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of Findings from the Pilot Questionnaire for
of People who believe they have suffered unjust/unnecessary
suspensions, and/or bullying and harassment and/or false allegations at work.
who believe they have been unnecessarily and/or unjustly suspended from work,
and/or bullied and harassed and had false allegations made against them, know
from personal experience the damaging effect of these horrendous events.
what of their family members? How
does it affect them and how do they cope? Do
they have any suggestions for preventing or improving processes to change these
order to find out, relatives of members of the Dignity At Work Now group (DAWN)
based in Birmingham, and relatives of contacts through the web site www.suspension-nhs.org
were invited to respond to a pilot questionnaire asking these questions.
This is a very small study which I hope can be replicated to check its
people responded to the pilot questionnaire of whom three were husbands, three
were wives, three were sons and three were daughters.
What follows is a summary of their responses with a conclusion.
maintain confidentiality and for clarity, the person experiencing the bullying
and/or suspension is described as ‘the family member’.
replies were as follows:-
1. Can you remember how you felt when you first found out what had happened to
your family member?
strong feelings were described:-
anger, disbelief, powerlessness, helplessness, devastation. |
most commonly mentioned emotions were disbelief (8 times but implied in
other comments), anger (7 times but implied in other comments) and shock (5
times but implied in other comments).|
few people mentioned feeling confused, with one person finding it offensive
and another having a sense that the organisation had gone mad. |
2. As your family member went through the processes of their particular
situation, did you experience other feelings?
yes, please would you write about them.
feelings experienced as time passed were related to events – anger at the
failure of organisations and unions to follow procedures, the injustice of
it all, the sense of exclusion from it all and therefore helplessness, not
knowing what to say, distress at not being able to help, worry about the
effects of it all on the family and its finances, a sense of bereavement,
was the most commonly mentioned emotion – 6 times and implied in other
people made additional comments that as they completed this questionnaire
they had been reminded of the severe trauma they had suffered during the
whole lengthy process, how no one knows what they suffered and how difficult
they had found this now. |
the family member was the main breadwinner and lost their jobs for whatever
reason, 2 spouses mentioned the loss of income and its detrimental impact on
the family and themselves. |
Question 3a) . Was there anyone you could
talk to about your feelings? If yes, who was this?
people listed as being helpful or as being possible people to speak to, were
family and friends, including partners.
Was that helpful?
people found it helpful to talk with others. |
person responded that s/he had people to talk to if s/he had wished. |
people found it partly helpful to talk to others but felt disloyal or unable
to be completely honest or unable to trust others now.|
people found it unhelpful or impossible because it ‘brought it all back’
or because others had no idea or understanding or because it would be too
stressful for the person listening.|
Question 4. If you found the situation
stressful, what was your way of coping?
people mentioned being supportive as a coping mechanism, |
kept off the subject unless it was raised, |
people mentioned keeping to routines and keeping busy, with work an escape
for one of them, |
coping mechanisms mentioned were - going to the gym, getting away alone,
prayer, believing that the truth would finally emerge, having a good
moan and shout. |
person described being made physically ill by the stress and 1 person found
the Samaritans very helpful on a couple of occasions.|
Question 5a) Did you feel there was anything
you could do to help your family member? If yes, what was it?
People felt they had helped by listening (mentioned 5 times and implied
in some other responses), giving support (mentioned 5 times and implied in some
other responses), giving advice (mentioned 4 times and implied in some other
responses), giving practical help such as taking the family member to the GP’s
or meetings with employers, and being patient and encouraging.
1 person described feeling useless none the less and 1 person, that it
was taking over their lives.
b) If you didn’t feel able to help them,
was there a reason for that and if yes, what was it?
people made no reply about not being able to help.
people felt that help had been given but also doubted whether it had
actually been helpful. |
people (including the 2 previous people) gave reasons why they hadn’t felt
able to help their family member. |
were unable to change the situation or stop it (2 comments), |
felt it would embarrass the family member to try and counsel him/her nor did
s/he understand what was happening, whilst the union and solicitor seemed to
be making the situation worse, |
felt too angry and upset, |
far away, |
was no recognition of the families’ rights or role to play, |
family member ‘wouldn’t listen’.
Do you have any ideas or suggestions about how the situation can be improved for
yes, please write your ideas or suggestions here.
2 people felt it was impossible to change the
situation though 1 of them suggested going to see the GP, presumably for
support, and the other, for the family member to get out of the organisation.
The remaining 10 people each made suggestions.
A leaflet showing the scale of the injustice and where to get help
(suggested by 2 people), this information to be put on the internet as well.
More publicity and discussions to raise awareness, including details of
support groups like DAWN.
Provide information specifically for the family.
independent and impartial organisation to write a pamphlet ‘So you’re a
family member of someone being bullied at work – here’s how the next few
years of your family’s life will probably be affected……’ to help
ease through the process, pointing out pitfalls to avoid, myths surrounding
these issues, sources of reliable information, case studies with good
for ways to change the system:-
to investigate the problem fully before suspending someone as the
complaint may be of a malicious and vindictive nature and found to be
pointless and futile suspensions and check suspension is the correct action
before suspending; only suspend at board level.|
suspension times to 4 weeks (a second person proposed one week)|
speedier help for those undergoing the experience of bullying etc.|
the organisations have to follow a fail safe process.|
reps should invite family members to engage with the process as early as
possible; family members to act as chaperone/advocates.
They should also be able to act as witnesses in internal proceedings,
as well as any tribunals etc. |
and healing mechanisms
Professional counselling should be provided.
To make support available from others who had experienced similar
treatment and so understood.
This would alleviate the sense of isolation.
form of respite/distraction for the family member to ‘take them away’
from it so that they can still be part of family life even if work life is
should be made to face up to their ‘victims’ including the family. |
should be compensated in some way for the time and grief they go through,
and receive an apology.|
appears from this small pilot study, that families may suffer very strong
emotions as much as their family member.
Moreover, the emotions are very similar such as anger and
powerlessness, disbelief and shock.|
time passed, the situation became even more difficult to bear, waiting for
resolution of the problems. This
was particularly so for spouses and especially where there were attendant
financial pressures. |
was the abiding emotion.|
support for themselves had been a problem for over half the respondents,
with a third finding it impossible, and half the respondents felt they had
also been unable to help their family member.|
of the respondents had suggestions to make about preventing or improving
these situations, which would help others or give better support.|
findings are not generalisable because of the size of the study group.
However, this pilot study has given an insight into something of the
trauma that may be caused by unjust and unnecessary suspensions, bullying and
harassment and false allegations at work, for the rest of the family, not only
for the family member.
It has also shown how the family feels there is
very little information and support for them.
It has given a hint of their own bravery and
courage, helping their family member through the trauma whilst suffering their
It is hoped that the suggestions they have
made, will become realities, especially the prevention of these
life-threatening, life-changing injustices.
I am very grateful to the people who completed
the questionnaires, sometimes at considerable cost to themselves
This questionnaire has been placed on the
website with an invitation for others to complete it, to increase the level of
knowledge, for the sake of the families who are the silent and hidden sufferers
in these dire situations.