|Table of Contents |
Page 1 – Dealing with Mental Health
Page 1 – Allegations of Inappropriate Touching
Page 2 – Behind the Galley Curtain
Page 2 – Dealing with the Grievance
Page 2 – Stupidity Ignorance or Both?
Page 3 – How Not to Deal with Mental Health
Page 4 – Ex Police Officer now Cabin Crew
Mental Health Matters | Part 2
How Not to Deal with Mental Health in the Workplace
Virgin Atlantic has worked very hard over many years to create a positive image for themselves. Their latest ‘vision’ is to become “the most loved travel company” whatever that means.
With regards to them dealing with mental health in the workplace, the following comes from their public blog;
Working well, living betterFor people to thrive they need to be well and feel at their best. We take a holistic view of wellbeing and have invested in the physical, mental and financial wellbeing of our people. Our goal is a highly motivated, resilient and vibrant workplace where our people feel valued, listened to and supported. In 2018, a significant area of focus was mental health. We signed the Time to Change pledge and opened up the public conversation about mental health to reduce stigma and discrimination within the workplace. We launched mental health first aid training and awareness sessions across the business and tailored peer to peer support for Cabin Crew.
In 2018, we launched Flourish, a journey which saw 1,600 of our people leaders develop the mindset and techniques they need to be at their best in order to lead and inspire their teams. We believe that by enhancing the capacity and capability of our leaders we can enhance the experience of all our people, ultimately leading to stronger engagement. All these initiatives contribute to the long term happiness of our people and therefore to the long term health of our business.
I attended the Flourish course but couldn’t bring myself to return for the second day. From the perspective of someone who struggles with mental health it could not have been any worse.
Towards the end of the day a colleague sitting next to me who I didn’t know that well said “you’re not coming back tomorrow are you?” We hadn’t really spoken the whole day.
I subsequently sent this email to the manager who organised the course;
This article was written by a senior manager regarding the airline’s approach to mental health. It was subsequently mentioned in a tweet by Holly Branson. I’ll share that in a later chapter.
Returning to the grievance raised by ex police officer now cabin crew member Bart, his written complaint was rude, insulting, hateful, disrespectful and full of lies.
Following the tragic case of Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman and other cases of misconduct involving the police, I find it incredibly frightening to think he was a serving police officer for eight years.
Despite only being with the airline for eleven months and therefore still in probation, he made twenty two separate complaints about my performance, ability and conduct. There wasn’t a shred of evidence to support any of his allegations.
The defence I put together proved conclusively that everything he said was a lie.
The initial investigation was carried out by a cabin crew line manager who a few years earlier had been a flight manager, the same rank as me. In 2014 she moved to a training job in the office.
In November 2016 she became a cabin crew line manager. At the time of the investigation into Bart’s complaint she had been in her role for just over two years. Although a nice person, like most of the line managers she lacked the experience to be able to deal with this matter.
The investigative meeting with her took place on 9th April 2019. She left Virgin Atlantic four months later.
The meeting took place more than three months after my flight with Bart. I attended alone because I was confident she would see through his lies. I didn’t believe I had anything to worry about.
What soon became apparent was that every single aspect of the way I carried out my role as a flight manager was being intensely scrutinised. The meeting was very clearly about proving my guilt instead of investigating the facts.
Having pointed out during the meeting that Bart was an ex police officer of eight years yet everything in his complaint was lies, hearing manager Lana replied; “he’s not a police officer anymore”.
In the following screenshot which comes from minutes taken during that meeting she told me Bart was unhappy because he had not been given the opportunity to work up.
Having received a copy of the meeting minutes they were difficult to understand and full of mistakes. I made many amendments, this is just one. The first black mark covers the real name of crew manager Lana, the remaining three cover Bart’s real name.
Having returned home after this meeting I felt absolute despair. I was subsequently off work for several weeks.
The outcome of Lana’s investigation was made up of 156 pages. It included witness statements from the crew on the flight which I hadn’t seen previously, minutes of a meeting carried out between her and Bart plus all correspondence associated with the complaint.
It was sent to me on the 18th June 2019. I joined Virgin Atlantic on 18th June 1990.
I read every word on every page of this hideous investigation which had taken her two months to compile. I was horrified to see five other crew members were supporting Bart’s allegations.
Despite proving the allegations were lies she still concluded there was a case to answer. What was even more astonishing was this crew manager has a degree in criminology and sociology.
Having read the outcome of the investigation I knew something very strange was going on. Things just didn’t add up.
The case was then passed to cabin crew manager Hayley. She would conduct the disciplinary hearing, look at the evidence for a second time and decide whether to uphold or dismiss the complaint.
The meeting with crew manager Hayley was held on 15th August 2019, almost seven months after my flight to Atlanta.
This time I was accompanied by a union rep’. As well as cabin crew manager Hayley, an Employee Relations Consultant was also present. His primary purpose for being present was to ensure correct procedures were followed and to take minutes.
The minutes he had taken during the first meeting with Lana were full of mistakes and those taken during this one were no better.
As soon as the meeting began it was clear cabin crew manager Hayley had no idea what she was doing. Not only was the meeting being led by the Employee Relations Consultant but he was guiding her.
During a break that seemed to be called very suddenly, I said to the union rep’ “she has no idea what she’s doing”.
Having complained about this at the appeal meeting with HoC (head of cabin crew), she replied “Hayley is a very experienced manager”.
In the document I received with the outcome of her investigation she wrote; “Hayley is a very experienced manager but this was her first disciplinary meeting at Virgin.” She went on to say it was my “perception the meeting was being led by the Employee Relations Consultant”.
This comment was condescending and insulting. HoC was not present so was in no position to comment on how the meeting was conducted. Especially considering it was Hayley’s first disciplinary meeting.
During the appeal meeting with HoC that took place some months later, the same union rep’ confirmed that it did appear as if Hayley was being guided. She also confirmed the meeting was being led by the Employee Relations Consultant. She even stated that at one point Hayley was reading from the wrong set of notes and had to be corrected.
The following paragraph comes from minutes that were taken during my appeal meeting with HoC.
The union rep’ told me there are so many straightforward grievance matters that Hayley could have started off with. To give her a case that involved a flight manager being accused of bullying, harassment and inappropriate touching was madness.
Knowing what I now know, I’m certain there was an underlying reason for that. HoC was the person who allocated grievances to managers in her team. She knew from the start what outcome she wanted. Giving the case to Hayley meant she could offer plenty of “guidance.”
It took Hayley six weeks to deliver the outcome of her investigation. All complaints against me were upheld including one that had already been dismissed by cabin crew manager Lana following the first investigation.
Having received the outcome I immediately filed an appeal. It was heard by HoC on 29th October 2019.
I received the outcome to the appeal eight weeks later just five days before Christmas.
I waited ten weeks to receive the outcome of the initial investigation carried out by Lana. It took six weeks for Hayley to complete her investigation.
With regards to the second grievance over my forum comment, I waited just over four weeks for the outcome of the initial investigation and almost six weeks to hear the outcome following the disciplinary hearing.
Having sought advice from ACAS the government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service about taking the matter to an industrial tribunal, they told me I should first raise a grievance about the way the appeal had been handled. I was also advised to file individual grievances against each crew member involved.
I was shocked that so many grievances could be going on at any one time. When redundancies were announced anyone with a disciplinary on their file was told their job was at risk.
My complaint about the way the grievance appeal had been handled was initially sent to a senior manager who then passed it to the Chief People Officer. It had to be dealt with at this level because it involved a senior manager. Within days of me submitting it the situation with COVID deteriorated and everything went into meltdown.
Several months after being made redundant whilst browsing LinkedIn, the page of HoC (head of cabin crew) popped up. Having read her page what I saw was really quite chilling. Everything suddenly began falling into place, or so I believed at that time.
Whilst describing her responsibilities she spoke about plans for improving employee engagement procedures to achieve expected business targets. She says she was responsible for implementing performance improvement plans with a focus on enhancing staff productivity (she too had since been made redundant).
I had been on long term sick for eighteen months in 2016 and subsequently had a further three separate periods of sickness during my last twelve months with the company. All were because of mental health issues that arose from having to deal with a malicious grievance.
There had also been an unpleasant incident on a flight to Miami where I was unwell.
I believed at the time these were the reasons why she wanted me out. With two final written warnings on my file I could be dismissed.
Some time later I discovered that wasn’t the reason at all. The actual reason for this witch-hunt was far more sinister.
This all took place before the outbreak of Covid-19. Even after the first grievance had been upheld, I knew it would only be on my file for twelve months. With that said, I was still determined to clear my name.
Although the grievance was upheld for the second complaint regarding the forum post, I wasn’t dismissed. That was only because the cabin crew manager who dealt with it downgraded the disciplinary to a written warning, not a final written warning. She also stated she did not feel it was appropriate for me to be dismissed.
I’m fairly certain HoC would have been incredibly disappointed.
When redundancies were announced following the outbreak of Covid-19, I was told I was being made redundant.
In my redundancy notification letter it was claimed part of the reason was because my performance as a flight manager was below average. As I will prove in due course, that was not true.
Life during my last twelve months with the company was pretty bad and that’s putting it mildly. The amount of stress and anxiety I was dealing with is difficult to put into words.
Returning to work in 2018 was an incredible achievement for me. I was so proud of what I had achieved. Less than one year later and my mental health was worse than it had ever been before.
Despite fighting the grievance raised against me by Bart on an almost daily basis, whenever I flew I gave 100%. Neither customers or crew could ever have imagined what I was going through.
In September 2020 I checked in for a Miami and was looking forward to the flight and to having breakfast on South Beach. What happened that day I will never forget.
The lunch service in the Upper Class cabin had just finished so I told the cabin crew to have something to eat. I went to chat with customers but suddenly felt unwell. I felt strange but couldn’t pinpoint what it was. I excused myself and went to the Upper Class bar area to grab some chocolate because I was hungry and thought that may be it.
It didn’t make any difference and by now was feeling as if I was going to faint. I went to the galley and told one of my colleagues I really didn’t feel well. I went onto oxygen and sat for some time on the jumpseat.
Over the next four hours the way I felt continually changed. One minute I felt better, the next much worse. At times I felt breathless, was sweating and had pains in my chest which led me to believe I may be in the early stages of a heart attack.
As well as having our onboard defibrillator to hand the cabin crew also opened the emergency medical kit. They had been advised by the medical team guiding them on the ground to administer a particular medication.
Despite the situation I was calm and super aware of everything going on around me. My main concern was preventing disruption to the service in the cabin.
The Economy cabin supervisor was the main crew member looking after me. Another who was working in Upper Class really stood out during the entire situation.
To say I was mortified was an understatement. I had never in all 30 years of flying been unwell on an aircraft.
Even with all this going on I was supporting the crew to ensure the situation was being dealt with as it should be.
When the afternoon tea service began I was aware the crew were struggling in Upper Class. I therefore asked the Economy cabin supervisor to make an announcement apologising for the service being slow and to explain a crew member had become unwell.
He subsequently recorded that in mandatory Performance Monitoring that was completed on me post flight.
I sat in the back galley area for landing and walked off the aircraft before customers were released from their seats.
More than 300 passengers walked past me whilst I was on an ambulance bed at the top of the jetway. Thankfully I wasn’t facing them.
I felt personally responsible and guilty for the service in Upper Class not running as smoothly as it should have.
I spent the next nine hours in a Miami hospital. After numerous scans and tests which turned up nothing, I was told I could leave. I crawled into bed absolutely exhausted at 1am local time. I had checked in for the flight at 8:30am UK time the previous day. It had been a very long and difficult day.
Having spoken to the medical team who work with the airline on the ground, I was advised to fly home as a passenger. There was nothing wrong with me and I insisted on working home. There was no way I was going to let my team down for a second time. I had been cleared to fly and worked home in my role as a Flight Manager.
In hindsight I believe what happened that day was some sort of panic attack. What triggered it I have no idea but one thing I’m certain, it was brought on by the enormous amount of stress I had been dealing with over the past nine months.
On the night flight home I spent time speaking with one member of the crew in particular. I had noticed her performance on the outbound sector prior to becoming unwell. After the situation kicked off she stood out in my mind and was incredibly kind.
Once home I wrote an email to her manager, something I had done many, many times for cabin crew over the years.
Some months later I received an email from her that brought a much needed smile to my face. She had applied for promotion and had been successful.
Sadly the outbreak of Covid-19 just a month or so later probably meant she never got to do her training.
This crew member and many others like her were part of the reason I stayed with this airline for 30 years.
What a difference to the six vile degenerates who I had the misfortune of flying with on 24th December 2018.