Jackie O'Neil, 42 Melloch Crescent, Tillicoultry, FK13 6QJ
Below is the statement that Jackie O'Neil gave during the Disciplinary Investigation carried out by Graham Millar and Gail Miller. Needless to say, it's a pack of lies made up following collusion with others including Eileen MacDonald.
Section 4. Jackie gives a false account of the incident that took place on 10th March in an office with up 14 colleagues present, and my DBA colleague, David Black standing right next to us. I was helping Jackie with her upgrade. Her upgrade failed, and she thought the failure was due to me making a mistake and not carrying out an instruction she had given me by email. However, it was due to the fact that she had failed to follow the software vendor's instruction to ask the DBA to increase the size of the database. Because she thought it was my mistake, she felt justified in screaming "I TOLD YOU!" at me while slamming her hand and pen on her desk. I believe she did this to alert everyone to what she considered to be a rare occurence of me making a mistake. David and I just concentrated on fixing the mistake and getting the upgrade restarted. At my next scheduled meeting with David and Kathy McCabe, I mentioned Jackie's latest outburst. Kathy said that Jackie had told her that she had had to work until 10pm because of the mistake. David and I knew that that was rubbish because she would have only lost an hour due to the error. Kathy notified Mark Toole of my complaint, and Mark offered to meet with me and Jackie to try to resolve the difficulties I had to face working with Jackie. I accepted his offer once he confirmed it would be informal. I didn't want Jackie sacked because of this incident. I just wanted her to stop the shouting and to modify her behaviour.
In the grievance I brought against Kathy, I mentioned previous incidents of Jackie shouting at me, and added that Kathy had just said she wasn't interested. Unknown to me, Jackie was interviewed on 16th March and was asked about those incidents. Incredibly, just six days after screaming at me, she denied ever having shouted at me or anyone else. In her grievance report, Eileen Schofield said that my allegations were met with a mix of incredulity and anger.
Mark Toole changed his mind about the meeting, and met with Jackie by himself to discuss the incident. He refused to tell me what she said, but I genuinely didn't think there was a chance on earth that she would deny screaming at me; not with so many witnesses, and especially not with David standing right next to us. I had underestimated the problem within the team, and just how cowardly Jackie is, despite normally being quick to shout her mouth off.
Jackie said I didn't answer an email she sent me with her instructions. I showed Mark Toole the email below which I sent Jackie in reply. I also asked him to refer to the software vendor's upgrade instructions which showed that Jackie was responsible for the upgrade failure. He chose not to. Later at the appeal hearing, Martin McCrindle said he'd get me a copy of those instructions. He didn't. I wrote him a reminder. He didn't even respond to it.
Three investigators including a Director and two Managers investigated this incident as part of the Disciplinary Investigation. Mark Toole emphasised that it would be a fair and thorough investigation, which is why he said it took more than two months to complete. Yet none of the investigators chose to interview David Black about it, even though Jackie and I both agree that he was right beside us at the time. Nobody else in the team was asked about it either. This wasn't due to any extraordinary mental lapse in those three investigators. It was because it was obvious to all three of them that Jackie and her partners in crime were lying, and any evidence confirming that was to be avoided.
Motivated by having been talked to about her behaviour, Jackie grasped the opportunity to get together with others and make up false complaints about me. I still had a grievance against Eileen MacDonald that Mark Toole was to deal with, and Una Forsyth was upset at having been talked to about assaulting me. Somehow they had managed to persuade Selina Gibb, a close friend of Eileen's, to become involved in their ill conceived plan. None of them had given any thought to the fact that evidence existed that refuted their claims. In any normal organisation, they would have been sacked for making malicious complaints. Stirling University is not a normal organisation.
Section 2. In 2003 at my appraisal meeting, Kathy said she wanted me to become more assertive with the programmers, so that they would gain more from my greater knowledge and experience. I am naturally very quiet and I hate confrontation. I was always keen to help my colleagues, but because of that I had somehow become a doormat. Jackie is a very loud, aggressive and arrogant character who had shouted at me many times despite always being in the wrong. There were many times that I tried to explain certain things to her, but rather than focus on what I was saying, she would go off on a tangent to irrelevant matters, and I'd have to keep bringing her back to the main issue. Sometimes she would argue aggresively when I was telling her matters of irrefutable fact. It's for that reason that Jackie has now been in her role for over 12 years and accomplshes very little without a great deal of help from her colleagues.
Despite her limited ability, Jackie's salary was upgraded after the role evaluation (Framework) process to Grade 8 (£43,000 per year). It was an advantage to be in a role occupied by several employees. In order to claim a requirement for the role, it was only necessary to show that one of the role holders had carried out any particular task. Obviously if the role is occupied by one person, they could only include work in their role description that they had carried out themselves. The Programmers produced a description which was an aggregate of their individual responsibilities. Jackie benefitted because she shared the job title.
Jackie is a blagger, and makes a lot of noise about very small achievements. Shortly before I was suspended, she had sent the whole team an email telling us that she had completed a piece of work. I personally didn't know anything about it. Paul became very frustrated by the email because the work she was referring to was a very minor piece of work which would have taken her about two minutes, yet the Programmers had asked her to carry it out more than a year previously, and Paul felt frustrated that she was making a big fuss about it. He was already in a bad mood with her because he had been reading through job applications in order to produce a short list, and Jackie was making a lot of noise as she frequently did. He did something I'd never seen anybody do before, he turned to her and asked her to keep the noise down. I feared she would blow up, but she appeared to comply quietly. Then five minutes later, she left the room, slamming the door behind her. Shortly afterwards, a few of us considered what would be an appropriate job title for each of the "Programmers" based on what they did as individuals. As a job title for Jackie, Stephen suggested "System Assistant", which is a Grade 6 role. I don't remember exactly what Paul said, but it included the word "bastard" and it inferred that Jackie was worth less than zero. He followed this by insisting he wasn't joking. Even Paul wasn't aware of the depth of the problem. I had worked very closely with Jackie for 12 years, and she would test the patience of a saint.
Around the same time, Jaana became very frustrated with Jackie over this upgrade too. It was a special "unicode" upgrade which required the system to be able to handle student names that contain characters from different character sets. Jackie had attended conferences, workshops and user group meetings about the topic, but when she came to implement it, it became clear that she didn't have sufficient understanding of what was required. Kathy had to bring in Jaana, who hadn't attended any of the conferences, to get things sorted out.
Jackie demonstrated her lack of understanding during one meeting when she said that the upgrade would have to allow French characters with acute and grave accents to be entered. I explained that these characters belonged to the existing character set, and examples already existed in the system. Two days later at another meeting, she repeated the same thing. Then a few days later, she set up some test data including students with foreign names for the team to work on. These were all names that were covered by the existing character set. When I pointed this out to her, she admitted that she didn't see the point of the upgrade.
Jackie, as usual had waited too long to start investigating the requirements, and there was a slight panic within the team because they were having to be drawn from their other work at short notice. Stephen criticised me and David for not being more proactive with regard to the upgrade. I sent him a copy of an email I had sent Jackie suggesting that she make an early start on it, because it was common for Jackie to leave things to the last minute, and end up having others do her work for her. Although Stephen found it easy to criticise me (albeit unjustly), he lacked the courage to criticise Jackie face to face.
There were further mistakes that Jackie made during this upgrade, even though she had already had the benefit of a rehearsal for it. There were additional steps required to allow programs that had been written in-house to work correctly following the upgrade, but Jackie hadn't noted these additional requirements to ensure they were implemented. For example, it had been identified that an amendment had to be made to a program I'd written, and which had to be run immediately after the upgrade. Jackie didn't notify me of this, so when she ran it, it failed. Again she became agitated, and started raising her voice at me. I calmed her down, worked out what the problem was, and fixed it quickly. I then sent her an email with very simple instructions for her to run two programs. A short time later she started acting up again, because she thought the program hadn't worked properly. She started raising her voice yet again, and was raving about how busy she was and that this was holding her up. I had to ask her three times if she had followed my instructions correctly and run the two programs. Eventually she admitted that she had only run the second of the two programs. For the grade that Jackie works at, she should be able to write the programs that she was running, but there is no way in the world she would be able to do that. At the very least, she should be able to follow simple instructions. However, even that proved to be too much to expect. A week later, Una asked me to investigate a problem with a system. I worked out that it was due to Jackie not notifying the programmers of the amendments that had been identified as being required during the rehearsal.
The plan was for Jackie to apply this upgrade a third time; in the live system. I wrote to her and suggested how she might best ensure that nothing was missed. Jackie said that she didn't have time.
I often had to help Jackie with her work, and clear up the mess she'd made. It became the norm for her to just delegate parts of her work to me. I think it was counter productive for me to have done it for her, because she never progressed. Kathy too should have kept a close watch on her work to ensure that she made sufficient progress. Instead, Jackie continued wasting time by getting involved in anything that would take her focus away from her real work. She also got involved in such things as green issues, first aid training, union executive duties, organising Christmas lunch and Secret Santa, and anything else that she could find to do instead of work. Jackie was trapped in a vicious circle of having to try to appear as though she was good at her job. That takes a lot of time and effort when you achieve as little as Jackie. She frequently complained of lacking time to get her work done, and it was becoming clear that she had been going to Kathy and complaining that I was the cause of her shortage of time, knowing that Kathy would be just too eager to hear of such things about me.
During the informal grievance meetings with Mark Toole, Kathy had attacked me over a piece of work I'd carried out. I had worked till 11pm at home on a Friday night to complete this work on a project. Any normal manager would have been delighted with my dedication. Kathy criticised me for not doing it the following day as had been originally suggested, and for doing it at home instead of the office. She said that I had greatly inconvenienced my colleagues, and she named Jackie in particular. This was an absurd criticism. We had met about two weeks before I carried out that work, and everyone was in favour of it being done earlier as it gave the team more options for them to carry out work that was to follow. Also I had done similar work many times before at home in the evening, and Kathy never said anything about it. Kathy said that Jackie had wanted to be with me while I carried out this work. The work I was doing was to upgrade and migrate a database. This meant that nobody else could do any work while I was doing it. I later discovered that Kathy had planned to buy pizza for me, Jackie, Stephen and Phil to eat while I carried out that work in the office. Kathy was desperate to criticise me for anything, no matter how stupid it made her appear. My union rep told Mark that that was just one example of bullying. Mark was careful not to admit to any bullying.
Kathy frequently allowed certain team members to work from home during the day. Often we'd only find out about it on the actual day, and sometimes meetings would have to be rearranged because of it. Yet here she was criticising me in the presence of senior management for having spent my Friday evening working on a task that required only me, and I'd given the team a week's advance notice of it. The reason I did it outside normal hours was to allow staff to use the systems uninterrupted during the day, which wouldn't have been possible while I was upgrading the database. It takes an extremely twisted and wicked mind to turn that into a reason to criticise an employee. And this came just a few weeks after Mark had told Kathy that criticism had to be delivered privately and be evidence based.
There were other reasons for Jackie being short of time. One of them gave rise to the game played by the other team members, "Guess what time Jackie will return from lunch". Somebody would take a note of the time she left for lunch, and then ask us all to guess when she would return. The closest guesser would be the winner. It was not uncommon for Jackie to have a three hour lunch hour. When she returned, we'd announce the winning guess and congratulate the winner, and Jackie never knew what we were talking about.
Sometimes she'd enjoy a mid afternoon sleep at her desk. One time, Eric photographed her asleep and emailed the team with it. Some of us added captions for a laugh.
I had been getting used to the noise that Jackie made every day in the office we all shared. I sat furthest away from her, and when she started up, I would sink down in my chair to avoid distraction. Others, like Paul, Stephen, and especially David frequently grumbled about the noise. It was only a problem for me when I was having to concentrate on a serious, urgent problem; especially if my concentration was repeatedly broken by Jackie shouting "Have you fixed it yet?"
Before Jackie joined the team, our office had been fairly quiet but friendly. Then it was like a tornado had hit us. If Jackie wasn't screaming at me, she'd be screaming down the phone at people in other teams, or making long private phone calls at the top of her voice. Then when she'd finish her private call, I'd have to hear it all again as she'd turn to colleagues and repeat the telephone conversation to them. At the time, I was new to my job, and had to concentrate a lot. I spoke to Kathy about it, but she more or less told me to get used to it. A few years later, I was moved to another room to make way for new programmers. Next day, everybody in that room complained to Kathy about the amount and volume of noise Jackie made. Kathy held a meeting with everyone (except Jackie). The outcome was that they'd all have to get used to the noise.
In 2009, all university office staff were required to complete online training about the office environment. The training said that if you feel your work environment is noisy, you must see your manager about it because it's a source of stress. Kathy enjoyed a nice, quiet office to herself. Perhaps she should invite Jackie to share her office, and just "get used to it".
The screaming incident with Jackie was similar to another Jackie incident a few years previously. Although her technical knowledge was extremely poor, Jackie, for some inexplicable reason, imagined that it was superior to mine, and she would demonstrate that extraordinary belief with incredible arrogance. The best way I can think of to describe this arrogance is to compare her with those X Factor applicants who quite obviously cannot sing, but who argue agressively with Simon Cowell and the other judges that they can, and that the judges are wrong. However, these tone deaf singers can genuinely believe that they sound good if that belief has been due to them singing along to music alone in their bedrooms. What they are hearing may sound good to them, and nobody has told them any different. Where this analogy falls down is that Jackie frequently had to come to me and others for help even with very simple matters. That should have been a major indication to herself that she was technically weak.
The previous incident happened when she was trying to run a program on a database, and the database reported an error. It was an error I was very familiar with, having first seen it when I was a student. Jackie had been a programmer for about 7 years at the time. While virtually all programmers would have known the cause of the error, any that didn't would normally take a minute to look up the error in one of several ways available to find out what it meant. Not Jackie, however. She burst out of her room and barged into mine, the way that only she can. She loudly announces the problem and demands that I fix it quickly because it's holding her up and her work is very important, etc, etc. Jackie loves making a scene. It's her favourite thing. I calmly explained to her that the error wasn't due to a problem with the database, but with the program she was running. I explained three ways in which the problem could be resolved. Jackie was having none of it. She was convinced that the problem was with the database, and that I was just fobbing her off. And besides, she had probably waited for years for the moment when she could tell everyone that I was no good at my job. She stormed out my room and back into her own. She phoned the software vendor who had provided her with the program to run. She angrily described me as "our useless DBA". They told her exactly what I had told her in order to fix the problem.
Of course, Jackie denied this when she was interviewed, but a witness confirmed this in an email I presented to Mark Toole. As with anything else that was true, Mark simply ignored it.
When I told my manager, Kathy McCabe about that incident she said she wasn't interested because she expects her employees to sort these things our between themselves. She proudly repeated this at a meeting with Mark Toole. Yet she was obsessively interested in any gossip about me. If I was to draw Kathy's attention to the massive inconsistency, she would just say that she didn't want to discuss it. When I submitted my formal grievance, I had hoped that I would finally hear Kathy explain why she behaved that way, but due to the cover up, I was denied any explanation. Perhaps I'll finally get my long awaited answer when she is cross examined at the tribunal. "I don't want to discuss it" might not be considered a satisfactory explanation.
I'd be very happy for Jackie and me to take polygraph tests to show who is lying. We can do it on TV if she likes!
As at 22 June 2011, this is the fourth most frequently visited post on my blog.
To be continued...