Bullying at Work

Surviving Work in Healthcare





Angela “I’m absolutely sure that working in a gang in a hospital or wherever has got something to do with being acceptable to the dominant culture. So if there is a clique in there who have the power you have to choose – am I going to be part of that gang that has the power or not? I know people who have watched bullying and have felt too ashamed and scared about their own job to whistleblow. The wish to be part of something – a tribe, a group or a profession – we know is a huge pull. The shame of watching something and not doing something – either you’re letting down the gang, or yourself, or your colleague, either way you’re lost.”


Elsie “I think you have to be able to recognise that something is seriously wrong and its actually going to damage me if I don’t do something about it. I also think you need somebody on your side – somebody to support you and just guard your space, to be an ear and to point you in the direction. I had to find people and things to help me help myself. To be honest, although I didn’t want to hear it I was told twice to leave the organisation – twice! – leave before they push you out. Sometimes you have to leave. You also need to contain the situation so it doesn’t affect the rest of your life – because it can actually destroy your family life, professional life, everything that is you. It can destroy you. So you have to find some way of dealing with the situation, putting it down and getting on with the rest of your life.”


Angela “Catch it early before its gone too far. So if you had an awareness of what counts as ethical behaviour and reasonable requests from management and sets of behaviour – if you can catch it early enough before it becomes damaging. You need a touchstone – a reflective group, a thoughtful individual – before you go mad. Once you’ve got to the point of bullying where you’re in pieces you cant hear it so being able to take it to an ally to say whats going on and to hear someone say “this is not on”. So that the moment it happens you’re not isolated.”



Elsie “Just talking about gang culture, in my case I couldn’t understand why people were looking on and not doing anything because it was very visible what was happening. Nobody did anything, except for this one person who actually saved me. Really, nobody said anything – it was as if they were complicit in what was going on.”



Angela “And immobilised by the whole system. We shouldn’t be – we see it around us and what resilience we need to whistle blow as you did. I’m not excusing this – it made me think that I was in the wrong – they’re in the right, look most of the people aren’t saying anything so why am I making such a big fuss?”



Elsie “But would you then be a whole person? You see for me you need to resolve these things. I feel like I wouldn’t be a whole person just standing by. I feel a bit uncomfortable now because now I meet my bully at work – and its a hello and a hug and we’ve resolved it and put it down. Well I have.”



Angela “You’ve done the work. After years of thinking about this and understanding and reading and PhDs you’re understanding bullying. And it’s hard, it’s hard to be always conscious and thoughtful and ethical. Not everybody can do it.”



To hear the full conversation with Elsie Gayle and Angela Eden go HERE.


To listen to our podcasts click on the links below:

1. We were bullied

2. Why are some people vulnerable to bullying in the NHS?

3. The role of toxic environments

4. Hierarchies in Health

5. How do you know when you’re being bullied?

6. With impossible targets you question yourself

7. Bullying is an abuse of power

8. What its like working in gang cultures

9. I thought I deserved it

10. Why did people just watch me being bullied?

11. I made up with my bully

12. You have to be able to bear the facts of life

13. How can you protect yourself against bullying?

14. What can organisations do to stop bullying?



Surviving Work in Healthcare is a free online resource Surviving Work in Healthcare designed for people working on the frontline. The website is a joint project by Surviving Work and the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust offering podcasts, videos and survival guides that take a jargon free, de-stigmatizing and practical approach to addressing the real problems of working in healthcare.


We have developed these resources to be used on the frontline of health care. We hope that you can use them in your activities, meetings and trainings. Just send the link www.survivingworkinhealth.org to anyone you think would find them useful. These resources are free –  all we ask is that you respect the copyright and attribute the resources to the authors when you use them.


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