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Doing the right thing eventually pays off

Published: 

Wed 5 June, 2019

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Doing the right thing eventually pays off

During their working life some employees are likely to face a serious dilemma and if it means defying your boss it takes tremendous courage – and there can be serious consequences.

Saying no to a manager who asks you to do a job can be difficult; even if you believe what you’re being asked to do is dangerous.

Hotel worker Sam was told by her female manager to remove two needles from a cubicle in the ladies toilet.  She explained that she did not have any protective gloves, it was not part of her role and picking up the needles could be dangerous.

The manager said the task was simple; Sam protested and insisted that she felt it was unsafe. The manager, who was insistent and forceful, told Sam to do as she was told and to stop being childish.

Sam refused and her manager said she would get another member of staff to do it, and she did so.  Sam was upset by the incident and unsure what to do.  

She was aware that a couple of former colleagues did raise a formal grievance against the same manager alleging bullying and intimidation. The rumour was that the complaints were brushed aside.

When Sam arrived for work the day after the incident she was summoned to the manager’s office and asked to wait. Sam did not know what to expect.

She was kept waiting nearly an hour and became increasingly anxious and fearful. Given how she was feeling Sam decided she would secretly record any conversation using her mobile phone.

When her manager eventually turned up and spoke to Sam she was rude, aggressive and threatening. She informed Sam that she was to be suspended from work for gross insubordination.

Sam was shocked and tried to explain that she believed what she had been asked to do was dangerous as it posed a risk to her health and safety.

The manager refused to listen and said Sam would have the opportunity to explain herself at a disciplinary hearing.

Sam felt she was being treated unfairly and contacted HR. She informed the advisor about the recording and said it captured how she had been treated.

She was asked to send a copy of the recording to HR, and did so. Over a week later Sam had not heard from HR and she was aware from colleagues that her manager remained in work.

Sam eventually got a letter inviting her to a disciplinary hearing to face two allegations. One of gross insubordination and another of breach of data protection in covertly recording a conversation in breach of company policy.

Sam contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre for help.

At the disciplinary hearing our representative said that concerns about the way in which the recording was made should not overshadow what it captured.

He contended it can be considered a whistle-blowing disclosure as it provided evidence of the type of pressure and intimidation the manager applied to staff to do tasks that put their health and safety at risk. The recording included the manager saying that no other members of staff had complained when she asked them to do similar tasks.

Our representative argued Sam’s case. He told the hearing Sam was entitled to object if she felt what she was being asked to do was dangerous. He said she did so in a professional respectful manner, which is not how her manager, who is said to have a history of unacceptable behaviour towards to staff, responded.

The case was discussed at length during the disciplinary hearing and Sam faced a number of questions about her conduct and actions.

Sam was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and advised about how to address future concerns. Mediation was arranged with her manager to coincide with Sam’s return to work, but it never took place. The manager resigned before it did.

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