Blogconfidential: Do blame yourself

Each week, Dr Margot Feelbetter poses a dilemma and offers advice for readers to respond to online. This week: Do blame yourself

February 3, 2011

I recently devised an innovative diploma course, the first of its kind in the "helping professions". It was reported on in a national newspaper and in professional magazines and brought prestige to my university, where I have been working for seven years. I have felt privileged to be able to run a course on a subject I am passionate about.

To make the course viable, I needed a minimum of 20 students; the diploma itself runs for 18 months. However, I discovered inadvertently that there were problems with admissions - some prospective students had been waiting for more than six months for a university prospectus. These problems came to a head when one potential student phoned me, upset and anxious about her chances of getting on the course following six futile attempts to obtain information from our admissions department.

Over the past 12 months, I have sent three confidential memos to our dean highlighting my concerns about the ineptitude of our admissions team, yet my academic manager has been indifferent, at times seeming to threaten me and even stating that I am always moaning.

As a result, I decided to go part-time, continuing with the diploma but dropping all other work for the university. Soon afterwards, my academic lead told me that the diploma might not be financially viable.

I have registered official grievances against the dean for ignoring my confidential memos and my academic lead for threatening behaviour. They are now lying their way through the procedure. They have invented bogus invoices to make the diploma appear economically unviable and the dean has denied receiving any confidential memos expressing my concerns.

I am off work with stress, the human resources department is harassing me and my colleagues have been told I am having a nervous breakdown. Any tips?

I'm afraid you have to accept responsibility for your own situation. You seem to be set on making trouble for yourself and appear intent on self-destruction.

Did you really believe that one individual - and a fairly smug one at that, by the sound of things - could challenge the systems of power successfully? You sound so comfortable in your little world, devising your own diploma, basking in national recognition, unable to accept that some people simply cannot do a perfect job. To cap it all, you sent devious memos to your dean about your underperforming academic lead.

I think you should take a step back and see the wood for the trees. You have a job, while 2.5 million people in the UK don't. You actually enjoy your work and seem to have cherry-picked the best aspects of it. So people lie and become devious when their careers are under threat - what else is new?

I suggest you withdraw your grievance, apologise and keep your head down. Read some Michel Foucault on power and how organisations can chew you up and spit you out.

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