The first part in this short series was my sharing the story of an individual called 'Diane' who I once worked with and who ended up socialising, not only with the individuals who were responsible for my termination from nursing, but who also made a point of bullying her behind her back. The sad truth is that she never suspected or knew. I could never tell her, as it would have seemed like sour grapes given my own situation.
The second example concerns 'Vicky'. I mentioned in the previous post that Vicky and I, though we didn't have a great relationship, it was a professional one. I always got the impression that she didn't think very highly of me; I ended up in a position she once occupied, had very different views on how to take our role forward and disagreed with a number of my decisions. And, as I have mentioned before, I was given my position and never had to interview for it. I never considered it at the time, but in hindsight, it must have been a huge kick in the teeth for nurses with more experience and longer qualified than I. I never actually wanted the position, but could never get out of it as no one else wanted it either!
But I had so much respect for Vicky. She was a fascinating person, had lived an amazing life and was the most knowledgable of nurses. I learnt so much from her during her time there and missed her when she left. She provided a stabilising influence and motherly quality that was unique to her and her alone.
Vicky, I was led to believe by former colleagues in their statements, was also greatly responsible for the false accusations levied at me. I never heard it from her personally, nor saw anything in writing, but others all stated that she had said things against me to support their, eventually debunked and proven to be lies, accusations of bullying.
But once again, there is a huge, sad sense of irony about her 'alleged' claims of bullying towards me. Though we spoke often and never did Vicky once say anything to me that was remotely negative, even replying to an email I sent before she left, wishing me the best of luck for the future, I was told after my suspension that she had left solely because of me.
This is a nurse with over 40 years experience, who had lived through some of the most troubled times in British history and seen nursing changed multiple times during the course of her career, yet she gave it all up, allegedly, because of me and never told a soul why. In her exit interview, there was no mention of me; discussion of health reasons and retirement plans, but nothing about anyone at work. Then, more than six months later, it is all because of me and, as I was told, was not mentioned as she could be bothered with the hassle.
In the time between Vicky leaving and my suspension, many colleagues complained about her. They complained vocally about why she had been allowed to work her original hours and not move to the modified ones that better suited the service. They complained vocally about why she didn't have to work weekends on-call when they were expected to. They complained when I suggested we wait on a morning for handover so we were all present, their complaint being in would push everything else they had to planned backwards. Two individuals complained about her using sickness during her planned retirement as an excuse for more money.
Yet, these very individuals, are individuals that I am aware Vicky still socialises with. Why? Because she never knew about their behaviour - bullying behaviour - in her absence and when she was not present. And I never told her.
As with Diane, I never knew how to go about it, as it would have been 'telling tales' or, after my suspension, the aforementioned sour grapes. I was supposed to lead, support and encourage, so causing discontent amongst others was something I actively avoided. I did address concerns regarding the bullying of a colleague previously, speaking to many individuals in turn and, ultimately, raising my concerns to the bully themselves. I long ago accepted I didn't do enough. Having done more would have perhaps stopped others from suffering in my absence.
I have always felt that, inadvertently, I became a bystander in relation to the bullying of others. Aware that colleagues were being abusive and critical towards another, yet not addressing it when I should have. Ultimately, I resolved to no longer be a 'bystander' and raised my concerns to a senior member of staff... and, well, if you have read previous blog entries, you know what happened next.
And, just like Diane, I have always felt guilty about it. Knowing that people you once knew are still communicating with those who were betraying them behind their back is the worst feeling. Saying anything now would be redundant. I would never be believed. Because that is what bullies do in order to convince others they are not.
They claim solidarity towards the very individuals they have, behind their backs and closed doors, been criticising, humiliating and bullying. Whilst calling them in secret, they then support them in public, ensuring that misdirection is fully implemented and thereby ensuring the focus is shifted, not to their actual harassers, but towards another who couldn't be further from a bully.
A perfect human being? Absolutely not.
I have admitted before to making many mistakes, both consciously and, due to my mental health problems, unconsciously. but accepting of responsibility for them all, I 100% am.
Yet individuals such as Vicky will continue to go through life, not realising that the very people who bullied them behind their backs are the very ones they call friends.
A heartbreaking truth that will be replicated in many organisations, many work environments, around the world.
"I have met the enemy and they are us."
The bullying nurse will never give thought to being kinder. But we can promise that we will focus on helping those who suffer whilst caring for others.
In the end, it is all we can do but I believe that it will ultimately lead to the actualisation of that most precious of motivatios for a nurse.
That of doing no harm.