Personal criticism hits the hardest

Employees working in a sales environment expect healthy banter, aggressive
targets and pressure from managers.

What they do not expect – or deserve – is to be sidelined, ostracised, insulted
and humiliated, purely because they have given birth to a child and returned on
a part-time basis.

However, this is exactly what happened to Jackie Wood, when she returned to
her sales company, where she had worked for more than 12 years, after 10 months
maternity leave.

Wood, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, quickly became
aware that the entirely male senior management team had turned against her.

They began bullying her in various ways. "This included being left off
e-mails, public criticism of my work only to apologise in private following the
meetings, and personal comments that had the result of me feeling humiliated,
insecure and unable to do my job as well as before," she told Personnel

As someone who has been in sales all of her life and has a strong character,
Wood thought she could handle anything colleagues could throw at her. But it
was the personal and insidious nature of the comments that wore her down,
eventually making her ill.

"Attacks on my work I can deal with – either defend my actions or admit
mistakes," she said. "But personal criticism unrelated to work and
personal attacks are another story and it destroys every part of your

After ultimately realising that she could not change the situation or
continue within it, Wood made a claim through the tribunal system. The claim
spanned 18 months, but earlier this summer it was settled with a mutual
finance-based agreement the night before the case was due to begin.

Despite her experiences, Wood stressed that it is not correct to say that a
particular company is bad, but rather the employees working for it.

"It is often one or two individuals that are at fault – often through
ignorance or lack of management training," she said. "Companies can
eradicate this by better training and not simply promoting based on longevity
of service."

Bullying: the key statistics

23% of respondents have been bullied in their current job

53% of respondents had been bullied in a previous job

Of those that had been bullied:

43% were bullied by their immediate superior

22% were bullied by a manager in the company

12% were bullied by other members of the workforce

How did they respond?

21% confronted the bully

24% went to a senior manager

6% made use of the organisation’s grievance procedure

31% left the organisation

71% of organisations have a formal policy for tackling bullying

By Daniel Thomas

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