Case 032 - Care of Learning-disabled adults
I've worked in the care of disabled people for 15 years. For the last six years I've been part of a small team providing care for a group of adults in their own home. About 18 months ago, a married couple joined the team, and since then I've watched most of the original team members being picked off, one by one, by them. Over the last few months, I too have become a "victim", and I am now off sick and unable to see a time when I will ever feel comfortable and safe working in my usual job again.
I've experienced malicious gossip, about fellow staff and myself; I've seen the people we provide care for treated in a totally unacceptable manner; I've been on the receiving end of insulting, derogatory remarks about myself and women in general; fed the wrong information about tasks involved in my job, leading to mistakes; I've had a fellow professional wagged her finger at me and shout extremely abusive comments on my work in front of the bullies and others - even though I'd only met her a short while before - I later found out that this couple had spent a considerable amount of time telling her what an awful person I was, prior to her even meeting me; I've been isolated and ignored - I could go on, and fill pages with the incidents and events that I've seen and experienced.
To make matters worse, my new line manager is obviously very friendly with and supports these bullies, and the one or two other new staff who are now part of their gang. Since making a formal complaint, my line manager has threatened me with disciplinary action if I dare to meet or speak to my former workmates even socially, she has spent a lot of time warning me of all the nasty repercussions that await me if I proceed with my complaint, and worse still, has kept the bullies informed of everything I have said and done, despite my being assured that confidentiality would be maintained, resulting in one of the "gang" actually making threats and leaving me terrified not just for my own safety, but that of my family.
The impression I've had from the reaction of senior managers is that to act on this now would be an admission of their failure to deal with this situation when others first reported it, and rather than risk it becoming known that they have failed miserably in upholding their own policy on bullying, they are going to try and sweep it all under the carpet.
Like most of my workmates, I have a family and can't afford to leave my job. Also, like all my workmates, I am now on the sick with work related stress, which is hardly going to enhance my prospects of finding alternative work. Nor can I ever imagine feeling confident or safe in my usual work place again - for the first time in my life I am receiving counselling and on medication to help me cope. We are looking into legal steps that we can perhaps take, but in reality all of us are so shaken in confidence and so weary and sick of the whole business, that we don't really know where to go from here.
My employers are supposedly investigating the situation, but have already told me I will be expected to go back to work in the same environment, with the same people, when its 'sorted', telling me in advance that they will take no action. I've got together with five other staff who have had the same experience as myself - they have also made complaints - and we are seeking legal advice - though whether we can get our union to support in that, we don't yet know. I can't believe, that at the age of 37, with years of experience in my work, that I am in this situation.
I have now found out that at least five others, who have raised the same complaints/concerns as myself, have been subjected to the same treatment from this manager.
I wish there was some sort of independent body to support the victims of bullying in the workplace, something that could put pressure on employers to uphold their own policies in dealing with this sort of situation.