If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Reasons to be Fearful

I find myself in a situation I have never been in before.

I was going to write a bit of a narrative about it, but then I realised that if I gave even the vaguest details about where I work and what I do, it might be possible to identify my employer, and this might prejudice my situation. So I will confine myself to the basics, and give the detail at some point in the future when it is all resolved.

After over two years working for my current employer, it suddenly seems that they think I am not good enough. The company has been in financial difficulty from the outset, but a recent financial restructuring has led to both optimism about the future and very heavy pressure on all employees to perform. I have had intense pressure put on me, and this has been a challenge. After all the problems with Anna's health this year, this pressure was pretty much the last straw and it started to affect my health. I had a variety of symptoms (no details, you might be eating) of which the main one was that I couldn't sleep. Eventually, I went to the doctor who signed me off for two weeks, basically for a rest.

I was then called in for a meeting with my boss. At this meeting I was told that my performance was unacceptable, and I was given the option to move to another role, at a much reduced salary, in another part of the business. The alternative, it was hinted, was a disciplinary process for misconduct.

I am completely outraged by this. I'm not perfect (who is?), and I have made the occasional blunder in my work, but nothing that warranted anything more than a quiet chat and a chance to put it right. Looking back over my career with the company, I can't see any substance to their claim that I am incompetent. And yet, now that they have clearly lost their confidence in me, and I my trust in them, I cannot see my way to returning to work.

I am seriously considering resigning and looking for another job. There are a couple of opportunities out there that I have had my eye on for a while, and one of these may come to something. To be honest, I would rather be collecting trolleys in Tesco's car park than going back to work at XXX at the moment.

On the positive side, I have now had a week off work (and not just 'off work' but trying, as far as possible to ignore it completely) and my sleep pattern has returned to normal. As a result of that, I feel tons better, and the other symptoms are starting to retreat. So please don't worry about me. I am fine, but I find myself in a very difficult and, for me, unprecendented situation that will need careful handling.

Next week, I plan to speak to the Citizen's Advice Bureau and ACAS, as I believe I may have a case for constructive dismissal. There's a lot of background detail to support this which I obviously can't go into here.

More anon.


  1. Depending on your arrangements for sick pay, Mrs Nikos (an MD) would advocate being signed off sick for some months. It's just not on to be bullied and driven into an early grave by an employer. Incidentally, my client, a government department, judging by the information posters displayed positively encourages staff to take stress related illness breaks from work.

    N the outraged tax payer

  2. Unfortunately, the arrangements for sick pay are the bare legal minimum - SSP only, I believe. So resigning wouldn't make any difference, or so I am told. I'm not out to con anyone, or take anything I am not entitled to. I just want a clean and honest resolution. It's a bit of a blow when you go from a happy and productive member of a friendly and supportive team to an incompetent liability within a couple of weeks.

    Your remark about an early grave is apt. In my 20s and 30s I would have been terrified at the thought of losing my job, especialy under these circumstances. Now, I realise that there are far more important things, quality of life being one of them. When your journey brings you in sight of your destination, you value the remaining miles a little more carefully.

  3. I'm afraid that creating a trail of performance 'warnings' to try and avoid unfair dismissal claims has become all too common by managers who see intimidation as a useful tool in their climb upwards. A few more big awards against bad employers for causing stress related illnesses in their staff should make the ploy less popular.

    I heard Brian Paddick on the radio recently. He was recounting how the poor work environment in the latter part of his police career left him totally unsure of himself and questioning his worth.

    Bullying should be a crime.

  4. That is precisely my point. In over two years I have not had any kind of formal appraisal, and no warning of any shortfall in performance. Suddenly, within the space of a few weeks, I am under intense criticism and pressure, and told that my performance is poor enough to merit disciplinary action (it was the word 'misconduct' that shook me). I feel that my employers no longer have confidence in me, and I no longer trust them, hence my initial feeling that resignation is the only option. I have looked into the rules for constructive dismissal, and I may have a case in the absence of any audit trail of warnings before this. The company has recently had a financial restructuring, and there have been a lot of management changes - I suspect that this may have had a part to play in how I have been treated.

    I'm not convinced by the argument for banning bullying until I see a better definition of the term. At the moment, you can be accused of bullying for simply not speaking to someone, and I don't think that's right. At the end of the day, if the job is too stressful, you should find another. We all need to grow up a bit.


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