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

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