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awful experience at work

(112 Posts)
springymater Fri 17-May-13 14:25:59

Took part in a volunteer's 'reflective practise' yesterday and two colleagues tore me to shreds. Along the lines of: you are up yourself, think you're wonderful, who do you think you are; that I talk down to people, am lazy, don't do any work, wander about. Those are the accusations I remember, anyway. I don't recognise any of it - I work hard, got my eye on the ball, am generally friendly and chatty in a non-obtrusive way. Ordinary, basically.

This came out of the blue. We work with the homeless and a lot - though not all - of my colleagues are ex-homeless/ex-offenders/recovering addicts etc and the two who laid into me come into these categories.

I have been working with these two men in a reception capacity and relationships were becoming very frosty - not on my part, but theirs. It was becoming increasingly awkward to work with them as I appeared to be frozen out of working practise, let alone conversation. But I didn't particularly notice iyswim! We are very busy and I suppose I assumed in that vague way that people are stressed, tired, whatever. I have a generally good professional sense and have good experience of the professional environment - though this environment is more relaxed in one sense (though more boundaried in others). it is generally a 'friendly' environment - it has to be because of the dire straits/vulnerability of the clients.

The discussion with my colleagues was initiated because I was trying to flag up that I was being left out of working practise - I addressed this by suggesting the issue of team work, are we working as a team. I didn't directly confront but kept it general. A lot of ex-homeless etc find it very difficult to engage with teamwork eg and I wasn't about to be pointing fingers.

I was thoroughly attacked - a character assassination; shouted at (red face/neck, bulging veins), accused of being 'fucking patronising' etc etc. It went on and on - about half an hour. I began to shake (I wish I'd got out then) but kept professional, asked them to clarify, give examples. The examples were bizarre and there was no way I could respond, though I tried. I don't know what has happened to cause this but I do think I've had the 'white, middle-class do-gooder' tag put on me (when, as it happens, the only one of those I am is white - I am, for instance, in recovery). I eventually left as the unremitting assault wasn't abating at all. The situation wasn't resolved, my presence only encouraged them to continue.

the whole experience was horrifying and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say I went into shock and burst into floods of tears in a cafe about half an hour later, completely unable to control it. I had a very bad night and cried and cried. I feel beaten up.

I have a bit of clarity today - though still tearful. I spoke to my line manager, saying I wouldn't be working in that capacity again because of a very bad experience in reflective practise. He said reflective practise is confidential and he can't know anything about it, so there is no support there.

So where does that leave me? Is it ok to tear a colleague to shreds under the auspices of 'reflective practise'? The psychotherapist who ran the group basically allowed the thing to continue. She was reluctant to 'let' me leave (though we are all of course free to leave when we want). I felt like a lamb led to the slaughter.

Sorry long sad. Any advice (hand-holding, hugs!) etc gratefully received. I realise the people I work with can have very significant issues - I have a fair few of my own tbf - but I don't accept I can be torn to shreds in this way.

How long have you worked there?. I would speak in the first instance to HR about this or even ACAS.

3littlefrogs Fri 17-May-13 14:32:26

That sounds horrendous.

From what you have said, the psychotherapist sounds very unprofessional.

Is this a voluntary post? If so, if I were you I would walk away. I am sure there are plenty of other voluntary jobs you could do.

Your line manager sounds hopeless too. sad.

I am so sorry you went through that. It is possible to offer constructive criticism, but what you were subjected to sounds like verbal assault and bullying.

HormonalHousewife Fri 17-May-13 14:32:52

God that sounds beyond awful.

And totally not right.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 17-May-13 14:34:12

I've seen 360 appraisals or whatever they are called go very bad in the past myself. One company I worked for actually had trained counsellors on hand to deal with the fall-out... If it was a psychotherapist leading the group she wants shooting because the whole point of reflective sessions is to provide constructive criticism and not be a vent for out and out bullying. I would be making a formal complaint about her competence & professionalism because what you experienced was unacceptable.

foolonthehill Fri 17-May-13 14:35:19

I am truly shocked at the psychotherapist running the session.

In my opinion you underwent a total personal character assassination that could in no way be seen as "reflective practice"
I would be reporting the supervisor

foolonthehill Fri 17-May-13 14:41:43

these are some of the basic tenets for Supervising reflective practice: I have highlighted the points not adhered to by your supervisor.

Set regularly scheduled meetings that protect against interruptions
Put away distractions, turn off phone, Note on door
Create an agreed upon an agenda
Model reflective process in group and individual setting
Reflect on process in preparation for next meeting
Be accessible with intentional communication about how students can access supervisory support
Be available in crisis
Create a safe environment
Support development of worker’s observation and listening skills
Encourage exploration of thoughts/feelings
Invite sharing of details
Listen for worker’s emotions
Invite worker to talk about feelings
Respond with empathy
Attend to how reactions to the content affect the process
Check in with worker about personal comfort with reflective processes
Model openness, curiosity and emotional availability
Listen more, talk less
Ally with worker strengths
Maintain balance of attention to case and student
Provide supportive feedback
Open environment to share and explore challenges and mistakes
Foster ownership of experiences
Facilitate student’s awareness of need for encouragement and support
Communicate clear expectations
Assess where the student is and start there
Respect needs and abilities of students to process and reflect
Strategically ask reflective questions
Use reflective tools – journaling and process recording

you may have no comeback with your colleagues due to the setting. but you definitely have the right to challenge the supervisor's competence.

wordyBird Fri 17-May-13 14:42:59

oh springy, that sounds awful.

Frankly, I don't think that is a good environment for you to be working in.

I don't see any connection between reflective practice and being abused at work. The people working with you, all of them who didn't support you - they should be ashamed.

You need to be somewhere much more supportive.

Lemonylemon Fri 17-May-13 14:47:42

This came out of the blue. We work with the homeless and a lot - though not all - of my colleagues are ex-homeless/ex-offenders/recovering addicts etc and the two who laid into me come into these categories.

You know, that doesn't surprise me. They more than likely have a chip on their shoulder..... Am I allowed to say that?

springymater Fri 17-May-13 15:07:17

Not quite chip but yes, issues, shall we say.

though as I said, I'm not clean and tidy in the upstairs dept either. I haven't been able to work for over a year (until recently), hence volunteering. I don't want to sound pathetic but up until recently I couldn't get dressed - getting into 'work' has been a major achievement.

I wonder if they sensed the broken bird thing? Don't want to get paranoid though!

I don't know if I can take this further - at least not effectively (ie will I be heard?) - and the stress of 'making observations' may not be worth it iyswim.

I have really enjoyed working there but perhaps it's time to call it a day.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 15:09:46

One of the things that hurt was that I have been so fond of one of them - a young lad who has come so far, apparently. I really liked him - and it was reciprocated. It was an added sting that I felt hurt by him and his thorough attack.

Doyouthinktheysaurus Fri 17-May-13 15:30:00

That is an absolute disgrace on the part of the psychotherapist!

They should have put a stop to it immediately if they couldn't keep it on track. Why the hell should anyone sit and listen to themselves being ripped to shreds!

It's sad that you feel you may have to walk away, really unfair on you. I think you should try again with your manager, make it clear that the session essentially turned into bullying and you expect them to deal with it!

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 17-May-13 15:36:13

I think, even if you aren't 'heard' exactly, you owe it to yourself to complain forcefully, in writing, about the person leading the session. If you do nothing and walk away from your job I think you will be more damaged by the experience than if you articulate your anger ... even if you subsequently go on to leave. Your manger, by the way, is a spineless git...

quietlysuggests Fri 17-May-13 15:37:47

I think living on the streets people do become wild. The strong beat on the weak. The bully boys rule over the women. I think 2 pricks tore you apart because you are a woman and they wanted to. I bet their is a lead one filling the other's head with rubbish of the white patronising dogooder variety just as you say.
Complain in writing. Complain about the facilitator. Complain about your line manager. And then leave the job.
But know this - this was NOT about you. You were the victim of an unreasonable attack.
If it is not a charity, sue them.
If it is a charity write a stinking letter to as high up as you can.
I am so sorry.
You WILL get over this, it will be raw for a few weeks, you will get flash backs for months, but you WILL get over this.

dontyouwantmebaby Fri 17-May-13 15:39:13

springy I'm so sorry this happened to you, it really isn't on for your colleagues to use these sessions in this way and sounds like the session wasn't properly managed either.

Well done for making it back into work btw, I totally 'get' that this is a major achievement if you've been unable to get out the door/get dressed etc. Had similar myself after a long absence from work, its daunting setting a foot outside the door and going back to it. Please try not to let this incident set you back whatever you do!

Your line manager doesn't sound particularly helpful but I'm wondering whether the issue of being left out of working practise/team work is something that your line manager should be addressing anyway rather than you? I can understand why you didn't want to confront it and sensibly kept things on a more general basis, esp with your knowledge & experience in dealing with the ex-homeless.

As for feeling stung by the person you were fond of, I hate to say it, but sometimes its the people we've helped most who end up stinging us in the workplace. I don't think much of people who will easily label others (eg do-gooder, middle-class etc) in order to attack them.

You may hurt now but I hope you will come out of this feeling stronger and if its better for you to find something else then do so, you shouldn't have to put up with this kind of thing at all. Otherwise stay and tackle it, starting with your line manager.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 15:55:02

The last time I spoke to my line manager about something (outrageous!) he said I had to learn to be more tolerant....... <hopeless emoticon>

It is a charity. The guy I liked is my colleague, so I have not in any way 'helped' him or worked with him on his recovery/rehabilitation. Just a colleague I liked and was very fond of. Not that it was obvious, iyswim. He was the shouty guy and, I think, has definitely been put up to this by the other guy (or am I thinking that to ease the hurt?). the other guy, I could have nightmares about him tbh - cold, clinical, heartless, spiteful. brrrrrr.

My managers are not part of reflective sessions/teamwork because that suits them tbh. One thing they can delegate and not get involved in.

To be fair, they are busy, beleaguered, under-funded etc etc etc.

UptheChimney Fri 17-May-13 16:17:04

The psychotherapist should be dismissed without a reference! < flog 'em & hang 'em emoticon >

But seriusly, I think the very least you are owed is a one to one session with the psychotherapist to debrief. S/he may not be able to counteract that horrible attack, but they should be duty bound honour-bound to help you process it and move past the shock.

Branleuse Fri 17-May-13 16:25:16

dont go easy on them just because its a charity.
theres no point in being wonderful to clients in recovery whilst assassinating their volunteers.
this needs putting a stop to.
I wish I could give you a big hug. You didnt deserve that. It wasnt about you. this was about THEM. they have projected all their anger with the system onto you

Branleuse Fri 17-May-13 16:26:36

and it was allowed to happen under supervision. That's the scariest thing.
I think you need to speak to head office and take this further

dontyouwantmebaby Fri 17-May-13 16:26:59

How long have you been there springy?

Being busy/beleagured/under-funded is a poor excuse for turning a blind eye to colleagues ganging up on you at a reflective practise session which in itself sounds like it was a waste of time & money.

eminemmerdale Fri 17-May-13 16:31:43

horrible sad I totally sympathise - having worked with the homeless myself myself, I know what a stressful environment it can be and yes, ex addicts/rough sleepers etc can be very sensitive and push boundares - sometimes that's acceptable. this is totally not though. You must take it higher. Did you get the role through a volunteer centre? If so, go and speak to them as they would not want to send volunters into such an environment for a start, and if you get no joy from your managers, go to the trustees. I'm so sorry sad

springymater Fri 17-May-13 16:37:56

I have just realised there is more to this story - apologies for drip feed (not intentional, as you will see).

I have made the decision to make an official complaint about a member of staff who is, wait for it, one of the counsellors (to the homeless clients). For some reason I have not been able to fathom at all, this woman has had it in for me and repeatedly berated me (in public), harassed me, chided me on my work (as a chef) etc etc. I have been astonished by this and, again, paid little attention (until later) because I am so fucking busy! However, the last incident had her shouting my name like she was calling a dog: enough was enough. I have talked to my line manager throughout these incidents - another line manager, who has been supportive (my line manager has just changed - I've been awarded the ineffectual one). Afaik no-one but my (previous) line manager knows I have the paperwork to issue a complaint; though I assume his line manager (and his line manager) does??

It could be that psychotherapist and counsellor are buddies in some way - though afaik they are from two separate orgs and don't work from the same office.

and yes, I am aware that it looks like I come in for a fair bit of bullying. I have a significant history of being bullied and continue to work on that in therapy.

(Please don't give up saying 'she must be a nutcase'. I thought so too but therapy has convinced me otherwise. Thankfully.)

BOF Fri 17-May-13 16:38:20

Quietlysuggests is spot on. How awful for you sad

AgentFelix Fri 17-May-13 16:40:43

sad I feel gutted for you springy

If you were spoken to like that by a neighbour or stranger on the street you'd be wise to call the police. Therefore it should never have happened in a supervised environment at work.

I hope this awful experience doesn't harm your recovery. You sound like you've done so well. (Been there and not done as well as you have)


eminemmerdale Fri 17-May-13 16:43:20

Quick question - is it a day centre or a residential shelter/supported housing?

buzzybee123 Fri 17-May-13 16:44:28

I think this is more likely of a reflection about themselves then you, although things needed sorting out this is hardly the way, its sounds totally unprofessional and inappropriate.

Constructive criticism is one thing a personal attack is not acceptable

agree with other report your so called supervisor

TheCrackFox Fri 17-May-13 16:54:16

Have I read this right? You are a volunteer and, therefore, not even getting paid and they are treating you like complete shit?

I'm actually shocked and very sorry that this is happening to you.

MaryQueenOfSpots Fri 17-May-13 16:56:23

Well done for having the courage to leave the "reflective practise" session - it sounds very badly managed by the psychotherapist. I find it appalling that you haven't been offered a debrief with her or another psychotherapist to help you process it. There being another unpleasant person in the organisation (counsellor) does make me think you would be better moving on to another organisation who will value you more. It sounds like a pretty dysfunctional environment.

Maybe this could be the spur to move you on to something with more responsibility and/or paid. You sound a kind, thoughtful person who another organisation would jump at the chance to employ.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:12:33

It is both eminemmerdale - though I work in the day centre part of the building.

I have been there for 5 months. And I have made a few observations while I have been there eg lack of equipment, h&s issues etc. All done offically and through the right channels, not aggressively. Bully counsellor's approach seems to be that she thinks I need taking down a peg or two. She is not in my line management and has nothing to do with me officially. as far as my role is concerned, she is, effectively, just another customer.

I'm hoping that various personnel don't use MN (please God...!)

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 17-May-13 17:16:41

springymater if your face fits, well and good. For whatever reason your card is marked. I think the line manager is spineless and the psychotherapist is an incompetent who needs reporting to her professional body. Totally not worth letting them drive you into the ground. Go before it gets nastier.

Allalonenow Fri 17-May-13 17:18:40

So sorry to be reading this Springy, you seemed to be so happy there just a few weeks ago, and to have given so much of yourself to the job in recent months.

Could you make an appointment with the leader of the session to ask them to explain why they allowed others to bully you to such an extent?

I think you should be prepared to take this matter to a higher level than your line manager, there must be a central HR department for the charity. They must have an anti bullying policy in place.

Reading an earlier post about the protocols that should have been followed, I can see how previously homeless people might misinterpret the purpose of the session. Part of the reason for them becoming homeless could be that they have problems with regulations/boundaries, so might well see the session in terms of venting personal anger, rather than constructive team building. All the more reason for the leader to be firmly in control.

Sending you thanks and courage.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 17-May-13 17:22:19

This is all voluntary, am I understanding that correctly or do you get paid? For one I wonder how they seriously expect to get more volunteers by bullying the existing ones into leaving hmm And for two, if you are classed as an employee and you felt forced to leave as a result of this appalling session you would have an excellent case for constructive dismissal. A short meeting with an employment lawyer might be on the cards if that is the case

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:26:41

I so should've left before I did, Mary - I was trembling like a leaf. See, I'm beating myself up about not leaving earlier - mad!

I could do with some help with wording of any complaint please? (if I choose to go down that path...). I am in that horrible position where I feel so arse about tit I can't work out the right words without being too emotional/dramatic. Though your list is helpful fool

Thanks for support. I'm still not in focus, as it were, but getting there.

This is voluntary? Honestly there are lovely organisations crying out for dedicated volunteers - can you see this experience as a step to something better for you? Volunteers really should not be left feeling the way you have. And it doesn't sound as if the organisation is interested in protecting or helping you. Have a brew & sympathy.

MaryQueenOfSpots Fri 17-May-13 17:33:36

springy you know you have nothing to reproach yourself for, right? <stern look>

If you made a complaint what would you like the resolution to be? Sometimes it's easier to start there, and work backwards when thinking about wording.

I do think you would be so much more valued in a different organisation though and wouldn't have to deal with these negative, energy sapping people.

grimbletart Fri 17-May-13 17:34:56

reflective practice = too often a euphemism for navel gazing self indulgence and opportunistic bullying.

springy: don't put up with this crap. Take a deep breath and put in a complaint that is a) logical b) calm and c) makes it clear you expect action to be taken to ensure this never happens again.

And remember, as a volunteer, you don't have to put up with arseholes.

TSSDNCOP Fri 17-May-13 17:43:51

Dear lord surely this was supposed to be a constructive exercise not a verbal assault. Whoever ran the session has let you down appallingly.

I'm certain that in the current climate you would get an alternative role in a not for profit organisation in a shot. I honestly couldn't and wouldn't stay where you are.

Time to ask WIFM (whats in it for me)?

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:46:16

But if I leave can I still expect the issue to be addressed if I lodge a complaint?

tbh this all happened in front of my colleagues. I can't be absolutely sure I'd get their support if I'm honest.... It could be that my relationship with my colleagues has been damaged by this. Which would make my future impossible there, anyway.

it's ironic that I've had problems with staff and volunteers (or these 2 anyway) but absolutely none from clients! They are vociferous in their thanks and praise for me and what I do. That's what counts, I suppose confused

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:47:43

I'm sounding a bit naive there!

eminemmerdale Fri 17-May-13 17:48:48

always seems to be the way in these places <bitter experience>

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:50:38

You know how when the shit hits the fan, colleagues vanish? I can't even remember the incident properly - shock - and I can't be sure my colleagues would back up what happened. If I can't remember and no-one backs me up (and the psychotherapist doesn't do the decent thing... which she didn't at the time...) it's all looking a bit hopeless.

MaryQueenOfSpots Fri 17-May-13 17:53:36

The organisation sounds dysfunctional, and if so, you being there won't make a jot of difference to whether it is actually addressed.

Be proud that you are the sort of person who cares enough to complain constructively and try and make a difference. But it only works if the organisation is functioning though. So there is no shame in looking to use your talents elsewhere and letting this go.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:53:55

Sorry for lots of posts - yes, eminemmerdale (love the name - arf): at the start of the session, I was the first to arrive and for about 10 minutes I was alone with the therapist. She had a book on the table, face down, called 'Trauma and Organisations' (or something like that!) re how orgs working with traumatised people often end up displaying the same chaotic way of functioning.

Jux Fri 17-May-13 17:59:04

oh springy, how awful. That is so out of order and unacceptable I can hardly believe it (though I do).

I agree that a strong official complaint is needed, and to find another place where you will be appreciated. You have so much to contribute both personally and professionally. Don't stay where you're not appreaciated.

acebaby Fri 17-May-13 18:03:16

Springymaster - this sounds awful. I would start keeping a diary of incidents. You can start off by copying out your posts here. Even if others won't back you up, this will be powerful evidence. If you decide to leave, perhaps you write a letter about your experiences to the charity managers, or even the trustees. At least that way, things might be improved for others in the future. Take care sad

springymater Fri 17-May-13 18:10:29
DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 17-May-13 18:21:45

Sorry haven't read your link yet but whole set-up sounds like a spiteful adult version of "Tig - you're it". For all that psychotherapist knew it could have been dangerously triggering.

Lavenderhoney Fri 17-May-13 18:49:27

What a dreadful thing to go through- and it actually has a name- reflective practise! I have been through 360 process but it nothing like this. Sounds one of the most mis managed meetings I have ever heard of. And your manager is just as bad.

Whoever ran it and took part in it should be ashamed of themselves and definitely reported. And they must have known it was going to happen. The fact this was done and you were left to cope alone is worse too.

Whilst its fresh in your mind write it all down. Also write down you felt unable to leave - everything.

Do you have to go back? If not leave, see a doc for stress monday morning- and see cab/ employment lawyer, plus call your hr dept direct if there is one and say why you are off. don't bother with your manager. I would personally be concerned these uncontrolled rantings would be somehow put in my file in hr and signed by the " supervisor" as legitimate.

Hs anyone else there been subjected to it? Or have they left?

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 17-May-13 19:27:59

Ouch, that sounds like an awful experience, poor you sad

I suspect you cannot remember things as you went into shock, your colleagues may have worked out that you were being picked as the sacrifice for that session... And never under estimate the power of cowardice and wanting a quiet life as forces to make even the 'niceat' colleagues shut up and hide. That's a lesson I learnt the hard way & have realised that just because I believe in justice, kindness and speaking up for others, it doesn't mean that others will do that same. It really hurts though and I can feel your pain.

What do you want to happen now? Think about what's best for you and then work out/ talk to us about how you might get there. Other than to wind back time and it not to have happened flowers

foolonthehill Fri 17-May-13 22:38:48

In case it is of any use....

Dear Trustee/manager,

I am writing to seek your help in resolving a problem that I experienced during a reflective practice session on (date) at (place) with (people present) at work. It is a problem that is causing me some concern and that I have been unable to solve through my line manager (X). I hope you will enable the issue can be resolved quickly and appropriately with your assistance.

On (date) I attended a reflective practice session supervised by (X) also attended by (Y and Z) my colleagues. During this session, which lasted approximately (N) minutes (Y) launched a personal attack on me, in my view amounting to sustained bullying. This was backed up by Z and allowed to continue unchecked by the supervisor (X) despite my obvious distress and desire to halt the session.

I eventually left the session in a state of some distress. The bullying caused me to...............and I have been entirely left on my own to deal with my reactions with neither constructive advice nor emotional support.

My understanding of reflective practice is that it is to be used as a tool to enhance and encourage professional development, to address team and personal issues in a constructive and safe environment and to build us up as individuals to work to the best of our abilities.

There are published professional standards for the supervision of reflective practice. In my experience several of these went unobserved including (list).

I raised this matter my boss but he/she refused to talk to me about this as it was contained in a reflective practice meeting.

I was very upset about this as I have been in this job for (time) and have not had any problems, indeed i have been complemented on my work on many occasions. I enjoy my work and cannot understand why this attitude has been allowed to go unchallenged. I was so worried and upset that I have had to .....................

I would welcome the chance to talk this through with you at a convenient time and place. I would like to be accompanied to the meeting by (a supportive other)

Yours sincerely

So is this voluntary?

I cannot believe that you have been treated in this way. I would be tempted to have a private word with the individuals involved. Just what was the purpose?

gail734 Fri 17-May-13 23:10:30

springy I have one word to describe the two men in your work, and that word is jealous.
They don't sense the "broken bird" thing - quite the opposite. They see you as someone who has no problems coping and who therefore probably looks down on them. It's totally their paranoia. Easier said than done, but you should try to forget it. I recognise a number of the phrases you quoted. I was at a wedding reception and a young woman, the 20-something daughter of a neighbour (so ten years younger than me) who was a bit drunk, leant over and said, "Look at you, you think you're great. Always looking down your nose at everyone..." Completely unprovoked! Well, I'd obviously been annoying her for years, but not intentionally! Get yourself out of their toxic company and forget it.

StillSeekingSpike Sat 18-May-13 08:44:40

I was also about to say that these two men sound jealous and possibly quite threatened by you.

I worked for various charities over a period of about 2o years and would NEVER EVER work for one again. They are the absolute workplaces for bullying, unprofessionalism, weak management and poor staff support.
DON'T be tempted to go back. This organisation sounds as if it is sick at the core- the trouble with such places is that the people with the biggest issues and problems are not the clients, but the fking staff angry

Jux Sat 18-May-13 09:19:58

I agree that the men were jealous, and their view fuelled by their own inadequacies and paranoia. That's no excuse for the psychotherapist though, who either had no idea how to keep hold of the reins or was simply incompetent. Either is dangerous.

springymater Sat 18-May-13 10:17:46

I wonder if the psychotherapist is in cahouts (sp) with the counsellor - the one who seems to think its her job to ''put me in my place' - bizarrely.

Beginning to see this a bit more clearly now (takes a bloody while when a bomb has gone off angry ). Here is what I think is the crux of it all (please bear with the autopsy!):

I have made some clear observations about the way the volunteers are treated by staff and a lot of my suggestions have been implemented. There is one particular sticking point I have dug in my heels about = staff coming into the kitchen (badly equipped btw). It is a working kitchen, catering for approx 40+ lunches - and the staff wander in as and when. It is a clear h&s risk and I have been incensed at the lack of respect and boundaries the staff display towards the work of the volunteers. One member of staff regularly asks me to cook her teeny quorn dinner in the vast oven for 40 minutes (she won't use the microwave) and has a strop when I say it's not possible. They have their own fully-equipped kitchen.

So, this has been my sticking point and it has become known amongst the staff (though not as known as I would like) that I won't allow staff into the kitchen while lunch is being prepared/cooked. They sent me on a h&s course ffs. I think they are incensed that I have, or am using, the power to 'allow' or 'disallow' staff in the kitchen. Which in turn gets my goat: if you have volunteers, give them equal respect for the work they do - and what particularly gets my goat is that so many of the volunteers have routinely been treated with zero respect in their lives, their boundaries entirely ignored/violated. imo the centre is doing precisely this to the volunteers.

imo this is why the counsellor has taken it upon herself to pull me down a peg, ridicule me, harass me, shout at me, treat me like a dog (I kid you not). It seems there is a deep-seated resistance to giving volunteers (rightful) power - and by this I include volunteers who are in a rehab programme, and volunteering at the centre is a significant part of that.

yy addicts - recovering or otherwise - are/can be slippery and unreliable and liars etc etc - but imo that doesnt give the centre the right to ignore/ride toughshod over personal and professional boundaries. If they choose to give ex-members voluntary jobs, then treat them with the respect they deserve.

PERHAPS the [rehab] volunteers cherish their centre and dont want the status quo disrupted. Perhaps thats why I got it in the neck.

Not that that is an excuse for what happened yesterday! angry

springymater Sat 18-May-13 10:19:12

ps I am the chef so it is my 'right' to allow or disallow iyswim. I am in charge of the kitchen.

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 10:24:57

Is there a volunteer policy? If not, there should be, if so demand to see it. Have you signed a volunteer agreement? There are legal issues at play here as well.

springymater Sat 18-May-13 10:28:33

They are the absolute workplaces for bullying, unprofessionalism, weak management and poor staff support

yyy Spike! I spoke to one staff member who is not renewing his contract - would rather be on the dole - because of the above.

Jux Sat 18-May-13 10:31:53

Yes, and if something happened in the kitchen the buck would firmly stop with you. So you are right to enforce h&s there.

I think the counsellor is utterly unprofessional. Whether you decide to continue working at this place or not, the powers that be - trustees or headoffice or whatever - need to be made aware of how badly it is aftually being run.

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 10:33:45

So many people, in my experience, who take jobs in the homeless sector are completey fucked up! <wonder if I was> grin I was actually bullied horrifically by someone in authority who was backed up by the trustees.. It was hidoues

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 10:34:23


springymater Sat 18-May-13 10:39:30

HAHA - yes, I am completely fucked up at the moment em grin

I adore working with the homeless. of course I have looked at that, why that should be so (what that says about me). a lot of the staff are ex-addicts/offenders etc.

I think I have been naive in how I have waded in. I said above that I was 'incensed' and that came across at times - particularly when I was up to my neck, lunch just about to be served, and some fuckwit MofS wanders into the kitchen angry . I keep professional but it is clear I am not best pleased.

stowsettler Sat 18-May-13 12:57:42

springy I've just read the whole of this thread and I'm glad to see that you seem to be slowly recovering from what sounds like a really terrible experience. However I can only echo what lots of others have already said - you really must complain about the incident, if not for yourself then so it doesn't happen to some other poor sod who's also led to the slaughter.

IMO just because you work with the homeless / addicts / whatever, that doesn't mean that your rights at work should in any way be compromised and those rights include the right not to be bullied (by the counsellor) or verbally attacked (in your reflective practise). Also as a volunteer you should be afforded exactly the same rights as paid employees.

This psychotherapist is responsible for the wellbeing of a number of vulnerable people and it frightens me that she is practising in such an environment. You really must complaint about her at the very least. I am more than happy to help you word any such complaint (I know a little bit about wording such things because I was falsely accused of bullying recently and wrote a statement in response, which resulted in the accusation being dropped, and my receiving a letter of apology and support from my bosses).

I live in Wales and we have the WCVA as a sort of umbrella body for all voluntary organisations - presumably there is similar in England? Get in touch with them. It is their responsibility to look after fine people like you who give up their time to help vulnerable people.

If you get no joy from complaining to your organisation (who must be your first port of call), then you should take it further and to other organisations.

eminemmerdale Sat 18-May-13 13:10:11

It's CVS here - each town has its own.

ElizaDoLots Sat 18-May-13 13:38:23

Sorry, I haven't read the thread in its entirety, but can I suggest you write everything down that you remember so that you have accurate notes to refer to. It sounds awful sad

BerylStreep Sat 18-May-13 14:03:16

Good draft letter fool.

Springy - sorry you went through this - it was horrid and handled badly by the person supervising the session. I second the suggestion of asking for a one to one de-brief session to help you process it, perhaps facilitated by someone else.

Lemonies Sat 18-May-13 14:10:24

No constructive advice but my sincere sympathy.
It sounds awful you were very strong to stay and listen for as long as you did.

Feel better soon x

Grinkly Sat 18-May-13 19:19:57

I think it's all to do with the self-esteem of the horrible critics and the staff.

They have ishoos and decided to take it out on you. Staff, with ishoos about their skills and ability (or perhaps they would be working somewhere happy and supportive) and colleagues with many unresolved issues, perhaps with a bit of encouragement from their therapists, taking out their disappointment and failures in life, on you.

I actually recognise doing something similar myself many years ago with a boss, completely lost the rag but really I was out of my depth in my work and couldn't face that fact (but only realised this with hindsight).

Can you go back? Would imagine that the 'colleagues' will be either sheepish over their nasty behaviour (unlikely) or brazen, pretending they were justified. Either way I don't think it will happen again. But it is worth lodging a complaint about the useless therapist.

springymater Sun 19-May-13 13:40:32

Thanks stow. I'll give them (or local org?) a call.

I don't think I was strong tbh Lemonies. They opened the door and I walked in. I was in shock and didn't recognise to protect myself. The bullying from the counsellor - and the subsequent, shall we say, lack of engagement about it from my line management - has put me on the back foot. I have felt grumpy and beleaguered, wary of making the complaint.

I need to (wo)man up I think.

foolonthehill Sun 19-May-13 18:42:36

You only need to (wo) man up if you want to, if it will help you to walk away and feel GOOD about yourself.

it is not your job to "save" this organisation.

I am all for complaining and raising hell. but never at the expense of your self.

Lavenderhoney Sun 19-May-13 20:10:32

As head chef you have to be in control of the kitchen. It doesn't matter whether you are at a michelin* or little chef, h&s come first plus getting food out to the best of the kitchens ability. You can't do that with people wandering round the kitchen distracting staff and getting in the way.

Anyone in F&B would be horrified at what has happened to you. I'm not, and I can still see how awful it was and how anyone in any role in any job should not be treated like this.

If you don't go back, and I don't see why you would tbh, what about working at a catering school that gives help to people wanting to be chefs, or applying to help at one of Jamie Oliver's places, the ones that support young people looking to become chefs and from homeless/ disadvantaged backgrounds.

springymater Sun 19-May-13 23:12:10

thank you. I am struggling a lot today. I've actually been getting flashbacks which have become intrusive. I hope this passes! One of the things that happened during the battering was that I said I felt frightened, and one of them jeered that I was a drama queen and manipulative. I'm battling with feelings of powerlessness about making a complaint/observation. I truly was thoroughly beaten up. I do think I need to say something, to give me a sense of control/power over this, as cogito says.

I have until wednesday to make a decision about what I'm going to do. I've remembered that a lot of my colleagues got up and left the meeting (I didn't even notice at the time, which is not like me to not notice!) - at least half. I was talking to a couple of friends about it and they reckon the others left because they didn't agree with what was happening - left in protest type of thing. I hadn't thought of that. I have been feeling that the whole horrible thing has destroyed my reputation there.

great idea about working with eg Jamie Oliver-type org. I'm only cooking there because I'm used to cooking for large groups, I don't have any training (unless you count years of cooking at home!).

Planning to print this thread and try to tackle my options tomorrow. Really valuable input, thanks so much.

wordyBird Mon 20-May-13 00:56:24

Springy, I don't know what to say, except that I'm so sorry you've been put through this vindictive exercise and that you're getting flashbacks. That shows just how abusive it was.

Hope you feel stronger in the morning. Whatever you decide to do. (I think foolonthehill has expressed much wisdom about the options.)

Take care and hope you sleep springy brew

springymater Mon 20-May-13 01:06:31

'beaten up' sounds dramatic doesn't it? oh fuck it, I can't concentrate at the mo, there should be a 'verbally' in there - sincere apols if that has offended anyone who has actually been beaten up.

AgentFelix Mon 20-May-13 01:21:06

Bless you springy.

I've been beaten up and I didn't feel anywhere near offended by your post.

Isn't there such a thing as verbal assault?, coming under the umbrella term of assault? Am I imagining such things?

I'm too tired to make much sense but didn't want you to worry that you'd spoken out of turn; I'm sure you haven't.

TheSilveryPussycat Mon 20-May-13 01:48:53

springy you are technically a vulnerable adult (or whatever they call it these days), aren't you, as am I. Who commisions the work, if someone does - I bet it is Social Services. One possible route is to complain to them that you have been bullied by one of their providers. You might be able to even if they aren't the commissioners - am a bit hazy on exact details of how it works.

I certainly would never volunteer for this organisation again.

Mind you, the Vulnerable Adult process can be quite stressful for all concerned. It can have serious repercussions on the charity. Yes I know this, PM me if you want, she said mysteriously.

Lavenderhoney Mon 20-May-13 03:36:07

Springy, if you contact your local 4 and 5 star hotels, ask to speak to the hc and ask him if he needs anyone. Tell him you aren't professionally trained but you have experience and can work hard.

You will get a trial and can work either full time or they will offer you something I expect, as a commis - you will be in banqueting and restaurant as its unlikely anywhere there are enough chefs.

I would avoid a pub, tbh, unless its a known gastro pub with a known head chef.

If you want to work in restaurants do the same. Apply at the best and work down. Just call the reception and ask for the HC ( not during service!)

You have been treated badly and don't let them brush it under the carpet. It's a terrible thing to happen, and is not an accepted and usual way to do things in any industry. Much nicer people and bosses out there.

Lavenderhoney Mon 20-May-13 03:44:33

I meant to add I had a similar experience from an hr person at a massive multi national which caused me to react in much the same way, and I had no idea who the people who hated me were, hr were passing on the news I was disliked and refused to give me examples as then I would know who it was. This was 5 on a Friday night.

Dreadful lost weekend.

Called boss fri night, he said dont come in Monday, hr person demoted and finally sacked for such dreadful behaviour, people who complained told to raise things properly not bitching to hr. they were also demoted and one was never a manager again. It was all proved to be lies anyway during investigation. That was almost the worst bit, being investigated- All that misery and crying for nothing. I hadn't done anything. Just be me and have a nice job I liked which I did well. Big thanks to all my co workers then who said no total bollocks, she's great.

joblot Mon 20-May-13 04:48:11

Another one here rooting for you. Talk to someone you trust in rl who can advise. I had a shocking experience working in a small charity, completely. fucked me up. So i sympathise totally. I left as soon as I could but I've carried it around with me and felt crap about it. This thread has made me rethink it a bit, so thanks for that.

Write stuff down, talk to someone you trust then decide the best way forward. Good luck

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Mon 20-May-13 06:07:08

You should definitely write to the chairman of the trustees regarding this. I have previously been a trustee of a medium sized charity and have had not dissimilar things reported - some true, others not, most 50-50- but we always investigated it and sought to prevent reoccurences. Stick to facts though- dont speculate re the councellor and the psychotherapist being in cahoots.

I cannot imagine what was going through their heads, trying to use "reflective practice" to resolve a tense working situation amongst vulnerable adults.

springymater Mon 20-May-13 10:44:16

tbh I'm only cooking because that's what they needed. I'm 'chef' because I'm in charge of the kitchen on the days I cook. I enjoy cooking - and catering/hospitality generally. and I'm good I'm a bit of an old bird so I'm not sure I can be thinking of a career shift at this point! However, there's the new gov initiative encouraging older people to stay in the job market... (Interestingly, I have been thinking of selling the family home and buying a pub I've seen. Don't want to run it as a pub but been thinking of restaurant, b&b ??...)

I dread taking this further. As I've said, I have a history of being bullied, with attendant inquiries, long and drawn out legal proceedings etc. I didn't get any joy. So there you go, bullied to the ground confused . I do think I need to address this though, have my say; but I won't be pushing it too far. Done that, t-shirt. Move on?

springymater Mon 20-May-13 10:52:42

I've just had a call from the assistant manager who has asked me to vol for a new initiative they're launching. I said I had had a very bad experience at reflective practice (he's my new ineffectual line manager, the one I spoke to after the awful incident, the one who said reflective practice is confidential and he shouldn't know anything about it prick ). He said ok - and cut the call!!

springymater Mon 20-May-13 10:54:00

ie no goodbye, just cut the call.

Mumsyblouse Mon 20-May-13 10:59:15

springymater the great thing about volunteer work is you don't have to be there! You are not dependent on the money, you aren't tied into a contract, personally if anyone shouted at me in a working day, I would simply get up and leave, you are a volunteer and have that freedom! There are so many voluntary orgs crying out for people, just leave this lot to it and move onto somewhere and something else.

TheSilveryPussycat Mon 20-May-13 11:02:41

More proof that you should no longer involve yourself with this lot in any capacity.

imaginethat Mon 20-May-13 11:24:13

How awful, I am so sorry for what you have been through.

It sounds like a terrible place to work! Line managers all over the place and all of them ineffectual, a psychotherapist who cannot run a group. It's dangerous.

I think you need to get out sad

springymater Mon 20-May-13 11:34:51

It's a very big and established charity btw, not some little thing.

I won't be going back but I do need to have my say. I don't want to hang around for the post-mortem (as I said, been there, done that, lost - and had to endure endless personal attacks etc = more of the same!). So I can't say what I would like the result to be for me personally because I don't want to hear it. I don't have any faith that the issue will be dealt with properly and suspect I'll just get more of the same.

springymater Mon 20-May-13 11:38:02

the flashbacks have stopped btw. I hope that's that and I won't be troubled with them anymore.

imaginethat Mon 20-May-13 11:38:37

I suspect you will too and I think you would be wise to protect yourself from further attacks by not doing any more meetings. Unless there is a manager that is any good and you took a support person with you? Might help with closure.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Mon 20-May-13 11:55:22

Good lord! They really are awful and not a good environment for you to expose yourself to. I can see need for closure and a very quick move on to safeguard your own self...

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 20-May-13 14:52:16

Rum lot. That manager probably thinks he's 'covered his back' by giving a half-hearted invitation to take part in the next task. That to me says he knows you have respect of at least some co-workers. I agree with what you said upthread, possibly in the midst of that scene you didn't notice if colleagues walked out and didn't want to be caught up in that charade. Small consolation perhaps but it wasn't a complete lynching. Somehow the men who confronted you thought they had carte blanche to air their grievances in public. The woman leading the exercise could have halted this at any time when she saw you were upset. The two perpetrators obviously had time to think up their tactics and spiel beforehand.

Jux Mon 20-May-13 18:13:11

It's disgusting, and your manger is as bad as all of them.

Springy, I really hope that, whatever you decide to do, you get closure on this.

Lavenderhoney Mon 20-May-13 20:33:21

Thank goodness you are not going back! Great decision. They don't really care about people do they? Best out of it.

I wouldn't advise a pub until you have done some time in a professional kitchen. A b&b might be ok, if you don't mind being there all day and night.

Why don't you do some digging on forums and go and visit some pubs and b&bs to see what owners say?

I would still approach your local F&B places for a role to see if you really think a professional kitchen is for you and have some access to how to cost food and menus. Have a look on for jobs in your area.

Or start a private dining dinner company and go to people's houses to cook - depends on what you need financially to survive.

springymater Mon 20-May-13 20:55:19

what's F&B ??

I said upthread I didn't want to run a pub, only interested in buying a skanky old pub that's for sale. As things stand, it is £100K less than my current house and I could live in it mortgage free. I wouldn't have to decide what to do with it, I could just live in it - and develop any ideas as and when. So it's an appealing project...

I'm wondering if I would actually be better s/e. My own boss... Obv there are problems with that. I've just posted a thread about my lodger (who is pissing me off) - re being in charge or being an employer is just as potentially troublesome as being an employee - swings and roundabout, I should've thought.

I'm still very disappointed about this job. It seems to be a brutal end and endings like that are hard to process. I'd like to take some control of it somehow!

BerylStreep Mon 20-May-13 23:22:27

I would write to the trustees to set out what happened.

No need to subject yourself to post mortems or findings. But they need to know.

I don't think it is dramatic at all to say you felt like you had been assaulted.

Lavenderhoney Tue 21-May-13 10:15:15

Food and beverage is F&B.
I hope you get a good response from the trust. You've been treated very badly.

springymater Tue 28-May-13 19:12:07

Update: it's been a week since all this shit happened but I've been out of it.

I have sent the email to my line manager today, copied to Centre Manager, who has asked to see me this week.

We'll see how it goes. I knew I should have struck while the iron was hot, so to speak, but I just couldn't get it together at all. Ah well, the heat is out of it to a certain extent (heat analogies akimbo)

I loosely used your template, fool - and also your list. Thanks for that - it gave me a structure to work from.

We'll see how it goes.

Hellohippo Tue 28-May-13 19:22:23

I have ony just seen this, are you able to complain to whoever the psychotherapist is registered with so it's an independent person who investigates?

springymater Tue 28-May-13 21:50:06

That's a good plan Hello.

FarBetterNow Tue 28-May-13 22:16:51

Springy, you sound lovely and so do ALL the other posters.
Quite restored my faith in MN.

I hope that whatever you choose to do next will be enjoyable and your efforts will be better appreciated.

Best wishes to you.

Jux Tue 28-May-13 22:55:38

Hope the meeting goes well.

Buy the pub! Living mortgage free would be a great move. Get the best survey you can though!

Good luck.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Wed 29-May-13 17:54:27

Good luck, I hope the meeting goes ok

springytate Fri 31-May-13 21:15:53

As you have all been so supportive, I thought I'd give you an update about the meeting today -

It went very well indeed! The practice manager is taking it very seriously and unreservedly apologised. He is gathering together my line manager, the ineffectual line manager, him and me to thoroughly go over what has happened.

I asked who the psychotherapist works for and although she is s/e, she has strong links to the therapist who works at the centre. I didn't mention the link between the therapist and the psychotherapist but perhaps my questions about both probably tacitly made the link (?), though I didn't make it at all obvious - I had to know who the psychotherapist is answerable to (thanks for that tip, Hello ).

he gave me the option of either a meeting with him, me and the psychotherapist to go over it, or to make a formal complaint. I feel so strongly that what happened should never have happened and I have chosen the formal route of making a complaint. I have the w/e to officially decide. Perhaps I may, after all, take the option of a 'gathering' over a complaint - so that, frankly, I can let her have it in no uncertain terms. Perhaps I can see how it goes before deciding to make it formal? As I have said, I have been involved in a lot of wrangling in the past (largely through the family courts...) and, if I'm honest, I don't relish a drawn-out process.

thanks again for the support on here - it really helped me to get the horrible thing into perspective.

He was very complimentary about my email, fool smile

Job well done, I say.

diddl Sat 01-Jun-13 08:03:15

I think I'd make a complaint tbh.

It was totally unprofessional.

Are you going to stop volunteering for them?

BerylStreep Sat 01-Jun-13 09:36:53

Springy, I am glad to hear the practice manager has taken it seriously. It was awful what happened.

springytate Sat 01-Jun-13 09:48:41

I know this is tiny ie it's 'only' vol. I have to weigh that up. It's not a glittering career at stake here.

Jux Sat 01-Jun-13 13:41:50

I don't think that is relevant, springy. The therapist may not stay there for the rest of her (?) working life, she may move on to somewhere and just continue doing what she's doing and doing badly. If you get away with something once, firstly you're likely to do it again, and secondly, you don't learn or understand that it's wrong. This is what we (try to) do with children and sometimes adults have to be pulled up too.

I'm so glad your meeting went so well.

springytate Sun 02-Jun-13 12:49:54

Yes, but it's a huge sacrifice for me to go through a complaints procedure. That may be selfish, but I do have to protect myself at the moment.

It's a voluntary job. They've got the point. Some orgs are dysfunctional and this looks to be one of them. HOwever, they do a marvellous job on some level - for the clients. Is it my job to lay down on train tracks to bring some things to light?

I apparently don't have the support of my colleagues - save one or two; or the staff, save one or two. It is apparently common knowledge that I am/this is rocking the boat, and a collection of volunteers and staff are 'on my side'. But they're not going to step out imo. I'm not prepared to take the flak for this. I'd rather step away and let them sort out any mess themselves. They may or may not sort it out, I'd rather not be around.

that's where I stand at the mo, anyway.

Jux Mon 03-Jun-13 18:47:39

Springy, I didn't mean to add any pressure. I really think that you should do what's best for you, whether that is formal, informal or just leaving it altogether.

People are aware now, and that may be enough to encourage someone else in the future.

springytate Mon 03-Jun-13 20:57:44

I wasn't having a go Jux! I was grumpy, admittedly; but with the whole blasted thing. Like, too much effort, too much risk. That fucking woman did me over by not doing anything, standing by/back and letting the lions out of the cage. That should never have happened! The practise manager suggested a member of staff attend the sessions in future - at least, eg my situation, there would be someone there to say 'now come on, springy is a hardworker, what are you talking about'. A member of staff there would be undermining for the therapist, I should've thought - I wouldn't like it if I were running a group. Perhaps that's the best I can hope for in the circs. I don't want to take her/them on.

That said, I still haven't told the manager what I want to do! 6s 7s and grumpy tbh.

Jux Tue 04-Jun-13 08:31:00

No, Springy, I think quite a lot of it was me! I haven't worked for a long time and I don't recognise a lot of what goes on in workplaces any more.

Bearing my ignorance in mind though wink - have you got a reference? Maybe you could get a 'To Whom it May Concern' one now, while they're still wondering how far you're going with your complaint. (That would have been reasonable in my day!)

melconsidine Tue 04-Jun-13 10:54:15

Welcome to my world ... that's the reaction I often get from the Witches of Mumsnet LOL

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