Reflections

The start of a new year always makes me a little reflective. I always think that now I am in my forties I should have my shit together. When I was a teenager people in their forties all seemed to know what they were doing, were confident and self assured. Now I am in my forties I realise like everyone else my age that those forty year old’s I admired were just winging it. No one has got their shit together and we all are just making it up as we go along. All that those 40 year old’s had that I didn’t as a teenager was life experience. I don’t think there will ever be a eureka moment in my life where I feel like I have figured everything out. I think I will forever be winging it and pretending that I know what the hell I am doing.

As you get older I do think you appreciate the simpler things in life. You put home, happiness and friendships above the material things. You also start to refuse to put up with so much crap or maybe it is you finally get the courage to start putting yourself first for a change. At the end of last year I made some quite sweeping changes. I reassessed some relationships, I binned some, I reinvigorated others. I pushed myself to make an effort with those I didn’t want to lose. It is funny during the hard times you really notice who runs towards you and who runs away. And there is the third group of people those that in public or on a public forum make all the right noises but do nothing practically to help.I have noticed this a lot over the last 4 years.

 Those of you who follow the blog or know me personally know that basically over the last 4 years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I have been to hell and back. Briefly ( which is a laugh as even briefly so much has happened each event is a blog post in itself) in 2016 I developed a CSF leak which left me confined to my bed for much of the year and if not in bed lying down. It made socialising very hard, several of my friends were wonderful but one in particular would make all the right noises you know the “just let me know if you need anything” and when you did ask you were met with radio silence or a long list of excuses as to why they couldn’t help. I will never ever be able to repay Imogen for how she helped us during that year, looking after the dogs at the drop of a hat for 8 hours whilst I got treatment at a hospital an hour away. Same for my parents who when Imogen couldn’t help would come up and drive me back down to the hospital a journey of over 100 miles. 

In 2017 we lost our dear friend of over 20 years, Andrew, in a car accident, his passing made me realise I needed to make more of an effort to stay in contact with my friends as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow let alone a next week. In this year I also lost a family friend of many years who I would have regular conversations with via Facebook Messenger and telephone calls, although we never met in person. Later that year I was to learn my Grandmother and my dear friend Pam ( my neighbour twice and the person I saw most other than my husband) had both been diagnosed with lung cancer, Willow our 11 year old Weimaraner passed away on December 15th and it broke my heart. Due to the events of the following January I don’t think we ever mourned her passing properly. Both Imogen and Heather rushed to my side that day. Another friend offered but I realised at that point that I didn’t want her there at the time I was surprised by my feelings but let it pass thinking it was grief.

In January 2018 we lost both my Grandmother and Pam, despite knowing that both their diagnosis had been terminal we had lived in a bubble that it wasn’t going to happen. I had many conversations with Pam, she moved between despair and complete denial. It was emotionally hard going for me, which probably sounds quite selfish and self absorbed but I challenge anyone to listen to your friend of over 20 years talk about the fact they are dying and walk away untouched. Pam passed away the same week Andrew had a year earlier, which I have always found quite bizarre, especially since Pam had accompanied Jay and I to Andrews funeral less than a year earlier.

 We had no idea then at the ticking time bomb that was contained within Pam’s body. Looking back now there were subtle signs that something wasn’t right, she had looked really tired all the time etc a whole heap of little symptoms that added together were something deadly. Even if we had known then I doubt much could have been done but it makes me angry that mistakes were made in her care and the people that made those mistakes have got away with it. 

When Pam passed away both H and Immie rushed to be by my side again. The other friend basically told me she was coming, despite me saying that she wasn’t needed. It was uncomfortable, for everyone as it was like there was a cuckoo in the nest.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want her there, I just knew that if I was hurting she was the last person I wanted present. I should have listened more to what I was feeling and realised that those feelings were a huge red flag. But instead I blamed myself, telling myself I was cruel and unreasonable to be feeling like that. 

Reflecting back on the situation the lesson I take away from this is don’t ignore those feelings / intuitions / gut instincts. If I hadn’t of ignored them I would have saved myself another 18 months of being treated like shit and only being visited when she thought other people may see her doing it. It was very much a keeping up appearances situation.

There are still a lot of emotions to process from the January of  that year. I haven’t stopped crying since starting to write this and the grief has come out of nowhere as I certainly wasn’t feeling sad before I started writing today.

In the July of 2018 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a very rare type at the same time I had stuff going on in my life that was extremely stressful. I was already suffering from terrible anxiety and depression after losing by now 5 people from my life and one dog ( in the February I lost a school friend who I had known from the age of 11 and we used to have regular chats on social media, just last night I thought I must ask Jon what planet I can see in the nights sky currently, as Jon had bought himself a telescope not long before he passed – totally unexpectedly and I had to remind myself that he isn’t here). I struggled to get up and out of bed as the stress was doing a real number on my chronic health conditions. I was passing out frequently and had issues with ptosis. The heat of the summer didn’t help either.

My mum then had major surgery in the August, in the September we had good news that although what had been removed was cancer, it was tiny, the size of a pin head and very unlikely to return. She is currently in remission, no one is cancer free until they have been 5 years clear. She has regular checks at the hospital and will do for another 3 years.

I finally thought that we may get some peace, after all what the hell could happen to us next? Surely the universe was done toying with us now? But no, 2018 was going to end badly and 2019 wasn’t going to start any better. On 29th December 2018 we lost our beloved boy Frankie aged 12 ( a Weimaraner) and his Mum Mollie (Weimaraner) followed him over Rainbow Bridge exactly a week later on January 5th 2019 aged 14. Both had incredibly long lives for the size of dog they were but at the time it felt like my world had imploded. I had spent every day with my dogs since 1st June 2008 ( except for hospital stays ) They were a huge part of my life and most of the time the only company I had except Jay.  I didn’t know that I could be in such emotional and physical pain and yet still wake up day after day. I thought Mr Myasthenia Kid was going to drop dead from a broken heart he looked so fragile and  broken. Even with Dembe our Labrador puppy coming into our lives on January 11th 2019, we were struggling.

This was where I noticed this friends  persons absence even more, no messages checking on how I was doing. No card, no flowers, no visit. Yet again H and Immie were there by my side, along with Paul, Pam’s partner. I will be forever touched by Paul coming over on the Sunday after Frankie passed and then coming over again the following weekend when Mollie passed. He sat and shed tears with us and told us not to worry that Pam would be looking after them until we all met up again.

 I had cards and flowers from friends and cyber friends and yet no call to check how we were, beyond the initial messages of me telling you what had happened. That is when the penny finally dropped, that when I needed you, you disappeared as you had done so many times before, unless there was an opportunity for you to be seen as a “good” person. There were so many people I only knew on Facebook who came to visit to check that we were ok or who messaged me out of the blue. I have never felt love like it, so many people hugging us, looking out for us, physically being present. 

When Dembe arrived oh my goodness, so many visits. I have never known a puppy get so many toys and presents. I had baby gates offered within minutes of me asking on Facebook if I could borrow some, the same with crates etc. Nothing was too much trouble for people. It was overwhelming and it was something I have never experienced before and I am so touched by all those people. However it made this persons lack of action / concern even more painfully obvious. That hurt, even with all the pain I was in already the fact that we could all be so easily forgotten was another huge red flag.

Initially I made excuses,  maybe I hadn’t said I was struggling? Maybe you didn’t realise I was grieving? Maybe you didn’t understand the depth of my grief? But even to the village idiot it would have been glaringly obvious. Contact over the year became less and less. It felt more and more like it was one way traffic which indeed it was. I was lucky when I messaged you if I got more than a couple of sentences out of you. Again I made excuses, you were busy with your new life now. You certainly made me feel like I was interrupting you living your best life. When it got to 4 months since I had last spent any time with you and even longer since we had spent any time alone, the decision was made. I had waited a month at that point for a message to be answered. I snapped. I was faced with the prospect of you turning up on my birthday and I knew I couldn’t pretend for 5 minutes let alone several hours that everything was ok and that I was grateful for the few crumbs of attention you had thrown my way.

You would have never put up with being treated like that by anyone, yet I was just supposed to accept this? The last 2 years had passed in a haze of grief but I was starting to feel stronger. I knew that your behaviour  was now emotionally damaging to me. I couldn’t move forward if I was going to continually wound myself, wondering what I had done wrong, why I wasn’t good enough or why you felt you could take advantage of my good nature. So I ripped the band aid off and called time, reasonably amicably. I had been hesitant about hurting you when it was clear from your actions you had no concern about hurting me.

I suppose I am reflecting on all this as that is what the new year does. December and January are full of anniversaries of people and pets passing they are hard months. It’s only now on 22nd January that I feel like the weight has been lifted . That I realise that the last few years I have been operating / functioning with a low level depression going on in the background. That the anxiety has lessened enough for me to see things clearly.

 You had changed or maybe the real you had come to the surface? Perhaps I chose not to see the real you or the nasty comments you made on a regularly basis. I put those down to you being verbally clumsy despite the fact you claim to be a writer. I realised I had put up with far more than I had ever credited myself with. I was right to call time and that belief is unshakeable now. I’m not the only one that has noticed that you have changed, grown colder and more bitter than you have ever been. I feel sorry for you as your world is shrinking and you are so full of yourself you can’t see it. One day you will come crashing down to earth with a bump and you will be all alone. Maybe you want it that way, so you can perpetually be the victim?

I reflect back and realise I should have found the strength earlier. That I should have seen the pattern that I could never depend on you. That you liked to take and use, yet giving absolutely nothing in return.  You may think you have everybody fooled but truthfully more and more of us are seeing through you. I hope you find some peace because only someone who is utterly miserable with their own life finds joy in hurting others.

Odd ones

 

A few weeks ago an incident happened that has happened many times before to me on social media, I was hit on by a complete stranger. They seem to all go to the same school of charm, as the same phrase is always used. I was told yet again “Btw (by the way) your profile photo is really sexy”. This always makes me roar with laughter as my profile photo is usually one of my dogs. I hate having my photograph taken and I rarely post photos of myself unless it’s of me with ptosis The men that use this phrase clearly don’t actually look at the profile picture they are sending this crap out to or they really do need glasses!

I suppose Frankie could look sexy if you were into that kind of thing LOL!

My husband had no idea how often this happens to me, I simply hadn’t bothered to tell him. I am probably like most women, so used to this crap that it really doesn’t bother me anymore. I might find it creepy some days but I usually send the person back quite a rude response and immediately block them so I can have no further dialogue with them. Due to my position as an admin on a Facebook group, I have to set my messages so that I can receive them from anyone. Facebook naturally filters them for me into people I am friends with, those messages go straight into my inbox and people I don’t know come up as message requests. Thankfully I can preview these without the other person knowing, so that should I wish to I can decline them.

 

However a few weeks ago I had the same issue with “your profile picture is very sexy” but this time it wasn’t a stranger, out of the blue. No this was during a serious conversation I was having with an admin from another group. I had contacted this admin as a favour as I had joined his group only to see that there was an ex member of the group I admin in there. This member had been removed due to his aggressive and confrontational / rude behaviour and I could see that he was up to his old tricks in this new  group. As a favour I thought I would give this admin the heads up. Oh how I wish I hadn’t, the conversation started up normally enough and then out of nowhere came the creepy statement. All respect I had for this gentleman left me right there, why would you do that ? and why on earth would you think that was ok?

 

Why is it that men seem to think that the internet is just another way to be pervy to women? What did this man, let’s call him Chris think I was going to say after he told me my profile picture was very sexy? “Oh thank you kind sir, let’s run away together?” At the time I just said “erm thanks the photo is of my dog’s nose” I exited the conversation quickly after that and I am happy to say he hasn’t contacted me again.

 

Now if he did this to me and he barely knows me, literally we are in the same health issue group, what is he doing to women in the group he helps run? Women who he knows are vulnerable, to me that is the behaviour of a predator. Unfortunately it’s not the first time I have heard about a male admin or husband’s of an admin taking advantage of their position to gain sexual satisfaction. It really brings it home to you that you should never blindly trust someone on the internet, I am always quite cautious but even I have had occasions where I have let my guard down and been punished for it. However it is usually females that take advantage of me, by monopolizing my time, asking highly personal questions and then when I tell them that I won’t answer that question, I have had them get extremely nasty with me or make out that I am taking offence for no reason.

 

The male pervs I can deal with, as I say they normally get a special message back from me. It’s the females I find incredibly difficult to deal with, sometimes it can take me years to  stand up to them. I never divulge things I don’t want to, I won’t be bullied into that. I seem to attract the ones who are emotional vampires, who are in competition with me as to who really is the sickest them or me.  Anyone who knows me knows that I really don’t fucking care who is the sickest it’s not a game I play. They are the ones that only ever talk about themselves and when you look back at the messages you have from them you see that they rarely ever ask you how you are doing.

 

I write a blog, I give information away freely it’s something I chose to do.I also control the information that I share. I also understand that people will contact me as part of that. 99 times out of 100 I have no problem at all with the people who contact me and I am more than happy to help whenever I can. The downside is even though my blog audience is pretty small by the grand scheme of things and my page only has a hundred or so followers on

Facebook. I do seem to attract more than my fair share of weirdos. I have been asked for money, I have been asked if I want to join an investment schemes but the ones that really get my goat are the ones that steal my time. They are the ones that message me incessantly for days on end, that claim to be big fans of my blog but the questions they ask prove time and time again they’ve never read it. They are also the ones that claim to know all about my illnesses, yet the things they say prove they don’t. I try so hard to be polite and kind to  everyone I encounter online but some people think that gives them the green light to walk all over me or to ask deeply personal questions. When I point out that I won’t answer the question and why, I am belittled through mocking apologies. Yet when I stand up for myself and tell these people to sling their hooks I am the one left feeling bad about it. I just can’t win.

 

Some of these encounters make me want to just shut down all my social media accounts and run away. But then I think to myself why should I be the one to suffer? All I have ever done with my blog is try to tell my story and hopefully help others who maybe at a different stage of the journey. The majority of my online encounters are lovely it’s just the odd one or two that leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. It’s the odd ones with a problem not me!

 

Cyber bullying – its not just a young person’s game

When people talk about bullying the majority of us automatically think of schoolyard abuse / scuffles but with the explosion of the internet over the last few years bullying has taken on a whole new form.

I suffered at the hands of bullies as a child so it is something I feel strongly about. It seems that now bullying is so much easier with the internet and the explosion of social networking sites. If you call someone out on their behaviour more often than not they will claim they were only joking, that you shouldn’t take things so seriously. I have to ask the question would they be so brave to speak to you like that in real life? I would hazard a guess probably not.


Bullies can now get away with complete anonymity, if clever enough – some are quite dumb using their real names on open profiles! The assassination of your character can take place with a few strokes of the keyboard by people who dont know you. 


Its not just confined to young people anymore, bullying seems to be on the rise. Just look at any celebrities twitter stream, the abuse is rampant. Pop your head above the parapet, stick up for what you believe in and you will find yourself in the trolls crosshairs.  As I found out when I dared to complain about the waiting time for spinal surgery at the hospital my mother attends.

I am a 40 year old woman not a child and I have found some peoples behaviour online deeply offensive and upsetting. Unfortunately that was the person’s sole aim. What I really dislike are the passive aggressive trollers who lurk on your contacts list whose main purpose in life is to bring you down. They don’t last long on any of my accounts. 

I don’t delete without warning unless I have been really annoyed and several private chats have been ignored. I give far too many chances to people who really don’t deserve them and end up being drawn into the vicious cycle of niceness, followed by putting the boot in.


 I am endeavouring to get my head around the fact why some people feel the need to turn into nasty keyboard warriors. I am all for a good debate but too easily online it can turn into a bitchfest at best and outright threatening behavior at worst. I have been quite lucky so far although I have sometime been shocked at the sheer vitriol spewed by some towards me, I have never felt personally threatened. 


I also struggle to understand why such nastiness gains such support amongst other people who seem to engage in a herd mentality picking someone off on the “facts” provided by one person. Who does that and why? It seems independent thought is something only a few people possess these days.


The saddest thing of all is it seems to be grown woman who seem to indulge in this pastime more than anyone else. In an age where women have advanced in the world reaching new heights in business and education, there seem to be some women who enjoy nothing more than tearing other women down. What drives these people to attack others jealousy, insecurity? I dont believe that anyone is born nasty its something they develop due to their environment. In all honesty I feel terribly sad for them.


People seem to be very quick to jump on the bandwagon without stepping back first and assessing all the facts. If you didn’t witness the event and have no evidence to prove what someone is saying, then shouldnt it be taken with a pinch of salt? Individuals seem to throw caution to the wind with the statements they make online, that can never be retracted.


Its very difficult to hide from an online bully, you block them from all your online profiles and they set up multiple accounts to catch you out and post abuse. I am tired of the cat and mouse aspect of it all. I see multiple accounts as almost an indication of a multiple personality. 


I am not alone in facing abuse online, friends of mine have been hounded off social media by people they considered “friends” or contemporaries simply because their views did not fit in with how the other person sees the world. I have been deleted and blocked by people simply because of my political beliefs. I have had the same treatment because I am friends with people the other person doesn’t like. Surely the question is “wouldn’t it be a boring old world if we all held the same beliefs and opinions?”


It also falls into the realm of censorship, you stop posting / tweeting things because you are scared of the reaction it will provoke. I am all for free speech as long as it does not incite hatred towards other individuals or groups. However I have noticed myself hesitating from posting about my illness on my main facebook page due to negative messages I have received. I now keep my “moaning” (as it was described by someone I considered a dear friend) to my Myasthenia Kid page because the people that follow that really want to know how I am doing. 


I do believe its wrong to feel the need to sanitise what you want to post / tweet just because of a few individuals. I am not alone in this I have had friends attacked for posting about a bereavement, having cancer or simply wanting to express their honest opinions about a subject close to their hearts. There are still subjects that I censor myself on why? If its my page / account why do I have to be afraid if its something I believe in?


It seems to me that the internet has encouraged those who seek power by destroying others. It is as if we haven’t evolved from the playground at all. If this is how adults act towards each other what example are we setting for the next generation?



 


What to do if you suffer from discrimination/bullying/harassment at work

So many people suffer at the hands of bullies in their working life that if it was all reported there would be a national outcry. Being sick or disabled does not protect you from being discriminated against, harassed or bullied. It can happen in so many subtle ways that you may not even fully realise what is happening to you until its too late, signed off with stress, demoted or moved to a role that isn’t suitable for you.

Discrimination, bullying, harassment can be so subtle that when you try and make a complaint about it you start feeling like you are making a fuss about nothing. Its not until you start writing all the events down that you see the bigger picture and what an enormous campaign of abuse you have endured.
http://www.jfo.org.uk/info/new/index.htm This is an excellent site that outlines what bullying in the workplace looks like. For many people that I have shared this link with in the past it has been a real eye opener.

So many people I have spoken to over the years have all said the same thing “I didn’t realise it could happen to me”, “I thought I was liked”, “I thought I did my job well”. Discrimination, bullying, harassment can happen to anyone, no one is immune to it. It has such a devastating impact on the individual it is happening to, it literally wrecks lives.

Since leaving work I have had a lot of people ask me for advice about employment law, disability discrimination, bullying, harassment, so I have decided to put a blog post together with some basic advice and some links to some excellent websites which will give you further information.

I am not a professional in this field, I have had to learn about this subject. In a previous life I worked in the human resources department of a large company, so have seen both sides of the situation. Please use my basic advice in conjunction with that of a professional eg a union representative, citizens advice bureaux or an employment law solicitor. If (in the UK) you have legal protection as an added component of your home insurance you can access advice through their legal team, they will if your case is good enough and it hasn’t been resolved through your employer’s internal procedures, take it to an employment tribunal.

A case being good enough to go and then go onto win at a tribunal rests entirely on the evidence that you are able to provide. The same can be said for bringing a complaint / grievance forward to your employer. As with a court case or a police investigation the word of just one person isn’t enough to prove a case and this is why a lot of people fall at the first hurdle, they have no evidence.

A case can not be proven by hearsay it needs to be backed up with documentary evidence and witness statements. Witness statements are a nightmare to obtain as your witnesses, most likely will be intimidated by the situation and will not want to openly support you by providing evidence. So unless you have a signed witness statement in your hand forget about it. What you need is documentary evidence to support your claim that you are being treated unfairly / discriminated against. Documentary evidence can take the form of a diary where you’ve noted down things that have been said or done to you, performance reviews, meeting notes, objectives that have been set for you.

Unfortunately when you are being bullied, undermined, discriminated against you become so beaten down, that you lack the energy to get up and start fighting back and that is how the perpetrator wins. When you are in the situation you can get so used to continually trying to keep yourself afloat in a sea of unreasonable demands, criticisms, derogatory remarks and policies / procedures not being fairly implemented, that you can’t see what is happening to you or you are just so terrified about losing your job that you daren’t stick your head above the parapet.

When a problem arises in your work life my first piece of advice would be to try and resolve the issue informally. Many situations arise out of miscommunication or a poor understanding of an issue, by approaching the person who you are having an issue with, you can sometimes nip the issue in the bud before it escalates. You do have to have quite a bit of courage to do this and many people are unwilling even to speak to the person due to their fear of confrontation. If that is the case take someone with you when you make contact with them, be it a colleague or a union representative. Ask the person if you can speak to them privately as you have something you wish to discuss. It is important that if you carry out this step you make a note of the date, time and who was present at the meeting, you may need to refer back to this in the future if this situation isn’t resolved. A meeting of this type can be carried out regardless of the persons job role within the company, so a manager or a person as the same grade as you. Its important that you document the fact that you have asked the person to stop their unacceptable behaviour towards you.

In the case of physical violence / intimidation / sexual harassment it may not be “safe” for you to approach the individual. Always assess your safety and if you decide you are putting yourself at risk of further violence / sexual assault just go straight to the next step below.

If the person refuses to discuss the situation with you or denies there is an issue and you feel that their explanation isn’t acceptable (or it wasn’t safe for you to approach the individual) you can opt to take a more formal approach by requesting a meeting with the persons manager or a member of the human resources department. Explain in your letter that you have approached the person involved (or haven’t due to personal safety issues) but you are still unhappy about the situation. Also explain in your letter that you wish for the matter to be dealt with informally at this point. If you are a member of a recognised union you can ask for your union representative to be present at the meeting in a supportive capacity. If you do not have a union in your workplace you can ask if you can be accompanied by another member of staff. Having someone else with you serves two functions firstly they can support you and give you the courage to raise the issue and secondly they can act as a witness that the meeting took place.

(In some cases where your allegations are very serious as in the case of physical violence / sexual assault / harassment, racial harassment, disability hate crime the person you approach may decide to immediately make the process formal. Do not panic this is a good sign that they are taking your complaint very seriously.)

Always ensure you keep copies of any paperwork  / letters you submit and also note the date and time and who was present at the meeting for your records. Its important that you start creating a paper trail to prove that you have raised the complaint should you have any issues further down the line. Keep all paperwork outside your workplace in a safe place so that it doesn’t become mislaid. Never use your complaint as a source of gossip, do not discuss the issues with anyone other than your union / employee representative. If word gets back to the person you are complaining about or higher up it can make you look unprofessional and immature and therefore ruin your credibility. Keep everything confidential because believe me in these situations you do not know who you can trust.

If any notes are taken at this meeting – which any good employer should do so that both parties have a record of what was discussed and what the outcome of the meeting was, ensure you receive a copy and that all parties have signed them for proof of accuracy and of the subject matter / outcomes discussed. Once in receipt of the notes take a copy, so that if you lose them you have a back up and also ensure you take them out of your workplace and keep them with any other paperwork relating to your complaint. Again keep all paperwork confidential and do not discuss it with anyone.

If you are unhappy with the quality of the note taking, important points have been missed or what you have said has been incorrectly noted then tell them and do not sign the notes until they have been amended. Amendments should be initialled by you and the person who took made the notes and amended them, so that if someone looks at them in the future they can see that the amendment was agreed and the notes were not changed by you at a later date!

Give the person you have had the meeting with a reasonable amount of time to investigate your complaint. Everyone sees a reasonable amount of time differently, at your meeting ask for a date for a future meeting so that you can be updated. Ensure your request is written in the notes with all parties agreeing to the date and time. For me a reasonable amount of time would be no longer than four weeks, less if it concerns just one individual. If you have had no follow up meeting after a month send a letter to the person who is conducting the meeting (keeping a copy for yourself) letting them know that you consider the length of time taken to conduct their investigation is unreasonable.

The follow up meeting to discuss their findings and a plan of action on how to resolve the situation should be held before four weeks have elapsed. In a perfect world this should be enough to resolve the issue and restore harmony to your working environment. Even if everything is resolved keep hold of the paperwork relating to your complaint. Things in the workplace can change very quickly, a reshuffle of a management team, a change in contractual terms and agreements can quickly throw a spanner in the works and your signed paperwork for reasonable adjustments, a resolution to a bullying/ harassment/discrimination complaint is your insurance policy, that the company will have to stick to.

Some companies like to hold the meeting to discuss your complaint and then bury it hoping that it will go away. They do this by not holding the follow up meeting because they haven’t actually completed an investigation. Its one of the oldest tricks in the book and don’t fall for it. Ensure you chase up the meeting (keeping copies of your letters). I would send no more than two letters, one to the person conducting the investigation and then if you get no response within 7 days, send the next one to their manager outlining your complaint, the date your informal meeting was held and that you now believe that the outcome of their investigation has never been provided to you and its taking an excessively long time. If at this point you get no joy, do not give up. You are creating a good paper trail which shows that your complaint has not been taken seriously, so the next few paragraphs will explain what to do next.

Everything that I have written about so far is about resolving issues informally however sometimes no matter how hard you try this approach does not work. Do not blame yourself if this happens, unfortunately in life you come up against people who despite being aware of your disability will make no allowances for it or that they are so used to being a bully / harasser and have always got away with it they do eventually revert to type or your complaint is buried / ignored. Remember you didn’t ask for your disability, you didn’t ask to be bullied or harassed and if you made a complaint you have every right to a resolution.

When you’ve tried to resolve things informally and it hasn’t worked there are two options open to you, put up and shut up ( not an approach I would advocate, as it will do you no good in the long run) or make a formal complaint. Every company in the UK has by law to have a Grievance procedure. Many people are terrified of the grievance procedure as they feel that it will mark them out as a troublemaker and then their lives will be made a misery. To those people I would ask isn’t your workplace a miserable place already due to the treatment you are receiving? How much worse could it possibly get before you will lodge a grievance?  Nervous breakdown ? Demotion? Dismissal?

http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1670 this website gives a quick overview of the grievance procedure and how it should be handled by your employer.
www.gov.uk/solve-workplace-dispute/formal-procedures this gives you a brief overview of the law and has some great resources you can download.
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/work_w/work_problems_at_work_e/dealing_with_grievances_at_work.htm gives some good advice and pointers as to where to get help.

To lodge a grievance with your employer all you need to do is write to them stating that you wish to exercise your right to lodge a grievance. Usually grievances fall under different categories eg health and safety, contractual and discrimination. In your letter keep it brief, factual and unemotional, just outlining what category you feel your grievance comes under. There will be plenty of time for you to give all the details of your complaint when your grievance is investigated. At this point do not discuss anything informally or off the record as it could be used against you. If you are unsure as to what your company’s grievance procedure is include in your letter (grievance) that you would like a copy of the procedure so that you can refer to it in the future. Do not disclose any documentary evidence you have in your possession at this point, this can be taken with you to the investigatory meeting.

It is also helpful in this letter to explain what would be a resolution to this situation. Many a complainant has been thrown off course completely when asked at the investigatory meeting how they wish the situation to be resolved. Your ideas about the resolution to your complaint needs to be seen as reasonable, putting “I want him / her sacked” maybe what you want but isn’t at all helpful. At the end of the day your employer will decide if the individual has breached company policy and needs to be dismissed. Your resolution should state the obvious that you want the behaviour to stop, you feel that the manager /  the individual / your department is in need of training / retraining on a particular subject (disability discrimination, codes of conduct) and that you want a harmonious working environment. Above all the resolution should be a positive statement about how you see things moving forward. Having the person /persons sacked is on the top of everyones wish list but keep those thoughts to yourself. It looks much more professional if you anticipate this question and have given it some careful consideration.

If you have got to the point of lodging a grievance, your paperwork trail should be quite impressive. It should include your diary detailing when meetings were held and who with, the diary should also record any derogatory comments that were made / actions taken against you etc these entries should dated and a note made of the person responsible. Any meetings that you have attended such as performance reviews ( you should ask for a copy of these for your own records), attendance meetings when they happened and what was discussed – copies of notes signed by all present. Any written requests that you have previously handed in such as a request for a meeting about reasonable adjustments www.gov.uk/equality-act-2010-guidance, or informal meetings to resolve the initial complaint before it escalated. If you can obtain witness statements get them,  however these are notoriously difficult to obtain as people fear for their own jobs and what if your grievance is not upheld and you all have to continue working with the perpetrator?

Along with the paperwork it’s also good to have a copy of your contract (especially in disputes about terms and conditions) a staff handbook if your company is large enough to have one, your training record and any other work related paperwork. If you have things like customer letters stating how lovely you were when dealing with them, include those as well as they can help in performance issues.

Your employer should acknowledge your grievance by writing in a timely manner, I would say no longer than seven days. Some companies state in their staff handbooks how quickly they will acknowledge your grievance. If they do ensure that they stick to it (unless the person you have sent it to is on holiday or off sick, it maybe a case of then sending it to someone else within the department or their manager), if it means sending another letter to chase up their acknowledgement of your grievance do it and keep a copy of your letter for your evidence file.

Contained within the letter of acknowledgement should be an outline of the grievance procedure plus a date and time of a meeting (investigatory) to hear your complaint. If your workplace has a recognised union, the letter should inform you that you are entitled to representation or an employee representative and you will be asked to arrange their attendance. At all times both parties should keep this information confidential.

When you attend the meeting it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to say. Its important that you try to remain calm and focused. It is very hard not to become emotional because you have probably endured weeks / months/ years (in some cases) of poor treatment at the hands of one or more individuals. Only refer to things that you know as fact and not hearsay however you can suggest that they speak to other individuals who you believe may have also been subjected to the bad behaviour.

Ensure that your evidence file is in order, make a copy to give to whoever is investigating your grievance – never hand over original documents ( that’s why I always advise people to make at least two copies of any documentary evidence). Only give them a copy of your documentary evidence and not your notes for the meeting. If you can, have your evidence linked to your notes so its easy to reference the information and ensure the investigators copy mirrors your own. Don’t expect to be able to read off a crib sheet as you will be interrupted by the investigator, as what appears crystal clear to you, wont to them and you may need to go into more detail to help them understand the issues.

The investigator is not there to judge you or take sides, they are there to listen to your complaint. Don’t expect any warm words of encouragement they should remain impartial. If you feel that they are taking sides tell them calmly. Don’t get angry and don’t get flustered ensure you know what you are going to say and what the evidence backs up, like the back of your hand before this meeting. Ensure that you and your representative are singing from the same hymn sheet and they know the points you want to raise. The employee representative / union representative can also bring up points you may have forgotten in the heat of the moment.

If you feel yourself becoming flustered or you become emotional ask for a five minute break so that you can calm yourself down and refocus yourself. A reasonable investigator will agree to a break and the break and the time the meeting is reconvened should be recorded in the meeting notes.

Under the intense scrutiny of the investigator, who is usually a few pay grades above you, you can find yourself intimidated. A key thing to remember is that they are a human being too, who eats, sleeps and shits just like the rest of us do. They hold no special powers, its just a fancy job role. If you remember that, you can talk with confidence about what has been happening to you.

At the end of the meeting you should be informed that an investigation will be taking place and given a date of when they would like to appraise you of their findings. Ensure you read the notes of the meeting carefully and any mistakes are corrected before signing. If a copy of the notes isn’t offered ask for them, you are entitled to have them. Again do not keep these notes at work, ensure they are placed with the rest of your complaint related paperwork.

Usually companies have written into their grievance procedures how long it will take before you have your next meeting. If however due to the number of people that need to be interviewed or key personnel are out of the business due to holiday / sickness the time can be extended by mutual agreement and this should also be confirmed in writing. You may also be called back to be re-interviewed to gain more information. The same rules apply you are allowed your union/employee representative to be present and notes must be taken etc

The next meeting should be to confirm whether or not your grievance has been upheld. If it hasn’t they should explain clearly the reason why they believe the person(s) have no case to answer. Remember that you have the right to appeal this decision but there is usually a strict time frame in which to do so. If your grievance has been upheld, they then need to discuss with you what they feel the resolution to this situation is. Again if you aren’t happy with the resolution you have the right to appeal the decisions.

Hopefully after all of this your grievance has been resolved and you are happy with the outcome. Each company has its own appeal procedure. If you are unhappy you need to keep appealing until you have exhausted the companies policy or you have reached a satisfactory resolution. Only once you have exhausted the company’s appeal procedure due to being unhappy with it not being upheld or unsatisfactory resolutions, should you consider going to an employment tribunal and that is getting into areas that I am not qualified to talk about.

Tribunals like to see that the complainant has done everything within their power to resolve their complaint with the company. The £1200 fee now introduced to lodge a tribunal is enough to focus the mind to try and get the situation resolved. Once at this stage you need professional advice from a solicitor to help you navigate through the tribunal system or if your union has been supporting you they may provide a solicitor or your home legal protection (home insurance) may do so.

Obviously its not always possible to exhaust the grievance procedure within your company as they may ignore your grievances, in the hope that you will go away. In this situation it’s important that you have all your paperwork in order to prove you did everything you could. Keep raising in writing to them that your original grievance has not been heard in the XX amount of time that you first made them aware of your request to lodge a grievance. Again don’t just send your letter to the person that you sent your grievance letter to but also send copies of your letter to their boss and even their bosses boss if you need to.

The most important thing to remember is that if sexual assault, physical violence, verbal threats, racial hatred etc have been committed by the perpetrator you are entitled to call the police. People have this crazy notion that when they are at work you can’t call the police. Of course you can, your workplace doesn’t exist in a bubble outside the law of the land. No one can prevent you from calling them if a crime has taken place.

Sorry this is such a long post but it is something I am passionate about. People really need to start arming themselves with knowledge and stand up for their employment rights. No one should be working in fear of being discriminated against, abused, harassed or victimised.