In over 10 years of working in the UK, I have been bullied twice. Yes, twice! It may seem embarrassing, but the truth is always frank if not hard to accept. Yet in the end once fully realised, the truth is liberating .
On my first year of working in the UK, one of our senior colleagues was assigned as my mentor. At first this was very much welcoming for me as I relished the fact that someone would actually help me in my new journey as a nurse here in the UK. However, I noticed that he had the tendency to single me out on group discussions and constantly criticised my work, mostly focusing on my mistakes. At first, it was all ok. I was taking it as a challenge. “Probably, he only cares about my development”. But as it was a "constant round of criticisms", I was beginning to lose faith on my capability as a nurse.
Deep inside, I know I was a good nurse. Aside from my positive nursing experience back home, my new colleagues and patients gave a high regard of my work. But my mentor made me feel otherwise, I felt down & demotivated. There were days I had physical symptoms of stress- I felt nauseated a few times before coming to work especially when I know my mentor was working with me. Every time I talked to him, I would have sweaty palms and constantly questioned myself if I am saying the right words. It was dreadful.
Despite all the stress, I continuously made an effort and worked hard. After all, I am doing this for my family’s future. Most of my colleagues have noticed how much I have improved and commended me for my work, but sadly I did not hear anything from my mentor. I thought hearing nothing from him meant that he is happy with my performance.
Imagine my disappointment when he told me that he was not going to sign me off for my qualifications. My world just crumbled. I knew that if I did not get the sign off from my mentor, I would not get the Band 5 contract and may need to be forced to leave the country. My mentor even went to ask our Overseas Nursing coordinator for affirmation. Surprisingly, our nursing coordinator has challenged my mentor's decision and asked for some key evidence/strong basis. Saved by the bell.
After the incident, I was transferred to a new ward. Good thing, my new manager has a different leadership approach and through her guidance, I was able to regain back my confidence and my passion as a nurse. I simply put the whole thing to experience and moved on.
As I was new back then, I did not even realise that I was being bullied and the effects it had on me. It was only when I was bullied the 2nd time around that I recognised this and its aftermath.
Few years later, I have moved to a different trust, in a highly specialised unit. I was so excited having realised that there were many Filipino nurses working in this unit.
My new mentor was a Filipino too. “How lucky I was!” I said to myself. But no — it was tough. Every time we talk, it will just be a myriad of condescending comments about the quality of my work. It seemed that I was on the same boat as before. I was desperate to make this new job to work. I tried to take my mentor's feedback onboard, but again, I was made to feel I was not good enough. So, I tried even harder! And by sheer will or luck, I just about managed to pass the probationary period.
But instead of feeling accomplished, I felt even more stressed. I started to ask myself if this is the job that I want. More so, I felt agitated knowing that I still had to work with my Filipino mentor. Sometimes, I even had nightmares and felt really down. It was a real rollercoaster for my mental health. Ultimately, I decided to quit and find a new role.
Was I wiser this time? Probably yes but in hindsight, I wish I could have done things differently.
I wish I was assertive and brave enough to face and bring up my concerns. They might not be aware of the effects of their actions. If they knew that their actions are affecting me and my well-being, they might have been more mindful with their actions.
I wish I was resourceful enough to find the right avenues or people who can support me or improve my situation. I could have taken initiative and informed my senior colleagues, our HR department or my union. I could have asked for help on how to deal with situations like this. When I started researching about bullying at the workplace, I found out that it is my employer’s responsibility too. They have to ensure their employees feel safe and protected from bullying and harassment. Aside from your employer, unions can provide employment advice or mediate if needed.
I wish I valued myself enough not to tolerate these type of negative situations and behaviour. Eventually I came to realise how it has affected me mentally and emotionally. I did not deserve this. No one does. Much as I needed my work, I also needed to care for my mental and emotional well-being.
This may all be in the past and nothing could be changed. By sharing what I went through, it is my hope that someone could also learn from what I have experienced. Looking back brings back the hurt and the pain. But if my truth can help someone going through the same ordeal, then it would not have been for nothing, then the truth may set us free.
If you want to know more or have experienced bullying and/or harassment, you can also refer to the articles below.