Bullied Blogger: Tell us about your reasons for leaving…

June 2, 2009

29 May: I have had about a month without work. A little freelance work has come my way, but overall, the relief I’m experiencing after the bombardment from human resources and terrible distortions in my original grievance has resulted in tranquil waters. The pressure, sleepless nights and high anxiety are all but gone.

I still have the odd nightmare – with images of my abusers and a feeling of panic that it was all my own doing – and I wake in the early hours unable to settle. But during the daytime I am often in an oasis of calm, with occasional intrusions of anxiety about being out of work. I would not have realised the incredible calm of all this when I was in the eye of the storm; at the time it seemed so unrelenting, such an overwhelmingly abusive experience. But now I can view it from a distance, I realise how contrived their behaviour was – managed, carefully choreographed and ambitious in their collective desire to destroy me. I had a naive belief that an academic institution would somehow be immune to systematic abuse; that because of the context they would be honest and fair. Not so. I will say more about this in my concluding blogs.

My focus has been on two interviews for jobs at universities in a geographical area that Dominic and I would be happy to move to, and both are in my academic area of interest. I am not necessarily well prepared for these interviews, and the application forms have raised issues I have not fully comprehended, ie, leaving my last post with no clear explanation. The “reference” states, “TBB left the university on mutually agreed terms and made a positive contribution…” – it sounds dubious and unclear, with a hidden story. But who will fill in the gaps?

Both interviews come in quick succession. The first is at a redbrick university down south. I feel uncomfortable that they don’t raise the issue of my somewhat “interesting” departure. I leave having given an acceptable account. Later that week I am informed I was not successful. Did they contact my old employer? I am fairly certain they did. I communicate with my solicitor Debbie Smith, who drew up the severance agreement, and ask her to dispatch a letter to my old university “confirming” the focus on mutually agreed commitments with a particular emphasis to my reference.

I ask Debbie to be quite strong about this. She is brilliant, composing a letter that is diplomatic but challenging, threatening that I will break with protocol if it is discovered that there has been any malice on their part.

I fear what may be happening. I recall what someone posted under one of my earlier blogs. On 13 May, Senior Ducat said:

“There is no question that you are going to be blacklisted. Universities regularly underhandedly contact the new employers and sabotage things for the employee who leaves under such circumstances. It is part of the unwritten compact [sic] among universities. You will either be blocked altogether from getting any job in your field, or else, if you do, you will soon thereafter find yourself sacked, due to the actions of your former employer. Best bet is to find another career altogether. And then find a way to seek justice through exposing the bullies.”

That comment has haunted me, causing irrational fears about my chances of getting another position in academia. I have often feared (like Margaret Anne, who has been so very supportive on this blog) that members of staff from my university have individually or collectively attacked me through anonymous comments on the blog. I doubt this is a paranoid diversion, there are those who seem to try and bate me, ridicule my situation or make comments to support Marcus and Helen that make me certain that the staff involved in my demise have played out their victory on this blog. Senior Ducat’s comment has impacted on me. I have some anxiety about what will happen in my next interview.

1 June: I have my second interview. It goes like a dream. I am upbeat, answer everything correctly and sail through it with erudition and clarity. It is as if all the questions were set by me, that they knew what I wanted to answer. I leave almost certain I have the post. Later that day a call from one of the panel: “You were appointable, but...”

What a terrible disappointment. I pick myself up, think about what has happened and realise I will never know the circumstances behind the interviews. I recall a comment from my last bog that resonates:

“What next for TBB?” said on 31 May:

“I suggest taking three to six months of not even thinking about another job. Spend three months decorating the house, doing some gardening, going on a nice holiday, and put all the stress behind you. Ease your way back into ‘life’ by taking a part-time voluntary job for another couple of months. Even write a book. Do that ‘something’ you always wanted to do but never had time for. And don’t worry about another job until you are ready for it.”

I think about that comment. I am influenced by what people say on this blog, and there is something about that comment I feel I should consider. I have a little money from the agreement, there is a book I have been meaning to write for some time now… what should I do?

Are you experiencing problems at work?

Whether its 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 UCU, CUSN offers information and advice, telephone counselling, online and telephone coaching and financial assistance. All CUSN services are delivered by professional advisors, counsellors and coaches.

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