Don’t let fear stop you from tackling workplace bullies

I am a victim of bullying, and so I read your article and survey results about this issue (Personnel Today, 28 September) with great interest and understanding. I work in an organisation where bullying is accepted practice and where most people are too afraid to even admit it.

I am a UK HR manager for a fairly well-known company and have been subjected to systematic bullying and harassment by my line manager – the head of HR – since starting at the organisation nine months ago.

At first, I thought I should keep my head down and hope it never happened to me – I am single with two small children and a mortgage and thought this would be the sensible thing to do.

However, as time went by, I realised that I am not the type of person who can just watch and experience injustice and do nothing about it.

I raised a grievance against my line manager in mid-September of this year and thought that justice would be done. She is well-known for bullying: she shouts, screams, swears and threatens in the open plan office for everyone to see. I was certain that my grievance would be upheld.

How wrong could I have been?

Since raising my grievance, the head of HR has recruited a new training manager to cover a large part of my role. She has taken my direct reports away from me and told them that they now report to someone else. There is not much left of my job.

My grievance has not been upheld as my line manager was supposedly ‘carrying out her managerial responsibilities properly’. Not only that, but I have been suspended for serious misconduct for sending my grievance to the appropriate person via her personal assistant. This, supposedly, is a ‘breach of confidentiality’, and therefore possible serious misconduct. I am awaiting dismissal.

I don’t regret raising the grievance. I knew what I was doing and what the outcome might be. Nevertheless, I had to do something as I could not watch this bully ruin anybody else’s lives. I will not stop here – I will do whatever I can to prevent this from happening again.

I believe this was the only course of action I could have taken. I know it has had drastic consequences but maybe, in some small way, it might make a difference. Who knows?

Details supplied

Industry must wake up to ageism crisis

With regard to your survey on age (Personnel Today, 26 October), I am 43 and have personally felt the brunt of ageism in the IT industry. I was not able to get a job from some 180 applications in four months. I now work in France.

If I were an ethnic minority, the word ‘racism’ would be bandied about.

When is UK industry going to wake up to the fact that people are the business and should be valued?

What would the economic consequence be if all over 45s felt they had no future?

Graeme Blundell
Senior consultant, Altair Technology

UK is missing out on older workers’ skills

I write following comments in the story ‘Businesses not recruiting the over 50s’, and your latest research on age (Personnel Today, 26 October)

I am 64, and anxious to continue working to support my young family and mortgage, having recently been made redundant when my employer ceased trading.

However, after more than 60 applications for employment in the past three months – all for HR positions – and only two replies, I can concur with your research.

British industry must be made aware that it is missing out on a wealth of experience, and while firms may say older people lack IT skills, this just isn’t true. I, for one, have just achieved the ECDL computing certificate to supplement my extensive experience so I can compete with the best, if only I was given the chance.

Not only are employers not interested in the over-50s, in most cases they don’t even have the courtesy to reply.

As a result, I am totally frustrated, but still determined to work.

Peter Vanson
Details supplied

Are we measuring the value of staff?

As we approach the first anniversary of the Accounting for People report, it is worth considering whether its guidelines have been adopted. Denise Kingsmill and her taskforce focused people’s minds on a key issue: the importance of viewing employees not as a cost, but in terms of their value to an organisation.

So she presented us with the theory, highlighting the ‘gap between theory and application’. But are we still mulling over the theory, or can we see these concepts being applied in our organisations today?

The adoption of proposals to enforce all companies to provide information on people management in annual reports would signal a genuine shift in thinking. The task for HR is to unearth a suitable set of human capital management measures.

Do chief financial officers (CFOs) fully understand the elements that can be measured? The average cost of replacing one employee is at least 1.5 times their annual salary and high labour turnover impacts customer satisfaction and opportunities for business growth. We must recognise that CFOs don’t have ‘hearts and minds’, just figures. That’s their role. It’s HR’s role to focus on the value of its people. CFOs and HR directors need to meet in the middle.

The Kingsmill report never anticipated an ‘overnight revolution’, but hoped for a ‘change of emphasis within organisations’. The challenge for HR to articulate this new ’emphasis’, is still there.

Frank Schroeder
President, DBM Europe

Government posts need transparency

Having worked in the public sector on various interim assignments over the years, I am aware of the detailed recruitment policies around equality and diversity, and the drive towards recruitment strategies and transparent processes that allow for fairness and objectivity.

Why is it, then, that at the highest levels of Government – the Labour Cabinet and EU commissioners for the UK – recruitment methods similar to the private sector are seemingly being employed. Tony Blair appears to choose individuals without advertising opportunities, interviews, psychometrics or assessment centres.

Recently, when asked about Peter Mandelson’s appointment as commissioner to the EU, he was quoted as saying: “He is the best man for the job”. But without any evidence of a recruitment process, I cannot see how he can say this. A similar veil is drawn when appointing judges.

More transparency is needed to ensure that the best men and women get the job. The evidence must be there to substantiate the appointment.

Colin Rodden
Interim HR manager, The Mosaic Initiative

Wider remits for OH would not be wise

Just a couple of observations about your sickness absence report (Personnel Today, 28 September).
In principle, I agree that in an ideal world, we should have occupational health specialists issuing sick certificates for employees, especially where many employees are now considering suing their ‘uncaring’ employer for injuries, accidents or illnesses such as work-related stress.

However, a lot of this will boil down to cost. How many small employers will be able to foot the bills of an occupational health (OH) specialist, probably costing about 75 per patient per consultation?

And what about the location of the OH specialist? If they work from the employer’s premises, will you want an employee with perhaps a highly infectious disease such as chicken pox or extreme strains of flu coming in to the building and potentially infecting other members of the workforce through contact or air conditioning?

There is a psychological aspect too, for both the employee and their colleagues. Do they want to be seen by their colleagues covered in spots, and do their colleagues want to bump into them in the workplace while they are coughing and spluttering everywhere?

Can OH specialist comment on medical history as well as a family GP? Yes, they will receive reports from the GPs, consultants et al, but will they have the same in-depth information, especially where they require the employee’s consent to research the records in the first place?

Gary Holdforth
Principal personnel and development officer, Port of London Authority

Impact of motivation must not be ignored

While I was fascinated by Stephen Overall’s history lesson on experiments in motivation (Off Message, Personnel Today, 19 October), I can’t help but feel he leaves a crucial point unsaid. While HR professionals may not be able to precisely define cause and effect, they can certainly assess – in a robust and analytical way – current research and good practice that aids employee involvement and commitment to the organisation.

The workplace environment today is very different from that described in the 1930s, so while we still may not be able to scientifically evaluate the impact of motivation, we ignore it at our peril.

Nick Wright
Director, Fishburn Hedges

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