Feel Good

Sian Confidential: I’m being bullied at work and I don’t know what to do

Dirty looks, eye rolls and being undermined and humiliated in front of her peers. Valerie asks Sian how she can stop her manager’s constant bullying

Written by High Life North
Published 17.02.2021

Dear Sian

I am being bullied, there’s no other word for it. I work in the NHS; I qualified as a nurse last year and have a personality clash with the ward sister. I work in an orthopaedic ward and want to progress in this area. Because we focus on musculoskeletal (or bones, to keep it simple), we see a lot of elderly people due to fractures and joint replacements. I like to think I’m really friendly and will do anything for anybody. I also love talking to older people – they have so much life experience and I want to help them keep their dignity. I shiver and cringe when I hear the way the sister talks to some of them. When I walk up to a group of staff and she’s there she will walk away. I constantly get dirty looks or she rolls her eyes at me. Sometimes, when I make a suggestion or ask if I can do something, she either criticises it or snaps: ‘please yourself’. She has organised drinks after work and then when I’ve turned up, asked who invited me. There’s so much more I could tell you. I have been off work for a week now due to stress, as I just can’t face it. I love my job when she’s not on shift but I can’t face going back. I literally shake and feel like throwing up. I think I’m going to look for another career.


Dear Valerie

You sound like a wonderful human being, but a soft one! This is disgusting behaviour from someone in a caring profession. However, they do exist. A friend of mine works with a teacher who doesn’t like kids. If you were to carry on as you are, there could be a chance that you could develop serious mental health problems.There are a number of things that you can do when being bullied at work. The first thing is to raise it with the other managers/sister(s) in your ward, or find someone else senior to talk to. It’s not always wise to go straight to HR/unions, as things might be able to get sorted out in a meeting. It is important to keep records of conversations with, and behaviours of this woman to present as evidence.Have you considered that you may have different styles and that your disapproval of hers may have ‘got her back up’? It’s highly likely that this dislike could have arisen from her feeling judged by you, especially if it’s written all over your face. She doesn’t sound very professional, but you may have rubbed her up the wrong way.When you go to a senior member of staff, ask them if they can mediate a meeting between you and the sister. The objective would be to explain your feelings and fears, find out hers, and then come to an understanding of how you can work together without animosity. 

There is a great technique for any confrontation called FBI: Feelings, Behaviour,  Impact. When explaining to a person why you have a problem, cover all three of these areas in this order. So, for example, you could say: ‘I felt humiliated and disliked by you (Feelings) when you asked me who invited me to drinks last Wednesday night (her Behaviour), and I think that going forward, this will lead to me feeling more uncomfortable and stressed working with you (Impact). You then must absolutely shut up! Zip it! If they say something along the lines of, ‘I don’t know what you mean’, repeat it word for word. You are not accusing them or pointing a finger, you are simply informing them that their behaviour has had a direct impact on you that you believe is detrimental. For most people, this opens up a dialogue in an assertive, but not aggressive, way.At the same time, ask yourself – very honestly – if you could have in any way rubbed her up the wrong way, and see if there are situations where you could have avoided pouring fuel on the fire. If all of this doesn’t work, go to a higher or more senior colleague or look for a transfer. Please do not give up your dream of helping people in this way. 

About Peaceful Minds


Sian is a cognitive behaviour therapist and also a clinical hypnotherapist, having trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London and the College of Clinical Hypnosis. Four years ago Sian relocated her Harley Street practice to her native North East after 26 years in central London. Sian now runs her private clinic in Gosforth and also owns a training academy to help organisations with stress reduction. Sian’s approach is to help people become their own therapists, whether they come to see her for panic attacks, depression or OCD (she covers a wide range of emotional and behavioural issues).


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