Tuesday, 4 December 2018

I see bullied people... they don't know they're being bullied. Part One

'Do No Harm' was an opportunity to tell the stories of others. To give a voice to those who had been denied one, or felt that they wouldn't be listened to, or simply those who didn't know how to go about telling their story.

It was an honour and a privilege, a path I never expected to be taking but one I am so very glad that I did. Oddly, my experiences regarding bullying were amongst the best that ever happened to me (I know, weird, right?).

To that end, I have a second book being developed as we speak. I had many stories that weren't able to be included in 'Do No Harm' for one reason or another, so the second book is not only a great place to share them, but also add in a number of new reflective pieces I have had shared with me since the release of DNH. All powerful, all sad, all told be courageous individuals who, despite the fact that they are anonymised, have taken a brave step to speak to me as either a friend, colleague or complete stranger in some cases.

Thank you to you all. This work is nothing without you.

I also have other stories to tell. Not about me (Enough already, I hear you cry! We're sick of hearing about you.) Heard you I have. I do, however, have more stories concerning other individuals I have known throughout my life and career.

They will be shared in 'It Doesn't Happen Everywhere; It Shouldn't Happen Anywhere', the second book in the series of raising awareness of the toxic culture within the NHS. 

I will be sharing a few of them here in a new series of blog pieces. 

Here is a sample.

Diane's Story

It was one thing experiencing the things I did during my time as a nurse and the bullying and harassment that cost me my career. 

As it turns out, those individuals gave me a bestselling book in the US, a hit new release in the UK and, most importantly, the opportunity to provide those who had suffered and were suffering, a voice. They gave me a place where I could tell the stories of others, allowing their voices to be heard, albeit anonymously, and offer support to so many colleagues, strangers and individuals who haven't been able to share the details of their suffering at the hands of individuals in the NHS.

But there are many aspects of my career in nursing that I never shared, one of which was that of others being bullied and never even realising.

I had three colleagues during my time as a nurse; let's call them Diana, Vicky and Pam. 

Diana, I had known for many years, a nurse, knowledgeable and devoted individual.

Vicky, I thought highly of and was someone who I learnt a great deal from. We didn't particularly see eye to eye on many things, but I still felt there was healthy respect between us.

Pam, I didn't know at all and didn't know me. That didn't stop her from jumping on the 'stick the boot in' bandwagon. 

Each of these individuals has a part to play in my bullying experiences, but one they most likely do not realise as it involved my being privy to their being bullied when they were not even aware.

At the time, to have said something would have been telling tales, being a rat, snitching, being unprofessional, stirring the pot... whichever euphemism you wish to assign to it. Hopefully, as I write and you read this, it may become clear as to why.

Diane, a nurse who I once worked with, was away from work for a period of time. As a friend, I visited her on several occasions at her home, messaged her regularly and would phone her, all to see if she was okay, keep her in the loop with work stuff and generally just let her know I was there for her.

I assumed (I know, you should never assume anything) everyone else was too. They sent the requisite flowers and card, saying how much they hoped they got well soon, how much they missed them and the usual shallow platitudes (not all were false sentiments; many honestly did care for Diane). When the time was right, she returned to work. 

All well and good, I hear you cry. But it wasn't ya see, because when Diane returned to work, I would be criticised regularly about why as an individual I spent so much time making sure she was okay, why I was always asking how she had been and if she was okay, and that I spent more time looking out for her than I did anyone else and so on. 

This was disappointing to hear from colleagues who you expected and had thought would be a little more caring and thoughtful, but I was hardly going to tell Diane what they were saying about her (hence the above telling tales proposal) so I just did what I could, when I could.

When I left nursing, I was astonished to learn that an accusation had been made against me for favouritism. 

Favouritism, as it turned out, towards Diane. 

Yup, you read it right, Diane was used against me by those accusing me of bullying to support their claims that I was a terrible individual. 

Here is something from Thee Who Shall Not Be Named about Diane - 

'xxx xxxxx xxxx has xxx xxxxx xxx and Diane one, but a larger workload. I feel that DM picked up a lot of her work. xxx xxxxxx xxxxx twice told me she felt that Diane was doing less than her.' 

The most shocking event came in the form of my learning that TWSNBN had a plan to line-manage Diane out of her job as she felt she was not up to it and was a liability. I felt strongly that this was not only unfair but immoral and begged her to reconsider once I learnt of this consideration. The following day, I was informed that my words had resonated and that it had been decided to postpone this plan for the immediate future. 

This is as it should be. Another fantastic nurse whom I met during my career and someone I always thought was amazing; one of many who taught me much about how the education and practical aspects worked hand-in-hand. I held her in high esteem and still do. 

But this is proving to be the case more and more within the NHS, not only regarding the book I wrote but in the news. As recently as November, the CQC identified a 'culture of bullying and harassment' in a Shropshire hospital, citing a 'culture of defensiveness from the executive team, staff fearful of raising concerns or issues, low morale among staff, high levels of stress and staff being undervalued'.

A month earlier, the Telegraph published reports that bullying, and harassment could be costing the NHS more than £2 billion per year in England alone, stating that 'although policymakers increasingly regard reducing levels of bullying and harassment in the NHS as a priority, it is an ongoing issue, with little change in the reported levels of bullying for the past three years.'

The story of Vicky's unwittingly being bullied will be in the next part of this three series piece. 

Unwittingly, I think that such a situation which can occur, where an individual is being laughed, joked and criticised behind their back, is worse than being aware you are being bullied. 

In my naivety, I didn't do enough with what I knew though I did what I was aware I could. My shame and guilt are that hindsight allows me to realise I should have done more, raised it further. That is my cross to bear and something which has targeted my reflection on how to be better as an individual.  

I always hope that Diane somehow knew how much I fought for her and tried to protect her.

In the end, our failures are more important lessons than our successes.