Bullying By Women Managers
About two years ago I offered my services as a volunteer to a Brussels based NGO, the deal was that I would work to procure EU Commission funded research project and work as the Research Officer for this organisation to support the manager. I was successful in procuring three projects which meant funding of around 250,000 Euros from which I would receive a salary. All went well until the funding came in.
The first problem started with the contract. I requested that an expert in EU projects be consulted to ensure that the appropriate contract was drawn up, instead I was offered a "homespun" document, which I refused to sign and this problem continued throughout the period of my involvement with this organisation. Effectively I worked as a "contractor", which meant I paid my own National Insurance.
My time was constantly called upon to provide voluntary assistance as well as the work I was expected to do within the projects. I suppose the biggest problem was a lack of boundaries and clarity of what I was expected to do, both within the projects and in a voluntary capacity.
The organisation in Brussels represents a number of national organisations throughout Europe and the manager is overseen by a voluntary president and representatives of these organisations. There is an Executive Committee in which a smaller number of representatives are selected to ensure that the finances and general political management run smoothly.
Within a month of commencing the projects, I resigned, because I believed that the decisions of the manager were at the very least questionable. For example, she wanted to use personal data from one of the projects for the benefit of the organisation, however this would have contravened the agreement with the project consortium and data protection laws. I made my views clear and was shouted at. At a meeting of the representatives she presented her concept which would have meant my involvement in carrying out surveys, analysis and writing reports as a volunteer and she informed the representatives that I did not agree, without giving me the opportunity to explain why.
Over the next year, she interfered in my work and made it very difficult for me to simply get on and do my job. I have a PhD in Social Research, so I guess I know my job and I found it very difficult to work with a person with no qualifications in this field, that kept trying to control me and my work.
In August last year she presented a diagram to the Executive committee in which she outlined my position and the work she expected me to do - as a volunteer - which was completely separate from the work I was doing within the projects. I objected and commented that as a matter of courtesy she could have asked first. Her response was to bang her hand on the table, shout at me and then to the Executive "I hate this f*cking federation". Some of the Executive committee felt that I was to blame because I created tension. Shortly after this, there were discussions within the Executive meeting to decide what to do, which included appointing a working group to find a solution, the result of this working group was to support the manager. As a consequence, the president and technical officer resigned and there was a rift within the Executive Committee.
In November last year, I was invited to a meeting with the Accountant and was asked to revise the invoicing system and was told what was required - which was to increase the amount that I claimed. I was somewhat perplexed as to what this meant and said that I would not do anything illegal and I was assured that this would not be the case.
Shortly after this, I sent the Administration Officer my timesheet and was asked to change the hours I worked to lower number, so that they could claim the remaining hours from the EU Commission for the organisation - this was to overcome the difference that was needed to cover the portion that the organisation had to fund. I refused and this lead to a discussion with the president and others in the Executive committee. The President agreed with me. Finally the manager and Administration Officer believed that it was appropriate to use project funding to cover my expenses to attend the organisation's internal meetings and a conference (which had nothing to do with the specific project). I was told that this was acceptable and while I believed them in the first instance (and consequently signed the claims sheet), I later asked for confirmation from the consortium and was informed (in writing) that this was not acceptable.
I informed the Executive committee and submitted a grievance against the manager.
I was asked to attend a meeting and when I asked what would be discussed, I was told that my grievance would be discussed along with other issues - "outside my role as Research Officer". I asked that any issues be sent to me in writing in order for me to prepare myself, but none were forthcoming. In the meantime, the manager had sent out reports criticising me to all the representatives, to which I replied to defend myself, including my concerns about the submission of expense claims.
At an Executive meeting in February this year the two issues of altering time sheets and submitting claims for expenses was discussed. The majority of the Executive committee agreed that it was unacceptable to alter timesheets. However, they agreed that the expense claims from project funding to cover my attendance at organisational meetings and a conference should be submitted - their view was that it was worth trying, even if the claims might be refused. I resigned and informed the Executive Committee that I wanted my objections recorded in the minutes of the meeting, but they were not. Instead I was later contacted and asked to sign a retrospective contract to appease the EU Commission project officer (due to the fact that my initial advice was not taken and the manager had screwed up) dating from six months before I became their Research Officer, I refused.
I felt that I was targeted by some of the representatives including the new president, due to historical factional issues within the organisation. I certainly felt bullied, undermined and belittled by the manager and as a result I became physically ill. I know I can't do anything about this, but just being able to write it and let others read it, helps.