Bullied Blogger: ‘I need to do something to get me out of this hole’

April 27, 2009

20 April: I was shocked by the pre-disciplinary report sent last Friday. I feel I am a fool to have thought that the pro vice-chancellor for law and social sciences was in any way going to give a balanced and objective appraisal of my behaviour. At the time, he seemed concerned, sympathetic, empathic and highly motivated to “get this sorted out”. The report that was sent to me via email and registered post is a terrible indication of how organisations work and deal with people who – through complicated interpersonal disputes that result in severe stress – attempt to challenge in ways that may be problematic. The pre-disciplinary meeting was just another perfunctory way of building a subjective case against me. I feel utterly confounded by the psychological brutality I am experiencing.

I feel like a criminal. Criminalised. It’s hard to recall, but there was a time, not too many months ago, when I loved my job. My students so enjoyed my teaching. All that seems invisible, airbrushed, forgotten, invalidated. It seems impossible to imagine that I will ever be able to return to work for this academic institution. This option is now gone.

My emotions are changeable; I veer towards despair and depression. One good thing I have to hold on to is that Dominic is wonderfully supportive, but he now wants me to resign. He is shocked by the mechanistic and uncaring attitude of this university, that someone can give so much and be “dismissed” so easily. He thinks if my situation were a work of fiction it would be considered an unlikely scenario. I read a great deal about dysfunctional organisations, research on bullying, interpersonal conflict in organisations and how mobbing is a common occurrence. The reading is not optimistic: it paints pictures of sour, hidden malice and ruined careers.

I find the silence from staff in my division disappointing and disheartening. Do they know what is going on? Have they succumbed to the vitriolic character assassination of the individual who has been punished? Do they take the party line? Have they forgotten about me and just carry on unquestioning? Are they so conformist and worried about making contact? For some naive reason, I thought that there would be interest in what is happening to me – and in the division of law and social sciences, what else would one expect but a critical questioning about the way I have been dealt with? But also, what about Alan, my friend? He must have left by now. Where is Alan in all of this? Am I so wrapped up in all of this that I have become too focused on my own experience? There is a world out there and I am in a fog of war. I need to do something to get me out of this hole.

I read and re-read the disciplinary report. It is vindictive, selective and partisan, lacking any sense of humanity. Helen and Marcus say such lies and conjure up a view that vindicates their position. I did not realise people could be so terribly nasty. Apparently, when Marcus read the Easter email he was traumatised. Helen was “shocked and devastated” by my email. There is also a one-page response from the vice-chancellor’s office that talks about “staff seemingly acting with scant regard for official channels of communication” and human resources taking the view that I have been “offensive and unacceptable in my behaviour to staff”. But these are the people who were accused by me after a long period of difficulties THAT WERE MINE. It was I who attempted to resolve matters. They have each other, their religion and mutual association of faith. I cannot believe they have been so offended. It seems orchestrated, contrived and engineered for best effect.

I read the report time and time again. It all seems crazy and ridiculous. They have gone on a fishing expedition and cast their nets far and wide. Seen in isolation, without any context or understanding for my situation, I am guilty as charged. Totally stuffed. But it’s not like that: this has a history. I know it and they know it. I need to hold on to what led me here. I need to hold on to that. But who is believed? These are defensive reactions, and according to bullying websites, they are consistent with how these things play out.

23 April: The constant flow of letters continues, every second day. I cannot fully understand the rationale of hearing my grievance along with a disciplinary and still corresponding with me while I am sick with work-related stress. It causes me great problems in my ability to keep my mood from sinking and in trying to gather my thoughts over what to do next.

Today I also get an email, unsigned, from “Supporters of You”, from an untraceable email address:

“We are a group of academics who would like to voice our concern for the way you are being treated. We would like to suggest that you fight on, become more vocal, challenge more. You need to know you have supporters… fight on, don’t let them get you down.”

At first I think this is Alan, but I fear it could be a set-up to encourage me to be reckless. I show the email to Dominic, and he too is sceptical.

The disciplinary will be heard by a senior member of the university. Well, that really raises my enthusiasm – an objective person who will be detached and dispassionate is a likely possibility. I fear that the anonymous email is a plant, hoping I will react in ways that will incriminate me more.

24 April: In the morning, as if to remind me that life is not getting that much better, I get another email from HR.

They want me to see their doctor for an assessment to see if I can attend a disciplinary. It’s all still terrible, but perhaps there is an end in sight. I desperately hope so. I need some luck, but is the university getting off lightly? After all I have been through, what is a just resolution?

My options seem limited, but I must conclude matters:

1. Do what the university want me to do and be totally abused and most likely be sacked

2. Just resign, get out and leave everything behind

3. Do what the email suggests, fight it and go on the offensive – what more can they do to me?

4. Get a bloody good lawyer and seek a mutually agreed way out

5. Just keep riding it out on a work-related sick option.

Dominic and I sit down and decide to work this to a conclusion. One way or another, this must move on, and in a way, facing these options is something I need to do. It needs sorting out. I need to take control.

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.
You can contact CUSN for free on 08000 32 99 52 or visit www.cusn.info, where you can also sign up for the free monthly newsletter.

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