A BIT OF BULLY?
This bullying story seems a bit fishy, doesn't it? First, Andrew Rawnsley publishes extracts from his new book; then the CEO of the National Bullying Helpline (presumably forgetting that crucial confidential clause) phones up her local radio station to say that her charity has received calls from bullied Downing Street staff; then the Government accuses the National Bullying Helpline of being a cover for the Tory Party (it's based two doors down from Tory HQ, features some waffle from David Cameron on the front-page of its website, and boasts two Tory patrons); then Anne Widdecombe resigns from its Board, along with two others (and possibly one more, herself a Tory Councillor).
Is that a rat I smell?
Possibly, for if you delve a little deeper into Christine Pratt's business affairs, it appears that the National Bullying Helpline is not as altrustic as it seems. As well as being the Chief Exec of the NBH, Christine Pratt is also the Chief Exec of a commercial outfit called HR & Diversity Management Ltd. The latter company was set up by Pratt to help businesses resolve personnel disputes, and they often achieve this by claiming that the worker who alleges that he or she is being bullied is, in fact, a vexatious complainant. Their website boasts that:
"At HR&DM we have designed a model which ascertains, very early on, whether an employee grievance is vexatious or not. This model also assists employers with their line of defence as it identifies where policies need reviewing and where training or diversity initiatives are required to ensure problems do not occur again."
An online bullying helpline exposed this conflict of interest here last year, but this is briefly how it works.
You are being bullied at work, and - at your wits' end - decide to phone up the National Bullying Helpline. The Helpline listens to your story and decides to take up your case. Quite reasonably, you believe that the charity will take up your case. But here's the catch - the charity does no actual casework. It leaves that to its for-profit sister-company HR & Diversity Management, who will investigate your case.
So you fill in and sign HR&DM's model letter, which confirms to your employer that you have been signed off sick with stress, as a result of the bullying you have experienced at work. You should take care to note that the letter invites your employer to contact HR&DM direct, in order to initiate the investigation.
And this should probably worry you, for HR&DM's website claims (quite wrongly, as it happens) that "during 2006 25% of cases found that the instigator, the alleged victim, was in fact, the bully," and "during 2006 32% of the complaints investigated by HR&DM were found to be vexatious." This hardly suggests that HR&DM are likely to advocate on your behalf, or be in any way independent.
Alternatively, if your employer does not agree to an independent investigation, HR&DM recommend that you employ them as a third-party negotiator, which again involves HR&DM contacting your employer.
For all I know, they may do sterling work! (for your employer, if not for you). But, yep, it sure does look fishy (and it seems others think so too)