Professional jealousy in mental health nursing management

Three failed interviews

It was soon to be my leaving party from the Elderly Mental Health ward that I’d been working on as ‘Acting’ Manager for almost three fantastic years. I’d initially been asked by our Nursing Director to take this post, with a view to making it permanent following the interview process.

However, the Modern Matron, an ineffective, immature and spiteful battle-axe decided otherwise. After three failed interviews, where she asked the most ridiculously loaded questions i.e.

“What problems would I have if I was to become your Manager in the future?”

Infection control and poor personal
hygiene — image from
  • Did Ugly (her nature, not her appearance) Betty really want to know that she was a laughing stock round the whole Mental Health Unit who, despite her unwashed hair and grubby fingernails, constantly banged on about her role as “Infection Control trainer” or her high expectations of both staff and patients’ personal hygiene?
  • Did she really want me to tell her how I struggled with her stinking attitude; deliberately sitting in ‘my’ chair in ‘my’ office demanding I sign off letters to staff that she’d written — very badly? She wrote just as she spoke – with an Irish accent (which I love incidentally) and I don’t think she knew what good grammar or punctuation was. Don’t even get me started on her knowledge in letter writing format – or lack of it – her letters ended with her signature about a third of the way down an A4 page!
  • Was I to explain in front of her same-level colleagues on the interview panel that I wasn’t keen on her stealing all my ideas about changes to the ward, passing off my work as her own in Senior Management meetings? Or that she yelled and swore at me for writing an article for the Trust Magazine ‘without her consent’ — when the Chief Executive actually asked me to write about my plans and dreams for my new post?
  • I could have mentioned that she didn’t have to keep reminding anyone and everyone “She’s only an Acting Manager as she hasn’t been successful in her application for the Manager’s post yet.”
  • I might even have told her that her unhealthy (dis)interest in some of my awards, one of which I received after six months of starting my nursing career for Most Excellent Newcomer of the Year, when she told me three years later “That’s a wee bit old, is it not? You might want to stick that on a shelf at home.” Or the disregard towards my qualifications, knowledge and skills that she didn’t possess, saying “Oh, ye’ll not need them on this here ward, you’ll not. A wee bit waste of time, don’t ye think?”
  • Should I have told her that actually, the problems she’d have being my manager would be endless?

I gave up!

After Ugly Betty delighted in phoning to tell me “How sh*t my interview was” and “I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed such a bad candidate, ye know,” or “What happened to you in there? You talked absolute Sh*te,” I returned to my previous post as Assistant Manager on my old Acute in-patient Mental Health Ward.

Back to the leaving party

Anyway, I digress — back to the party, where Ugly Betty showed her face. Thankfully just long enough to take a nosy peek at my home (which was hygienically spotless) and to find out who else had turned up.

Her face was a picture when she saw the endless groups of our multidisciplinary colleagues which included all the Ward Consultants, Doctors, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists and Nurses, together with staff from our Community Teams and several from other professional agencies — who’d come to wish me well. She did manage a grimace and a “Who invited this lot? They’ve only come for the free drinks, ye know.”

Her disparaging glimpse at all the ‘Sorry to see you go’ cards, letters, flowers and gifts from colleagues, patients, carers and families — said a lot. She didn’t like me and it showed.

Professional jealousy in mental health nursing

Perhaps some of my colleagues at the party did recognise my contribution to the Team Awards we won over the years or the improved standards of care and nursing? But her parting shot as I walked her to my front door was “It’s a shame you know. You and I could of made such a good team.”

I smiled cheerily “I know. We could have.” Ha, if only she’d been a better Manager; less demeaning and controlling, more accepting and willing to see others as co-workers who were all working together to achieve a common goal.

You see, professional jealousy, particularly in mental health nursing, is a terrible thing. It’s like a death knell to a pleasant, professional and healthy work environment. It appeared to me that there was some underlying jealousy in many Mental Health Nurse Managers who lacked confidence in themselves, their skills or knowledge. Instead of embracing their ‘underlings’ or colleagues’ contributions to the team, they undermined them and didn’t care to acknowledge their worth.

Transforming Good Managers into
Great Leaders –

Good managers lead their teams to great things. They help their staff develop and become the best that they can be. I wanted our assistant managers to know everything I knew because eventually, one of them would be taking my place or be applying for other management posts — and get them — because of their excellent knowledge and skills base.

Good Managers should welcome and embrace both the professional and personal experience, knowledge and skills that each staff member brings to their teams — they can make you and your team look great, under your leadership! But, don’t ever forget to give them credit where it’s due.

Person thinking —

Just think — if Modern Matrons could transform themselves and their Managers from good to great leaders, what kind of impact would that have on our wonderful NHS, our Mental Health wards, our staff, our patients, their families and carers?

Any other thoughts on what Ugly Betty could have done differently?

You may also be interested in 10 attributes of a good mental health nurse here


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

22 thoughts on “Professional jealousy in mental health nursing management”

      1. There are just some people that no matter what you do, their own jealous or whatever is going to make it a losing battle for you. You did what you could. <3

  1. Wow, I hate people like her! And I know what you mean: internal ugliness has a way of shining through into someone’s external appearance, whereas otherwise they could be pretty. It’s just that inner rot and grotesqueness that always seems to translate into what they look like, even though it’s really their energy you’re picking up on. The Ugly Betties of the world are one reason why the workplace intimidates me! I don’t get along well with difficult people. It’s a major weakness. I’m impressed by how you handled her in this post!!

    1. I get what you’re saying too Meg -if I say someone’s beautiful or gorgeous – I mean inside which make the outside shine too.

      I’d been bullied for too many years before her and I wasn’t going to let beat me down. I just kept smiling at her and she hated it 🙂 x

  2. My first nurse manager was a lot like that. It baffles me that these people are given leadership positions.

    On a side note, the term Modern Matron seems very strange to me. Not only does it seem antiquated, but having a job title that’s so gendered doesn’t seem appropriate.

    1. I don’t think the had too many’good’ staff to promote so they had to put someone into management positions. Then a new breed of caring and compassionate, skilled and knowledgeable nurses came along and the managers all felt intimidated.

      Yes, Modern Matron was a stupid term – the men were called this too lol.

  3. I’ve had experience with professional jealousy and it’s horrible! I don’t understand women who undermine other women in the workplace. Don’t we have enough fighting against us to move up in our careers.

    1. They’re nervous that we’ll take their jobs from them – the men included. The thing was, I never initially wanted to be a Manager, I wanted to be a nurse on the floor with patients. But eventually, I could see the only way to make any changes was to move up the ladder. Hence the change – but I still managed to spend 60-70% of my time on the floor with patients and staff – I’d been an HR Manager prior to nursing so the paperwork wasn’t so hard for me. But some of our other Managers struggled.

  4. Oh you mean those kind of people? They still exist … everywhere.
    When I first needed to go for a health check up for work, the ‘nurse’ there asked me if I could speak Dutch well (I worked in psychiatry over 6 months then) and she said it in a loud voice, as if I had trouble hearing. Then she proceeded to ask to tell her what I’ve learned in the ‘psychologist school’. So I explained my job a little in a soft voice (just to see if she was hearing well) and then …. with the measuring and weighing and so, she said if I gained more weight I would become a cubicle! For real!
    Words are spilled in vain when talking about such creatures but yours seems fun (sometimes) especially when she mumbled ‘people only come out for free drinks’ 😂😂😂 what says a lot about her parties and her party-style!!!

    1. Unfortunately, they’re still around. Wow, your health check nurse sounds as bad as mine. She’d said I needed to put weight on over the next six month (after anorexia) and as I was leaving she said “careful you don’t fall down any drain holes!” What was that all about lol x

  5. Can’t even believe the people who become managers these days… it’s like a lot of companies these days just care about having an authority figure in place rather than someone who has true management and people skills.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights