30 Years a Virgin | A Mental Health Blog | Part 3


Table of Contents

Mental Health Matters Part 2

Page 1 – The Importance of Evidence
Page 2 – Hideous Bunch of Misfits 
Page 3 – Writing Reviews Post Flight 
Page 4 – Another Incompetent Manager

Mental Health Matters Part 4

Writing Reviews Post Flight

I have to apologise, this page is quite long but I couldn’t find an appropriate point to split it.

I want to start by explaining why I wrote a performance review on Bart after the flight instead of writing and delivering it during the flight which is the norm.

Over the years the way the cabin crews’ performance has been assessed has continually changed. One thing that has remained the same is that Cabin Supervisors and Flight Managers have always been expected to occasionally write a more detailed assessment on a crew member.

Until the introduction of company issued iPads in 2017, these were always done by hand.

The Flight Manager’s role in recent years has become much busier. Until a few years ago we were not written into any of the on-board services so could use our initiative to work out where we were needed to help out. Whilst many Flight Manager’s worked as hard as everyone else, some took advantage and did as little as possible.

It was something cabin crew management had always been aware of. After many years of trying unsuccessfully to address the problem, the Flight Manager was finally written into the services.

For those of us who already worked hard, that put us under even more pressure. My role was to supervise the running of the flight and to coach and develop both the cabin crew and Cabin Supervisors. My rank also played an important role as an ambassador for the airline.

Throughout my time as a Flight Manager I would try to work in all three cabins and with as many of the cabin crew as possible. Between services I kept myself busy and rarely ever sat down other than to do paperwork.

Before the introduction of iPads the paperwork would take about forty minutes depending on what had to be written. In recent years the company had worked hard to reduce the amount of paperwork. With less paperwork the Flight Manager had more time to help and support the crew.

With regards to writing performance reviews, it should be remembered that many inbound flights with this airline fly through the night. Writing a performance review whilst tired was never easy. Some flights could be so busy there simply wasn’t time to do anything more than the standard performance monitoring.

Some years ago after a flight during which I’d had an issue with a crew member, I wrote a review on her once I was home. I had spoken to her during the flight but didn’t have time to document what had been discussed.

After arriving home and having slept, I wrote a detailed review which I sent to her, her manager and copied in my manager. It has always been policy that a crew member’s manager be copied in any performance review that’s written.

From then on I occasionally wrote reviews from home if I felt they were necessary or deserved. I still did the standard performance monitoring that had to be completed during the flight. That was returned with my flight paperwork at the end of the flight.

More recently the system changed and all performance monitoring was done on company issued iPads. The reviews I wrote from home were additional reviews.

Let me put this into perspective. The screenshot below shows ALL performance reviews that I ever wrote from home. I was a Flight Manager for 19 years. Only one of those was constructive, the rest were all positive. The crew members always emailed me back to thank me for taking the time to write the assessment.

Only two crew members failed to do that. The first was the person who received the constructive review. The second was a relatively new crew member who worked in Upper Class. She had worked hard during the flight and had done really well. Being relatively new she still had much to learn so I wrote a review praising what she had done well and offering some guidance on how she could improve.

Despite the review being mostly very positive, she never replied.


""
Performance reviews written from home during my 19 years as FSM

The following screenshot comes from the grievance Bart raised against me. His comments are in blue, mine are in green. I was asked to respond to his complaint as part of the investigation.


copy of written correspondence
OBM is Onboard Manager


This is the closing paragraph of my performance review on Bart. He added “bullying; discussed with other crew” in green plus the the text in blue. The second paragraph in green is my response;


copy of written correspondence

The reason his performance monitoring was completed by Katrina was because with him working in Upper Class, the Cabin Supervisor in that cabin is responsible for doing it. It only appears on her iPad.

The only way I could have done it would be to complete it on her iPad. Doing that would be a breach of confidentiality because Katrina would be able look at what I wrote.

Considering she had been with the airline for a similar amount of time as Bart, I didn’t feel that was appropriate. According to his complaint he was given 10 out of 10 by Katrina on both sectors.

The following is from T’s witness statement;


copy of written correspondence
from T’s witness statement


Katrina didn’t mention that in her witness statement because it wasn’t true. We spoke extensively throughout both sectors about the role of Cabin Supervisor. Lottie made a direct reference to that in her witness statement.

Having flown as a manager with another airline for many years, Katrina took an interest in her development and was keen to learn. I was happy to coach her which was part of my role as a Flight Manager.

Regarding trying to get Katrina to give feedback to other crew members on their performance, Claire who was working in Upper Class was Katrina’s best friend. She was very experienced and needed no coaching. Lottie was also very experienced and more than capable of carrying out her role to a very high standard. I spoke to Bart myself several times during both sectors about the way he was delivering the service. That only leaves Bruce who was in the galley. I also spoke to him about the way he was presenting the food (see previous link. You may need to scroll up and down slightly). They’re the only crew Katrina was responsible for.

One thing to remember is T is friends with Anna, Bart’s fiancee. His witness statement was really quite strange. Some of his answers were simply not true like the comment about me trying to get Katrina to give feedback to crew about their performance.

In response to other questions, what he wrote was honest and supportive of me and the way I carried out my role. Most of what he wrote about Bart was negative and fairly damaging.

This also comes from his statement;


copy of written correspondence


Bear in mind Katrina had only been with the airline for just over a year. She was working up as Upper Class Cabin Supervisor for the first time in a very busy and challenging environment. One of her team was an inexperienced crew member (Bart) and another was running the galley, badly.

Allowing someone to work up means guiding them without taking over. That’s exactly what I was doing and she didn’t have a problem with that. She states that herself in her witness statement.

I didn’t need to manage Upper Class directly, I was overseeing Katrina doing that and she was working extremely hard. Ven was working in Premium and despite being the vile and dishonest creature he is, he had everything in that cabin well under control. He certainly wasn’t doing the Upper Class Cabin Supervisor position.

Regarding managing the flight, I was the only person on the aircraft capable of doing that. I’m not sure I would have managed quite as well without assistance from Ven.

In Voice of Customer questionnaires returned after this sector, in Upper Class we were marked “excellent”.

The following screenshot comes from the grievance I submitted regarding the way the appeal and entire matter had been handled. Question 3 comes from witness statements sent to the cabin crew. The orange text is crew member T.

The grievance was sent to a different senior manager, not senior manager xx.

She replied almost immediately and told me she was leaving the business at the end of the week so would forward my email to her boss. That was Chief People Officer Estelle Hollingsworth.

This was at the start of Covid-19 so I suspect although I really don’t know, that she had already been made redundant.

I also sent individual grievances against Bart, Anna, Mia, Ven and Peter to my own manager.

I never heard back from Estelle before being made redundant.


copy of written correspondence

Had I completed performance feedback on Bart using Katrina’s iPad as two managers and senior manager xx had stated, apart from being totally unprofessional, I believe I would have been in breach of data protection laws. I also believe it would have been inappropriate to discuss another crew member’s performance with Katrina.

Katrina wasn’t a trained Cabin Supervisor she was working up in the rank. She had only been with the airline for a couple of months longer than Bart. Despite that, senior manager xx expected me to discuss his performance with her.

The following comes from the outcome of the appeal investigation carried out by senior manager xx;


copy of written correspondence
PM = Performance Monitoring

At no time did I discuss Bart’s performance with any member of crew although he does accuse me of doing that in his complaint. That in itself seems odd considering T says in his witness statement I was trying to get Katrina to give crew members feedback on their performance. Remember T and Bart’s fiancée Anna were good friends and I proved without doubt that collusion had taken place.

According to Bart’s complaint, Katrina scored him 10/10 on both sectors.


The following screenshot comes from the appeal I submitted to senior manager xx. In the first line I’m talking about crew manager Hayley who conducted the disciplinary meeting (not the initial grievance investigation).


copy of written correspondence

This “Table of Contents” comes from my appeal. Exhibit and page numbers refer to all evidence submitted as part of my defence.


I wrote hundreds of performance reviews during my nineteen years as a Flight Manager. Almost all of those were written and delivered to the crew member during long night flights.

The few that I wrote from home in more recent years were written because I was too tired to write anything constructive during the flight. As already mentioned, these were additional reviews, not the standard performance monitoring that had to be completed either in writing or subsequently on iPads.

Performance reviews were always copied to the crew member’s manager and my own manager. This was not as Bart stated in his complaint an underhanded tactic to damage his reputation or promotion. Nor was it a deliberate attempt to cause trouble and jeopardise his position for future promotion.

Those comments demonstrate he has no understanding of the reasons why performance feedback is written. Nor does he understand the role of a “Performance and Development Manager”. For that matter I’m not sure Cabin Crew Manager Lana and Senior Manager xx Head of Cabin Crew have a comprehensive understanding of it either.

Considering all twelve reports I wrote from home were copied to my manager and the manager of the crew member, I have never received any criticism about words or language I used. Nor have I ever been asked not to send them a copy. Every report I have ever written on the aircraft has also been copied to the crew member’s manager.

Bart said he found my use of the words “quite why” ridiculing and condescending.


copy of written correspondence
Taken from evidence that I submitted as part of my defence. Obviously I’ve changed his name


copy of written correspondence
Taken from the performance review I wrote on Bart

His complaint regarding my use of the words “quite why” was upheld by crew manager Lana who initially investigated the complaint, by crew manager Hayley who conducted the disciplinary meeting and by senior manager xx who heard my appeal.

Bart states he felt targeted by me and felt there was an underlying reason why I copied in his manager on his feedback. Crew manager Lana told him during their meeting she would ask me why I felt it necessary to do that!

The following comes from evidence submitted as part of my defence;


copy of written correspondence

I find it absolutely incredulous this crew manager said that. It’s company policy and always has been yet during my meeting with her, she asked me why I felt it necessary to copy in his manager.

Worse still, two further managers agreed with her. Despite asking in all three meetings and in my written documentation whether policy had changed, nobody answered the question.

Clearly I had been doing something very wrong for nineteen years yet nobody ever addressed it with me.

The following comes from policy manuals issued to cabin crew in all ranks;


copy of a company policy

In his complaint Bart refers to me as inflexible, robotic and only wanting things to be done my way or face the wrath of a long-winded email.

He goes on to say “I am open to feedback but to include my manager in a manner which he did was an underhanded tactic. This could have seriously damaged my reputation, average scores and progression aspirations in the future.”

I didn’t want things to be done “my way”, I wanted them to be done as they’re written in the Service Procedures Manual. That was part of my job as a Flight Manager.

I find it incredibly disrespectful to refer to a performance review written by an experienced manager in his own time for the purpose of development, as “long winded”. But then Bart also referred to my service delivery procedures as “excessive and long winded”, my P.A’s as being “long winded and rambling” and wrote elsewhere in his complaint “I felt Laurence was speaking in a long and rambling tone and there was no need for him to lift a policy and send it to me”.

Remember this is someone who had been with the airline for eleven months and was still in probation. In line with the anti-harassment and bullying policy I found all of his statements personal, highly offensive, disrespectful and gave no consideration as to how I may feel when I read them.

The reason I say “how I may feel when I read them” is because crew manager Lana stated I did not give appropriate consideration to how Bart may feel after having received the performance review I wrote on him. Crew manager Hayley and senior manager xx agreed and the complaint was upheld.

How does any crew member “feel” when they’re given constructive feedback even when it’s delivered face to face? Bear in mind feedback is usually delivered towards the end of a long night flight when the crew are extremely tired and jetlagged.

I sent Bart his performance review more than twenty four hours after we landed home. By that time he would have been very well rested.

I want to mention something that I’ll talk about in more detail in the next chapter of my blog. Despite asking cabin crew manager Hayley in writing to be mindful of when she sent me the outcome of her disciplinary investigation, she sent it to me three hours after I landed home from a flight. Having seen the outcome, because of the trip I had just been on and how I was feeling at the time, I came very close to taking my own life.

In the outcome to my appeal conducted by senior manager xx in regards to this matter she said;


copy of written correspondence
Names have been changed for privacy purposes. “Handling of the case by very experienced manager Hayley” is a heading written by me, not senior manager xx.


She says Hayley was conscious of how long the process had taken and wanted to ensure I didn’t wait any longer than necessary. I had waited six weeks to receive her outcome letter. Waiting another twenty four hours before sending it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference.


The following comes from Bart’s complaint. When reading it, remember he had only been with the airline for eleven months and was still in his probation;

“I believe Laurence is very clever with the wording of his email. He structures it to appear as “constructive feedback” when in fact it is personal, bullying and targeted.

He hides behind written feedback and fails in his role as FSM to deal with any issues in the moment or face to face. Instead he has chosen to write long-winded emails during rest days when most of the crew were celebrating their Christmas causing undue harassment, distress and jeopardising a healthy work-life-balance, negatively impacting my mental health.

Laurence’s feedback is disguised as constructive but is cleverly worded. I believe it is personal, bullying unwarranted harassment. I believe Laurence regularly behaves in this manner but due to the nature of crew not regularly working with the same FSM, it has gone unreported. I feel I have a duty to report this bullying behaviour and request a full investigation, followed by an appropriate sanction.

Laurence did not allocate positions on the ipad which led to no crew member being able to score or provide feedback to him. I believe this is a deliberate action which he has completed in the past.

I have discussed this with the union and they agree, it seems an intentional way of stripping the crew of any opportunity to provide much needed feedback to the company and Lawrence.”


Having spoken to the union, I was told they said nothing of the sort. Bart did speak to them about the performance review and was advised to go through mediation.


copy of a company policy
From the Our Standards policy

To repeat what I have already said previously, I spoke to Bart numerous times on both sectors of our flight. Regarding the issue of not putting working positions into the iPad, that has already been covered.

You’ll see “bullying behaviour” when you read his grievance in full and statements written by Ven and Anna. You’ve already seen a few excerpts but they’re nothing in relation to what’s to come.


During my nineteen years as a Flight Manager I wrote several constructive performance reviews. I never informed a crew member in advance I would be writing a review on them. Once it was written I sat with them and went through it. In all cases but one (or two including Bart’s) that was done on the aircraft.

That one exception was on a flight where I didn’t have time to write the review. I felt the matter needed to be documented so wrote it from home.

With the new performance feedback system on the iPad, it wasn’t possible to write more than a couple of short paragraphs. Having raised that with a manager in the office, he told me if a longer review was necessary it should be written by hand.

Having written this constructive review from home, I sent the following email to the crew member’s manager. I wanted to ensure he was around before sending the review to her.

The screenshots below are self explanatory. I have blackened out some details for confidentiality.


copy of an email
Email sent to a Cabin Crew Manager re a constructive review
copy of an email
Reply from Crew Manger in response to a constructive review that I wrote


The following comes from minutes taken during the appeal meeting with senior manager xx;


copy of written correspondence
Minutes from appeal meeting with Senior Manager XX

The following comes from the company’s procedures manual;


copy of a company policy

copy of a company policy regarding dispute resolution


Despite Bart still being in probation he told his manager he wanted this matter to be dealt with as a grievance. He also said and I quote, “I expect the maximum sanction” and “am happy for this to be as severe as loss of employment for Laurence.” You may need to scroll down slightly to see the second screenshot.


Our inbound flight to London was exceptionally busy and I had many challenges to deal with. I was also exhausted because I didn’t feel I could take a break on either sector.

As well as having two crew members working up as Cabin Supervisors, only two of the crew had been with the airline for any length of time. Another was on his first flight back after being off for a year. The crew had long rest breaks in the bunks on both sectors.

Had there been two Cabin Supervisors on the flight in the first place which there should have been, things may well have been very different. With this being a Christmas trip, sickness was high as usual and there were very few cabin crew left to call out on standby.


In line with company policy crew rest breaks must be split into 3. Many Flight Managers still do them in two because it’s neither practical or necessary especially on night flights, to do them in three.

I did breaks in two on both sectors of our flight. Despite Bart, Anna and Ven complaining about every single aspect of my conduct, behaviour, performance and professionalism, not one of them mentioned breaks were done in two. Of course this was mentioned numerous times in my defence documentation but like so much else, it fell on deaf ears.


When a Flight Manager or Cabin Supervisor writes a constructive review during the flight, it’s then discussed with the crew member. In the vast majority of cases that will be towards the end of a long and/or busy night flight. The Flight Manager or Cabin Supervisor and the crew member are likely to be tired, jetlagged and probably not in the best frame of mind. For that reason tears often follow which makes the delivery even more difficult.

When delivering this type of review I often asked one of the Cabin Supervisors to be present as a witness. Had I spoken to Bart on this flight I would not have done that because both of Supervisors were the same rank as him but were working up.

Considering the vile nature of his complaint, I strongly believe that had I sat and spoken with him during the flight about writing a constructive review, he still would have submitted a very similar complaint.

The following is from documentation submitted as part of my grievance against the company for the way the matter was handled. Bear in mind my flight to Atlanta landed back into Heathrow on 26th December 2018.


copy of written correspondence
From correspondence submitted as part of my grievance against the company


I sent Bart’s review to him mid afternoon on the day following our flight. We had landed the previous day at 07.00. The following comes from minutes taken by Employee Relations Consultant Pedro during that first investigative meeting.

All names have been changed as they have been throughout my blog.


copy of minutes taken during a meeting

This screenshot comes from documents I submitted as part of my appeal heard by senior manager xx;


copy of written correspondence
From documents submitted with my appeal

This is the email sent by Bart to his manager. It’s followed by other correspondence that’s self explanatory;


copy of an email
Bart’s email to his manager


The reason Bart didn’t want to go through mediation was because having told a pack of lies, he knew how difficult it would be to uphold his version of events in a face to face meeting with me.

He also certainly wouldn’t have wanted to come face to face with me at cabin crew check-in or for us to end up on another flight together.

In witness statements supplied by other members of the crew, nobody confirmed they were aware of me treating Bart any differently from anyone else. They also confirmed they were unaware of me ignoring or excluding anyone at any time.


copy of written correspondence
From minutes taken during the grievance investigation meeting with Bart and hearing manager Lana/Pedro (employee relations consultant)


copy of written correspondence
From minutes taken during my disciplinary meeting with Manager Hayley


copy of written correspondence
Taken from my appeal submitted to Senior Manager XX

copy of written correspondence
From documents submitted as part of my appeal

The following comes from the witness statement of crew member Mia. She came to the front with T to help with the dinner service on the inbound flight;


copy of written correspondence
From Mia’s witness statement


Despite feeling stressed I remained professional and polite.

In T’s witness statement he said “I do not recall seeing any communication directly between Bart and Laurence”.

The following comes from Anna’s witness statement. Remember at the time she was Bart’s fiancee;


copy of written correspondence

Nothing unusual was noticed by Katrina, Claire and Lottie who worked alongside Bart and I in Upper Class. The Captain and First Officer were also unaware of any unfriendliness or unusual behaviour.

In her witness statement Lottie said nothing about me picking on Bart or any other member of the crew. Nor did she have any concerns about my ability or competence as a Flight Manager.

Anna spent about three minutes in total at the front of the aircraft and that was just on the inbound sector.

In the initial grievance investigation carried out by crew manager Lana, she said the following in her outcome document;


copy of written correspondence

It’s important to remember the inappropriate touching allegation against me was upheld by senior manager xx based solely on evidence from the witness statements of Anna and Ven. Nobody else on the aircraft including Ven, saw me or was aware of me touching anyone inappropriately, apart from Peter. In his statement he claims Mia told him I had been “quite physical on a few occasions” yet in her statement she writes I touched her leg whilst she was in Upper Class.

What Mia wrote in her statement despite being completely untrue, should not have been considered evidence because she stated she did not wish the matter to be taken further.

The allegation of bullying and harassment was also upheld throughout the grievance.

In Bart’s review I reminded him when working in Upper Class he must remember to check on the flight crew regularly (Captain and First Officer). Needless to say, he argued he did and even stated he “served them their food.”

The following comes from evidence submitted as part of my defence. This text comes from correspondence I sent to crew manager Lana the day after the first investigative meeting. Witness statements had not yet been requested from the rest of the crew;


copy of written correspondence
From evidence I submitted as part of my defence. J is the Upper Class cabin. F/O is First Officer.


Witness statements provided by the Captain and First Officer showed neither had any recollection of being served by Bart. The Captain even had a copy of the photograph taken of the entire crew before we left the hotel in Atlanta.

Considering what Bart wrote in his complaint, as a “fairly confident” ex police officer of eight years you would have thought he would have mentioned the following allegation to the Captain and First Officer at some point during the flight. Needless to say, they were unaware of any such behaviour.


copy of written correspondence
From Bart’s complaint


The following screenshots come from the witness statement of crew member T who was working up as Economy Cabin Supervisor. He came to the front several times during the inbound sector and helped out during the dinner service.


copy of written correspondence
From witness statement of crew member T


copy of written correspondence
From witness statement of crew member T


copy of written correspondence
From the witness statement of crew member T


Despite Bart being so vocal about my ability in my absence, he clearly didn’t say anything about inappropriate touching or feeling that he was being bullied. T states elsewhere in his statement that he was totally unaware of any inappropriate touching towards himself or any other member of the crew.

I’m aware that whilst on a ground placement for a year he had been working in recruitment.

I spoke to Bart several times during both sectors but more so during the inbound flight. This was because he was struggling to keep up and was not delivering the service as it should be delivered. That’s why I asked Mia when she arrived to help, to work with Bart in his aisle.

I understood he was still relatively new so was trying to guide him as much as I could. Only crew members Anna, Ven and Peter claim I was “singling out” or “picking on” him. Peter was working at the other end of the aircraft and didn’t come to the front once on either sector. But he had become very friendly with Ven.

The following screenshot comes from Lottie’s witness statement. She was an experienced crew member who had been with the airline for about eight years.


copy of written correspondence
From the witness statement of Lottie

It saddens me to think the crew felt I came across as patronising because that really would never have been my intention.

With upward feedback having recently been introduced, I’m sure that would eventually have come to my attention.

In feedback I received in the twelve months prior to being made redundant which was written anonymously, nobody mentioned anything about me being patronising.

I think maybe on this flight it came across that way because the environment was very stressful for many reasons. With the way the situation was, I was being more assertive than I would normally be but that obviously came across as patronising.


7 thoughts on “30 Years a Virgin | A Mental Health Blog | Part 3

  1. Thank you Julie. I loved my job and felt privileged to be working for the airline. I always did my best and couldn’t do more than that. Sadly what happened to me has happened to many others. I’m just the first to document my experience. Bullying damages lives. It certainly damaged mine. The whole situation is a disgrace.

    Things are slowly getting better but it’s a long road to full recovery. It’s taken almost three years for me to get to where I am today. x

    Like

  2. So sad and unnecessary. I’m sorry and saddened that you had to go through this. You always showed so much integrity, loyalty and was so much fun to fly with. Always professional … always smiling.

    Wishing you a brighter, fairer and happier future x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahhh thank you Justine. We flew together many times and I always remember your smile. I met so many amazing people during my time with Virgin Atlantic and you were definitely one of them. It really was the best job in the world.

    The company has certainly changed but so has the world we live in.

    Thank you for your lovely words, they mean a great deal to me.

    x

    Like

  4. I always loved flying with you Laurence , im sorry you have gone through this after so many years working for VA with an unblemished working record .. you were always the name on the check in sheet to bring a smile to the crew that it was going to be a fun flight ! Big hugs J xx

    Like

  5. Thank you Donna for your kind words. It’s been a tough couple of years and what I had to deal with has certainly taken its toll. Life goes on and I am trying hard to get back on track. Sadly it doesn’t leave me with very good memories of my time at Virgin Atlantic.

    I had twenty eight amazing years and two terrible ones. In time I’ll hopefully forget about the last two and remember the previous twenty eight.

    I hope life is treating you well.

    Like

  6. Hi Lawrence, I have just managed to read all you have written and I feel sad to hear what a horrible time you had, I worked with you on numerous flights, I was crew from 1996 to 2010 , I was always happy to see your name on the list and always remember you to be fun, approachable and professional, I was actually shocked to read this and the terrible things said about you, I wish all the best for the future and hope you can find some peace after all this

    Liked by 1 person

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