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There are no survivors in these encounters

Bullying is unlawful. But one man who was a target of bullying says that the bullies always survive, and the victims get the chop


Some websites and books refer to the bullies as the ones with the problem, saying that the victim is innocent. The inadequacy of the bully is well documented but, make no mistake, it is the targeted person who will suffer. I was the victim of bullying: I lost my job, my career, and my marriage and now suffer from a permanent psychological condition. I was a high flyer, highly intelligent, multi-talented, with more achievements and external recognition for my work than my colleagues could ever hope to achieve. If you are competent and talented you will be targeted by less able, less efficient managers. They will destroy you.

So what can you do?

Very little. Ask for a copy of your personnel file and ‘material information' regarding previous allegations of bullying and harassment.

Consult former colleagues who have left the company. Take sick leave and cite work stress. (Being brave like I was and reporting for work every day in a very hostile environment will not help you.) Make a formal complaint.

Leave the company if you can but, like me, you will say ‘I won't let these bastards and bitches win'; so you fight them, and they destroy you all the more.

Don't rely on ‘Personnel'. They are probably just as jealous of you as the bullies are. They will 'get rid of the problem' by firing the victim. They will say that you are not a team player. They will say that you won't cooperate with your managers. They will notice a drop in your output. Impossible targets will be set for your work and then you will get persistent written reminders that you have not done this or that. They will partition your desk; they will isolate you. They will withdraw privileges. They will build a case against you. They will use fear to silence your peers because they know that they could be and probably will be next.

At the same time, they will tell you that they take bullying and harassment very seriously — so seriously, in fact, that they will fire the victim: when I first told my director of personnel that I was being bullied and harassed (without naming names) he offered me two and a half years salary to leave immediately. So much for ethical management. I was referred to a psychologist but the company made no effort to improve my work conditions, which continued to deteriorate up to the date I was asked to leave my desk at five.

I received no compensation and was told that I would never work again.


So what am I going to do now?I tried the Employment Appeals Tribunal. It took almost two years to hear the case and then issue a non-specificity verdict on bullying and harassment. I had not, before I was dismissed, disclosed the name of the female manager, the nature of the sexual harassment or the name of the witness; so the EAT panel said the company couldn't have known about it — although it had been hinted at in a memo and I had asked the company to read between the lines.

So, if you are sexually harassed by a female boss, reveal all to senior management. Mind you, they'll still probably fire you, and much sooner perhaps. The risk is yours. Don't rely on civil law. You will have to risk huge legal fees and probably lose on a technicality like non-specificity. This is rich feeding ground for lawyers, as long as you remember that it is you who will be feeding them.

Labour law is very weak. Awards are tiny.

You will be blatantly bullied but the bullies will escape …

Unless… Unless you take criminal action. The old-fashioned bobby is your only man. Harassment is assault and the police are trained to deal with assault in all its forms. Make a statement to the police. You don't need a solicitor for that. And good luck. You'll need it.

But don't call yourself a survivor if you happen to get a year's payment out of them. The bullies remain with the company and you are out. Enjoy the freedom; enjoy the clean air; but don't think you've won.

Of course it wasn't your fault and you are still the great person you were. Look at all the great artists and writers who were hounded over the years. Now society lauds them with streets named after them. Was it Emerson who said that 'to be great is to be understood'?

If you are still wearing a tie and young enough to get another job, do it!

And if a woman sexually harasses you, don't be chivalrous. Reveal all. She should be fired, not you.

Don't say I didn't warn you.


PS. In Ireland, it is a separate criminal offence under the 1998 Act to dismiss an employee for making a complaint of sexual harassment or harassment in good faith. The courts can award compensation or reinstatement and the employer can be fined or jailed. Companies are obliged under Codes of Practice to prevent, stop and reverse the effects of bullying and harassment.

I am still writing to my former company in this regard. Write to politicians and consult your union or professional body. Don't expect much help, but your best chance is to get the ear of influential people. Work behind the scenes and avoid expensive legal action. The odds are stacked against you. Thomas Keneally, in the prologue to Schindler's List, chronicled the predictable and measurable success evil generally achieves; yet he wrote that even fatal human malice can be triumphed over by pragmatic virtue.

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