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Just had to come home from work - feeling bullied.

(46 Posts)
Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 13:10:54

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.

fubbsy Mon 17-Jun-13 14:11:43

That's horrible MadameC <passes box of tissues>

If I were you, I would do two things. First, I would make an appointment with my GP and get signed off for a week or two. You are obviously suffering from stress. Then (maybe tomorrow when not feeling so emotional) I would ring HR and ask for a meeting.

I am mentally making a list of agenda items for the meeting, but won't post them just now as I'm not sure it would be helpful at the moment.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 14:26:42

Thanks Fubbsy - we have a Respect person that we can contact apparently so am just drafting an email to her but I don't know how much detail to go into.

I will take your advice about the doctor though and think I will ring HR as I am not going to be able to go back into an office with this woman and even look at her let alone speak and interact with her.

I don't get paid for sick leave though as have had 6 months off in the past year suffering from a chronic condition so I don't want it all to drag on for too long. And it probably seems silly but I don't see why I should be the one losing out through their actions.

I don't know if maybe I could ask for a transfer for the next 4 months until I go on maternity leave so I don't have to put up with this any longer.

fubbsy Mon 17-Jun-13 14:47:16

It doesn't seem silly at all MadameC. You are absolutely right that it should be the bully who loses out, not you.

I don't think you need to go into too much detail in the initial email, but a basic chronology of events (with dates, if poss) would probably be useful. You can always provide more detail later on, if needed.

Your employers have a 'duty of care' towards you. It seems to me that they have not been doing everything reasonable to fulfill that duty. I was particularly shock about your boss saying she was 'too busy' to do anything about it until later in the week.

LoveBeingUpAt4InTheMorning Mon 17-Jun-13 14:53:52

She's gone on the offensive because she knows she was wrong. I am shocked this other person has said that about you however not surprised.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 15:05:26

My manager is under pressure to get a certain report in but spoke to me like I was a school kid. Not the sort of reaction to a pregnant woman sobbing in front of you, you would expect in any environment.

DH said just go sick and hand in your notice but I don't want to do that -the money from maternity leave will come in handy and I got the passive bloody aggressive woman her job and do not think I should be puhed out.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 15:08:31

She does know she is wrong and I think you are right, this is why she is doing this but my manager said saying someone was racist was a very serious thing to do??????????????????????

I deliberately said 'That is racism whatever way you dress it up' rather than 'you are a racist' so I know exactley what I said. I also didn't escalate it as I thought was silly to do so and better just to point out how she was being and hope that she saw the error of her ways.

Thanks for listening/reading - I am feeling very alone at the moment.

fubbsy Mon 17-Jun-13 15:33:24

How patronising is that? 'Saying someone was racist was a very serious thing to do.' As if you were light-hearted about it all.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 15:47:26

I had carefully consdiered what I was going to say to her if she made racist comments again so I know exactley what I said to her.

I just feel let down by everyone. Thought my issue with colleague was in the past, thought the male colleague I asked in confidence if he thought what she said was racist would keep that confidence and thought my boss would be more supportive and not actually make me feel like a stupid child.

DH is so angry, he is coming home from work although not sure what he can do other than give me a cuddle.

Feel a prat too, sitting here watching Countdown, sobbing into my wet tissue. My head hurts and my eyes are sore
god and if I wasn't pregnant I would be smoking a cigarette and drinking gin!

BriansBrain Mon 17-Jun-13 20:27:15

Well you actually haven't done anything wrong and that complaint sounds like sour grapes that won't get her very far.

Once you are able to gain control of your emotions you will be able to see how clear this actually is, I would leave the email to HR till tomorrow because you won't be able to compose it with facts, what do you want HR to do for you?

Your boss didn't handle the situation very well, especially as she would have been aware the email was there for you to read! But she has said that she will be able to deal with it during the week so maybe send her a meeting date and time to discuss your concerns before going to HR.

I'm sorry you are having such a terrible time though.

hermioneweasley Mon 17-Jun-13 20:39:10

What a horrible situation. Your boss sounds crap, I don't care that she has a report due - she can't find 30 mins before next week to talk to you?. Bollocks. She has a crying pregnant woman being victimised because she complained about racism and she has a duty of care.

I would set out the facts and the timeline of events very clearly and I woukd contact HR first thing and make them aware. Insist that the email accounts are reviewed before emails can be destroyed.

You have made a complaint about racist language in the workplace. Your colleagues are now making complaints to get you into trouble. This is victimisation and harassment and you are protected from it by law. Your HR department should realise how serious this is when you explain what has happened.

How long is it until your mat leave?

nextphase Mon 17-Jun-13 21:09:38

Sounds like a horrible situation to be in.
Can you start ML at 29 weeks? How long would that be to carry on?

Its also worth making a note of any details, dates etc you can think of, or any e-mails etc you have incase this goes any further.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 21:36:45

Thanks chaps.

I am 18 weeks so have a little while to go at present.

Am going to email boss tomorrow asking for a meeting first thing on wednesday. Apparently even if 99 people in a room of 100 did not find her using the word Paki offensive the fact that I did is enough for it to be.

She has even admitted using it which she now can't deny.

I am also going to say that I cannot work in the office with the 2 of them and will expect to be placed elsewhere in the building or another site entirely unti my mat leave starts.

The racist lady is supposed to be my and the other woman's line manager and am also really cross that she stated in her email 'lady x doesn't want to take it further after what MC put her through last time' - now I actually have a different slant on that and as it never went official there was never an investigation and nothing was substantiated, lady x is terribly sensitive about things and is one of those people that you almost wish you didn't have to speak to as she finds offense in everything.

After her moaning about a physical problem she had I brought her in something which was supposed to help - her response was to scream at me that I also had the problem (to a degree) and make a complaint about it.

She also had it in her mind that I was trying to undermine her and had an agenda when I asked someone I report to to give some of my work to someone esle whilst I was away as lady x was very busy and seemed to be in an extremely stressed state - I was being considerate FFS - I don't have agendas as I have a life!!!

Sorry an wafflling now.

All this is very helpful and has really calmed me down and yes my boss has handled this appalingly - I thought she was actually my friend too which really makes me sad.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 21:50:46

I didn't even make a complaint hermoine, just said what she was saying was racism.

She has escalated this not me.

I had no reason to escalate it, I thought perhaps pointing out the fact that it was racism would be enough for her to think twice before saying anything like that again!

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Mon 17-Jun-13 22:29:02

You are understandably emotional but if you want this to be resolved you will have to take a step back and try to react dispassionately.

The company will have policies and processes in situations like this, it's unlikely that they will just move you to a different job because you have clashed with some people in your office. You were brave to challenge her on her racist language and I applaud you for that but I think you should also have mentioned it to her manager so it didn't just look like a spat between the two of you.

And she could have a complaint against you because you should have realised when you started reading the email that it was about you and therefore not appropriate for you to read.

Sorry if I sound harsh, but if you want a good outcome you will need to be cool and dispassionate when you go back to work. Good luck.

Madamecastafiore Mon 17-Jun-13 22:52:37

Thanks unexpected, I feel this is bullying though, not just falling out with colleagues.

I will try and be less emotional but am a bit hormonal and pregnant at the moment and seem to cry at most things.

hermioneweasley Tue 18-Jun-13 06:14:33

Sorry, bit confused. So is the woman whose emails you were checking and you cried in front of but she said she was too busy to speak to you for a week, is that woman your manager and also the person who has been using racist language? (BTW if she did use the P word, I don't know anyone who would think that's acceptable even in a social setting let alone the workplace)

Madamecastafiore Tue 18-Jun-13 06:29:21

No I work with, say Betty and Sarah in one office, we all report directly to Betty but Mary is our overall manager.

Betty had made the racist comments and her and Sarah had emailed statements to Mary who I work for as her PA which I read each morning to see what I need to action or diarise or print off.

It's crazy but I work for the NHS and you would think that they would take racism quite seriously.

Have been up most of the night, have written a huge email and deleted it about 3 times, trying to explain my side of things. I think that is the crux of it all, the two of them getting together and making these allegations and me not even being given a chance to defend myself.

I did speak to a director (that was the male colleague) to get his thoughts on thinsg and I did tell him that I would pull her up if she was expressing a racist attitude or using the language again. He did not advise me to speak to HR or anyone else about it so I thought I had done the right thing.

I actually did not want to escalate it to Hr because I think it is her age and a degree of ignorance that makes her think it is ok to express her views and use the language that she does and maybe just pointing it out would cause her to reflect on her views.

Why are you up so early???

Madamecastafiore Tue 18-Jun-13 06:31:37

I am not asking to change jobs either - haven't asked anything yet - I just don't think I can be asked to share an offcie with these 2 people (Betty and Sarah) and not feel stressed. It is just the 3 of us in our office.

LoveBeingUpAt4InTheMorning Tue 18-Jun-13 06:55:09

Ok so to keep you on track when you speak to the boss make some bullets that are factual. Do not include any emotion. Refer to any polices you feel relevant and do it in time order. Print out out twice sign date and hand it over when you talk to her.

Think about what you want and what is realistic and offer a couple of alternatives.

Dackyduddles Tue 18-Jun-13 06:55:47

Bullying has a definite meaning in terms of employment. It's similar to harassment and is usually sustained and over time. Is there history? Other similar even if potentially small instances that mean you feel it's bullying? Would Mary the overall boss know of them?

If this is an "one off" then yes it's serious but means should be handled differently. Ie nipped in the bud with Mary. Where the other might include meetings/policy/hr and intervention.

Does that make sense? I'm not belittling just trying to show that I would expect to see different methods depending on history.

NHS did you say? Are you part of a union? No issue if not. If you return today print off the NHS policy on code of conduct, bullying and harassment might be one on racism? There will be ones. This will show you expected processes.

Also write down what has happened properly. Get your head ordered. Write down any questions you have too. Reading the policies might help you disassociate a bit in order to be clear in detail. It will help you later to remember and also keep you calm.

You are correct, a room doesn't need to be offended in any office situation. Equally your boss is at fault. You have access to emails so this should have been handled better from the start.

(How antiquated is it there...?) may I ask if an apology was given how would you feel? What would you like to see happen to resolve this situation? This can be helpful to work out too. Again, not belittling, just asking if you have a view.

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

Xing with Love a bit there... Good luck

Madamecastafiore Tue 18-Jun-13 08:03:57

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.

Madamecastafiore Tue 18-Jun-13 08:11:26

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.

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.

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