This is the true story of a brave individual who took on a bully and won – by being prepared. She was newly bereaved and therefore vulnerable, but she had the experience to know how to construct her case, and her union helped her to win the day.
Beating bullying – how I did it
I was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of a national housing association in the UK. I went to work there three weeks after my partner had died from cancer, having been given special leave by my previous employer to be with her in her final days and not required to work my notice of three months. Looking back now, I should never have started in the new job so soon.
But I did.
Within weeks, I realised I had a bully on my hands. That bully was the Chief Executive Officer, and every employee was aware of her ability to bully and scared of her. As DCEO I was responsible for human resources and health and safety. Me being me, I put myself in between the bully and the staff, many of whom thanked me for doing just that, and was told that ‘things are better’ as far as they were concerned.
However, the CEO started the usual tricks of a bully: moving goal posts – such as demanding reports before agreed deadlines – sending me flame-mails from her office, which was next door to mine, demanding I instruct staff to undertake extra duties when a Regional Manager had a breakdown (as a result of being stressed by her bullying), altering supervision notes to make me look incompetent. Frankly she was hell in heels.
The organisation had a Board of Trustees, and the logical move was to approach the Chair to discuss the issues. Then I discovered that every board member ‘owed’ the CEO a debt of some kind – including the roof over his or her heads. You see – this housing association was ‘user led.’
She made one big mistake. As a former trades unionist I was well trained in the need to keep a record of events from start to finish. I had continued to pay my union dues through my bank account, and not my pay slip. As a former, well-respected union activist, I went to see my ‘old’ Regional Officer, who was shocked at the state I was in. I’d worked with him for a decade up to 1996, and we were sparring partners of old.
I handed over my record of events and just told him to “sort it out.” Something I would NEVER have done in my old job. I ended up with an out of court settlement of almost £20,000, enough to set me on the path of self-employment. Now it’s several years on, I’m still standing, still working, and still out there dealing with bullies.
Workplace bullying is a LinkedIn group providing a forum for people who have experienced workplace bullying, for those who need support and for a variety of professionals dealing with the issue in everyday life. Trades unions can help with advice and guidance and can also provide support to members who have been targeted by bullies. Many unions express a ‘zero tolerance‘ policy.
Link to Trades Union Congress ‘Bullied at work? Don’t suffer in silence‘.
The details of this case are printed almost verbatim and with the full permission of the individual concerned. If you have a story to tell, you can use your own words or it can be written for you. You can also remain anonymous. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.