NUJ Brussels is aware that there are problems of bullying within some important media organisations in Brussels. If this is your situation, please be aware that the NUJ has an ongoing campaign against bullying in the workplace – you can find more information about the problem and how to deal with on these NUJ Head Office pages.
See also these valuable words of advice from Martin McGarry:
1) A golden rule for an employee (or anyone else, I suppose) who doesn’t have much muscle when confronted with unreasonable behaviour by a superior (or someone else with more power) is to create a record. If you raise something orally and get the brush-off, put it on the record: write a letter to the person concerned (which can be copied to others then, or maybe later, depending on the circumstances), giving your account of what happened, including your understanding of their position. If they respond, they have to put a position in writing; if not, the only record is your account. This can be repeated many times over, if necessary. It creates a record that may, some day, be looked at by a third party or, if you’re lucky, someone in authority who may be willing to take a more objective/reasonable approach.
I’ve seen this work with employers. I’ve also seen it work with banks: for example, someone I know in the UK, who has very little money, was subjected to various unreasonable bank charges; any oral query was just dismissed, and quite abruptly. Eventually, on my advice, they wrote to the bank, threatening them with the ombudsman and outlining exactly what had happened (other than the charges themselves, there was no record of any kind up to that point). About 24 hours later, the bank rang to say that, out of the goodness of its heart, the sums in question would be refunded in their entirety.
2) A little tale that might indicate the possible long-term benefits of complaining (and of creating a record), even where management at various levels is resistant to the idea of taking complaints seriously.
Someone I know very well left a job (in the UK) after just over two years, after being treated intolerably for over a year. She took a case to an employment tribunal (in the UK) for “constructive dismissal” – i.e. making the case that, even though she had resigned, she had effectively been sacked. The employer resisted the case, but eventually paid several thousand pounds to have it dropped (the prospects weren’t that great and taking the case was proving extremely labour-intensive, so the complainant was happy to take the money and run). The employer also resisted and found against the complaint in an internal enquiry.
However, about a year after the resignation/dismissal, the boss (of 20 years) has been given the shove and the immediate superior (cause of the problem, and also with many years in post) is also on his way out, only weeks later. Doesn’t get the former employee her job back, but does give considerable satisfaction…and, hopefully, benefits those still there and future employees.
Taking the case, and being able to back it up with documentation, it seems fairly clear, did have a long-term effect, even if it didn’t work so well in the short term.
All the best,
If you wish to speak to members of NUJ Brussels branch about this issue, please get in touch in the first instance with branch chair Ruth Milligan via peggaty(at)hotmail.com.