any more than you have to understand how gravity works, you just have to appreciate that it does.

In psychology, it is called your locus of control. Calling it the law of attraction doesn't make it magically, just less technical.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a perfect example. From Austria, thick accent and skinny, he said he wanted to become a bodybuilder, win Mr Universe and become an actor.

Everyone scoffed and said, "With a name like that that you can't pronounce, no one is going to see your films.' 'You're too skinny, you'll never win Mr Universe.'

We all know the rest. Why did he do it? Because he was determined to do so.

Believe you can do a thing and opportunities will open up for you because you are striving for them and wish them to.

It isn't magic if I say to myself I want to get ripped then I will make certain I do. So, I go to the gym, eat healthily, train hard with the correct exercises and, hey presto, I'm ripped! (I'm not. Fatter, bulkier - not ripped but you get my drift!).

Kelly and I inherited an amazing publishing house from the amazing Murielle Maupoint, alongside all the talented authors who came with it. We will make it a success, for them and for us, because we believe it. It is already getting there and has a ways to go, but we are determined to make it work for everyone. 

I know it will happen... one day.

Sitting at home, dreaming won't do it, you have to decide to attain it. And once you have made that decision, you can if you stay the course.

Magic not included.

It's the same with bullies. Bullying attracts bullying because they see likeminded individuals with the same sensibility.

When we’re dealing with adult bullying situations, and this has always been my thoughts on the circumstances of my situation, the bully almost always suffers from some sort of feeling of inadequacy and they’re afraid that their shortcomings are going to be “found out”. 

The person being bullied is usually someone very competent and capable, but who inwardly may question their abilities or who is desperately afraid of losing their job for whatever reason.
These energies then align to form a situation where the bully feels threatened by this very capable person who could make her look bad, so the bully flips into attack mode to try and make herself feel better by making the other person feel worse. The focal point of their angst, who is already giving out the energy of worry or fear, finds themselves in yet another situation where they are forced to feel those feelings even more.

Before I even acknowledged my issues, I have previously mentioned I had quite a nihilistic outlook on life. No reflection on my ability to do my job - I adored my job, ward-based, otherwise and beyond and particularly adored my previous post. No, this outlook on life, in my humble opinion, made my ultimate antagonist feel secure because it kind of reflected her own attitude to things.
If a situation is to change, the individual has to shift the vibration they’re in before the outside circumstances can shift. And since the bully generally has less incentive and less insight into this problem, it’s almost always others that are left to do the energy work and make the changes. But that’s OK – because the one who understands how this stuff works and puts it to use will be able to use it to their benefit in every other aspect of their life, too.

And that is what I am trying, every day, to do. Understand my own mental health, be a better person, a better friend, husband and father, use my experience of my failings and my experiences to help others, to show that everything can and will be okay if you only believe it will be and strive for it. 

Is it easy? Hell, no. and no doubt this piece will have its fair share of detractors. But that is okay too. 

I have been honest about the things I did wrong at work. I deserved to be told off, remonstrated with, sanctioned, whatever word you wish to use. 

But being dismissed because I challenged a bully and raised concerns about bullying in my place of employment - that wasn't the right way to handle it.

Anyone who decides that the best way to deal with the truth is to try and stop it being told, speaks volumes about those trying to cover it up.

Anyone who thinks that karma isn't a bitch is deluding themselves.

The bill always comes due. Always.

Three things cannot remain hidden forever - the sun, the moon and the truth.

So, make your decision on what you want. I wanted to ensure my voice was heard so others could be encouraged to come forward and share their experiences.

They have.

Make certain you strive for it without hurting others. I hurt my wife and children before I accepted I had a problem with my mental health. I was a pain to work with (often I imagine!) because I refused to accept I had a problem with my mental health (remember that anxiety controlling thing I mentioned earlier?). But like a radio station, I had two competing signals coming in and chose to tune the other one out.

It's difficult to free yourself from doubt and fear and you will try an combat it, but be resolute on what you want, for yourself and others.

And this is where opening up to the possibilities comes in, as you can only do that if you accept your fears and doubts. Remember back to negative things that happened in your life and try and see patterns that led to those things. On the flip side, think of the great things in your life and hope you dreamed, hoped and aspired for them and they came into your life.

It's not being boastful. It's acknowledging that positive thinking makes you do positive things that lead to more positive things and so on and so forth.

Then, finally, experience the reality of your desires and by that, I mean, let go of inhibitions and live what you want as much as possible. Get in your car and say out loud, "I will find that perfect parking spot today, just right for me!"

You will somewhere great to park.

If you wish to lose weight, buy clothes that are the size you wish to be, and you can find a focal point for your desires to lose weight.

Align life with your desires. Be nice and people will be nice in return.

Smile and people smile back, right? Same principle on a small scale.

It won't happen overnight (it took me five years to finish Hellbound!). We all have our own hurdles to overcome, and fear and doubt will start to creep back in but go back to the beginning and look at why and start again. Make it your mantra until it becomes a reality.

It's difficult to get into that mindset, and I wouldn't wish my experiences on anyone for them to get to this place. 

All I can offer is my gratitude, forever, to everyone who has stood by me all this time. I can never truly express what you mean to mean... you know who you are.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out so far and shared their painful stories, whether trust board members, nurses, domestics, porters, healthcare assistants, physiotherapists, radiologists and so many more - I will make you proud and your honesty worthwhile.

I will spend every day making your belief and support for me worth your effort.

I promise.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Prevalent, ignored and therefore, condoned - Bullying and the NHS Afterword

I was reflecting on a few things over this past week.

I have received so much support, kind words and belief in what I am trying to do, it is quite overwhelming. But, more importantly, I have had shared with me so many stories and experiences of bullying in the NHS; others institutions to be sure, but mostly the NHS.

To those who have already come forward and those who are yet to do so, thank you. Truly, thank you.

However, the reason for this piece is related to something I heard numerous times yesterday and relates more to my advocacy of mental health.

I heard, once again, the only example that has ever been mentioned about my behaviour throughout the entirety of my suspension and beyond. No evidence has ever been presented, no notes were ever made, no one else was ever aware and its retelling was infused with creative storytelling.

However, it reinforced something I have long believed and now feel even more strongly for.

So few, if anyone, in the NHS, particularly in my experience, understands mental health.

As an adult and child of the world, you are brought up to be responsible for your own behaviour. That is without question. If you speak a certain way, behave a certain way, do certain things... you have to be accountable and responsible.

That is something I have always tried to live by and try to instil in my children. Making mistakes is one thing; owning up to them is another and something that we must all be prepared and comfortable to do.

However, and this is where the 'not understanding' mental health aspect comes into play, the fact is that many people who suffer from anxiety, depression or a variation and combination thereof, display certain behaviours because of their mental health.

Using myself as an example as I cannot speak for others, for more than twenty years, I had built up a suit of armour for want of a better word, to protect myself. Though my experiences growing up with my father, bullying at school etc, are in no way comparable or even anywhere some of the horrors some children suffer on a daily basis, it is all relative.

This 'suit' was designed by me and honed over years to stop me from ever feeling hurt again - both physically and mentally. Moreso the latter.

This is all well and good, choosing not to feel as opposed to not feeling, seemed an easier path for me to take. I could still, in those dark moments at night when there is only you and your thoughts, tap into those feelings of love, loss, guilt, longing, but they were compartmentalised enough that they wouldn't interfere with the day-to-day running of my brain.

However, such insulation from emotions comes with a price. My mind steadily began to feel like a lump of clay; solid and immovable. I always felt tense and wound up to the point of unravelling. My therapist used to say "imagine a jug of water. You should wake up with it empty and experiences throughout your day fill it slowly. It would take a great event to cause it to overflow and spill over the top. You wake up with a jug already full, so it only takes someone to slightly to it up before it spills over the side and all Hell breaks loose in your head."

Now when I wake up, my jug is pretty much empty. A few dregs in the bottom perhaps, but mostly, nada, zilch, zero liquid in my mental jug.

But back to that price when you create a suit of armour. Mental health and, in particular, anxiety, is all based on control. You need to control as much as you can in your little world so you don't become anxious. And therein lies the rub as Shakespeare would have said.

These controlling behaviours - manipulative if you wish - do not come from anywhere evil, or hateful, or negative - they come from somewhere where you are trying to keep yourself alive and mentally stable in a world that affords little in that department. You need things to remain as within your circle of influence as possible, otherwise, you will become anxious, and all emotions associated with it.

If it sounds selfish, it 100% is! You want things to be your way, as they make you feel less anxious and thereby, better. However, and this is the terrible part, you are not consciously aware of the effects that has on other people.

To be honest, in that place, you are not bothered. Again, not because you don't care, but because you have chosen not to care. This is certainly where my place of employment struggle to understand mental health, something made evident yesterday.

Of course, when you are seeking help, have realised you need help (as we know, the hardest part of all), are medicated... whatever path you have chosen (and there is no wrong one; whatever works for you), you have a huge readjustment period where everything old is new again.

I had all these emotions I had locked away for years, slowly manifesting themselves. And I had no idea what to do with them!

I was accused of behaving erratically. Well, I probably was! But is that something you should be punished for when others are aware you are struggling? Should we not offer those individuals support?

I wasn't offered anything of the sort. After the initial intervention which I mentioned in a previous piece, I was simply thrown under the bus as no one understood, wanted to understand, could be bothered to understand and so on and so forth.

Should I still have been considered not suitable for my current position? Perhaps. Not my banding, but my role. I made no secret that I struggled with it and perhaps it wasn't for me. Leading people? I bearly understood myself, so how could I be expected to understand others. But when everyone one around you is telling you what a good job you are doing, you have made such a difference, you are the best person for the job, you begin to take their word for it. It provides you with a false reassurance that you are doing okay. I would have had more respect if someone had pulled me aside and said I wasn't, perhaps, the right choice for the job. That would have been professional.

You have worked with most of these people for ten years; they all know you inside and out in some cases, but no one, when it is claimed you behaved 'erratically' offered you help or support. they just concocted false accusations and lied about you in order to make themselves feel better.

In addition, people cut side deals to make statements with the assurance I would never get to see them.

That's right.

I was dismissed based on statements that I have never seen because individuals said they would only give them if I never saw them.

Makes you wonder what they said that they didn't want me to see.

Makes you wonder what they were thinking or what kind of a representative of humanity they wish to present themselves as?

That is known to them and them alone.

In the end, they did what they did to control their own anxieties, guilt and potential failures as a manager, as a friend, as colleagues... as a human being.

And everything comes full circle.

I heard yesterday only ignorance from two individuals. And the sad thing is, they don't even know they are ignorant.

I was ignorant once about mental health. I fought for twenty years against the acceptance. Someone who I respected and cared about so much as a friend and who threw me under the bus in 2016, saved my life by showing me the way.

I am learning to be a better person. I want to be because I want to help others. I can do better and apply what I have learnt and experienced in other circumstances and arenas and, maybe, be some help to someone else.

Those who stood by me saw me. The others needed to look with better eyes. Because if what they think they saw is all they saw, then they didn't see me.

They couldn't see me.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Prevalent, ignored and therefore, condoned - Bullying and the NHS Part 7

"And now, the end is near. And so we face the final curtain."

Never were a truer word spoken, Frank.

I have, over the course of this blog series, summarised elements of my experience. The whole thing took more than a year to come to a resolution and you would have been bored to tears (if you're not already!) with every, small detail.

But I have been honest about my mistakes, though that is not what it has been about. Yes, I told a joke that a senior member of staff shouldn't have told/displayed and I breached a policy I was told to adhere to, though in my defence I didn't actually know I was breaching it at the time but accepted my punishment - it was only right.

I do not wish anyone who has read this to go away thinking I hate or have resentment towards my former colleagues and friends who orchestrated this situation. I will never know why my friend and colleague and second at work decided to destroy my career, though I suspect it was because I called her on her bullying behaviour. I do not, for one second, believe this is what she intended nor had in mind. I don't think anyone could have foreseen what would happen.

I do not know why someone would accuse you of bullying them for ten years, yet have not a single piece of evidence to back it up; not an email, letter, journal or record of times and dates of incidents, records of telephone conversations of any record of having made a complaint, informal or otherwise.

I do not know why my presentation of evidence that said the opposite was ignored.  I illustrated that we spoke frequently via text, were two of a team of people who, at one time, regularly went out together, that she had held my infant son when he was two hours old, who used to take him off me when I visited work and would take off his shoes and socks so she could see and touch his feet, that she volunteered to go on study days with me, that she participated in a university course with me,  that she gave me a Christmas card the day before she accused me of bullying, that she thanked me only four days before on her SDR for all the support I had given her... the list goes on, but it was all ignored.

I do not know why two colleagues who again I was so close to and thought were my friends would go from being on my side to turning against me with nothing to precipitate their decision. Whatever motivated them to do so is known to them and them alone.

I do not know why my manager and her senior would say that I was always a terrible employee and Lead Nurse yet have not a single piece of evidence to support their claims. I can show via emails, texts and calendar appointments that they trusted me, liked me, believed in me and even helped me when I was so very lost. They claim the opposite, yet have nothing to back it up. Yes, they have retrospectively found things that I didn't do well, didn't do right, but only after digging.

Yes, I will have made mistakes in a job I was given zero support in and always told I was doing a good job. If that is what you are always told, why would you ever think otherwise?

All of this leaves you with two simple conclusions, neither of which are palatable.

1) I was a terrible employee and they were terrible managers in that they did absolutely nothing to stop this despotic lead nurse from destroying his team and individuals and, on the contrary, gave him praise and support whilst he did so.

2) They are lying.

It cannot be both and can only be one. There is no third option.

Again, I have only opinions, the decisions I shall leave to you, the readers of this.

I have no idea why they would say colleagues left because of me when I could so easily have those colleagues, many of whom have remained in touch with me the entire time and whom I have been on a night out with, confirm otherwise.

I have no idea why my manager would state that a specific staff member had witnessed my behaviour on a particular day and was shocked, when I have provided emails from the same person on said day and the following one, telling me what a pleasure it was working with me and that she appreciated my kind words about her.

I have no idea why they would accuse me and a colleague of having an affair that could have potentially destroyed my marriage if Kelly wasn't the person she is. My colleague who was also accused knows of these accusations. What she decides to do with them, I am yet to know.

The final part of the story was that I was given a redeployment timetable where they would try and find me a suitable position as a Band 8. I applied for many and was shortlist for none.

I secured one interview and was advised it was a suitability interview. I attended expecting as such but instead faced a full, hour-long interview with a hidden question to answer. Needless to say, I didn't get it (though whether I would have got it had I been more prepared is also unknown!).

Many posts required clinical skills and this is where I was snookered. You see, I had been specialised in a role that I loved and had had requests to expand my learning turned down due to the trust pulling funding for training. I was unable to increase my skills and encouraged to focus on my speciality. That was absolutely fine, as I adored my job, truly loved it with a passion.

However, now I was looking for an alternate position, I had little to no transferrable skills. No ones fault, I know. Just the way it was. But a bummer? Definitely!

Would they offer to train me for said posts? Nope. Senior so-and-so and my manager said that they would not employ me in any similar position in the organisation as the same thing would happen again.

What same thing? I would confront a bully and address her behaviour? Damn right I would.

Eight weeks went by and no post was I suitable for except a Band 5 and I couldn't even secure one of those!

However, the final twist occurred a week before my contract termination date was reached. I was summoned to a meeting with senior so-and-so and a representative from H.R. They felt my skills were too valuable to lose (really? I had already been told in a statement that despite believing everything that had been said about me, that they 'felt my experience made me valuable to the organisation.' You're kidding me, right?

I was offered a Band 5 position with certain caveats (I had previously floated the idea of going back to being a Band 5 out of desperation to maintain my registration), one of which was that I had to drop my claims against the trust.

I said I would discuss it with Kelly and would let them know. I told her that evening what had been offered and she said to me one thing... could I live with it? Could I live with knowing what I knew and just letting it go simply to keep my registration and my career?

Now, just to clarify, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Band 5 staff nurse. I loved, absolutely loved, working on a ward. I would still, when I could help out on wards, even if it was only to answer a buzzer whilst others where busy. I never once thought my banding made me superior to others nor did I think anything was beneath me I was and remained a nurse - only my responsibilities had shifted slightly.

But with this offer, it was a matter of principle. I could happily go back to working on a ward, no issue. Part of me was desperate to go back to the beginning and view it as a fresh start.

But how could I, in good conscience, forget what they had done, not to me, but to the idea of a fair trial and to the idea of justice? How could I, in good conscience, allow them to believe that if they could do this to a senior nurse, a more junior staff nurse would be easy pickings? How could I, in good conscience, allow them to get away with condoning bullying in their organisation by the very fact that they choose to ignore it?

So, the next day, I politely turned down their offer and said I would continue my fight to expose the truth of my case and to never give up revealing the extent and tolerance of bullying in that organisation.

And so, we come full circle, and back to the beginning where I said on 1st April 2018, I was made unemployed.

Even if it takes me the next day, the next week, the next year, the next 500 years, I will not stop until I reveal the truth and expose the culture that now exists in the NHS - one of bullying and harassment.
Not   I said the NHS is an inspired organisation and the noblest occupations. I am proud to have contributed even a tiny part to a patient's well being and recivery, whether directly or by tertiary means.

But there is no argument, supported by the hundreds of articles an documents on the subject, whether by Lord Darzi or Sir Robert Francis or Jeremy Hut or countless others, that a culture of bullying represents a clear and present danger to the mental health and career wellbeing of some nursing staff, current and in the future, across parts of the NHS.

It must be stopped. And if my words can encourage one more nurse to stand up and say "NO", then I have done something to facilitate a change. And that is all it takes, just one person. Because then you get another, and another, and another, and before long you reach a tipping point, where it carries on under its own inertia.

I do not hate my former colleagues. I am just sad and think I always will be.

But I also learnt who out of my colleagues, truly cared for me and would stand by me, throughout everything. I learnt they are the best example of what humanity has to offer and I am forever in their debt. They know who they are. The list is longer than I think the trust would like (some were a little naughty!), but it exists and I am humbled that they cared and believed in me so much that they never faltered in their belief. Thank you to you all.

Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this series of blog pieces - I am truly moved and didn't realise how many friends I really had. Your words have meant so much and shall forever have a place in my heart.

Thank you to my 18-year nursing career. I loved every minute of you. You taught me so much. I made plenty of mistakes, but always tried to own up to them. Most importantly, you gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people - patients and colleagues - who always reminded you that there is so much suffering that can be eased with a smile and so much that can be done when you work together as a team and believe in what it is you do.

Thank you to my two amazing union representatives who always stood by me and did so much more than I could have ever deserved to expect. They are a testament to the health service in regards to the passion they have for supporting anyone in the health profession.

Thank you to one lady in H. R who has shown kindness and professionalism throughout my time liaising with her. She may have believed me, she may not, but I could never tell as her profession attitude never wavered. That is how it should be and she is a shining beacon in a less than honourable department.

And finally, thank you to my beautiful Turtle. Kelly never once left my side and literally kept me alive. I put her through so much, inadvertently, but she never gave up on me. She is my sun, moon and stars and never was there a stronger person.

To paraphrase a great man, I shall never forget this. Not one line. Not one day.

I shall always remember when David McCaffrey, the nurse, was me.


Monday, 16 April 2018

Prevalent, ignored and therefore, condoned - Bullying and the NHS Part 6

This gets a little complicated, so I'll sum up.

I was accused of bullying and harassment and cleared of both accusations without question.

I was partially sanctioned for my joke and sanctioned for speaking to so-and-so's husband i.e. breaching policy.

First written warning for one year. No argument from me. I did tell the joke and spoke to the gentleman.

I was informed I could return to work (not expecting it to be comfortable and fully expecting it to be fraught with emotion), met with a senior member of the hospital who said the same and was then told the day before I return that I am suspended again due to four individuals having said they will leave if I return.

And I'm accused of having an affair with a colleague, even though that had nothing to do with anything.

I'll be honest - I was nearly in tears. I am renowned for having difficulty expressing emotions, both towards others and my own. I don't understand how they are supposed to work. I find them very confusing. But I was more heartbroken than when initially suspended I think. I thought it was done and dusted. Bridges to build, friendships lost, but professionalism remains and most likely, I would move on, but it was done and dusted.

Interlude -

I had been disciplined once before, many years ago. I had confronted a colleague from my place of work about her behaviour towards a senior member of staff and a friend. She had been swearing at her, being disrespectful and made her cry at work.

Everyone I was working with that day saw what was happening, was leaning in to listen to her abusive tirade against my colleague and there's... and did absolutely nothing.

They just sat there, pretending it wasn't occurring.

I couldn't believe that someone they claimed to care so much about and respect so much could be being verbally abused, right in front of them and they did nothing at all.

That was unacceptable to me, so I confronted said abusive colleague and we had an argument in the office. No bad language was used, but voices were raised, I cannot deny.

I was accused of bullying, cleared of the charge but given a final written warning for three years because of behaviour unbecoming a senior nurse.

I defended my colleague against a bullying, abusive individual and got a final written warning after being cleared of the allegation because I had been angry when confronting her.

Appropriate? Not professionally. I was wrong to confront her in the office but knew that she was prone to lying and that if I confronted her in private, I would have no witnesses. As it happens, it was those unreactive witnesses who supported me by saying I hadn't done all the things I was accused of and I was so humbled by their public support for me.

It was moving. Despite my feelings towards their inaction at that moment of abuse, I was simultaneously grateful to have such support for me and what I had done.

The trust said I should have ignored it and reported her to H.R.

Personally, I would do it the same again.

Interlude ends

I find out that my original accuser is one of the four (no surprise there to be honest). It was the other three that completely floored me.

Bearing in mind that two of the three had written statements in February upon my original suspension, praising me and acknowledging they were 100% behind me. They had spoken to others and had them pass on messages of support and that they were thinking about me.

Then in a second statement only a few weeks later, they had utterly changed their thoughts. Despite having had zero contact with me, they had gone from supporting me to saying I was a terrible employee, not very good at my job, haphazard with responsibilities and always made them miserable.

That was upsetting and strange enough, but then, in the June, they said if I returned to my postion they would leave.

Why? They hadn't been involved in anything my original accuser had said whatsoever, yet now where saying they would leave if I returned.

It turns out they had told lies about me when I saw subsequent statements. Not only had both of them commented on this alleged affair I was supposed to have been having, but they had claimed things relating to people leaving because of me that I could 100% refute.

Every single one of those mentioned came forward and said not only was it a lie that they had left because of me, but some of them named the person that caused them to go (guess who it was?) and were lovely about working with me. A few were very angry that their names had been used in vain to support someone else lies.

I was interviewed again (twice) and presented all of this information, in black and white, in the form of letters and e mails via my union representative so I couldn't be accused of coercion.

And do you know what they did to those who lied in a formal investigation?

Nothing.

They are all still there. They even promoted my main accuser to my position while I was suspended and then removed it from her due to complaints about her behaviour.

But the evidence I gave them - it was ignored.

The one who had said the bullying evidence against my accuser would be addressed after my case, never followed up on her promise.

That individual is still there, despite my having demonstrated that four people have left and stated it is because of her.

Sexist? Double standards? I shall let you decide that for yourselves.

On top of that, the senior so-and-so and my manager claimed that I had 'no self awareness at all' and that she was aware of 'previous historic disciplinary issues (notice the plural. What issues? I have already mentioned an issue, but am not aware of issues) My observation was that turnover of staff was higher than I would have expected and that was concerning to me.'

Now, it appears I was getting the blame for staff leaving after all. It is a known fact where I worked that my colleagues went because of a) the new manager who bullied them b) they were given no opportunity for advancement and c) didn't agree with the changing hours.

All have confirmed this were relevant to them, and it is in writing yet the senior so-and-so implied it was because of me.

Hmmm.

Kelly wrote a letter to the senior so-and-so, highlighting her concerns for my mental health, the fact that I had tried to commit suicide because of this whole situation and no one was interested, that she was upset that affair accusations had been levied at me, that evidence had been presented regarding the actual bully and that she had been treated so rudely when enquiring about me all those months ago.

The response was it was 'brought to my attention alongside a number of character references in order to inform a decision as to whether to proceed to a hearing or not. I didn’t feel they changed my decision.'

Character references (more than 12, from all over the hospital, from consultants, current colleagues, former colleagues and respected senior members of the organisation) evidence regarding the actual bully who had forced people to leave and union support and it didn't change the decision.

My manager stated that I was always a nightmare from her first day (remember, she gave me the position. Gave it to me. Without an interview) and that I was never good at my job.

I have asked for evidence to support these allegations and the allegations from the senior so-and-so that I was terrible at my job and they always had complaints about me.

To date, I have received not a single piece of evidence supporting the bullying allegations or that I was terrible or problematic at my job.

They all said they never had any contact with me socially. I provided photos of them sat on my sofa, at home, holding my infant son, texts messages discussing The Walking Dead, text messages asking me to meet them for a coffee and photos from nights out.

But they never had anything to do with me socially.

One of the worst things is that one of the four has been telling other members of staff how terribly the trust have treated me and had subsequently text me to wish me all the best and tell me about their family, yet they are telling the senior so-and-so that if I returned they'd leave.

I have emails from my manager the week before my suspension, telling me what a great job I am doing then goes on record as saying I was always terrible at my job.

There are only two conclusions - I was either that bad, and it was tolerated and I was continually told I was good at my job.

Or she is lying.

That they were all lying.

I shall leave you to decide which you think it most likely.

Tomorrow I shall conclude this whole sad, heartbreaking saga with a final piece.

And then you will be free of me!!!

Well, free of me discussing this. I have plenty of serial killer thrillers yet to write to occupy your time.

And a medical thriller.

And other stuff too!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Prevalent, ignored and therefore, condoned - Bullying and the NHS Part 5

My therapist once told me that my anxieties stemmed from waking up with a full jug. All it took was a small amount to cause its contents to spill over and then my anxieties would manifest themselves.

I have always remembered the analogy. I would wake up with my brain feeling like a lump of clay; hard and fixed, always feeling like I was going to explode. I was still so tired mentally and frustrated continually.

Looking back, a former colleague and friend (who apparently left our place of work because of me. She didn't - I'm not saying this, she told me and put it in a statement, but we'll get to that later) used to say I was a mood hooverer.

It's amusing now, but at the time I was hurt. However, she was bang on the money.

We had a team meeting many, many years before all of this sadness. It had been called to discuss many things about work, but at some point, I can't remember from who, it came up that the reason people in the office sometimes annoyed was that of me.

I was flooored. I didn't recall doing anything specific.

It turns out that if I weren't in a particularly good mood; nothing to do with work, just my general difficulties with the world and people and life and breathing, I would walk in, say my customary hellos and then just sit quietly festering in my dark pit of moodiness.

And apparently, without my saying a word, it would come off me in waves. I was told it was almost a tangible presence all of its own, affecting everyone else like it was in the air.

I told Kelly and said everyone at work is picking on me 😢. Kelly told me they were right!

Her exact words - "I wouldn't chat you up in a nightclub. You know why? You look like to much hard work! Love you though."

Erm, cheers!

She reminded me of a former manager saying that I was lovely to work with, but if I didn't agree with a managerial decision, I would challenge it. I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing, but I can see how it would have been annoying.

Kelly also reminded me that I was challenging and a little bit special!

Cheers, again my beautiful Turtle!

Anyway, I reflected on my newfound status as a mood hooverer and realised that everyone had been right. I didn't do it on purpose. In fact, I was utterly ignorant of the fact that my unspoken, mental struggles were having such a profound effect on others.

I swore to everyone subsequently that, from that day onwards, if there were ever an atmosphere in the office, it would not be caused by me. Oddly, it took years for me to accept all the other things I needed to acknowledge, but that one I sorted ASAP.

There were atmospheres in the office after this and up until my suspension but never caused by anything I said or did.

So, where was I?

Oh, yes. I was strongly persuaded into providing my mental health records, which I did with a little redacting of some personal things. As I had known, there was nothing in them to support the claims that my behaviour had become 'erratic' and that was that after I attended a few customary Occupational Health appointments.

Lovely people, fantastic apartment, but again, no nothing about how to support staff with mental health difficulties.

Anyway, the following week, I am called in again about something else.

I know, what did this guy do?

Well, I had told a joke.

This was the joke.

ICE

BANK

MICE

ELF

Say it fast, and you realise it is a play on words.

I had written it on a piece of paper and stuck it on the wall, the idea being people would walk past, see it, read and laugh.

My manager told me if I had to leave it up then at least make it look Christmassy, so I drew a tree with baubles on it.

This was maybe the first week in December, so two weeks before I was suspended.

This subsequent meeting was to discuss this and a presentation, that I shall get to in a minute.

I was told that the joke had been 'found'.

It wasn't hidden remember. It was stuck on the wall. I was curious why it had been 'found' three months later, but I had my suspicions why.

I was asked did I do it.

I said I did.

I was asked if I thought it was acceptable?

I said no, I realised it wasn't. I had done it as a joke to bring some levity into a workplace that was rapidly becoming un-fun and stagnant. Work in the NHS has lives attached to it and requires a degree of respect and reverence, but that doesn't mean that in downtime, you can't have a little fun and a laugh.

I was told that had I considered that someone may not have found it funny and thought I found them prudish for not laughing.

I explained I hadn't considered it that deeply, but as a Lead Nurse, it was unprofessional and I should't have done it.

I always found it difficult to separate being friendly with my colleagues whom I had known for nearly a decade and the managerial side of things. To me, it was a little blurred, but that was my failing as a manager, and I accepted that and still do.

The thing was (and this isn't removing myself my the blame, it is mine; I wish to give a little context) I had zero support outside of my immediate colleagues in the role and will openly admit I often was struggling. We had been without a manager for many months after she was unceremoniously removed to hang the blame for target failure on someone.

With her gone, there was just us, and as much as we supported each other and had some fantastic support from a senior colleague, it was difficutl for all. We weren't particularly popular with the then Director of Nursing, so had little help there and relied just on ourselves.

And we got the job done. Targets, though challenging, did not plummet, patients were reviewed, and advice was provided to any and all who asked and required it. We maintained a sense of fun and a truely supportive atmosphere. Though it was so hard for us all, it was perhaps the best time at work.

But I had no one to advise me on the now two jobs I was doing - my Lead Nurse role and now a managerial one, and I struggled. However, everyone was always supportive of me and kept me going.

We were all great together.

So yes, my failing as a leader was that I didn't distinguish enough between my responsibilities and that is on me, 100%.

I often vocally stated I didn't think I was the best person for the job, but at the time, no one else wanted it, and I had just been given it.

Now that there is a significant factor I believe in what followed.

I never gave it any thought and turned down the role three times when asked.

I was begged on the fourth request and said I would be happy to do it for six months until they found someone better.

Of course, our manager was removed, and no one was in charge, so I was kinda stuck.

Now, don't get me wrong (song time!), though I initially was reluctant, by default I learnt so very much from being in that position that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do. But it had been given to me and, in hindsight,m that must have pissed other colleagues off who had been there longer than me and were more experienced. I never thought about it in those terms and had no ego to bruise. But thinking about it afterwards and with what happened, I realised it would have, understandably, been a blow to colleagues who were as much, if not more so, qualified for the post.

But it wasn't my decision. I was asked for a favour, and because I would go to Hell for my manager at the time if she asked, I accepted.

When we eventually gained a new manager (who ended up being the person everyone told me they were, but that I had refused to believe it. I didn't actually realise how disliked this individual was until afterwards when people told me), the position I was still acting up in as Lead Nurse was put out for interview.

I and a colleague went for it. I had decided not to, but many other colleagues told me I should do, given my experience. I didn;t necessarily agree, but thought I had nothing to lose.

After a very strange presentation given in front of staff members who could drop in to hear it and a three-panel interview, neither myself nor my colleague was successful. I am uncertain as to why my significant other didn't get offered the post, but I was informed that I didn't have enough experience in the role.

After nearly two years.

But I was then asked by a senior member of staff (remember the A.N Other who suspended me?) if I would be willing to remain in the post until they found someone more suitable.

I kid you not. Those were the exact words.

I very politely said... no thank you and that was it.

I was relieved. I hadn't upset anyone in the acting up post, so going back to my Band 7 wouldn't be awkward and actually, I was instead looking forward to it. No more stress and extra responsibility. I could see patients again, conduct audits and visit the wards more than I had been able to.

That was pretty great. And my uniform still fit, so good times.

I turned up for work on Monday, in my old white tunic (which was excellent) and was called to a meeting where I was asked again by the then DoN if I would reconsider my thoughts on taking the role until someone else was found.

I politely advised that it had been humiliating to be asked to do that and that I would kindly decline their generous offer.

We then, as mentioned, had our new manager and things were looking up. After being just us nurses for so long, everyone was a little wary, but the manager soon inspired us and we saw it was an inspired choice. Not everyone agreed and we lost an amazing nurse because of the manager's behaviour, but that will come up later as it is relevant to my suspension.

Of course, I kept getting asked to go to meetings and carry out tasks that were Lead Nurse tasks. Now I'll be honest; this frustrated me a little. I had been told I hadn't enough experience for the role and they were looking for someone more suitable, but without a Lead Nurse, as the closest thing to it, I was expected to do these tasks.

Anyway, a few weeks later I was asked again because, and I quote, "I have observed the others and you are easily the best person for the job. You know it inside out and have the experience."

This is the experience I didn't have a few months ago.

I said I would do it on one condition - that we were left until last in the restructuring taking place.

It was agreed that that was a reasonable request and I had boomeranged back into the post... again.

Again, and I didn't think this at the time in my naivety, but this must have again really upset some of the others. And I understand it now. But at the time, I just wanted to team to be able to move forward and have a fresh start.

I knew not everyone agreed with me in the role - some didn't like my relaxed approach to things and how I put the well being of the team first and foremost. Maybe they were right. Perhaps I did mollycoddle them too much.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Anyway, back to the suspension meeting.

So, I had told the joke and accepted it was wrong.

I was then asked if I had delivered a particular presentation on a past away day.

I was shown it and said I had.

The slides had consisted of the formal, away day stuff - figures, targets, where were we, where are we going etc. and a more fun opening with, what I thought were funny slides.

I accept I dropped the ball on this one.

For example, I had put up a photo of a drunk woman and said it was so-and-so at the end of the week.

I know, I know.

Or there was a photo of a cartoon character as I had a nickname for one of my colleagues. Not an offensive nickname, just a nickname.

Or there was a photo of a bodybuilder as one of my colleagues enjoyed exercise.

I know, not good at all.

I thought, and this is my familiarity thing again, that as we had known each other for so long (and I took the mick out of myself too with a picture of House as I was always being told I said the wrong thing in social circumstances) it would be a bit of fun before the serious stuff.

Now, in my defence, not a soul complained at the time. It was more than two years later then this presentation was raised as part of my suspension.

Again, I was told it had been 'found'.

Two years later and three months into my suspension. Not raised at the time or since not amongst the initial allegations. But 'found'.

Once again I had messed up, big time. I didn't get the whole managerial thing, and I wasn't good at it, but I was offered no support whatsoever. No complaints either I might add, but no help.

So, at the time, I thought I was doing okay.

I accept my wrongdoings for the joke and the presentation, and I am finally given a panel date for my disciplinary.

Up until this time, I had consistently mentioned that there was a nurse, the individual who had raised these alligations and whom I had raised concerns about to my manager the day before my suspension, who had subsequently;y been identified by another colleague as a bully. Someone else came forward a gave a verbal and written statement to this effect and you had two statements reporting the behaviour of this team member.

I was told the evidence had been presented to someone high up and they had said it would be investigated after my disciplinary was concluded.

Okay, not great, but at least they are taking it seriously.

Long story short - nine hours in total for the panel and I am cleared of all charges (that is bullying and favouritism) unanimously and completely, with the joke sanction partially upheld and breeching of policy completely upheld.

Fair enough.

I was told I could return to work and arrangements would be made.

I think, aside form my marriage, children being born and meeting George Lucas, it was the happiest moment of my life!

Would it be easy returning to somewhere where you knew people had accused you of something you didn't do and had consistently stated was the case?

No. I was under no illusions.

But I so desperately wanted to be back at work, doing what I loved. I wasn't angry with my accusers, I was profoundly sad.

But everything passes and I would move on eventually, as it rightly couldn't go back to how it was, and it would be over and done with.

No recriminations, all forgotten.

I have a meeting about my return to work the following week. I am terrified, scared and anxious beyond belief. I am asked what support I feel I need; I say that I appreciate that my colleagues may need it more, but that I am thankful it is all over and just want to be back at work.

I can come back the following week, the staff will be told, and we say our goodbyes.

All that week, I am so scared. I haven't spoken to anyone for six months. It will be awkward, strange, terrifying, humbling and so much more.

I'm so glad it's over, and my name is cleared. I knew I wasn't a bully, but it means so much when a panel of your peers agree and support all the evidence you presented to prove otherwise.

The day before my big return arrives and I haven't heard anything, which I think is a little odd.

I call up and leave a message which I am told will be returned.

I am called back by a senior member of management and when I ask is everything okay for my return, I'm told no.

I'm confused and ask what has happened.

Though this wasn't said at the time (I was re-suspended pending an investigation), it turns out that when my return had been announced, everyone had been pleased and was looking forward to it.

Except for my accuser and my manager.

And two other colleagues (call them b and c) who, until recently, had been supportive of me.

What follows are actual quotes -

C said to someone only a few months before 'she is distraught about the whole thing. She feels terrible not being able to speak to you. She's been enquiring if this is legal. She cares so much about you.'

D said to someone 'she is thinking of you, she just can't contact you. Got upset when I saw her.'

But now, bearing in mind no one has spoken to me from work nor have I spoke to anyone aside from my desperate message at Christmas. Two colleagues, out of nowhere who had no issues at all, no accusations, no problems and in their first statements were 100% supportive of me (you only get to see everyone's comments when you go to a panel. Prior to that, I literally knew nothing) have joined my manager and my accuser and said if I am allowed to return to work, they will leave.

Exactly, that. If I am allowed to return to work, they will leave.

They blackmailed a senior manager into threatening that if I go back, they will go elsewhere.

And the senior manager said "Okay, then."

So, I have been cleared of the allegations, accepted my telling off for the joke and policy breech, and am suspended again for 'non-disciplinary reasons.'

What has caused two colleagues, friends (these are the people who held my infant son, sat on my sofa, asked us to their house at Christmas every year), with no contact with me whatsoever, to suddenly say if I go back, they will leave.

Oh, and two of them have decided to state in the same moment that I was having an affair with a colleague.

Well, that all went south quickly!