Serial bullies ‘don’t change their spots’

Thank you for printing the letters on Bullies at Work (August 2002) relating
to what happens when it is the occupational health nurse being bullied.

From 1988 to 1999, I was the OH manager for a nurse-led occupational health
service in west London.

In 1999, I moved from a very secure and happy working environment to take up
a post as OH manager in an NHS Trust in South Yorkshire, which has an excellent
reputation for its staff education and training programmes.

The first six months were excellent in terms of the challenge the service
demanded, but slowly, and without me being aware, I was being very subtly
bullied by the consultant, who was both my manager and the director of the

It did not matter how much effort was put in to developing the service,
reports, and discussions, the work was always wrong, there was constant
nit-picking, and nothing was right. I was undermined in meetings; information
was never passed on until the last minute, so I was unable to meet deadlines;
and there was never any support to enable me to manage difficult departmental

Over a period of 12 months, I began to question my own ability, and worried
as to why I was unable to do my job as effectively as I had done for many
years. My self-esteem and confidence became non-existent, sleep patterns were
interrupted, thought patterns were eroded and decision-making became a
horrendous task.

The situation came to a head when, at a meeting with others present, the
anger that was directed at me by my manager made it so difficult for me to
continue to work in that sort of an environment, I had no alternative but to
leave the meeting. I was so distressed by what had happened that I went on sick
leave for six months.

It took a considerable amount of time to realise that it was not me that had
the problem. When you are in the cycle of checking and double checking every
piece of work before it is submitted, to then find out that it was not what was
required, you are unable to apply rational thinking to the situation.

I received a tremendous amount of support from the nurses and the physician
within the team, and I remain very concerned for their well-being.

I have now left the employment of this Trust and re-commenced working at
manager level. I have returned to an environment that is a pleasure to work in.

Since leaving the Trust, I have discovered that the situation I found myself
in was nothing new – other senior nurses have left due to the treatment they

During my period of employment, I spoke with my manager regarding the effect
their behaviour was having on me and, on a couple of occasions, to the chief
nurse, who was my manager’s manager, in the hope that the situation would be
resolved. The consultant remains in post; nothing appears to have been done.

Serial bullies do not, like the leopard, change their spots. The Trust’s
policy on bullying and harassment did not support me. The impression this gives
is that you can get away with this sort of behaviour because no-one is prepared
to do anything about it.

I have been a nurse since 1963, and worked in the occupational health
setting in the public and private sectors and have never before been subjected
to the treatment I received during my time in South Yorkshire.

It has taken me a year to get my confidence and self-esteem back and have
the courage to write this letter.

Name and address supplied

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