Staff bullying, ‘attitude’ and the National Trust Personal Development Review

June 18, 2010

Whilst sorting through some of the old letters I sent in to the Trust, I found one that
took me back to a moment of protest and disgust at two managers plotting to get
rid of their staff.

The letter I sent to the property manager asked if she was aware of the
proposal to get rid of the two staff members? If not, what action would be taken
to rectify this underhanded tactic?

 

As usual, I didn’t receive a reply on paper but was summoned to her office
for a verbal one. It was there I listened to her drone on about how she had no
plans to get rid of the staff in question and her managers should not have been
discussing it in public. It was then I asked “if she had no knowledge of the
subject, and as their superior, why were they discussing it at all?” Could this
be a an initiative drive ?

 

The reply to a very difficult question was always countered with an attack on
my attitude with references to being a “team player” and the all time favourite
– “in future, don’t write to me, come and see me.” This I refused to do as the
written word remains. I expect all my correspondence to the National Trust from
the time has now gone, but I still have my copies.

 

In recent years, there was the sad tale of a National Trust gardener that
committed suicide after receiving some sort of secret treatment. It’s not the
open bullying that staff have to contend with, it’s the underhanded slow
poisonous methods that finally get the desired effect. This usually starts with
a poor Personal Development Review (PDR) featuring key words such as
‘argumentative’, ‘not a team player’ and ‘attitude’.

 

I was once told to make myself “indispensable”, so I asked for a copy of the
indispensable profile – this never fails to take the wind out of someone that’s
talking crap.

 

“You know what I mean,” was the reply. “No I don’t,” says I. “No one is
indispensable or if they are can I job shadow them?”

 

The all time favourite on my feedback reports was ‘must improve attitude’.
This was in response for demanding basic health and safety facilities as echoed
by the National Trust health and safety officers.

 

I asked what method would be used to measure my attitude? What charts are
available etc… The look of disbelief said it all. She then blurted out – “that’s
what I mean, your attitude.” “OK” said I. “But how do you measure it?”

 

I will admit my outlook to the way things were run at Tyntesfield did clash
and it could be deemed as attitude.

 

My arguments against making water run up hill were attitude.

 

My arguments against wasting thousands of pounds of public money on filters
in houses that were not needed were attitude.

 

And of course, the car park and visitors centre to be built in the wrong
place… all attitudes.

 

My attitude was measured by the Trust on how much I was prepared to go along
with hair brained schemes that only served to throw money away. Let me emphasize
on this – your money, the public’s money. Money from hard working people’s taxes
and the poor old pensioners that donated the ten pounds to save the estate for
the nation.

 

If my attitude against waste was wrong then yes, I stand guilty.

In
the latter years, I refused to do the paperwork for the PDR at all. “You must do
it,” I was told, “Or you wont get a pay rise.” My reply was, “send me the
paperwork. When it comes perforated, then I can put it to good use.” Very
difficult to knock someone that doesn’t participate and why put a noose around
your neck?

 

Tyntesfield still retains the all time record for sickness and staff turnover
– including volunteers. Just recently I met a volunteer that finished working
there due to the stress and despair of the place. She loved her job, but the
black cloud that hung over the place finally got to her. As did so many others.
As I stated before it’s the one place you could have a job interview and a
leaving party on the same day.

 

Here’s a little thought for you. Why didn’t someone think of piling all the
boxes of exit interview papers around the outside of Tyntesfield house, that way
they could have saved £5 million pounds on scaffolding?

 

Bullying as I’m sure it goes on in all walks of life, but it could never
happen again at Tyntesfield could it?