"During 2006 32% of the complaints investigated by HR&DM were found to be vexatious."
- source: HR&DM
The "Employees" page of the National Bullying Helpline website says:
"SUSPENDED For raising a Grievance? Call us today.These possibilities are presented as if they amount to bullying, something the helpline can help you address.
"DISCIPLINED For raising a Grievance? Call us today.
Employee X phoned the helpline because she believed was being bullied, and they advised her to put her grievance in writing to her employer. She then introduced the helpline operator to their next customer (her employer) in the belief that an "independent investigation" was her best option. At the end of the investigation, the helpline operator recommend that X be suspended and disciplined - for raising a grievance, and for keeping a journal of her experience.
Tim Field’s book “Bully In Sight” has a chapter entitled “What to do if you are being bullied”. One of the pieces of advice is:
- “Contact a bully helpline or support line” p.245X had already kept a journal as advised in Field's book. The HR&DM "What To Do" guide gives similar advice, in a "list of tips and recommendations to assist you if you believe you are being bullied":
- “Keep a Journal. Write a journal or diary of everything that has happened and is happening to you. Include dates, times places, etc where known, what the bully said or did, how you felt … very soon the sheer size of the journal will speak louder than the contents. Keeping a record is VERY important – as well as a cathartic exercise, it will help clarify and clear your thoughts, and also form the basis of your case if you go to tribunal or court.” p.247
- “Keep your journal secure” p.247
"4. Start to keep a diary. Record every incident in factual terms; name, date, what happened and who was present. Do not spend your working hours making diary entries but ensure you keep it up to date in your own time, and on a regular basis. Ensure the content is kept confidential, preferably at your home address. Do not remove original documents belonging to your employer."The HR&DM "Step by step guide" repeats the advice in these terms:
"You should start to consider your defence. What do you think actually happened? Write it down as soon as you can. Our memories can play tricks and you don’t want to say at a later stage ‘Well I think this is what happened.’ You will present a very weak response to the accusation. Keep a record of everything. Start a diary and make notes of discussions you have at work relating to the issues being raised. Concentrate not on ‘what you know’, but ‘what you can prove’ !"All this is sound advice from Christine Pratt, and X had followed it. In Mrs Pratt's investigation report, referring to X's diary, she wrote:-
“X admits she started a comprehensive diary … in an endeavour to build a documentary case against [the employer]. X was deliberately, and calculatingly it seems, developing a legal case against her employer. X has told the investigator she will appeal and will pursue matters legally , if she has to. At Director level this is most serious. X’s own credibility and trustworthiness must be an important issue today in the eyes of her employer. Bringing disrepute to the business and ‘abuse of power’ are actions which should be addressed under the organisations disciplinary policy.”[sic]Mrs Pratt's advice to people who think they are being bullied is "keep a compreshensive diary", and yet when she investigated a grievance of someone she had personally advised, she told the employer that keeping the diary was misconduct. How serious was the misconduct? Well, taken with a number of other allegations Mrs Pratt levelled at X in the report, it was gross misconduct. She wrote that X's "... Grievance in general terms is believed to be, largely, vexatious"[sic] Towards the end of the report was a heading "Conduct / Disciplinary" under which she wrote:
"X's conduct needs to be addressed under the disciplinary procedure on her return to work. Indeed it may be prudent to Suspend her [sic]. X has caused significant damage to the smooth running of operations and she has played a role in bringing disrepute to the CEO and the Board. This is a Gross Misconduct matter. The outcome of a disciplinary should not be pre-determined. Follow [your in house Disciplinary policy]. The HR Manager and [one director] should initiate matters. The CEO and [another director] shold have no part in the process. If X Appeals, consider involving a trustee and and external HR Consultant or Employment Law expert."
Thus, the National Bullying Helpline founder and CEO Christine Pratt herself recommended suspending and disciplining one of her "charity's" own clients for doing exactly what her "charity" helpline advises.
In the context of giving examples of what is bullying at work, the helpline website ACTUALLY SAYS this:
"If you have complained about the way you have been treated at work and it has led to 'less favourable treatment' (which may be discrimination), harassment or any of the above, call us now!"
The helpline does not disclose anywhere that Mrs Pratt could do the same to other callers who refer HR & DM to their employer in the hope it with solve their problem. However, there is a clear risk: The process that led to Mrs Pratt's condemnation of X is promoted on the HR&DM/NBH website:
"HR & DM bullying and harassment investigations are based on a tried and tested model (a formula which is the copyright of HR & DM). We have been investigating issues of this nature - and advising management on issues of this nature, for over a decade."and:
"During 2006 25% of cases found that the instigator, the alleged victim, was in fact, the bully"
Was X guilty of bullying? The author (I am not "X") is completely satisfied she was an innocent target of bullying well before HR & DM got involved. However, that is not the issue. The issue is that this is a registered charity offering help to callers believing themselves to be in a particular predicament. If the helpline operator believes they are not in that predicament, they should leave things there. They do not have to ruin callers' career prospects.