24 Feb Normal Supervision Not Bullying
The Complainant submitted a complaint to the WRC on 9th October 2020 under Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969.
The Complainant was employed from 1st September 2018 as an Account Manager and presented to the WRC that his employer had not properly investigated complaints of bullying that he raised initially in June 2019 and which were ongoing. Specifically, he complained that his immediate line manager did not trust him, openly ridiculed him, did not support him, and that his manager’s email correspondence with him was different to what was happening in reality. The Complainant gave examples of getting conflicting instructions on how to manage agents, not been given training and said his manager responded to him in an inappropriate and patronising manner. The HR Manager investigated the complaints which were not upheld and advised that both parties needed to adjust to each other’s different working style.
An appeal was lodged and a manager from the UK was appointed to hear it. The Complainant initially required more time to prepare and then declined to attend a virtual hearing and requested that it be conducted face to face, even though there were Covid restrictions in place. The appeal was subsequently not upheld.
Following work interactions with the Country Manager at two meetings in October 2020, a further complaint issued against the Country Manager and a HR Consultant was appointed to investigate these allegations in November 2020.
The investigation finished in April 2021 and concluded that whilst a number of the alleged statements had been made by the Country Manager, some other matters were inconclusive and that clarification of duties and responsibilities for the Complainant as well as mediation with the Country Manager should assist.
The Complainant submitted significant documentation to the WRC to support his complaint including copies of emails sent to him by his manager between October 2018 and January 2019.
The Complainant contended that he had been set up to fail by not been trained and said that ridicule, personal antagonism, public admonishments, and disparaging remarks in public meetings had caused him stress, and to be to absent from work and he was concerned about his future in the Company as nothing had changed after he started reporting to a new Manager.
The Respondent disputed the claims and said the Complainant had failed to provide any credible evidence to support the serious allegations made, and instead it was clear that the Complainant had failed to work collaboratively as required and was unable to accept guidance and instruction from his peers and management.
The Respondent referred to the well known Ruffley case in which the Supreme Court outlined the high threshold of inappropriate behaviour that has to be passed to meet the definition of bullying and asserted that reasonable and necessary supervision did not equate to bullying.
The Respondent also submitted that they had engaged fully with the Complainant with all complaints raised, and that delays with his appeal proceeding were down to the Complainant himself. The Respondent outlined that they had also offered EAP services to the Complainant, as well as attempting to resolve matters through mediation, but he had always been reluctant to adhere to the Company’s procedures and to management direction.
The Adjudicator commented that the extensive documentation submitted by the Complainant was unordered and not helpful in the way it was presented, despite having two legal representatives.
The Adjudicator concluded that the response of the employer had been reasonable and that any HR Department faced with the same issues would have reached the same conclusions.
The Adjudicator also highlighted the efforts of management to instruct and encourage the Complainant to adhere to the Company’s standards and requirements, which was evident from the documentation submitted. The Adjudicator also referred to the tone used by the Complainant in some of his correspondence, to not being what a Manager should expect from a team member.
In reference to the accepted definition of bullying as per the revised Code of Practice on Bullying and in line with the previous Code, in which bullying must be repeated inappropriate beahviour, that could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work, the Adjudicator noted that the evidence submitted did not support the definition and that on the contrary emails showed that the Manager had to repeatedly ask the Complainant to follow procedures.
The Adjudicator said she could not find in any manner that bullying had occurred and whilst it was apparent that the Complainant wasn’t happy in his job, there was no evidence of the calibrated inappropriateness required to support a finding of bullying and the Company had dealt with all grievances and issues raised in a reasonable and patient manner.
The Adjudicator concluded that the Complainant was in the wrong Company as he could not align with the standards and way of working expected from him, and suggested he should waste no further time and find a suitable role somewhere else.