April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Friday, 15 February 2013

Secrecy And Fear - It's Time For Action!

I've just read an article that absolutely pushed my buttons - firstly because it resonates with issues I have had to face and overcome myself, and secondly because I know from experience that these kind of situations are far from unique. I believe that they are continuing to happen because of our growing culture of secrecy and fear. And it's time to do something about it...!

The article I'm referring to is the story of Gary Walker, former Chief Executive of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. Sacked in 2011 for raising his concerns about the way the hospital was being run, he was then the subject of a gagging order and pay-off following a harrowing battle with the trust to have his case heard. Now he has decided to take a stand, defying the threats of lawyers employed by the NHS, and to 'whistle blow' about his experiences while working at the hospital. His word is being contested and he is facing financial ruin, so I found his statement particularly poignant: "... if it's got to the stage where thousands and thousands of patients are dying needlessly in NHS hospitals and the Government says no-one's to blame, someone needs to stand up and be counted. If they want to fight me in the courts for breach of an unlawful contract I was forced to sign then I will fight them all the way."

For me this is punching-the-air-brilliant stuff, and I found myself willing this man on, just for his courage in standing up and speaking out. 

Of course there are rights and wrongs and a whole heap more to this story I am sure - but the fact remains that it takes courage and bloody hard work to speak up against anything that is intrinsically wrong. In fact, those who do find the courage to do so are nearly always ridiculed, often ostracised, and sometimes ruined as a result. One of the comments after the article talks about working at places where "... you have to be very careful what you say or you could find yourself out of a job.... There is a climate of fear in many offices..." 

My professional dealings tell me that this is so very true - and, in my opinion, getting worse. People are afraid to say (let alone do) anything that might rock the status quo, for fear of losing their job. So instead they follow the code of silence - knowing that something is wrong but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This kind of behaviour eats away at self-confidence and ultimately threatens the very soul of a business. The more people are having to pretend that everything is ok, the less they connect emotionally with their work colleagues and their surroundings. They start to become empty shells and as a result their work and concentration becomes (at best) robotic. 

So far as I'm concerned it becomes a vicious cycle of bullying and fear. What happens then to good customer service, caring about results or 'going the extra mile' - the small but personal differences that encourage a business to thrive? With so many people invested (for whatever reasons) on maintaining a status quo that rewards few and harms many, is it any wonder that we have reports telling us that people are less happy and more stressed today than ever before?

The thing is, those of us who keep the silence are in our own way enabling the bad stuff to continue. A bully can only harm others while he or she thinks they have control. This is why silencing people is such a powerful weapon - it separates others and breeds insecurities.

I remember one of my earliest projects was to help two separate offices from the same firm to integrate in to one large building. It was absolutely fascinating collecting the feedback from both groups of people. Each believe the other had a better working conditions. Each was convinced that the other group would judge them. Each was scared that they might not fit in. Each held their clients in such high regard that they were afraid the move would upset their relationships... It wasn't until I played back the feedback to both groups of people that the tensions subsided. Once they realised that they both had the same (or very similar) hopes and fears, they pulled together and they made it work.

OK, life may not always be that simple. But the thing is, if everyone stays quiet then nothing will change. I know from bitter experience how hard it has been for me to get my own voice heard - how it appears to be more important to cover backs and make sure we don't rock the boat than listen to what is wrong. It riles me no end to know that the focus seems much more on 'not upsetting the baddies' rather than taking action on what is right. 

I for one have now found my voice. And my intention is to help others find theirs as well. I'm not suggesting that everyone should take the same 'out there' route that I am choosing - what I am saying is that the more we can start to acknowledge (even if only to ourselves) when something is not right, then we can start to work out how to take action.

It's the smallest tiniest things that make a difference. We may feel like we're only a drop in the ocean - but as we all band together our power will expand until we are the difference that makes the difference.

So now, I wonder who's up for joining in...?

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