Bullied Blogger: An email fightback

February 10, 2009

2 February: I don’t sleep through the night any more because I dread going into work each day. There is tension between my partner and I, and I find it hard to concentrate. My workload seems overwhelming. I was in the office yesterday and for 20 minutes I felt I could not move. I was catatonic, unclear what to do next.

My specialism has always been focused on women and their survival in the world – ironic, yes? The modules I have been given are way out of my level of expertise: social policy, globalisation and consumer culture. What is confusing is that some of them have been taken from others who seem to have more space. I’ve decided I’ll put it on the team-meeting agenda under “transparency”. The divisional meeting is next week.

3 February: Yesterday, Alan emailed me to say that he had an interview down south next week. If he goes, I don’t know what I’ll do. He is one of the few lifelines I have.

Marcus always seems to hover around. When I see him I feel anxious and fearful.

Every day I go to the post room and there is often a copy of a job vacancy in my tray. If I find one I pin it to the wall. At one point there were three vacancies up there.

I am getting invitations to conferences but feel I cannot go. I worry about leaving my office because someone obviously keeps coming in. Drawers are left open and files are pilfered – what can I do?

My life history has seen many problems. My childhood was scarred by terrible family arguments and domestic violence. I know it’s all too easy for me to fall into a hole and lapse into depression. I never thought I would feel this way again. I thought I had sorted myself out. I feel a heavy burden pressing down on me and have nowhere to turn.

6 February: There is a general email from Marcus about “uneconomic” courses and the need for modules to be “financially robust”. I take this to mean he is going to chop several of my modules from a range of available courses… watch this space.

I keep thinking about what to do about the meeting I had with Helen Murr and Marcus. Their points keep playing on my mind. I decide to formalise things and dispatch an email to them both. When their accusations are written down they don’t seem to have much weight.

Dear Marcus and Helen,

Further to the unexpected meeting last week and the points Marcus raised about certain aspects of my work, can I have some clarification? If I am accused of issues relating to my attitude at work, I would like examples and evidence, please.

If I am correct, Marcus suggested that:

I constantly seem to be unwilling to provide him with information about the work I undertake.

I am deliberately trying to stop him implementing his “change agenda”.

I have provided him with misleading information in the recent business plan, which he claims to have corrected.

He fears I am creating a subculture with several staff designed to create a mood of pessimism – he cites a reference request for a member of staff and is anxious I am not a “team player”. He says I am “always moaning”. Again, could you provide me with evidence?

I dispatch the email, and as I do so my heart races. I feel nauseous and anxious. I need to go and teach and it’s not the best preparation.

In return to the office after teaching and find no response to my email. We have the divisional meeting next week and I wonder, after sending it, whether I should have put transparency on the agenda.

I go to a meeting with external agencies on developments in relation to service provision and integrating resources for women and counselling. This does not relate directly to my academic work, but it is a link with practitioner services involved in my specialism.

I arrive early to find that the agencies have received a letter from Marcus explaining that there is a review of the time allocated to the project and that my role is under review. I do not react adversely, but explain that we are going through an audit with our new divisional manager. The meeting goes well and there is talk of some grants being made available to explore the effectiveness of service provision to women. The whole group look to me. I am unclear what to say, but they all seem enthused about my putting in an application.

Perhaps this could be a move sideways or out? After the meeting I’m approached by Marcia Smith, the new co-ordinator of children’s services. She’s heard good things about me and says she wants to “explore ways of working with the university”. I’m hopeful I could ring-fence some ideas and “detach” myself from the division.

But I wonder what is waiting for me back at the university. I go home early to a terrible weekend. My partner takes the kids to his mother’s. As he leaves he says that a Stepford wife might be better than me. Bastard, and I tell him as much. I spend most of the weekend in bed. The phone goes a few times, but I don’t answer. I feel I have no energy.

Names and other details have been changed.

Are you experiencing problems at work?

Whether it’s money worries, issues with colleagues or emotional difficulties, the College and University Support Network (CUSN) can help. CUSN provides free, confidential support services, 24/7, specifically for all staff working in adult, further and higher education. Established by Teacher Support Network and supported by the University and College Union, CUSN offers information and advice, telephone counselling, online and telephone coaching and financial assistance. All CUSN services are delivered by professional advisers, counsellors and coaches.

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