Beating bullying – it can be done

This is the true story of a brave individual who took on a bully and won – by being prepared. She was newly bereaved and therefore vulnerable, but she had the experience to know how to construct her case, and her union helped her to win the day.

Beating bullying – how I did it

I was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of a national housing association in the UK. I went to work there three weeks after my partner had died from cancer, having been given special leave by my previous employer to be with her in her final days and not required to work my notice of three months. Looking back now, I should never have started in the new job so soon.

But I did.

Within weeks, 0clip_image001I realised I had a bully on my hands. That bully was the Chief Executive Officer, and every employee was aware of her ability to bully and scared of her. As DCEO I was responsible for human resources and health and safety. Me being me, I put myself in between the bully and the staff, many of whom thanked me for doing just that, and was told that ‘things are better’ as far as they were concerned.

However, the CEO started the usual tricks of a bully: moving goal posts – such as demanding reports before agreed deadlines – sending me flame-mails from her office, which was next door to mine, demanding I instruct staff to undertake extra duties when a Regional Manager had a breakdown (as a result of being stressed by her bullying), altering supervision notes to make me look incompetent. Frankly she was hell in heels.

Good governance?

The organisation had a Board of Trustees, and the logical move0clip_image004 was to approach the Chair to discuss the issues. Then I discovered that every board member ‘owed’ the CEO a debt of some kind – including the roof over his or her heads. You see – this housing association was ‘user led.’

0clip_image006I stuck it for a year and a day before my health, both physical and mental, finally gave way; I went on sick leave. So the CEO decided I should be dismissed for being unable to fulfil my duties.

She made one big mistake. As a former trades unionist I was well trained in the need to keep a record of events from start to finish. I had continued to pay my union dues through my bank account, and not my pay slip. As a former, well-respected union activist, I went to see my ‘old’ Regional Officer, who was shocked at the state I was in. I’d worked with him for a decade up to 1996, and we were sparring partners of old.

I handed over my record of events and just told him to “sort it out.” Something I would NEVER have done in my old job. I ended up with an out of court settlement of almost £20,000, enough to set me on the path of self-employment. Now it’s several years on, I’m still standing, still working, and still out there dealing with bullies.


Workplace bullying is a LinkedIn group providing a forum for people who have experienced workplace bullying, for those who need support and for a variety of professionals dealing with the issue in everyday life. Trades unions can help with advice and guidance and can also provide support to members who have been targeted by bullies. Many unions express a ‘zero tolerance‘ policy.

Link to Trades Union Congress ‘Bullied at work? Don’t suffer in silence‘.

The details of this case are printed almost verbatim and with the full permission of the individual concerned. If you have a story to tell, you can use your own words or it can be written for you. You can also remain anonymous. Email


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2 Responses to Beating bullying – it can be done

  1. Angela says:

    None of the ‘bullying’ sounds that bad. Being a CEO can be a hard and stressful job and it can be heard to keep an even head all the time.

    In fact, if anything, it sounds like the CEO had helped all of her other staff at some point. Hence the ‘debt’ that is referred to.

    What sounds bad is someone talking the poor housing association for a wage and wasting their money so that they can use their own union activist (read, troublemaker) skills to make money.

    If the employee had taken another job at another place, it would reflect better on them. But it seems like starting their own business is always something they always wanted to do. So it could be read – and it is – how I read it – that someone, who has been generous to their colleagues, has been trampled over and humiliated to make someone else’s dreams come true.

    Be careful who you hire, people.

  2. jacksonquigg says:

    Hi Angela, I have noted your comment.

    The person who provided the contents of this post did not go into graphic detail about the bullying, but I believe it is clear that the CEO in this case routinely abused members of staff in a variety of ways and over a considerable period of time.

    Obviously, the evidence for the bullying behaviour was the major factor that resulted in the adjudication. As it is extremely difficult to get a positive resolution following an accusation of bullying, I’m sure you will appreciate that this was a significant event.

    I agree that being a CEO is demanding, but the head of an organisation is expected to have the knowledge and skills to lead, and to lead well, with respect for every employee.

    The person at the centre of this true story was a dedicated professional who tried to prevent a bullying CEO intimidating other staff and became a casualty as a direct result. I am afraid, Angela, that I have seen this many times before. I wish it were not so.

    I do not agree that an active trades union member is a troublemaker – quite the opposite. Unions support workers and their rights; sadly, a role that has slowly been eradicated during the last few decades, and yet is needed nowadays more than ever.

    Your suggestion that a bullied employee should just change jobs, together with the comment that the bullying doesn’t ‘sound that bad’, worries me.

    Perhaps, as a CEO yourself, you have been in difficult situations and feel you have been misjudged – perhaps you have a ‘strong’ management style that you believe has been misinterpreted and you have also found yourself accused of bullying? On the other hand, you may have been ‘trampled over’ and ‘humiliated,’ within your own employment by someone you work with.

    I don’t know you or your story so I can’t be sure. However I can agree with your final statement, especially in relation to the appointment of a CEO: “Be careful who you hire, people.”

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