Occ health and meeting with bully

(23 Posts)
bonnieweelass Tue 02-Apr-19 10:24:37

I have been signed off work with stress brought on by a manager who has made hurtful, personal statements, discriminatory statements against me and others, told lies, exaggerated situations, presented my work as her own etc.

I wrote an email of complaint to her manager.

He has now responded wanting to refer me to Occupational Health and offering to facilitate a meeting between me and my manager.

I'm not keen on either option. Firstly, my anxiety and stress was created by work - I am not the problem. Secondly, the very thought of going into a meeting with my manager (even with someone else there) makes me really anxious. I know it will most likely descend into a you said / I said shouting match.

I'm not prepared to be attacked again, I'm not prepared to be lied to, have things denied, go through personal attacks again. I don't want to be managed by this woman ever again or be alone in a 121 with her ever again (which is where she says her horrible things)

I don't know what to do, I don't know what to say. I do have a few weeks of my sick leave left and I do have a union representative I can speak with.

It would be good to have some other advice as I am upset and I fear I am going to be seen as the problem and be fobbed off and have things swept under the carpet.

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bonnieweelass Tue 02-Apr-19 12:04:26

I haven't decided yet whether to resolve it informally or raise a grievance. My family are pushing for the informal route due to the additional stress that it could cause and the risk that they could hit back with "You did this, you did that"

Also if I make it formal, there are more than one person who have discriminated against me, said discriminatory things, so how would that work in terms of a grievance? As it is mainly my manager, should I word it (if I do go down the grievance route) as my manager failing to protect me from discrimination?

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maxelly Tue 02-Apr-19 12:11:45

Hello, sorry to hear you are going through this

I think the two things are separate really. I would be taking him up on the offer of Occ.Health - it's good practice to refer employees with stress related sickness absence (or any long term sickness absence) - they are independent from your line management, confidential and there to support your health at work, can back you up/provide evidence when you are saying the situation is adversely affecting your health, make recommendations for what would help you return etc. Although they won't get into the rights and wrongs of the situation with your manager (that's not their job) they will write a report back to your manager telling them what they recommend, and can say something like 'we recommend the management issues are resolved before Bonnieweelass returns to work or in the alternative she is redeployed to a different work area' or similar. Although you can refuse a management request to go to Occ.Health, it's a service which is meant to help employees and so it does risk you being seen as obstructive - you can always limit what you say to them or ask them to keep things confidential if you prefer.

As to your manager's suggestion of a meeting, I take it he's planning on being there to facilitate that, rather than just sticking you in a room together and leaving you to get on with it? On the face of it it's not the worst suggestion ever, usually Grievance policies recommend that every possible step is taken to sort things out informally before the formal process is used and if he's a good manager he should be prepared to listen critically to both sides of the story and put appropriate protective measures in place to stop it descending into a shouting match, but if things have gone as far as you say and your manager is that manipulative I can see why you feel it wouldn't work. In that case I think you either need to push through a formal grievance complaint (which may require more than just an email to your manager, you'd need to ask your union rep what the process is in your company, or find the grievance procedure), and be prepared to see it through, bearing in mind that will be quite a stressful thing in itself, and/or take your own steps to get yourself away from the bully, i.e. looking for another job internally/externally.

One key thing I would want to ask your union rep and/or your manager before deciding how to proceed is how likely it is that if you pursued a formal complaint, either you or her could be temporarily moved away to another work area or team whilst it was being investigated, as the last thing I would want is to have to work with her with both of you knowing the complaint process was going on. Some companies are very good at this particularly if the nature of your work means you can easily be moved, in others it absolutely can't or won't be done. As a very minimum I would want assurance that I wouldn't be expected to have 1-1s alone with her, I would want someone else there as a neutral party. Good luck, hope it gets sorted.

bonnieweelass Tue 02-Apr-19 12:33:56

thank you. my union rep has responded to say they advocate an informal approach (they always discourage formal and have said in the past "you won't win) and that I meet with them with a steward present.

I will hold off until I meet with OH. Do I have grounds to refuse to return to work until after I meet with OH? I have 3 weeks sick leave left but what if the OH meeting is not til after then, or the recommendations are not in place until after then? Would I need to sign off sick again?

My preferred solution is for a different line manager.

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MT2017 Tue 02-Apr-19 14:06:19

My union rep had the same attitude. I raised a formal grievance (for pretty much exactly what you said your manager has done) with pages of notes where I showed bullying behaviour. It was not upheld due to 'insufficient evidence' so I have appealed it. If most of your conversations were behind closed doors you will have trouble providing proof - I had lots of email trails and it still wasn't enough.

Would your work would consider changing your manager? Mine wouldn't, hence the grievance.

I second pp about the OH appt. Mine was really good and she was very supportive. Wait til OH appt, they may agree you should be signed off anyway.

Please PM me if you want more details, happy to help if I can.

It is so shit that people treat each other like this angry

bonnieweelass Tue 02-Apr-19 14:23:01

Can I take a family member to the OH appointment?

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maxelly Tue 02-Apr-19 15:05:20

You'll need to check with the OH provider about that but normally it's a bit like going for a GP appointment so you could bring someone with you but obviously you'll need to answer their questions yourself. Or a lot of OH providers do appointments on the phone nowadays so you could have your family member sitting with you while you take the call? I wouldn't precisely 'refuse' to come back to work until you've seen OH as that might come across as obstructive, but if they can't offer you an appointment for a while and you are still feeling too unwell to work then of course go back to the GP and get signed off for a bit longer or ask your manager about returning to work in a different area or under a different manager, it can't hurt to ask?

Re formal vs informal, obviously it depends on the case and the people involved but as an HR professional/mediator I have seen some successes with informal approaches, particularly where it's supported by a good manager and/or an external person trained in mediation. Obviously the fundamental mindset of the people involved probably won't change particularly if one of them is a bully, but on a practical level you can have some success in achieving behaviour change. E.g. if the bully is the type that once they know they've been rumbled and stood up to a bit they sometimes back down and behave themselves better, that can work out OK for all parties. Or the bully may deny everything and come across as butter wouldn't melt or even as the victim themselves, but if the manager is savvy and keeps an eye on the situation from a neutral standpoint, they don't get much further opportunities and the behaviour stops. Or sometimes, horrible as it sounds, it can be about the 'victim' learning ways to cope with and avoid the bully so the behaviour affects them less.

And of course if your ideal outcome is to be managed by someone else and your management could make that happen without you going through the formal process then that could be ideal, although obviously it does feel as though the bully is 'getting away with it'...

But OP only you know the circumstances and what exactly is being proposed as an 'informal resolution' (it can mean anything from basically nothing to lots of intensive external support), which obviously we as randoms on the internet don't, so I would go with your union's advice and what people in real life who support you feel is best. Don't feel rushed into any immediate decisions either, take each day at a time and go with what feels best for you. All the best flowers

bonnieweelass Tue 02-Apr-19 20:47:56

Thank you. I really want to make it formal because I feel it will just happen again a few months down the line. Every time I try to deal with things informally, it happens again, and I'm so sick of this. Yet my union rep will be pissed off if I go against their advice and I do need my union rep to sit with me in meetings etc.

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MT2017 Wed 03-Apr-19 11:13:59

No, you don't need your union rep at all. You can go it alone. However... I am and it is hard. Very stressful for you (sod what your rep thinks).

I am coping because a) I get lots of full pay sick leave which will cover me for a decent period if nothing changes at work; b) I have lots of support from colleagues, ex colleagues, family and friends.

Do you have any proof other than verbal conversations? If you imagine you are the decision maker - would you, truthfully, with your evidence, make the decision in your favour? If the answer is no I would not do it.

If the answer is yes; or that you want to ensure the issue is raised no matter what the cost to you; then yes - do it.

I honestly think I will not get what I want (change of manager) and will end up leaving. But I have made sure their behaviour is well known and maybe hopefully I am wrong...

bonnieweelass Wed 03-Apr-19 12:48:43

Hi MT2017

I have the following evidence:

*request for reasonable adjustment to help me undergo training - provided on one occassion, other requests ignored. They were email requests which I have copies of and were not responded to. They were sent to other people (the people delivering the training internally) but as my manager referred me to this training I feel she should have been highlighting my needs too, as I told her my needs and the issues I was having with training days plus there are previous OH reports which detail my needs (I have copies of these too)

*an email in which she comments on my hygiene along the lines of X (who had left 10 months previously) told me you do this. This email was sent to me the day before an internal promotion interview and was in response to my request for 'advice and tips'. I promise MN that I have no hygiene issues and family and friends have confirmed no hygiene issues. I'm v clean!

*an email in which she recommends I do NOT use my assistive technology

*an email in which she says something along the lines of (trying not to be outing here!) "I forgot to do this, can you do it for me and change the date?". I think this is against company policy.

*evidence to indicate (although not concretely prove) that she has claimed my work as hers

*evidence that contradicts her claims that I make mistakes and she has to fix them

*evidence of being overworked and working out of core hours

*evidence of being discouraged to follow correct policies and procedures

In addition to the above - I did not get a new contract/job description upon moving into this role. I also witnessed a racist incident towards another colleague. Our dignity at work policy says to report anything you see, and it would strengthen my case if I can say that it's not just me being bullied, but I'm a bit torn about whether to use this.

Does anyone reading the above think this would be sufficient to go formal or should I stick with informal?

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daisychain01 Wed 03-Apr-19 14:33:52

bonnie you refer to the request you made for reasonable adjustments (RA) to support your physical or MH disability << I presume your disability is already formalised on your HR record and they have acknowledged acceptance at some stage in the process.

If so, they can't wriggle out by saying they didn't accept your condition. I believe you should focus your grievance on major policy and procedural failures by your employer in not supporting your disability. Has your union rep at least helped you to pick out where they have not complied with their own stated Policy on diversity/equality?

1. if they have already acknowledged your condition and they agree that adjustments you requested are "reasonable", then they should meet their commitment in enacting those requests.

2. If they cannot support your RA, then they need to at least acknowledge your request, not kick it into the long grass, and state why they cannot support it. If they believe it isn't reasonable, then they should state why.

iow, ignoring your request is not an option, they need to take some action.

Re the hygiene comment, could they maintain that they were trying to help and be supportive? If there is a risk of that, I wouldn't mention it because all it does is give them the opportunity to bat it back as a denial.

Pick your battles, decide what they've done wrong in not supporting your disability and throw that 'rock' at them. It will be more powerful than throwing numerous tiny 'pebbles' that they can bat away and minimise. Kinda "lose the battle to win the war"

daisychain01 Wed 03-Apr-19 14:42:24

an email in which she recommends I do NOT use my assistive technology

Does she state why she made that recommendation?

I work with several people who have profound physical disabilities and they are supported fully with assistive software. If a manager in my department were to recommend they did not use that software, it would be an absolute show stopper, they just could not do their job. That would be discriminatory.

If like my colleagues, you are unable to work without the specialist technology that is in place to support your disability, then absolutely include it in your grievance. The technology is itself a Reasonable Adjustment, without which you are put at a disadvantage.

bonnieweelass Wed 03-Apr-19 15:00:18

Hi daisychain01

Thanks for the response - so you think I should concentrate on the discrimination aspect and not the bullying, chipping away at my self esteem, nit picking, twisting of things etc? I think the passing off my work as her own and asking me to falsify things are also serious.

I need to be careful not to be too outing. Basically I had some problems with this technology, that was not of my doing. It was due to the set up of the room I was in at the time (which is another adjustment failure although not on the part of my manager). I told my manager of the stress and problems it had created and when I had a similar event, she recommended I don't use the technology at all in case it created stress again for me. But the problem wasn't the actual technology, but the circumstances. I feel that she should have known better than to suggest I go without.

She has also regularly asked me to do things that I can't do because of my disability, and she has asked if my technology can do more than it can which makes me uncomfortable as she keeps asking despite me answering. I feel she is trying to negate her own responsibilities. She also mentions that I don't use my technology as much as I should - there are some situations that it is not designed for and she seems to think that it is a 'cure' for my disabilities.

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bonnieweelass Wed 03-Apr-19 15:03:09

PS if they are sending me to OH, would that not be their defense to any discrimination claim? Even though I can show that they haven't followed all previous OH advice or even using the learning from the awareness training that HR put in place regarding supporting my disabilities?

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bonnieweelass Wed 03-Apr-19 18:07:17

PPS with regards to failing to make adjustments for conferences and training days, my manager is often the one who puts me forward for these and I have made her aware repeatedly that such events are not always accessible. Sometimes she tells the organisers, sometimes she doesn't. I believe her defense could be that I should be the one to advise people (I do but am often ignored). Should it not be her responsibility to? Does she have a good defense if she said that?

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daisychain01 Wed 03-Apr-19 23:08:52

I would focus on facts and evidence that you can use to support your grievance that you believe they have failed in their duty of care towards you. It is really difficult to judge at arms length which of your manager's action are a failure and which are a mismatch in expectation between what you believe she should be helping you with and which actions she feels you ought to deal with yourself. I'm not in a position to give you a locktight answer of yes she's been negligent or demeaning / harassing towards you or no she hasn't.

Some of the situations around your specialist software for example, sound nuanced and open to interpretation without more facts and context. She possibly feels she's trying her best to offer suggestions, whereas you clearly feel strongly she's not supporting you enough. Have you had any independent legal advice to run the detail of these scenarios by a solicitor to see what their views are ?

bonnieweelass Thu 04-Apr-19 06:12:04

No, as I don't think I could afford it (DH says we don't have legal cover in our home insurance). I've only had advice from my union rep and a friend with a legal background.

I do see your point about things being open to interpretation and that worries me about the success of a grievance. I'm just so frustrated with the same scenarios happening again and again and having to constantly repeat what I can and cannot do.

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bonnieweelass Wed 10-Apr-19 15:17:23

update - I emailed our data protection officer (from my home pc as I'm meant to be off sick) to request all data on me.

I want to find out if firstly they already have a note of my disabilities/adjustments so that I can hopefully evidence that they knew and did not support me. I also want to know if my suspicions about my manager editing my records etc are true.

He's responded saying that is no problem but I have had to let HR know. Now I'm a bit worried that HR will withhold information, edit information etc and I'll end up looking a fool, like I'm imagining things or something.

Is that possible?

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MT2017 Wed 10-Apr-19 18:38:01

Hi Bonnie

I don't think they will do that - the repercussions would be terrible for them if found out. I would certainly hope they wouldn't dream of it.

They have a month to respond to you.

I decided against doing this as cba to trawl through a decade of emails but can see why you are.

Good luck!

daisychain01 Sat 13-Apr-19 05:46:17

I want to find out if firstly they already have a note of my disabilities/adjustments

Back to my first point on 3/April: I presume your disability is already formalised on your HR record and they have acknowledged acceptance at some stage in the process

Did you have a meeting/send them an email or letter with some evidence from your GP such as a statement of your disabilities at some stage in your employment? That's the key thing - I'm not sure why you need to approach your Data Officer or HR to ask them. If you've already done that, then you've done your part of the process, it is down to them to have kept it on file. You just need to remember when you told them. You're exposing yourself by asking them for that information.

bonnieweelass Sat 13-Apr-19 11:03:32

I'm not sure what you mean by exposing myself?

I have had numerous OH referrals and A2W applications so they should still have all this information on file. If yes, I can show they are not paying attention to my needs or requests. If no, then they are not keeping records of my needs as they should be doing.

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daisychain01 Sat 13-Apr-19 11:23:00

Whether or not they confirm what they hold on record is surely irrelevant, if you can prove you told them on x date that you had such and such a disability and on x + y + z dates you requested various reasonable adjustments, that they accepted, or ignored.

By 'exposing' I mean you are giving them control to confirm their records (and yes, if they are untrustworthy then they could withhold relevant facts) when you can maintain control by telling them factually the dates of those interventions. Do you hold your own records? If yes, then no need to go 'cap in hand' to them and risk them not giving you complete facts.

bonnieweelass Sat 13-Apr-19 12:59:56

I do have my own records but there is one issue which will be difficult for me to prove without HR / IT records to compare with. They are a large national public organisation so they shouldn't be of the type to conceal anything but it is a worry.

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