Updated April 2019
The narrative in the previous tab describes how I was mentally abused by a senior Psychologist at Lift Stress Management, Swindon (Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust - AWP), during its setup in 2006. Upon reporting this, I was subjected to a hate campaign by the bully: gross lies about my work, personality & behaviour then a trumped-up performance management. When HR became suspicious, the bully counter-claimed I bullied her (typical trope of a 'victim-bully'). She used her knowledge of psychology to misrepresent me; faking distress that was not due to my bullying her [as she claimed, after I reported her] but because HR had become suspicious and she was about to lose her career.
AWP refused to investigate senior psychologists who panicked and covered up for their colleague. A bungled 'Dignity at Work' passed like a hot cake between THREE seniors before being dropped, leaving me the disastrous fallout. An 'investigation' via BANES Health Commissioners 'disappeared' when Board member Alan Metherall failed to take my evidence as instructed. My protests were met with a wall of silence that persists to this day. A pathetic 'settlement' made during my trauma ('coerced' settlement) was mispresented to my MP. So it goes on.. This harrowing tale need not have happened - if AWP seniors had not taken sides.
Reports in NHS journals & The Guardian prove bullying is prevalent in the NHS. An analysis of workplace bullying will be explored fully in a future work by Marianne Richards. For victim support read, Beating the Bully, available on Amazon.
Surviving Mental Abuse
All victims of bullying MUST receive support as a matter of urgency. All survivors need justice & closure. It is important for victims to find a way of dealing with emotional fallout. Most vital is 'telling the story'. These are methods I used during my long recovery:
When you lose everything, you have nothing left to fear. Do not expect to be believed but retain self belief. Campaigning is a good way of dealing with trauma and benefits future victims.
Duplicity at Senior Level - the 'Halo' Effect
A naive firm will act incredulously when seniors are reported wrong-doing. They 'cover up' on the grounds the bully deserves a second chance, condemning the victim to secondary bullying. I earlier described how a Board member/HR Officer wrote '[xxx] must be true.. these were two psychologists [saying it] @'. Then what of the AWP psychologist discovered, after an embarrassing time lag, to be down-loading child pornography?
Was Stancliffe's remark @ a mistaken unshakeable belief in the veracity of psychologists? No, it was not. It was a coverup - asking IT to withold documents, altering others, spreading hearsay instead of acting impartially. It is this behaviour which denies victims justice; seniors 'close ranks' instead of acting professionally. It is why workplace bullying investigations must be made by independent arbitrators like ACAS.
Why such duplicity? It is 'the halo effect'. Someone well-known to a group, a senior of long standing, will be trusted and believed. Miscreants abuse this knowledge; whether offloading stress or because they are personality disordered and enjoy causing pain. Where HR's are not trained to recognise bullying, and to keep professional distance from managers and other staff, it is easy for bullies to present as victims (the 'victim-bully').
Evading Responsibility & Biased Investigation
Most victims are left in financial difficulty, unable to afford legal representation. This puts them at huge disadvantage when organisations like AWP spend £tens of thousands for 'employment legal experts' to prevent evidence reaching court. For example, I lost at High Court after 13 years of legal gamesmanship and delaying tactics. My experience exposed huge flaws in HR & legal procedures. Such lacunas can only be eradicated through revised legislation; for example, making ACAS compulsory for bullying investigations also mediation prior to Tribunals. My story proves in-house HR 'investigations' biased, bungled and skewed with incompetent investigators making judgements based on loyalties rather than truth.
Failure of Help Agencies
Even help agencies are likely to let you down. Why? The 'halo effect'; they know protagonists as colleagues, friends, masonic circles infiltrated by members who do not uphold true masonic principles. These agencies do not want to make waves or embarrassing errors. It is easier to quietly drop or ignore victims. AWP Complaints, Jo Collins of PALS, BANES Commissioners Val & George O'Neill ; AWP seniors Debbie Spaull, Anne Booth and Alan Metherall, even AWP Complaints Petra Freeman - these individuals who might have made a difference in my case all exited the arena leaving me catastrophic fallout and social isolation. Sadly, this is commonplace if you search on other victims' experiences.
This is another reason investigations must to be undertaken by agencies like ACAS. People wrongly assume a professional in one field (for example psychology) will act professionally all the time. They are not experts but amateur at investigations. Bungling investigation is harrowing for victims and colleagues; encourages side-taking, revenge-attacks, scapegoating and assumptions. It is not likely to be fair, just or produce satisfactory outcome.
Lying to an MP about Settlement
It is the job of an MP to negotiate with employers over problems at work including bullying. But, pressed with parliamentary work, they have little time for each case. Thus, if the employer fails to cooperate the MP will give up. In my case, Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, a decent man, wrote seven letters on my behalf but was fed hearsay, with the CE not doing the job he [later she] was meant to do which is to order a proper, unbiased investigation. My 'settlement', for example, was misrepresented as 'inclusive of disability element.' This was untrue. The draconian 'settlement' I signed whilst traumatised included £12,000 (less than a year's salary) and a silencing clause tying me in legal knots. Barrister Anya Palmer used every legal trick to deny liability and reduce compensation. Again, this is commonplace and why victims rarely receive proper compensation as laid down in law. A document I received two years ago shows HR Officer Stancliffe boasting, 'we gave her an administrative settlement, far less than court costs'. If he were in my position, I doubt he would say the same.
Attitude Formation & Fear of Reprisal
I have enduring memory of a harrowing email I sent to Bath CAMHS staff, having been forced out of a newly signed contract as a result of the bungled Dignity. Manager Peter Wilson responded to CAMHS staff (all child psychologists or psychiatrists) by telling them to ignore me. Again, this shows seniors toeing the party line, instead of acting with humanity and fairness. The law sadly allows for neither, another reason for Tribunals to be conducted in a different way [see Campaign tab].
I cannot name my supporters in case their careers are affected. Attitude formations persist, because staff fear being castigated or losing promotion if they rock the boat. Fear of reprisal leads to further isolation of the victim - 'him/her against us.' As an example, Training Manager Annette Law, who liked and encouraged me in my career, by the end was writing to HR, 'it was not a good appointment for us or her.' Thus, instead of acknowledging bullying by her colleague, she colluded with 'the firm' ('victim blame').
Where to Now?
Nietzsche says, 'that which does not kill us makes us stronger.' You lose the war but you can use the experience to the good. It does not release you from the grief of loss but it does give the suffering a kind of viability.
And me? I want my dignity back. I want my respect back. I want my life back. I want my home back. I want proper compensation for loss of a 13 year career in research. I want AWP to face their responsibilities - to me and others who suffered this vile regime. In an ideal world, I want the bully and bully supports to admit wrongdoing and JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN - something I would never dreamed of suggesting until recently.
For years AWP tried to silence me. As an author, what I produced during this time was way below my standard. There are many causes for grief and many manifestations which only its victims will know. As an autistic, I had my reason for living taken away, something AWP refuse to accept. I have no words for this and can do no better than quote from 'Levels of Life' by Julian Barnes (a worthy successor to, 'A Grief Observed' by C S Lewis):
''We imagine we have battled against [grief], been purposeful, overcome sorrow, scrubbed the rust from our soul, when all that has happened is that grief has moved elsewhere, shifted its interest. We did not make the clouds come in the first place, and we have no power to disperse them.'
But always, always there is a 'little light left to write by'# :
'All that has happened is that from somewhere -or nowhere - an unexpected breeze has sprung up, and we are in movement again. But where are we being taken?' (Julian Barnes, 'Levels of Life')
(# The Guardian May 1994, on the dying of Dennis Potter):
Please join our campaign. If you are a victim of workplace bullying, tell your story to your MP and enclose a copy of the FAIR DEALING campaign [see separate tab] - if not, send it anyway. Write to us confidentially with comment/support or share your story. Alone we are helpless - TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Marianne's latest work 'Beating the Bully' is a comprehensive manual to empower victims of bullying, whether in families, school, the workplace or community. The following is based on Marianne's experience of workplace bullying in the roles of victim, bystander and upstander. There are clear patterns in workplace bully environments: this will be explored in a work-in-progress, 'Managing the Bully: A Guide for HR's & Concerned Professionals.
Marianne's guides to mental illness received professional acclaim. Two new works are now on sale, 'Finding Time' & 'Beating the Bully.'