Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A Personal Account of being bullied at work whilst surviving cancer

CANCER-BULLIED - The road to optimism .

Welcome to our new blog. Do feel free to tell us your stories whether you or using a user-name or pen-name. Please check our legals and rules. We know many of you are out there it is just a question of finding you. So here goes, my story.

Have you been bullied at work?

Christmas 2013 I found a lump. I tried not to worry after all I had just had a mammogram 2 months prior. I went to A and E and it was thought to be benign, however an ultrasound and  biopsy were recommended. During the ultra-sound there was pleasant banter between myself and staff and then it went quiet and I knew there and then that it was not good news. By Early 2014 it was cut out, April I had no hair and by September radiotherapy came to an end.

I went back to work in November to big changes and a new boss. I wore my lack of hair with pride, I thought that having had cancer and hopefully having destroyed the cancer, that nothing worse could happen. I felt teflon coated. I had had cancer, people would care for me and help me. I was wrong!

My new boss appeared at first to be sweetness and light, offering to help me slot back into work. Little did I know the Machiavellian nature of this wolf in sheeps clothing.  Suffice to say that this person made sure that each and every requirement I needed for my health and dignity at work was narrowly interpreted, refused or simply ignored. I still did not really recognise that I was being bullied, at this stage I just had a sense of foreboding when I spoke to her and a dread of mentioning hospital appointments or reasonable adjustments.

She made sure that each and every request was twisted to make it appear that I was being awkward in my requests, whilst in actuality she was standing in the way of a seamless and comfortable transition back to work.  She used stealth, untruths and managerial power to impede my progress .

After only a few weeks it became apparent that I needed to speak to HR as I was concerned about her blocking hospital appointments, preventing me having a proper healthy return and generally ignoring any reasonable requests.

That is when it really started. When she found out I had contacted HR her bullying began in ernest. She called me into her office under the pretext that she wanted to discuss my health issues and then told me that she wanted a discussion with a view to discipline for what she regarded as a problem with my work. This, even though she knew I was exhausted and just weeks after my return. She almost seemed to get pleasure from my horrified expression and consternation, especially as she had got me there under the pretext of concern for my health.

Raising the issues with HR seemed to fuel her into what I can only perceive as revenge by seeking to attack my competence and vilify me to my employers. This type of bullying is recognised by Employment litigators as common. The use of managerial power to quell a member of staff who raises issues against them.

When I tried to draw attention to her acts to senior management I was rebuffed. They clearly could not comprehend that such an apparently nice manager was behind the scenes a calculating bully. HR were merely a conduit for management and were of no help.

My reaction was shock, fear and horror to what turned into a several month ordeal to clear my name. During which time she also stated that I had not met the requirements of my appraisal and tried to blacken my name to a new manager who I was assigned to due to a work re-shuffle.

After years of successful employment in the company, this person was about to ruin my reputation and senior management seemed oblivious and  apathetic. My union could only look on in incredulity at the time that passed but due to changes in the law could not do much until the internal processes were exhausted. The whole ordeal took longer than my entire cancer treatment and took place whilst I was still endeavouring to recover.

I did clear my name and the investigation into the groundless allegations was thrown out but not without considerable personal consequences.

During the time and continuing, I have suffered raised blood pressure, high cholesterol, palpitations, nightmares, exhaustion, sleepless nights, overthinking and at my lowest ebb wondered whether it was all worth it and whether to chuck in my career entirely.

Even with support and friends the experience was appalling. I was offered counselling by my GP and told that what I had suffered was the trauma of bullying. What a relief, finally someone who had named my feelings with compassion.

The bullying was almost worse than the cancer.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of people are bullied at work each year and suffer in silence. The sort of victimisation I had suffered was typical and that revenge seeking bullies are not uncommon.

When I spoke to Macmillian Cancer Support no surprises were expressed that despite having cancer I was singled out for bullying. Cancer is no protection from the serial or determined bully because they feel no remorse or empathy.

But there is hope! Surviving a bully requires active determination by the target (I hate victim) not to be kowtowed. Many cannot suffer the onslaught unscathed and some never recover. Having had cancer you will be fighting or have fought the biggest battle of your life and using this experience I believe that bullies can only win if we let them.

I am absolutely determined that this will not happen to you! I want to set up an on line information network to give recovery assistance, support and strength to the "cancer-bullied". I am thinking in particular of the workplace bullied for the moment.

I would like to create a data-base of bullying support sites. I would like a presence on twitter, facebook, email,  etc to share ideas for surviving bullying in a holistic and pastoral atmosphere and to highlight to the general public and law makers the terrible devastation of bullying.

There are ways of aiding recovery including caring for and gently supporting yourself during and after such an horrific experience, using art, relaxation techniques and frankly any other useful techniques anyone can think of. One way is to do things for others, so I am having a go here.

I ask is there a need for such a service? Please let me know by responding to this blog.

With hope for a beautiful rehabilitation ,


For confidentiality, some facts have been changed.

For anyone affected by bullying helpful advice can be found at and Macmillan Cancer Support.

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