Just had to come home from work - feeling bullied.

(46 Posts)

I just had to go into my bosses office and tell her I couldn't stay at work, I couldn't stop crying and feel at the end of my tether with it all.

Not sure whether asking for advice or just want to vent but am sitting here crying, DH is at work and can't leave for a couple of hours and, well I am nit sure what to do.

I had last Thursday and Friday off of work. Am pregnant and had awful tummy upset - think it was eating something that just didn't agree with me.

Anyway, was reading through my bosses emails this morning to see if there was anything I need to action and came across an email by one of the ladies I share an office with. She has put in an official complaint against me.

She has a coupe of issues with me, one as I reminded her about some training she has to complete (only because I get an automated notification saying she needs to complete this mandatory training) and her other issue is I pulled her up on some language she uses with regards to things she says about ethnic minorities.

When she first made what I deem as racist comments I asked the lady who shares our office if she thought what she said was unacceptable, I also asked another man who I report to. Both agreed with me that in our line of work what she was saying was completely unacceptable, I said to the lady who shares our office that next time it happened I would pull her up on it.

Anyway it seems that this lady is appalled that I said to her, about one of her comments that, 'Whatever way you dress that up it's racism and it's unacceptable.'

So she has made a complaint about me - her reply about the racism is laughable - blaming where she grew up and that she has friends of different religeons and it is just language that she uses.

The other lady got involved saying that I had told her I was out to get this woman and the male colleague I asked for advice also told her that I mentioned it to him - I only mentioned it to him as I didn't know if I was being ubber sensitive or if her language was wrong.

God - not worth going into anymore - it's all just such a mess but I am at the end of my tether - I can't face sitting in an office with these women - the one who has made the complaint is on vaction and the other one is being normal and as nice as pie, had a conversation about our weekends this morning and lent her something for her daughter too (although she is a passive aggresive and have had issues with her in the past) - I just cannot do the whole going in and not being upset, my hormones are all over the place, crying is my normal default at the moment so this is just making it worse.

My boss said she can't deal with this until the middle of the week as she is too busy. So I am sitting here a right mess. Do I ring HR and ask for a meeting with them or will it escalate it further than it needs to go. I don't think I am going to be able to work in the office with them again, I could ask to be moved to another office until I go on maternity leave but am just so emotional at the moment that I am not sure I can even speak about this without crying.

God sorry - a long rant. Makes writing it down easier though.

BriansBrain Thu 20-Jun-13 17:52:23

Great news!

fubbsy Thu 20-Jun-13 10:18:25

Glad you are feeling better MadameC. Also glad that your employers seem to be taking this seriously now.

Don't lose sight of the fact that you are in the right. Speaking out against racism is always the right thing to do.

Thanks Dacky.

Email about me was from racist lady attaching her and the other ladies statements and was sent to my boss.

I do feel a lot better thanks to everyone who has advised and supported me.

Just had a chat with a colleague and she thinks this is either a sacking offence or final written warning, especially as she has admitted and tried to excuse the use if racist language.

Dackyduddles Thu 20-Jun-13 08:23:36

Just chipping back in, the fact that emails can be in the bosses inbox that are confidential means several things

The boss is not on top of her work as she should have removed said email to a confidential folder
HR should (I assume that's who generated it) should know that you are her PA so it either should have been hard copy or notified manager of its imminent arrival for her to move it

Anyone would read a mail about themselves. You are as entitled to be offended / report items seen on computer screens as said verbally.

I have seen several cases where instant messenger was used to say something about a colleague that another person saw over the shoulder and the generator of the instant messenger was formally warned and sacked. Not exactly relevant but yes you can be offended hurt and angry by seeing an email discussing you regardless of subject.

Thank you everyone. I am in a much better place now.

I went for a meeting with sector lead and advised her that I wanted to escalate this issue to he as I felt that it was nothing more than victimisation. Between you guys and some fab professionals, DH and friends I realised that I had done nothing wrong.

I said that it all stemmed from the racist comments and I had both asked for advice and considered very carefully how to handle the situation. That I felt that if I did not address her comments, it said in the policy that I was in my right to do this, she would think that I shared her views and I was not happy with this.

So I now have a back bone!

I saw my lovely boss and there is an issue of the 2 women not trusting her to be unbiased, she apologised to how she dealt with me when I was upset and was really very supportive and lovely but said her being involved would have not been good in light of what they thought and jr had told her not to get involved.

Sector leader told me was issue that I read the email but I said they shouldn't have been left there and I defy anyone not to have finished reading such stuff about themselves once they had started. I said am happy to be taken to task over that.

I am now off until see OH as they need to do a risk assessment due to how this is impacting on my mental health and the fact that the stress is bad for me and my baby.

As everyone has so kindly said. I am in the right, they do have a duty of care to me and so cannot chuck me back into the lions den with the 2 of them and really I have nothing to lose as will be going on maternity leave soon and my wages are not something we rely on.

So thank you everyone. I may get a slapped wrist but I really think I did the right thing and am comfortable with my course of action and the outcome so far.

The point about institutional racism will be used too!!

Thank you. MC

NotDead Thu 20-Jun-13 00:56:41

lovely DP..btw.. knew you wld have people rooting for you in RL..

NotDead Thu 20-Jun-13 00:53:36

oh whoops already is! just shows how great MN is for support. sorry!

NotDead Thu 20-Jun-13 00:51:24

feel for you. My sister' s experience taught me that pregancy can make you think about everything in your childhood and the triggers and insecurities it brings up. Be assured that the solution isn't in your childhood its in what you are now.. a strong person who has done the right thing. Its scary to do the right thing but that is what will make you a great mother as well as worker.

look at it this way - an employer with racist staff is liable for serious action if someone like you hasn't already flaggex it and tried to raise it with the employee maturely and in a way that can be corrected (since gross misconduct could be obe outcome) an employer who has sensibly tried to address through its staff is much more protected than one who hasn't. . as this suggests institutional racism as well as a failure to fairly follow policy. Perhaps you should also post in employment as there will be advice about the non-emotional parts of this. FWIW being honest emotionally will allow you to say honestly that you agonised and deeply considered your actions and concluded it was in the best interests of the company that you behaved as you did.

BriansBrain Wed 19-Jun-13 22:01:43

You need to try and remember you have done nothing wrong.

You are only being spoken to so they can gain facts on what has happened.

Have an unMN [[hug]] you sound like you need it.

I am a stupid hormonal mess.

My whole childhood and adolescence was confrontational, sibling and parents and I just can't cope with it.

I have spoken to the sector lead and she is going to see me alone at her building tomorrow so I won't have to face anyone, she was very kind and although is normally quite a harsh lady was so lovely to me on the phone. I will try to remain calm but will probably have a little sob at the apprehension and anxiety of the situation but then be able to pull myself together.

I have talked it through with a colleague last night on the phone who said that I shouldn't get upset as I have done nothing wrong. The Respect Advisor lady said I need to try and be strong but being pregnant she understands it is hard not to get emotional.

DH is just very cross - he says to not worry about work, have a few months off and then after I have had the baby he will hep me set up a business (apparently I can be an interior designer, a wedding planner or a child minder, his belief in me is astounding!).

I am sitting here all calm but the minute I think about having to leave the house I get all wobbly and start crying!!

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Tue 18-Jun-13 14:22:48

You still sound really emotional and it might mean that you come across as a bit hysterical or incoherent. This is not a criticism but as I and others have said you will have a better chance of a positive outcome if you are calm and collected.

Do you have a sensible friend you can talk things through with?

Hi Fubbsy. Thank you for your reply. It has not gone to HR yet, they are trying to address this without escalating it to them I feel that her racist attitude and language should be escalated and tackled, I didn't before as I thought it was just age and ignorance but after reading her excuse for it and realising that she doesn't think it is wrong I don't think it can just be left.

There is a policy - I will try to dig it out - if escalated I do not think that I would be expected to attend a meeting with either of the ladies but as it has not yet been I think they are trying to do it at a lower level.

fubbsy Tue 18-Jun-13 13:49:01

I don't understand what you mean by "I think this is not being escalated to HR to save having to tackle the lady about racism but I don't think I want that to happen."

What don't you want to happen?

fubbsy Tue 18-Jun-13 13:46:07

Have you spoken to HR or sent them your email MadameC?

Does the trust have a bullying policy? Where I work, when they are conducting an investigation under the bullying policy, the investigating managers hold separate meetings with the staff members concerned. The person who thinks they have been bullied is not required to sit in a meeting with the bully.

It might be an idea to make a "counter-claim" of bullying or vicitimisation or whatever they call it, so you can ask them to follow that procedure.

Update - I have spoken to a Trust Advisor who said I can ask to meet without either of the ladies who made the allegations. So I am asking to do that.

My manager said that she feels that she was not unsupportive and that she feels this is all misunderstanding and miscommunication. I have refuted that saying it is neither but victimisation after I raised a legitimate complaint about racism.

I think this is not being escalated to HR to save having to tackle the lady about racism but I don't think I want that to happen, I am still shocked that she thinks her attitude and language is acceptable and even thinks she can excuse it.

I am attending the doctors this afternoon to see if he has any pointers about stress and how I can handle this, I am a bloody mess!

I do feel incredibly isolated and unsupported Notdead. Thank you for your comments.

I am just someone who wants to go into work and get on with their job and go home to lay on the sofa because every minute of this pregnancy has been so hard. I have neither an agenda or any sort of reason to hurt these woman, I have only ever been friendly and considerate to both of them but I will not have someone sit infront of me and use racist language and spout the kind of ignorant crap that she was.

I am not sure though they are viewing the racism as a big issue. To say to me it is a big thing to say someone is racist when she has clearly admited to using the word Paki in wiritn g to her manager and tried to excuse the fact doenslt need my take on anything at all. It is like not having to go through with a trial as the defendant has admitted their gulit surely.

Or are they trying to brush it under the carpet? I presume if she is admitting being racist that it has to be escalated and she has to be re educated?

I am trying so hard to stop the tears and be strong, if only my hormones would fall in line!

Have had an email from my boss saying I am having to meet with the lead of our sector and one of the women who made the allegations as she cannot get involved. Racist lady is on holiday.

I am sitting here sobbing. I feel so stressed, I don't know if I can cope with this.

I know now that I will not get any sleep, I will not be able to keep any food down and will turn up a bloody nervous wreck.

Thanks Fubsy - I am drafting yet another email now, after deleting the previous ones.

I did actually ask for advice on here when she originally said about Pakis smelling of garlic and was told how unreasonable I was being not bringing it up to her face to face and even that thinking of going to a manager made me a horrible vindictive person.

That is why I asked a colleague and my associate director for advice and did not take it officially to hr.

I have quoted quite a few passages from the policies in my email.

NotDead Tue 18-Jun-13 10:39:05

sorry to hear you have taken this hard I suspect some of your emotion is to do with the fact you have been brave and careful enough to have addressed something serious and you feel unsupported and isolated in doing so. Its awful to address someones clear racism not least because people who are that kind of racist nornally are evil minded little xxxx. You have stod up to a verbally aggressive bully and that is am emotional and stressful thing to do.

HR will usually support the senior.. ie you.. in enforcing policy. Of course you're not out to get her yoy are out to get the racism.

Try to look at it like this if you can: its goid she has complained because then the incident and type response can be looked at maturely and fairly. After you get through the emotion I suspect ypu will realise that her attack is no reflecton of who you are or what people think of you.

In fact this is a well recognised tactic used by bullies who get caught out or challenged. Its called 'feigning victimhood' ..

Well done.. I think you'll find we are all proud of you for doing the right thing. I am sure ypur employers will agree..

fubbsy Tue 18-Jun-13 10:30:00

"Ssurely the best course of action would be to alert your manager, and leave it for them to deal with, not to tackle her yourself." With hindsight, the OP might agree with that advice, but it's too late for that Bluebell.

Yes, list the racist things she said (with dates, if possible) and the fact that you found the remarks offensive and felt uncomfortable.. Also include in your chronology what you said about it. Then you can say this behaviour goes against the Trust's policy because ...

Your heritage or the fact that you have white skin aren't really relevant IMO. Paki is clearly a racial slur, it is defined as such in the dictionary. You don't have to have brown skin to know it is a wrong thing to say.

It was a little face mask sample as she was talking about how awful her skin had become and it had been getting her down and me saying to my consultant that she was stressed was actually me being nice, her friend was dying of cancer and she had a lot of work on and thought that piling on more at such a time woud see her cracking (this is not the racist woman by the way). I had actually seen her as my friend - she had even told me about her cervical erosion after sex with her husband so I do not think I was over stepping the mark with the face cream at all - she had brought up the issue and I just thought it would be a nice thing for me to do.

I am sent notifications as to people's training being due for renewal through a certain system I have access to. I always remind people and then book them onto the training if necessary and it has never been a problem before for anyone - even the Service Manager. (this is racist lady)

As for the speaking to a manager - I did I spoke a an associate director and informed him that I would pull her up on it if it happened again - as it states I am within my rights to do in our equality and diversity policy. I did not go straight to HR or make an official complaint to a senior manager as I am sure that her racism is due to her age and her ignorance rather than her being horrible and malicious.

Bluebell99 Tue 18-Jun-13 09:51:35

What was the thing you brought in for her when she had a physical problem that caused offense? was it something like tena lady or strong deodrant, as i can see those things could cause offence. I do wonder if the way you are with her is escalating this? She is your line manager, and yet you are telling her she hasn't done training. Is that your responsibility or are you overstepping the mark? You are telling your superiors she is extremely stressed and can't cope with extra workload. Again, I don't think that is your responsiblity. The racist comments are out of order but surely the best course of action would be to alert your manager, and leave it for them to deal with, not to tackle her yourself.

Sorry as far as what I want to resolve the situation. I want to not have to report to the racist lady. I do not want to have to share an office with them either.

I would like some sort of acknowledgement that I have never put one of then through anything and that I was right to tackle the woman on her racist comments.

This could have all been avoided if my boss actually took 30 minutes to speak to me yesterday. I would still want action taken but feel that I would not have felt so stressed and upset.

Thanks guys.

Am reading the Equality and Diversity Policy which states that they have:

We have adopted the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report definitions of a racist
incident and institutional racism, which are:
“A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or
any other person.”
So she does not have a leg to stand on in terms of not being racist as I perceived her use of the word Paki to be racist as well as her ranting about living amongst them and having her children come home with books with Punjabi in them.

As far as me tackling her about what she was saying I believe I was right, after speaking to the other colleague who is alledging that I was out to get her (the lady who was making racist comments) and an associate director and neither of them disagreeing with the course of action I said I was going to say something next time she said something that I perceived was racist.

The policy says:
To ensure the effective implementation of the Equality & Diversity Policy the
Trust will work in the following ways: Challenge inappropriate and discriminatory behaviour in others. (does this not apply to me or is it just at Board level?)

It also says: It is often the case that individuals do not realise that their behaviour is being viewed as inappropriate, upsetting or offensive. If this is the case, it may be appropriate for the member of staff to speak to the individual themselves in the first instance, to explain how the behaviour makes them feel.

She is also guilty of stereotyping saying about the smell of Pakis!

As far as bullying - I, after reading the definition feel it was more victimisation and harrassement.

Harrassement as: Employment law also states that harassment does not have to amount to direct and specific acts of negative behaviour aimed at an individual or individuals. If a particular type of behaviour or culture is practiced within a department and that behaviour creates an atmosphere, which another individual finds intimidating, upsetting, embarrassing, humiliating or offensive, then this may be harassment . (I find her racist rantings upsetting and humiliating and offensive - I am without knowing my heritage white British, my grandfather though was an imigrant so this is actually quite upsetting for me).

Victimisation as: All employees have a right to bring grievances or complaints in good faith without fear of retribution. If any such employee is subject to bullying, harassment and other detriment due to a complaint or grievance they have made, then the harasser(s) will be dealt with under this policy, and may be subject to action under the Disciplinary Policy. (Her complaint and that of the other colleague is, I feel, due to my tackling her about her racist attitude).

So do I list her allegations and then counter them quoting the Trust policy?

Sorry my original email is more emotion led than professional.

I also do not want to alienate myself further by pulling my boss on her handling of the situation (leaving the email in her inbox and telling me that she did not have time to deal with the situation and making it seem as though I was the one totally at fault) as she, I thught was my friend, but I am really cross at how this was handled and have been put under a huge amouhnt of stress which is unacceptable at any time but most especially when I am pregnant.

Dackyduddles Tue 18-Jun-13 07:37:34

Xing with Love a bit there... Good luck

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