Banking on expert intervention to produce the right change to an unfair process.
Published 12 April 2023
When Grace landed her dream job, she envisaged a long and rewarding career – but she never imagined how it would end.
After enduring months of bullying from a new manager, she snapped, was threatened with dismissal and eventually left on her own terms.
It followed months in which Grace had felt intimidated, humiliated, undermined and overworked by her new boss.
It was a shock for Grace who first started as an investment banking graduate and had received nothing but glowing feedback for her work.
She faced a disciplinary hearing for poor performance, failing to follow reasonable management instructions and insubordination.
The allegations came after Grace admitted she reacted badly and refused to listen to her manager after he informed her of an anonymous client complaint she was convinced he had made up.
The letter inviting Grace to the disciplinary hearing warned dismissal was a potential outcome.
When Grace first spoke to our representative after contacting the Employee Support Centre, she said she felt embarrassed asking for help because she could usually deal with difficult and stressful situations on her own.
She was assured by our representative there was nothing to be ashamed of, as such situations can be difficult for anyone.
Grace made it clear in the first conversation with our representative that she had been bullied.
She explained how it had left her feeling afraid, isolated, eroded her confidence and self-esteem and had a harmful effect on her mental and physical health.
The impact was such that Grace had been compiling evidence of how she had been mistreated.
She felt the disciplinary case, which was based on allegations made by her manager, was a further extension of the bullying she had suffered.
Meticulous Grace had kept emails, made diary-style notes of incidents and had copies of messages exchanged with colleagues about events that had occurred. She shared the information and evidence with our representative.
He believed Grace had good grounds to raise a grievance as a result of being bullied by her manager.
Our representative wrote a grievance letter for Grace. It included a request for the disciplinary hearing to be suspended until the grievance was heard, investigated and resolved.
In justification for taking what he described as a prudent and fair approach to the matter, he explained if the grounds for grievance were upheld, or partly upheld, it could have serious repercussions and bearing on the disciplinary process.
The grievance letter also pointed out suspending the disciplinary process to deal with the grievance first, is an approach the ACAS Code advises can be appropriate in some instances.
The employer agreed to deal with the grievance first and arranged a grievance hearing.
Our representative discussed with Grace her desired grievance outcome.
She was very clear in that her dream job had become a nightmare after three years and she wanted to reach a settlement agreement that would allow her to leave the role. Grace also felt the disciplinary process was unfair and malicious and she did not want it to go ahead.
A copy of the employer’s bullying policy was requested prior to the grievance hearing.
Our representative in presenting Grace’s grievance and evidence to support it referred to the bullying policy. It stated the firm would not tolerate bullying, and he used it to show how the manner in which Grace had been treated breached the policy.
It was explained to the grievance hearing chair how Grace had been intimidated by her manager, undermined, humiliated and examples of his abuse of power were detailed.
The damaging effect it had on Grace was made clear and our representative explained how it had caused her to lose all trust and confidence in the firm and resulted in what was in her view an irreparable breakdown in the working relationship.
The HR director asked our representative to elaborate on this point, and this initiated a discussion about a settlement agreement.
Following the grievance hearing, the discussion about a settlement agreement continued as did the negotiation until an agreement was reached that Grace was absolutely delighted with.
Grace was allowed to leave and the disciplinary hearing did not take place.