week’s letters

Workplace bullying must be uncovered and
stamped out

was with huge relief I read your excellent 28 September issue and the results
of your survey with the Andrea Adams Trust on workplace bullying. At last,
someone is giving airtime to this problem and has realised that HR
professionals also fall victim to it.

left a job just over two years ago after being bullied by a maverick boss, who
was obviously keen to prove himself as a "business partner", and
more. He wanted to climb to the top of the tree, and he wasn’t letting anyone
get in the way of his ambitions to be a board director.

my boss was so attuned to employment law, trendy business terms and the do’s
and don’ts of dealing with staff, he turned his tactics into a
politically-correct version of bullying, which he referred to as
"performance management".

get me wrong – I am all in favour of managing performance and pulling people up
when they need it.  I know exactly what
the term means – performance management is not the same thing as bullying.

my boss successfully muddied the waters in very subtle but devastating ways. I
complained twice about being bullied, to people higher up the food chain. They
didn’t believe me, and the bullying got worse – impossible targets, constant

went to an employment lawyer who thought I would win my case, but I decided I
could not handle the stress of going through with it. I resigned, and
consequently suffered from depression. I totally lost confidence in my
abilities, and it took me a year to feel able to look for another job.

now work in a busy HR department dealing with just over 2,000 employees, and am
gradually accepting more and more responsibility as my confidence is restored.
Workplace bullying needs to be stamped out. For a while, it wrecked my life.

Details supplied

Employers need to pay for rep training

asked your readers whether employers should pay for the training of union reps
(News barometer, Personnel Today, 7 September).

need to realise that their workforce is a useful tool in the workplace. If
given encouragement and support in gaining qualifications and experience, their
future input into the company with ideas, support of company procedures and
legal requirements would be invaluable. 

Christine Rhodes

Details supplied

Women still on the rise at Brent Council

Thanks to Personnel
for the very welcome article about Brent Council’s flexible working
policies which have helped more women move into senior posts (Breaking the
glass ceiling, 14 September).
We were delighted with your coverage of our local authority, but would
like to clarify a couple of things.

first is that Brent’s chief executive Gareth Daniel, does not – as claimed in
the piece – work a compressed week. Like most other chief executives, he works
for as long as the job demands, which means he often works in the evening and
at weekends.

the leader of Brent Council, Ann John, as an elected member of the council (and
not an officer) also works on behalf of the borough, for however many hours are
demanded by her role. This is also true of other council leaders, I’m sure.

good news, however, is that since you published this article, we have found
that the proportion of women in senior management has increased yet again by 8
per cent in the past year.  This means,
that since 2001, the number of women in top jobs at Brent has increased from 30
per cent to 48 per cent.

thanks again for your coverage, and watch this space!

Tracy Walters

Head of diversity, corporate diversity team

Blanket approach to diversity won’t work

a diversity gatekeeper, I wish to comment on your 21 September edition, which
contained some stark contrasts.

front page talked about HR putting its own house in order regarding equal pay.
I agree wholeheartedly. Then, on page 31, an article with the headline
‘Recruitment revolution’ quotes an HR adviser for Woolworths as saying: "It’s good to know that
every candidate has been screened and dealt with in exactly the same way."

supports the myth that the road to equal and fair treatment is to treat
everyone in the same way. In reality, this approach serves to discriminate,
albeit inadvertently, and is cited as a factor in the McPherson report’s
description of ‘institutional racism’. And one of the Disability Discrimination
Act’s requirements is to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to practices and
procedures to overcome discrimination.

move to a ‘one size fits all’ approach may be good for an organisation’s
finances, but it serves to increase disadvantage unless significant efforts are
made to create alternative options.

keep reading Personnel Today with interest!

Jane Goodwin

Equality and diversity adviser, Hampshire
County Council

Quick fixes will not plug gender pay gap

read Michael Millar’s article in Personnel Today about gender pay gaps in the
HR profession with some interest (News, 21 September). As an HR manager in
manufacturing, I am fully aware of the historic preference towards men in
senior positions. This has obviously been reflected in HR. I am, however,
concerned at the inference that HR professionals are in some way creating this situation
through discrimination.

think it would be more appropriate to study the ratio of women against men in
HR manager positions (which has clearly grown in the past 10 years in women’s
favour), and to compare starting salaries at management level for each gender.
My guess is that such a study’s results would show that the inflated salaries
for men are historic (those in a job for five years or more), that the majority
of new recruits enjoy salary equity, but that many more women are recruited to
the HR profession.

nature of employment nowadays is that people move on quicker, and although
there is a clear argument that you should be paid for the job you do,
regardless of time served, there has always been an element of incremental pay
that many of the long-term HR managers (mostly male) from years gone by will
have benefited from.

over-reaction in your report from some very senior people within the HR world
will inflame the issue among the profession, and is likely to lead to an
over-inflation of salaries all-round.

take a sensible approach to gender and salary and recognise the good work being
done within the profession to remove
historic inequality – and the education of long-term traditionalist directors
and managers – rather than seeking irrational quick fixes.

Pete Smith

Frustrated HR manager

Dismissal rules have not caused difficulty

overworked and underpaid personnel practitioners have enough real problems to
worry about, without Personnel Today trying
to frighten us with fictitious bogeymen!

refer to the article on your website by Daniel Thomas on the subject of the new
dispute and disciplinary rules, headlined New
dismissal rules make it harder to sack employees (News, personneltoday.com, 20 September).

new statutory procedure has three stages, not 13, and I believe the vast
majority of responsible employers will have to make little effort to comply
with them, apart from introducing the step of putting invitations to
disciplinary meetings in writing.

assertion that the new rules will make it harder to sack employees is only
partly true. They will make it very difficult to sack an employee unfairly, and
that is surely no bad thing, since it should never be a simple matter to
deprive someone of their livelihood in any case.

have revised my organisation’s procedure to accommodate the new rules, and did
not find it difficult to do. Like most personnel managers, over the past few
months I have been on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited literature from
the legal profession, attempting to drum up business on the basis that
Armageddon is coming, and only the employment lawyers can save us.

Alistair McIntosh

Group personnel manager, Balmoral Group

Editor’s reply: The 13-step guide is a
DTI measure, and the assertion that the rules will make it harder to sack
employees came from legal experts.

is not our intention, but business groups such as the Federation of Small
Businesses and law firms have warned that companies that are not aware of the
legislation may be caught out financially. Hence we reported this.

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