Blogconfidential: Any bloody lie will do

Each week, Dr Margot Feelbetter poses a dilemma and offers advice for readers to respond to online. This week: Any bloody lie will do

February 24, 2011

I wrote to Blogconfidential a few weeks ago about a grievance I submitted against my dean, who had ignored my memos warning that the administration team that dealt with my diploma course was inept, and against my academic lead, for threatening behaviour.

Now they are countering with disciplinary proceedings against me. I have been off work suffering from stress, and it seems that while I was away they went through my office papers. Suddenly, there are "concerns" about the way I have been managing several of the qualifications that I lead. I have requested details, but all they will say is that I have not carried out my duties according to the agreements from previous exam boards, and that they have "misgivings" about "standards".

There have never been any previous complaints; their "concerns" must be completely made up. I have made contact with my union, but they are overworked and understaffed and can give only limited support at the moment.

I have also contacted a solicitor, who suggested two options: that we negotiate an agreement under which they abandon their disciplinary proceedings and I withdraw my grievance; or that he seek a settlement with the university ending my employment and awarding me a severance package.

Both options seem enormously unfair to me as I am in the right. Which should I choose?

I hate to say I told you so, but taking out a grievance very often serves only to inflame matters. You really should have gone for mediation or dropped the matter altogether (as I initially advised).

You have a tough call. Your managers obviously know that you are stressed and that they can use this as a pressure point.

Perhaps they have been in your office and altered paperwork to make out that you are inept, but people do such things when their careers are at risk. Deceit and lies are part of the process when disciplinaries are issued as a tool of reprisal. If you discover that they are indeed making up their facts you could go to tribunal, but this is a long and costly business.

Your legal representative seems to be pragmatic rather than a fighter. If you go for a severance agreement, this will have to include a clause guaranteeing you a reference; you may even play a part in formulating it. But when you apply for another post in another university your interviewers may well make "off-the-record" calls to your old managers, making a path back to academia problematic.

I suggest that you take the other option and drop the matter altogether. The situation has clearly spun out of control. Had it been handled better, all tensions would have been resolved much earlier on.

Swallow your pride, hold your head high and go back. Just remember to stay out of trouble from now on.

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