August 08, 2008

An Open memo to Baroness Ann Gibson – Chair of the Dignity at Work Project

Baroness I understand that you have been quoted as saying: ‘Employers who choose to ignore bullying do so at huge costs to society."

I would like you to know, Baroness Gibson, that my university – a prestigious research university – which claims to be a centre of excellence - has in my view behaved disgracefully and unprofessionally in relation to its Dignity at Work policy.

From my experience there is little evidence that the policy has been taken seriously. I believe that since the policy was implemented in my university there has been no impact assessment of the policy.

When a meeting was held to discuss issues in relation to the policy many staff openly ignored requests to attend the meeting.

The Dignity at Work project that you chair has indicated that the costs to the economy of work place bullying run into billions – almost 14 billion pounds a year. Yet there appears to be no ‘moral panic’ about this – whipped up by the media.

Why might this be? Has debate about this been silenced?

I have worked tirelessly at my university to raise issues in relation to alleged workplace bullying. The university carried out an internal survey which has indicated the scale of the problem.

However it is difficult to see what action has been taken to effectively address these issues. Those of us who freely give of our time to raise issues in relation to workplace bullying are often faced with ‘character assassination’; these and other strategies are used by our colleagues whose aim is to discredit us.

In my university I believe that the strategy of ‘character assassination’ against me has been and continues to be very effective. The issues that I raise are ignored as my university tries to brazen out the uncomfortable facts of workplace bullying that inform out working culture.

This blog is the only outlet for my concerns. It has been a lifeline and has undoubtedly contributed to the fact that I have not taken my life.

It is probably impossible for you to understand the effects of prolonged and intense workplace bullying. Talk of suicide suggests an unstable character and very soon one is in a position where the target of workplace bullying is gently ushered into counselling. My university have suggested that I go for counselling.

Currently I am still very much alive… if you saw my smiling face in the street you would have no idea of the suffering that is hidden beneath my smile. If you saw my colleagues from the university you would see charming people…

We have learnt from stories of abusive relationships in domestic violence that bullies are not easy to spot. Targets of workplace bullying can be easier to identify when they are dead as they are no longer a threat.

In writing this memo to you I am exercising my right under parliamentary privilege to draw attention to defects within my university - specifically in relation to work place bullying. I have worked tirelessly to address these issues myself.

I understand that, if I am threatened by my employer as a result of this memo, I can raise the matter with my MP and it will be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

Even so – I use a pseudonym – and construct this memo so that I cannot be traced. I am fearful of the consequences. You see despite everything I love my work with the students in my university and I want to remain there working with them.

I just want the alleged workplace bullying to stop

Aphra Behn
Send a polite email to Baroness Gibson to highlight the issue of workplace bullying in higher education.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brave words, brother Prouhdon. Keep up the good work. M