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Help - stress and bullying

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by frenchqueen, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. This is the situation I find myself at in work...The Head got fed up with the 'discord' in English and instead of reconciliation and negotiating (apparently - and I have this on very good authority- one of my colleagues has been copying my emails and sending them to the SLT, hence the 'discord') , the head instructed each and every member of the department against my wishes and the Union's wishes to be interviewed, encouraging the members of the department to say exactly what they feel about me, and then produced a totally negative and damning report which was given to me in which every comment was directed at me personally. There was not one positive comment. I have been highlighting the comments to both my line manager and the head for the past two years and yet have been left to deal with it onmy own completely unsupported. I am not perfect but in no way am I the monster they have made me out to be ( results have gone up significantly since I joined). So, after my second sleepless night I went to the doctor and got signed off.
    It appears to me that the Head has caved into a bully in my department who has been running a whispering campaign against me since September. And what's worse? Since I have been off, they have cleared out my room, moved furnitue from the English staffroom into my room. They have made the kids re-write their Controlled Assessments ( which if found out would lead to the students' disqualification from the exam) and all the Y10 students I entered for their English exams this summer they have withdrawn. Totally undermines me and makes me look completely incompetent.
    I have now been referred to OH - and I have had no letter from the Head to tell me why, or the reasons why - just a letter from OH with an appointment time. I was told by my union that I could not take a representative, which is untrue. This is yet another process which has been done to me.
    The long and the short of it is that by allowing the members of the department to vent their spleen, the Head has effectively given a credible platform and gravitas to these 'complaints'. The accusations are 1) factually inaccurate 2) formed of opinion and 3) I believe libelous and amounts to defamation of character. My position has been made untenable.
    The union has been completely useless on this one. I am dealing with the regional branch, they have given me NO advice and when I rang up the other day and pushed for some I was given incorrect advice! I am now waiting to see an employment lawyer next week.
     
  2. This is the situation I find myself at in work...The Head got fed up with the 'discord' in English and instead of reconciliation and negotiating (apparently - and I have this on very good authority- one of my colleagues has been copying my emails and sending them to the SLT, hence the 'discord') , the head instructed each and every member of the department against my wishes and the Union's wishes to be interviewed, encouraging the members of the department to say exactly what they feel about me, and then produced a totally negative and damning report which was given to me in which every comment was directed at me personally. There was not one positive comment. I have been highlighting the comments to both my line manager and the head for the past two years and yet have been left to deal with it onmy own completely unsupported. I am not perfect but in no way am I the monster they have made me out to be ( results have gone up significantly since I joined). So, after my second sleepless night I went to the doctor and got signed off.
    It appears to me that the Head has caved into a bully in my department who has been running a whispering campaign against me since September. And what's worse? Since I have been off, they have cleared out my room, moved furnitue from the English staffroom into my room. They have made the kids re-write their Controlled Assessments ( which if found out would lead to the students' disqualification from the exam) and all the Y10 students I entered for their English exams this summer they have withdrawn. Totally undermines me and makes me look completely incompetent.
    I have now been referred to OH - and I have had no letter from the Head to tell me why, or the reasons why - just a letter from OH with an appointment time. I was told by my union that I could not take a representative, which is untrue. This is yet another process which has been done to me.
    The long and the short of it is that by allowing the members of the department to vent their spleen, the Head has effectively given a credible platform and gravitas to these 'complaints'. The accusations are 1) factually inaccurate 2) formed of opinion and 3) I believe libelous and amounts to defamation of character. My position has been made untenable.
    The union has been completely useless on this one. I am dealing with the regional branch, they have given me NO advice and when I rang up the other day and pushed for some I was given incorrect advice! I am now waiting to see an employment lawyer next week.
     
  3. greta444

    greta444 New commenter


    Bit confused here.. What was in the e.mails you wrote that caused such 'discord'?
     
  4. Here are some ideas for you-

    When you go to OH doctor, ask to see the referral notes to understand why you have been sent. Write the notes down or ask for a copy of them.
    If you believe you are malfunctioning and causing the problem, he may be able to sign you off with stress, however this may lead to some other competence related procedure. If you think you are being set up by a mob, prepare your evidence in a concise very brief form and explain the bullying issue to the doctor. The doctor might support you by requiring that a meeting with your managers and your union rep should take place to try to get to the root of the problem. This would mean that you have to return to work- maybe on medication and show good will that you believe the problems can be solved. If they are not or your union is not much help- bail out of there with a CA and agreed references with the help of your union, as fast as you can. If you are being ganged up on, it will be tough for you and the unions are hopeless with targets of bullying. There are poor cultures in some schools that function in a contrived way. I agree, it should not have been dealt with in the way that it has and you can hardly function effectively if you are getting support form nowhere. Let me know how you get on.
     
  5. I have no idea what was in the emails and having been through them all cannot see any cause for complaint. I have already been signed off with WRS. My line manager said i was a 'talented' person and believes the fault is 50/50. I disagree. I cannot have a CA because that means resigning my job with no other job to go to and I have children to support and a mortgage to pay. The root of the problem doesn't matter now really does it? The head has managed in one fell swoop to give credence to the opinions and speculations of certain members of my department, despite the fact that they are in the main simply that - opinions and factually untrue. I am faced with a very hostile environment in which one particular individual has managed to surround themselves with the younger and more easily influenced members of the department and convince them I am the anti-christ. I have been highlighting the problem with this particualr individual to my line manager for the past three years and I have had no support. The problem is further compounded by the fact that this person is extremely clever and sounds oh so reasonable. Constantly nagging, blocking my decisions, nit-picking, criticising me to others, spreading rumours or to be more precise encouraging others to spread rumours... it's all very invidious. The long and the short of it is though, the head knew about this before these ridiculous 'interviews' and therefore should have had a meeting with the pair of us to iron out any difficulties, not stir up a hornets nest. The whole 'report' was nothing short of a witch hunt against me on a very personal basis.
    So, the union have been useless. I am forced now to pay £240 and hour for an employment lawyer. I don't think that anyone should have to go through this and, like I said, I now am faced with no choice but to seek alternative employment.

     
  6. baitranger

    baitranger Occasional commenter

    It sounds as if the other staff in your department have isolated you. How did that happen?
    I think going to an employment solicitor was a very good move, despite the cost, which could be dwarfed by the amount you stand to lose.It's not clear what you have been accused of so far, but as another poster has said, a lot of absence could lead to competency.
     
  7. I would love to give you advice that will help you keep your job, but the reality is that in most cases like this you will go out on a compromise agreement. The same happened to me, I couldn't pay my bills for a few months after I lost my job through a CA, but I think bullying SMT rely on the fear of this happening to make you feel even worse.



    Your case is different to the norm, where the bullying usually stems just from the SMT, but in this case it seems to come from this other person and the SMT have gone along with it. I suspect this person is a relative, old school friend, or something like that of the head. You can get free legal support from ACAS with bullying cases, but if you've already got an employment lawyer you probably won't need that.



    God, I really hope you get someone done for bullying, that needs to happen more in teaching.
     
  8. frymeariver

    frymeariver New commenter

    Really? And the OP didn't mention it? Blimey!
     
  9. Well Frymeariver - I got used to situations like that in my last job. I hope it is not the same in all schools. People who draw other people along with them often have some influence, otherwise others would not feel safe to take their lead. Some schools go to rack and ruin because nobody could dare to speak up and ALL staff are pitched against each other. At least that is a democracy of sorts. I tend to agree with OP, the SMT approach makes it very awkward, but you should not be beaten. People take all kinds of knocks, but the most formidable thing to do is to keep standing. Get back in the thick of it, Be willing to do everything that is right to improve things and then expect SMT to give improved support to get back to work. Come on - I'm willing you to survive this nonsense.
     
  10. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Before everyone works themselves all into a lather about this, we need to remember that we are hearing just one side of the story.
    In my experience the circumstances described are rather unusual, but that is not the same as saying that they are not true.
    Either way, the situation does seem untenable.
     
  11. 1) yes it is just my side of the story
    2) The deputy head sees my side and agrees with me
    3) the dept is divided between the 'old school' who were there before me and the new team
    4) The fact of the matter is that this has been extremely poorly managed by SLT
    5) Results have gone up 26% and the gap between boys and girls is negligible sine I have been there
    6) Comments range from me 'not working weekends and evenings', 'leaving at 3pm sharp', clock watching' in dept meetings and causing a member of the team to leave ( we found out later that that person actually had cancer) to dressing unprofessionally ( which is laughable to be frank) and doctoring the results on the tracker.
    7) I know what I see and am experiencing - I could have intervened earlierr but I didn't recognise what was going on; also I don't think it unreasonable to expect people to behave like adults and recognise that the job and the school is not the be all and end all of everything.
    8) There is a very negative and critical culture in the school at the moment in which we are threatened with the spectre of OFSTED and Special Measures.
    9) I have worked in several schools and have never experienced such a backstabbing, nasty atmopshere like this
    10) I personally know that one other major HoD has gone to the union with exactly the same complaints about the way they are being treated in the same school.

    My point is that I have gone beyond the point of caring - I am angry with the way in which the whole situation has been dealt with. It is totally divisive and not one move has been made to negotiate or reconcile differences. I am now left not knowing who to trust.
     
  12. No, just lives their life through work and expects everyone else to be the same.

    I cannot go back. The damage has been done. Whatever has happened I do not deserve this and I most certainly would not EVER treat another individual in the way I have been treated. I know I have support within the department, but none of their comments were put in the report - they were all negative. Every single comment. How can I go back when SLT have effectively destroyed my confidence in working with these people? When the trust that was there has been shattered?

    Let's not forget just how convincing some people can be either... I don't play political games, I am too honest and I think that's my downfall. I simply do not expect others to play games either.
     
  13. "What was in those emails? They clearly weren't "fine" if someone felt the need to forward them to the head.
    It is not that easy to rally an entire dept against one person....why were they so quick to isolate you? To side with someone else?"

    I can see one email this year which was not fine and for which I apologised in email and also in person - I had been put under pressure from SLT and the person concerned hadn't actually done their job properly.
    It's not the entire department - it's two individuals, but their influence on the younger members is significant.

     
  14. This is not all done. You are suffering form stress at the moment. you may need to ask the OH to support some time off, but you do need to arrange a "proper" meeting with a union rep present. My OH arranged this for me.
    The deputy head sees your side.
    You have improved the results
    This all stands in your favour. You are an honest person who needs to develop some steely nerve in the face of this adversity- such a person has the making of an excellent leader. Sadly - there is a lack of leadership in schools at the moment. I believe it has all gone awry and causes a state of panic
     
  15. Frenchqueen, I'm sorry to hear you have landed in this situation. Something similar happened to me a few years ago. You must be experiencing an awful lot of stress :((( I agree with the edudicator and I think probably the best bet is a CA negotiated by the union. It does look like they want to get rid of you and if this is the case, they will do it anyway. Sad but true :( With a CA at least it would be on your terms with usually a payout and an agreed reference. You could start looking for a new job right now and the payment would cover expenses (and it is tax-free, too), and get rid of them simply and relatively easily.
     
  16. What if i have already gone for a job ( dr agrees) and get an interview on my last day of sick leave?

    I have had 15 yrs of good to outstanding teaching behind me.... and, yes, this is an awful situation.... it's not the job, it's this particular situation I am struggling with.

     
  17. frenchqueen
    I have made some of these points before elsewere.
    1) Before paying for an expensive employer lawyer, always use the free
    legal advice under your household insurance. The paid solicitor (£240 p/hr) may
    simply milk you for a few grand for little effect. But since you have one now ask them about sending a
    warning letter to the school re allegations of bullying and harassment etc. That might scare them off and give
    you enough time to find another job.
    2) Try to avoid a long absence for stress while this is being worked out. It will make getting a new job difficult. Do not decide now that you can't go back. You say you can't go back but also you can't have a CA. So what is it? I say you're clearly under stress. A solicitor's letter and an indication to the school that you are now looking for a new job and expect a fair and very positive reference might give the space you need to continue working until you get a new job.
    3) OH: at the interview make it clear that you have been diagnosed wiht WRS and undermined at the school. Take a couple of good examples of thier treatment of you. You will also get a chance to review the draft letter and make factual substantive changes.


     
  18. Once the CA negotiations are under way they get off your back and no one cares any more - you can go even while being off. When I was off with WRS I got the GP to put it on my records that travelling would be good for me in this situation so I could visit relatives in my native country or go to Spain, where my partner is from. I did not go in the end (for different reasons) but had a great time, it was a glorious May and June, all the people bullying me were cooking in glass-and-plastic buildings and I was playing with dogs on the beach :) Also I made sure to register online as self-employed the last day of the first month when I was not working for the school because it looks much better on your CV that you are running a business than to be unemployed, and also later on appl forms you can say you left to set up a business. The business can be consultancy or tutoring or whatever and you can continue it also after you got a new job. Don't worry, Frenchqueen, there is life after having been bullied out of a school.
     
  19. Regardless of our personal work situations, and I am sure being bullied is far from nice, this attitude is a poor one and certainly not one to promote on a website such as TES. WRS is serious illness and can stop people being able to function both in and out of the work environment. Making it sound like a jolly only undermines the severity of the illness and creates more fuel for those who believe in "going on the sick" and those who think all teachers off with WRS are playing the system.
    I have previously been off work for a number of months for depression and anxiety and I can assure you that though it was the summer term I was not on the beach, or in meadows, or even an airconditioned shopping mall. I was at home resting, trying everything in my power to get myself out of the bed and outside the house to face the world.
    Your post made me quite angry tbh- I feel that comment make a mockery of what so many have fought for- to see mental illness in all its forms as a real illness not some "airy fairy thing" people use to get out of work.
     
  20. My confidence has been totally knocked.... and I have spent the past few weeks getting my head together and putting this whole thing into perspective so that I don't behave like a victim and react in an over emotional way when I go back. I <u>am</u> going for the interview ( if they give me one) and I made it clear to my line manager I would. I have no intention of bad mouthing the school and up to this point I have an excellent track record and a very successful track record. Unlike some of the people I work with I have integrity and a strong moral outlook on life. I also have a very good work ethic and I am very conscientious about my job and my students.

    WRS is, as far as I am concerned a psychological injury and I have quite clearly been attacked through this 'report' and the actions that have taken place in my absence. I have even been told that we have all to teach the same novel and the same play for GCSE Lit. This is NOT what I signed up to become a teacher for. Good advice re: the lawyer and OH thank you.
     

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