What happened next? Should a grievance be lodged? By Sarah Fletcher

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Mystery PractitionerA bullying boss can make life a misery; in this new series looking at what happened next we report on the outcome and learning points of this exact situation experienced by a member who sought solace in the Any Answers forum. By Sarah Fletcher

What do you do if you feel your boss is persecuting you?
“I have a problem which I am not sure how to deal with. My direct line manager has no problems with my work, but my manager's manager highlighted three areas of concern to me, went about it in the wrong way and made it very personal.

“I am now very upset and want to know what steps I should take next. I could lodge a grievance, but I am concerned about the impact it could have as I work in a very small team. I am not sure what to do.”

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What happened next?
I am currently in my second year of a personnel & development master degree, and the trouble started when my boss's boss asked to see some of my coursework. She had it overnight, and the next day called me out to our (public!) lobby space just after the morning.

She told me it was an appalling piece of work, she would be amazed if I passed and even if I did she would have no respect for my qualification. She had taken it upon herself to 'mark' the work in red pen. (I have since found out I passed!)

I didn't really say anything as I wasn't quite sure what to say. She then went on to tell me I had terrible organisational skills (this was news to me, and something my line manager has never ever brought up), and that as of that day I had to pull myself together because it was only a matter of time before I let the whole department down.

She rounded up by informing me that I had put on weight recently, my suit didn't fit properly and I was to get a new one at once. Her exact words were that she was "embarrassed" for me. By this point I was in tears, so she looked at me, asked if I was ok, and when I said no walked off.

I walked back into my office in tears (very unlike me) and my boss whisked me off into a spare training room and sat with me for two hours while I pulled myself together. By the time I'd left work that evening I was wondering what I could do ensure she never spoke to me like that again. I was off for the next three days, and spent most of the time in tears.”

I didn’t feel any better when I returned to work on Monday. Members of the HR Zone community had responded with the majority advising against official action. “My boss suggested that I speak directly to the woman that upset me in the first place. I was training for the next two days, but eventually I managed to talk to her.

I explained that what she had said had deeply affected me. The best sort of apology that I got was "I'm sorry you took it like that". Officially it is now over, with no record of this anywhere, and no one outside of the training department knowing about it.

I started looking for a new job that night. My psychological contract has been broken, and I now leave for work 45 minutes later than usual as I don't see why I should get in extra early any more.

Which sources of information did you find the most useful?
HR Zone.

What would you have done differently with hindsight?
I really don't know. I still have a feeling I should have done more.

Was the outcome satisfactory for all parties?
No. Not for me and not for my company when I hand in my notice!

Are there any other learning points?
We have a full grievance policy, but I was too scared to use it due to the possible repercussions. It just goes to show that even with the best laid policies it takes some nerve to use them. If I had an HR person for HR employees I would have been able to get proper advice, and it may have been resolved in a more satisfactory manner.

How to deal with this grievance - advice offered by members:

  • Keith Luxon would not advise going down the grievance route unless all other avenues have been exhausted - the results can be unpredictable.
  • Nik Kellingley would encourage the employee to open dialogue with the manager in question to resolve this issue without making it a formal grievance.
  • Brian Perry suggests avoiding a formal complaint as in the "real world" this could cause more problems, but would want the full details noted on his HR file in case of future problems - this could then be used as evidence in case of a future tribunal.

Related Any Answers posts:

Have you suffered a similar experience? Please post your comments about this member’s problem using the form below.

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16th Feb 2006 13:11

Personally, my line manager bullied me for a considerable length of time a number of years ago now. Eventually a more senior manager noticed something was amiss and once discussed openly between us my line management was changed. The former line manager never acknowledged any problem, although I had started actively seeking new employment; I lost all my confidence and have never felt so miserable.
Now I would have the self confidence to confront someone - which I did not have then. With experience and hindsight in dealing with similar issues now, I have found it has worked to sit down(our behaviour code encourages the dialogue) with the injured party and the perpetrator(or have an independant colleague). Recently for another member of staff it was clearly explained that I was only present at the discussion (at their request)to allow for it to happen rather than in my HR role. The person concerned at the outset was very anxious and aggressive that a disciplinary hearing was taking place, but having explained that it was an opportunity for both parties to speak openly and freely, nothing documented, no action to be taken - there was an open dialogue, emotions and perceived issues well vented and having shaken hands, both went their separate ways. Since then the relationship has been professional and no further problems - I would mention that both parties are volatile and the aggrieved was already to walk out of his employment. Would not work in all situations, but is a route that has been successfully used here on a number of instances.

Nicky Hillier

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