Grievance Procedure

[Eileen Schofield, 50 Fonthill Road, Aberdeen AB11 6UJ]

See Timeline and Personnel
I submitted my formal grievance against my manager, Kathy McCabe on 9 February 2010. Kathy also submitted a formal grievance against me. This was a tactic she had used before when I had submitted an informal grievance against her. Bully Online states that this is common among bullies, and is tantamount to an admission of guilt. It muddies the waters. I had set out a very large number of allegations of bullying, dishonesty and sex discrimination in my six page grievance document, and I submitted lots of documents to support my allegations and to refute Kathy’s allegations.

Eileen Schofield was to conduct the grievance hearing. She was working closely with Kathy on a project at the time. She arranged three meetings; each one was scheduled to last an hour. Eileen first had a meeting with Kathy, then a meeting with me, and then a meeting with both of us together. I had asked Karen Stark before the meetings what the format would be, but she just referred me to the Grievance Procedure, so I didn’t know what would be expected of me at the meetings. An hour seemed a very short time for the number of allegations and the amount of evidence submitted.

At my meeting, Eileen said she had read all of the documents, and then asked me to just give a brief summary of my case. That’s what I did. I didn’t go into great detail of each individual incident of bullying. Most of the time was spent with Eileen asking me questions, and I was happy to answer anything she asked because I had nothing to hide. I naturally assumed that Eileen knew what she was doing, and that she already understood the allegations and that she didn’t need to examine me in depth about them. I could have had no idea that Eileen would later claim in her report that she had asked me to present my case, and not just a brief summary.

I asked Eileen what the format would be of the joint meeting with Kathy arranged later that afternoon. She seemed either unable or unwilling to say. I explained that, during a meeting with Kathy and Mark Toole that was supposed to help resolve the dispute informally, Kathy had been allocated about 90% of the time and used it to bully me with outrageous and false criticism, and that I was fearful that the same may happen again. The afternoon meeting lasted only a few minutes, so I never got to hear Kathy’s response to my allegations of bullying. Just what was the original purpose of that meeting, I wonder.

A few days after the hearing, Eileen wrote to say she was going to interview people who were mentioned in the documents submitted by Kathy and me. I wrote to protest at this because it was bound to cause bad feelings within the team. My union rep wrote to ask that the process be transparent, and that I be given an opportunity to respond to the statements, particularly since there was evidence of scapegoating. However, Eileen wrote her report with her decision to dismiss my grievance and uphold Kathy’s grievance without giving me an opportunity to respond to the statements; without me seeing the statements; and without telling me who was interviewed. Even the report doesn’t say who was interviewed.

Afterwards, I wrote to HR to request copies of the statements from those who were interviewed. The first thing I noticed was that all of the statements were dated AFTER the date of the report. The report gives the impression that Kathy is a very good manager, and that it is me who is the cause of the problems between us. It states that a total of eleven witnesses (current and former employees) were interviewed and that they expressed the common view that Kathy is considered to be a determined, focused and supporting manager who leads the team well.

The report does not refer to the view of a former employee who said in his statement that Kathy had ill treated him, and that he had to attend Occupational Health due to it. Neither did it refer to another witness who had stated he had witnessed that ill treatment and was aware of Kathy’s ill treatment of other employees. Nor did it refer to the witnesses who had referred to Kathy’s partisan treatment of her employees, and in particular how she favours female members of the team. Neither did it mention that a witness had spoken of a group of team members who felt the need to confront her on that very topic. I believe the reason the report does not refer to any of this is because it supports the allegations I made in my grievance. It clearly demonstrates suppression of dissent. However, it does not negate my grievance to say that some employees are happy with Kathy. In fact it supports my claim that she treats employees inconsistently.

The report does not refer to a team member who returned to our office crying uncontrollably following a meeting with Kathy. This was an incident which had been reported to Karen Stark. Nor did it refer to another team member who needed to take two days sick leave with work related stress following what she described as "bullying" from Kathy.

After I read the report, I spoke with two former employees who were mentioned in the documents, because I knew that the report did not reflect their views of Kathy. They confirmed that they had not been interviewed, and both expressed their strong dislike of Kathy. One described her as "macho" and "overly agressive". The other strongly objected to Kathy's partisan behaviour towards her staff, and particularly the special treatment afforded to Eileen MacDonald. He, rightly in my view, said he was unfairly treated by Kathy. He also referred to the large number of extra hours work I carried out regularly over many years. He was in regular contact with two other people who he felt were dismissed unfairly from their jobs in Information Services, and expressed his concern that there was something seriously wrong with the university's management.

Another former employee who was mentioned in the documents was JH who was the Departmental Secretary. In my grievance, I referred to Kathy's dishonesty, and gave examples. One example was that Kathy had falsely claimed to have instructed JH, while I was on sick leave, to tell me that I was not to return to work without my doctor's consent. JH had already confirmed this to be untrue, but Kathy repeated the same lie in her grievance papers. JH was not invited to be interviewed. I wonder why!

Another person mentioned but not interviewed was my girlfriend, Ruth who attended the mediation meeting with me and Kathy in my support. However, Colin Sinclair who attended in support of Kathy was invited. In my grievance I said that during mediation, Kathy wouldn't follow the procedure for which the mediator had prepared us, by refusing to answer any of my questions. She added that if I tried to ask her a question, she would leave the mediation. In his interview, Colin falsely claimed that Kathy answered my questions. Eileen did not ask him for any examples of questions I asked that Kathy had answered.

Of course the report cannot refer to what some of the interviewees say about Kathy in private (often using colourful language!). It does not refer to feedback provided by four random team members for a training course she attended. The feedback to certain questions was said to be the worst by far that any manager attending that course had ever received. According to one team member, Kathy received scores of 2 and 3, while other course members received 7 and 8. On discovering her results, Kathy met with the four team members to tell them they hadn't understood the questions. Some said they felt intimidated by this. At the end of the course, they were to answer the questions again, and one admitted to having lied and given better scores than she deserved just for a quiet life.

One of the witnesses later told me that he wasn't asked anything about bullying or ill treatment from my colleagues. He said he definitely remembered when Jackie O'Neil burst into the room and phoned the software suppliers and angrily described me as "our useless DBA". When Jackie was asked about this, she denied it. She was also asked if she had ever shouted at me, and she said that she had never shouted at me or anyone else. She was interviewed on 16 March, just six days after she had shouted at me while slamming her hand on her desk because she thought I had made a mistake. This took place in a room with up to 14 team members. She also denied spreading false rumours about me. My girlfriend, Ruth confirmed in writing that Jackie had falsely claimed that I cheated by taking time in lieu that I hadn't earned.

Una Forsyth was asked if she had physically assaulted me. She gave a false account of this by claiming that she had merely nudged me after I had drunkenly bumped into her. She had in fact travelled about 12 feet to push me in the back as hard as she could with both hands. This was witnessed by about ten university employees.

The report says The specific allegations made by AG against named individuals were refuted strongly by them and were received with a mix of incredulity and anger. These were all incidents that Kathy had admitted in the presence of Mark Toole that she had known about. She had even signed a document confirming this. However, my grievance was not against my colleagues, but my manager's failure to act to protect me from such incidents. She was paid handsomely to do that, and the university has a duty of care for me which wasn't being carried out.

The report states At her hearing meeting, KM presented her case rationally and succinctly and referred to specific examples in the submitted documentary evidence to support her allegations and to refute those made by AG.

This is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, if Kathy was offered the opportunity to present her case, why wasn’t I? Secondly, Kathy’s allegations are nonsense, and she couldn’t possibly have pointed to documentary evidence to support it, and to refute my allegations. I’ve seen a transcript of Kathy’s hearing meeting, and she didn’t. To my disgust, Kathy was not even asked to respond to the allegations I had made. It is possible that Eileen and Kathy had prearranged what could be asked. I knew that Kathy was always very reluctant to discuss her bullying behaviour. While she loves doing it, she hates being asked about it.

The report also states At the hearing meeting AG was asked to present his case and intimated that he believed KM had ill treated him and it was causing him stress. This is false, because I was only asked to give a brief summary. The impression the report attempts to give is that I was asked to present my case, but that I didn’t really have one to present, and that I had just irrationally said that I believed I was being ill treated without any real reason for believing it, other than perhaps due to stress, my mental state isn’t what it could be.

This impression is supported by the following statement from the report: I do not believe that AG’s grievance claim is vexatious on the grounds that he and others think he genuinely believes the allegations made are true. However, by reasonable normal standards in light of the evidence submitted I do not believe the allegations can be substantiated.

In my view it would be reasonable for Eileen to go through each of my allegations giving her reasons why she does not believe it represents bullying (by reasonable normal standards) as described in the university's Anti Bullying policy. She should also explain clearly, with examples backed up by facts, how I have bullied my manager. If she is unable to do that, then I feel she should resign or be dismissed. I believe it is a dishonest decision.

Kathy's statement is littered with lies. She claimed that my grievance contained lots of inaccuracies. For example, I had said that she had never awarded me with a merit, but Kathy said that she had indeed awarded me with a merit. If I had been in Eileen's position, I would have asked Kathy some questions about the merit she alleges she awarded me. For example, why did she award me it, and when. However, no question was asked. At the appeal hearing I pointed out that this was something Eileen and Karen Stark could easily have checked out with HR. In fact I had done that very thing after the hearing, and it was confirmed that Kathy had never awarded me with a merit. Eileen said she did check out Kathy's evidence. Nonsense! She also claimed to have promoted me to Trainee DBA. Another lie which HR confirmed to be false.

To be continued…

I offered Eileen Schofield an opportunity to respond to this statement on 6th September 2010. I have not received a reply.

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