Bullying and harassment education

Well today we had the bullying and harassment education session for graduate nurses.  I sometimes wonder why they run these programs.  I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t know what bullying and harassment is.  It seems those who are the least likely to do it are the ones who pay most attention and those who are most likely to do it, don’t absorb thing.

Having been a survivor of bullying and harassment all my life, including workplace bullying and harassment, I found the whole thing a little traumatising.  What surprised me though was hearing so many others report workplace bullying.  I must admit, I have been very lucky in the ward where I work now.  The workloads we get can be insanely huge, but I’ve not seen any bullying and harassment and only had one workmate who is critical and unsupportive – but she’s that way to everyone so I wouldn’t call it bullying.

It’s funny though, what some people consider bullying. One workmate commented they considered walking into the tea room with everyone using their phones to text/use the internet/etc is inappropriate.  I would say that happens on our ward a lot and to be honest, when that happens, I cheer.  I do like some interaction, and I like my workmates (they’re pretty great actually), but sometimes I just want to sit down and eat my dinner and take a break from interaction. It’s not that people are ignoring each other – they will talk if people want to talk – but they don’t force talk simply for the sake of making conversation.  Especially as someone with aspergers and social phobia, I love the freedom of not having to talk unless I’m in the mood for it.  I would never call it bullying.

But I guess though some people find it makes them uncomfortable, and if they’ve never been through serious bullying, it may feel like it is a form of it.

The good thing to come out of today’s session is I think I’m going to get the courage up to make a complaint about a doctor I worked with in the past. All the doctors that regularly work on our ward (at least the ones I interact with – I can’t speak for the ones I haven’t interacted with) are really friendly people and go out of their way to treat the nursing staff as equals.  But not all doctors I’ve worked with in the past are like that.

I don’t want to go into too many details, but there is a doctor I’ve worked with in the past, when I was suffering a depressive episode myself, who constantly ridiculed people with depression (behind their backs, not to their faces – at least he wasn’t quite that cruel).  I didn’t report it at the time because I was too depressed and, to be honest, outright scared. I haven’t reported it since then because I’m scared of the career consequences because I love working in mental health and scared if I complain that it may lead to me not being given a position in mental health again as retaliation for making waves (I mean, I hope it wouldn’t be the case, but I’ve seen it happen to other people in other hospitals), but my other fear is I’m still on a contract in my current position.  Even though it’s always implied that if we do a good job, our contracts will be renewed, there is still that fear that if we make a complaint and offend the wrong person doing so, that our contracts won’t be renewed.

For all the talk about bullying and harassment and how victims of it should speak up (we even had to watch a video by a senior director with them pushing victims to speak up), there is still that worry about the career damage it can do by speaking out.  And for me, that is unknown.  I don’t know anyone (outside of the people I work with) who has worked for the organisation I work in.  I don’t know if they are supportive of people who make complaints or if they rip apart those who make complaints (as happens in some workplaces).  I’d like to believe they are supportive, because I have found them supportive in many other ways (especially now in my current position, they’ve been really supportive of me having depression and anxiety), but I just don’t know and that fear is eating me up.

I’ve spoken to an advisor (one of their equity and diversity team) about whether I should make a complaint or not, and she’s going to look into it without giving out details of the complaint, but now I wonder if I have done the right thing saying anything at all.

As I said, I’ve been a victim of bullying and harassment, and all sorts of abuse.  And for most of it, speaking up has only made things worse.  As a kid, the bullying I went through started when I started preschool when I was just three and a half.  It was worse in primary school, and even worse again in early high school.  I was emotionally and physically bullied.  In preschool the bully was a teacher’s pet so speaking up just saw me accused of lying (why would a four year old lie about being bullied???).  In primary school, I was just given the excuse that it was normal child behaviour, except for one kid who had genuine intellectual issues and I was told it wasn’t his fault (although I felt the school could have done more to contain him).  In high school I went through hell and even though the teachers were sympathetic, they claimed there was nothing they could do. Thankfully by the end of year 10, all the violent bullies had long been kicked out or dropped out, and that just left the emotional bullies, who were more tolerable.  Speaking out however never did anything.  All I ever got was a “we know” from staff.  And while it was nice to have their sympathy, in the end it didn’t change the bullying.

Ultimately all long term abuse can be considered bullying.  Trying to speak out about the abuse at home when I was a kid only made things worse.  The psychiatric abuse I suffered after Sammie was born, speaking out made the abuse far worse.  Speaking out about my exhusband’s abuse of me just made him more obsessed with trying to hurt me.  And they are not the only people who have abused and bullied me where speaking out only made the abusive bully try to hurt me more.

So naturally I am afraid.

But then I tell myself – this doctor treats people with depression.  If he truly thinks the things he says, how negatively that must impact how he treats his patients.  Even if by some miracle he is still a great doctor, one in four people suffer depression at some stage in their life, and I can’t be the only staff member to go through there who has depression.  The things said affected me very deeply – what if the next depressed staff member to work there ends up killing themselves over his comments?  I would feel incredibly guilty for having not said something.  As it is, I feel incredibly guilty waiting this long to get the courage to even get advice on whether to make a complaint.

Have you been a victim of workplace bullying?  did you report it?  were you supported?

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