Case 060 - Charity

Bullying of senior manager's administrative support worker in a national charity

I started working in an administrative support role to a senior manager of a national charity. At first I was really excited as I have always wanted to pursue a career within the not-for-profit sector and this was my second job in this sector out of University. I realised very quickly that my new manager had quite traditional views on women to say the least. For the first month he paid little attention to me except to ask me make his coffee and do exceptionally menial tasks. I let it go figuring that he was giving me a chance to settle in to my job. However, as this carried on I gradually began to realise that he was withholding various information from me and not keeping me informed. Therefore, I was unable to do my job properly. I had a chat to my HR dept who spoke to him and assured me that he was just taking things slowly. Afterwards things seemed to get better, but only for a while.

He started off by being extremely rude to me and very dismissive. Often he would go for days ignoring me and making perfectly clear I was a nuisance. Everybody said that was just his way so I accepted it. He was never verbally abusive nor did he seem to exhibit inappropriate behaviour, just rude to me. He just tried to make my job harder than it was. I had a very distinct role within the charity but after the first month or so, he simply took responsibilities off me so eventually I was just doing a fifth of my actual job description. It seemed that he was a control freak who preferred to do everything himself. After a couple of months I began to realise that he often made mistakes in his job. Mistakes which invariably he blamed on me. I found this out from the rumour mill and discovered he had been telling people I was useless. I was completely unaware of this as I had never received any feedback about my performance although I was supposed to on a weekly basis.

Eventually we had an appraisal which took all of five minutes and resulted in him telling me 'he had no problems with me'. Even though the appraisal wasn't particularly in depth, I felt a bit more comfortable in position and dismissed previous comments from staff as exaggerations. Then he began to nit-pick my work to the extent where I was constantly nervous about work and began to make mistakes. I also began to realise that he wasn't particularly liked amongst the charity and many of my colleagues were shocked by the way he spoke to me. He went from being very polite to simply barking orders at me and I found my self running through hoops for him. He never paid any attention to my welfare and often ignored various requests I made regarding health and safety as I have a medical condition.

It got to the point where I simply did not want to speak to him as he made me feel like a complete moron yet I am educated to post-graduate level and have had managerial experience in the workplace. He would also take his stresses out on me, indicating that I didn't pay attention to my work, that I took long lunchbreaks, and demanded to know why I was fifty minutess late to work during the tube strike despite the fact that all my other colleagues were held up as well. As for the lunchbreaks, I never took a full lunchbreak all the time I was there so I was horrified when he accused me of doing so. Eventually, I realised that my job was going nowhere and I was employed pretty much as a scapegoat for him.

The problem was I felt other people seemed to believe him and I got the reputation for being bad at my job, yet I often had to make excuses for him and overheard him saying seriously derogatory things about other members of staff, especially women. Finally I had an appraisal with him in which he simply listed all of the trivial mistakes I had made, and I do mean trivial! since I had started. No encouragement of constructive criticism at all. It was fairly obvious he disliked me and wanted to put me in my place. Various other stunts he pulled were refusal to open his mail whilst I was off sick with the flu then on my return telling me off for failing to notice urgent documents in the post.

It turned out that I was one in a long line of assistants who had left as he was very difficult to work with. Although he never did anything to me that I could actively complain about, his treatment of me, undermined my confidence, made me feel so ill and constantly on edge whilst I was at work. It got so that I couldn't sleep at night and I was always preoccupied with what the next day would be like at work. I literally began to shake when he would walk into the room. I became a nervous wreck and I am now on long-term sick leave yet nobody knows the real reason. I don't feel confident about my abilities anymore and I find myself questioning my skills. At the moment, I am in limbo and am suffering financially as well as mentally.

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