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Defamation

(12 Posts)
WoodBetweenTheWorlds Fri 30-Sep-11 21:41:46

I am a manager, dealing with performance issues relating to one of my team. I first tried to address these issues through informal means, now going through a more formal process. I believe that the employee has serious mental health problems.

The employee previously brought a grievance against me, claiming that I was bullying her. This was investigated but thrown out. She appealed but the appeal wasn't upheld. Some of the "evidence" that she presented was clearly fabricated, and as I had clear proof of this, I considered putting in a counter claim for malicious grievance. Foolishly, perhaps, I didn't, because I had had enough of all the unpleasantness and just wanted to get on with my job.

We work in a large organisation, and a number of my contacts have reported that this member of staff is spreading malicious rumours about me - some about the alleged "bullying" and others about ways in which she believes I am failing in my job (all unfounded and demonstrably untrue.) She has very little credibility in the organisation generally, so I doubt that many people really take what she says seriously. However, the situation seems to be escalating, and a close personal friend of hers (who works in a different department) appears to be contributing to the gossip. I want to know what, if anything, I can do about this. Or should I just try to ignore it?

In light of the other processes going on, my employer doesn't want me to take disciplinary action with regard to this issue. Can I put in a grievance against someone I line manage (as well as her friend)? Legally, what constitutes slander, and what sort of proof is required?

Just to be clear, I am aware that lots of people have a moan about their boss from time to time, and as a manager, I know this goes with the territory to some extent. However, this is above and beyond normal moaning - this employee is running an almost obsessive campaign to blacken my name.

Any advice or opinions welcome.

NorkyPies Fri 30-Sep-11 21:50:42

Can you get advice from your HR and legal departments?

WoodBetweenTheWorlds Fri 30-Sep-11 22:03:18

We don't have a legal department. HR are telling me to just put up with it, and focus on the other processes that are going on - but then, they are not the ones on the receiving end of the character assassination, I am! And it is causing me a lot of stress.

I know that HR are sympathetic, and they have been supportive with regard to the other process. However, they have spent an inordinate amount of time on this one individual (for reasons I can't go into without outing myself) and I think they just want to mimimise the aggro. I understand that, but I am reaching the point where I feel I can no longer pretend that this isn't happening.

NorkyPies Fri 30-Sep-11 22:08:40

Perhaps see an employment lawyer, if there isn't one on here who will come and advise.

WoodBetweenTheWorlds Fri 30-Sep-11 22:22:30

Thanks norky. I did wonder about that, but have never sought legal advice for anything in my life. Not really sure where to start - or how much it would cost? I wouldnt mind paying a bit but can't afford a fortune.

SkivingAgain Fri 30-Sep-11 22:26:32

ACAS may be able to give some advice. I'm a manager with a current staffing 'ishoo' - you have my sympathy.

NorkyPies Fri 30-Sep-11 22:31:45

Do any of your insurance policies include a free legal advice service? Lots of them do, but it's something you tend not to notice, or forget about because usually you don't need it. Also, solicitors often offer a free initial consultation - though I don't know how 'free' they really turn out to be (eg if they are just to entice you into expensive litigation). Hopefully someone with inside knowledge will come along soon.

If you belong to a Union, or professional body, that could be another option.

WoodBetweenTheWorlds Fri 30-Sep-11 22:44:39

Not a member of the union - stupidly. My house insurance may include legal protection though - will check. I'll investigate the acas option too.

Thanks for the ideas - and the sympathy!

NorkyPies Fri 30-Sep-11 22:54:01

Had a quick look at the ACAS website, and it looks as if they may be able to offer some advice. You could always ask to go on one of their training courses!

Perhaps this would be a good time to be looking for another job, and let it be known that you are? In my experience, HR departments put 'not rocking the boat' above individual justice, and employers never like the thought that you might want to leave- at the minimum, they will have to go through an expensive recruitment process to replace you.

WoodBetweenTheWorlds Fri 30-Sep-11 23:04:39

Thanks norky. Maybe you're right - I should let them know that I'm looking for something else. Might at least make them sit up and take a bit more notice. Don't really want to move if I'm honest, as we moved for this job a couple of years ago, dd is settled at school etc. I'm not sure I'd find much else in my field locally - but perhaps I should at least look around and see what's out there!

Will definitely have a look at the acas website!

HomeEcoGnomist Fri 30-Sep-11 23:05:23

I am an HR Manager, and my view is this:
your HR team may well consider it to be a PITA for you to start a new process, but the behaviour you are describing sounds to me like bullying & harrasment - and you have as much right to be free of this treatment in the workplace as any other employmee
B&H can be perpetrated by subordiates towards their managers/peers/other colleagues.
B&H is the creation of a work place environment in which the victim feels intimidated and the atmosphere is one that degrades/humiliates/undermines them.
It is not acceptable behaviour.
I have been looking at the ACAS guidelines on this recently as I have been advising a manager on how to deal with a team member who has been bullying colleagues - and him, her manager.
The standard approach they recommend is try to resolve it informally by approaching the individual - unlikely to be appropriate/useful in this case.
Next stop is to invoke your formal process.
This is a stressful situation - and the longer term implications could be that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy...ie your work WILL start to suffer as you are dealing with the fallout of this & not getting any support. I would advise your HR team to reflect on the ramifications for allowing this behaviour to continue...employers have a duty of care, which also extends to acting upon a situation when they know that behaviour of its staff is having a detrimental impact on an individual - they are vicariously liable.
I would seriously recommend you go back to HR and impress upon them your wish to tackle this sitation. Go to the ACAS website - there is lots of stuff you can print out. Good luck

WoodBetweenTheWorlds Fri 30-Sep-11 23:16:10

HomeEco, thanks very much for your comments. I do feel harassed and undermined by this person, and she is making my working life hell tbh. I wasn't really sure if anyone would take me seriously given that I'm the manager in this situation, but your post has encouraged me to go back to HR and talk to them again about what's going on. I'll talk to my line manager again too, who has been very supportive so far, if not very proactive.

Sounds like I need to look at the acas website as a first port of call.

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