back to article Harassers and bullies succeed in tech because silence is encouraged

A few years back, I sat in astonishment as a young and very promising scientist explained that her colleagues kept lists of the people she’d want to avoid working for, because they had been identified - privately - as sexual harassers. Ever since, I’ve wondered how some individuals can maintain multi-generation careers, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I presume your comments are specific to the UK?

    Because in the U.S., no contract provisions that are prohibited by law can be enforced.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Because in the U.S., no contract provisions that are prohibited by law can be enforced.

      Because in the U.S., no contract provisions are prohibited by law.

      FTFY.

      1. sreynolds

        Re: Because in the U.S., no contract provisions that are prohibited by law can be enforced.

        I thought that in America all unfair contract provisions are enshrined in law, after much lobbying.

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I presume your comments are specific to the UK?

      AC: "in the U.S., no contract provisions that are prohibited by law can be enforced."

      In the UK unlawful contract clauses cannot be enforced either.

      I believe (I do not have any personal experience of this) that the way it goes is that the victim is persuaded that they will receive a large (ish) payment if they agree not to publicise the offence, but that if they do make a formal complaint or go to the Police, they will have to prove their complaint and it will be one person's word against the other's. Any payment would be much less, and of course if they sue on a 'no win no fee' basis, their solicitor will take a cut of any compensation. Plus, of course, the victim, having made a complaint will henceforth be unemployable in their chosen career path, and be unable to pay the mortgage, buy the kids birthday or Christmas presents, and will generally be on the brink of homelessness and poverty in a few weeks.

      One story I heard on the radio was of a woman who became pregnant, and knew her (male) boss was likely to get her removed (even though that is illegal in the UK). Her solution to this problem was both frightening and ingenious. She when to his office and said:

      "Congratulations! You're going to be godfather."

      So he couldn't sack her then, of course, but it does seem to be a heavy price to pay just to keep your job.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: I presume your comments are specific to the UK?

        I think it goes deeper than that. It is more of a

        "...we will pay you to keep your mouth shut (now that "payment" of course can vary from an actual payment [and the last time I checked, bribery was illegal in and of itself] to you keep your job and/or your reputation)."

        With a good dose of "think about it... you're a nobody about to accuse the <insert almost always senior member of staff> of the company... who would ever believe you? And when you lose because we have deeper pockets and nastier lawyers, you will never ever work again"

        And then the kicker "Great. Now sign this NDA. Which is, of course, utterly legally binding and should you ever breathe a word of this to anyone [even a counselor] then we will sue you into non existence, ensuring that you are financially and emotionally ruined for life".

        Where in this case, NDA directly translates as "Gagging order".

        To me, this is simple. There needs to be an update to employment law that states NDA's are fine where required for work being completed, but only for work completed. Any kind of gagging clause, in any way, shape or form, in relation to any kind of complaint about the working environment and/or staff needs to be made illegal. End of story. Well not quite - even the mere suggestion of one should be made an illegal, sackable offense.

        I've had to deal with my share of bullies over the years in work places.

        Thankfully I'm neither a shrinking violet nor shy about defending myself so it falls flat on its face with me (other than once losing my temper and threatening a very senior member of staff that if he persisted in shouting abuse at me over a desk, simply because he'd missed me off the email chain (compounded with "well don't you talk to colleagues you fucking moron?*") I would rip his ears off and shove them up his arse. Sometimes open offices with witnesses are a great thing.

        *I might add that he'd changed a procedure, told the other members of the team and forgotten to cc me in. Apparently, I was supposed to somehow just know that he'd changed it, or should have known to ask if he'd changed it... hmm... 'k then.

    3. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I presume your comments are specific to the UK?

      I think you mean "no contract provisions that are prohibited by law can be legally enforced." All an employee has to do to fight those provisions is find a lawyer who will take the case and then, of course, come up with the money to pay said lawyer and hope that the lawyer is good enough and the case strong enough that the complainant wins because the consequences for losing are being on the hook for very steep legal fees and possible damages from a countersuit. Strangely, relatively few people are willing to go through that process.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

        Re: I presume your comments are specific to the UK?

        I the US you don't need to pay the Lawyer, if the lawyer believes the case to be winnable they will take it on receiver. i.e. they will take 1/3 of the settlement (and some time + legal costs)

        There is always the chance if you lose that the defendants lawyer will sue for legal costs. That is usually a 50/50 change and sometimes the plaintiffs lawyer will pay those fees (rare)

    4. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Re: I presume your comments are specific to the UK?

      "Because in the U.S., no contract provisions that are prohibited by law can be enforced."

      Not many people are wealthy enough to go to court and convince somebody that that's the case. The law doesn't step in to stop unlawful things from happening or continue to happen just because it happens to be unlawful.

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

    Not just in "tech". Businesses of all kinds are more protective of their image than of their people (particularly of their non-management echelons). But fundamentally, our "Western style" urban cultures tend to accept harassment as a norm to be put up with. To fix this, the societal culture has to change, without which changing business practice will only be "first aid".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

      I thought that the article was just stating the obvious. People get away with it, until they either die or they are caught. I mean isn't that real world 101?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

        Not in my experience.

        1. a male colleague exposed himself to a female colleague. Our manager came round and sent everybody home - we were working late on a project that was due to go live. The next morning, there was an empty desk, one of the project managers had disappeared, never to be seen again. I have no idea what he told his fiance, when he got home, about why he didn't have a job.

        2. a manager came into the office and announced that Alex was now Angela and we should respect that. We looked surprised, but everybody accepted that change and carried on as normal. From our office, there was no bullying, no name calling, no harassment, at least none that I was ever aware of and Angela never complained to anyone.

        Those are just two examples. I have worked in environments where bullying occurred, but I've worked in more environments over the years (in IT), where people of all sexes were respected and treated equally - I've had more female managers over the years, for example.

        It is possible to find a modern and progressive employer (when it comes to interpersonal relations, as opposed to their products). But they have to be open. As long as other companies can use such clauses to subdue the wronged, the problem won't disappear.

        The only option is to work for an enlightened company, but as long as people can't speak out without fear of reprisals, how do you identify the truly enlightened employers from the black sheep?

        Maybe actually look for companies that have had sexual harassment suits in public and have gotten rid of people as a result? Maybe that kind of "bad publicity" is actually the good publicity and no publicity is bad publicity?

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

          "A male colleague exposed himself to a female colleague."

          There are many, many reasons why you would want to get rid of them instantly that have nothing to do with sexual harassment whatsoever. Like you can expect him to sue the company if any dangly bits get caught in the vacuum cleaner. Or for general hygienic reasons. I would go ballistic if I found out he planted his naked backside on my desk, or my chair.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

            I'd be more worried about the photocopier to be honest...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

          Yeah, uncorroborated stories of isolated cases always convince me.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

            "Yeah, uncorroborated stories of isolated cases always convince me."

            Who's side do you take when it's he-said, she-said ... and no evidence exists either way, other than a complaint and a denial?

          2. jtaylor Bronze badge

            Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

            Yeah, uncorroborated stories of isolated cases always convince me.

            And that's exactly the point. NDAs, non-disparagement agreements, and the like are designed to keep cases isolated, prevent corroboration, and conceal any patterns of behavior. They discredit anyone who would complain.

            I have been fortunate to not experience deeply unpleasant behavior in the workplace, but I have signed such contracts. One was when I left a job, on good terms, and was offered severance for staying a little longer to help transition. It was a nice parting gesture from my employer. Severance came with a non-disparagement agreement. Basically, if I had any complaints, I had to follow the company internal processes (e.g. report it to HR.) If I failed to do so (e.g. talked without HR approval), I would repay the severance check and the company would initiate arbitration. Company retained the right to take me to court.

            If I had a serious complaint, the choice was between "here's a fat check to get away from Scary Person" or "our legal team will contact you." I wouldn't blame anyone for keeping quiet.

        3. Brad16800

          Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

          I've had the same experience. I used to change jobs every year as I wasn't happy with the environment and work culture.

          I've been at my current job 6 years because my managers are reasonable, considerate and caring. Makes sense to keep a positive and safe work environment as you don't need to constantly find new staff (and train them) to replace the ones that leave.

          I also think you get more out of the staff when they feel safe and more than just a number

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: "Harassers and bullies succeed in tech..."

      I must have been very lucky. I've worked in companies from $5bn market caps to startups with three employees, and I haven't seen any case where bullying or sexual harassment was accepted. All software companies with women being a small minority, but fortunately with (mentally) adult co-workers who would behave as decent people, always several people who would be protective if needed, but also several women where you wouldn't be protective but get out the popcorn and watch an attempting harasser being thoroughly destroyed :-)

      And one case where someone with an unacceptable attitude that he wasn't willing to change is not with the company anymore, since our very non-woke boss has this attitude that everyone should be able to enjoy coming to work every day.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rednecks incoming.....

    We have courts for this stuff!

    It's not your job to protect other people from abuse!

    Stop being Woke!

    When you own the libs they always scream "harrassment!"

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Rednecks incoming.....

      Being 'Woke' is one thing, caring about your fellow humans is another.

      You sound like a part of the problem, relying on the courts and all that entails is not the solution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        "relying on the courts and all that entails is not the solution."

        No that is exactly the solution, this is part of what living in a peaceful society demands..

        Without the courts we fall into anarchy and kangaroo courts, we are seeing it already in some US states. The side effect of which is that the locals are starting to get angry, they will soon start to fight back because of the fear that is being created..

        When we fall into anarchy we eventually create a system of new laws and order, ie the courts, in order to keep the justice, ironic huh..

        Being Woke is not a solution to anything, it does not achieve or provide positive solutions , it merely divides us further and further.. We see it happening more and more each day, the further we push it the further we will become divided...

        That division will end in an ugly outcome... Why, because people have lost their capacity to think for themselves and just prefer to push a premashed narative.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          "Woke" comes in two variants: The one where "woke" actually just means "being a decent human being who cares about the people around them", which is obviously a major problem to the holes surrounding them. And the "look I'm woke" brigade, which is actually a tiny minority.

          BTW. "Narrative" is one of the words that let you immediately recognise a brain-washed individual. Like "MSM", mentioning "Bill Gates" is also often a sign.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            The one where "woke" actually just means "being a decent human being who cares about the people around them"

            Those kinds of people don't spend their lifes on forums stating that everyone is a victim, they just go about their lifes being decent human being....

            "And the "look I'm woke" brigade, which is actually a tiny minority."

            Yes and these are the dangerous ones causing the division. They are causing more damage that they are reparing...

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Rednecks incoming.....

              Anyone who uses "woke" in a sentence that does not include having a shower and breakfast deserves no respect. Either claiming to be one or denigrating others for it.

          2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            BTW. "Narrative" is one of the words that let you immediately recognize a brain-washed individual.

            Is it? When the "narrative" is the most important thing to the woke "left" then who exactly is brain-washed?

            Words like "systemic", "settled science", etc let you know not just who's brainwashed but who is actually lying to you!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          The entire reason a serial criminal abuser, e.g. Harvey Weinstein, uses the NDA + $payoff strategy is to AVOID the courts. The result is that they continue to abuse.

          Also, the focus of this article are NDAs signed as a condition of employment - again to avoid allowing the courts to adjudicate.

          So you have it completely backwards.

          Furthermore, I someone is fired they have the right to take it to court, and often do.

        3. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          I can only assume that you have never been on the receiving end of this sort of behaviour. As a previous poster has already said, this is probably because you are part of the problem.

          There are many who think it is perfectly acceptable to bully and harass their subordinates simply because they are superior to them. Bullying is not a form of management however it appears to be considered an acceptable way to "manage" people/teams.

          1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            It is not acceptable to bully/harasser a subordinate in any way!

            But with that said we have in some ways gone to far in the other direction. In most situations at least here in the US you can't even give one if your subordinates a good "dressing down" for having screwed up! Your only choice is to write them up and put a mark on their record. That most likely will not fix the issue and only generates worse animosity towards you as their boss. Back in the early days of IT getting chewed out by your manager for a serious screw up made you understand the seriousness of your chosen profession. If you got so emotionally damaged by that, then probably you didn't have the "right stuff" to be in this profession.

    2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Rednecks incoming.....

      There has to be a balance.

      It is important that someone is allowed a chance to defend himself. It is also important that nobody is ever convicted on the testimony of one person. Men and women lie, and if you have a culture where people can lose their job just because one person became angry at another person and slandered him, that is not good either.

      People should not be afraid to report abuse to management. Neither should people be afraid of being reported for abuse to management. You have to be careful that you don't ruin the lives of the innocent, nor protect the lives of the guilty.

      1. Richard Gadsden

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        "It is also important that nobody is ever convicted on the testimony of one person."

        The problem with this is that you've just written a guide for abusers on how to get away with it.

        If two people are the only ones present and one makes a serious accusation about the other, then the criminal law may well be able to say "there is insufficient evidence to convict against the standard of proven beyond a reasonable doubt".

        But in employment, you don't have the option of saying "insufficient evidence, carry on as the status quo". You're going to lose one employee or the other if the accusation is serious enough, and that means that you have to make a decision - on the basis of the balance of the probabilities - which one you believe.

        Employers desperately don't want to make that decision. They don't want to have to look at two people and decide which one is telling the truth and which one is lying. But that's what they have to do in these cases.

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          > The problem with this is that you've just written a guide for abusers on how to get away with it.

          That's true of all offences isn't it? Commit the crime, make sure there are no witnesses, profit!

          It is a big problem in situations where only two people are involved but it is the nature of the beast and there is no easy solution.

        2. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          So you'd be happy to lose your job because of a false accusation?

          They happen. I know, I've had a false accusation of sexual assault made against me. I was lucky, they weren't being malicious they were just mistaken and I could demonstrate that what they thought had happened had not.

          We're still friends, even after she's moved to another country and got married. She's probably forgotten it entirely, but it could've had very serious consequences for me.

          In employment you can't sack someone based on a single unsubstantiated accusation. Try that with me and it'll be tribunal then court, and it'll cost you far more than sacking the person making the false accusation.

        3. John G Imrie

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          But what happens when it's the 4th , 5th or 6th person making the complaint?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            "But what happens when it's the 4th , 5th or 6th person making the complaint?"

            And the person they are complaining about is a "rainmaker" for the company, or a C-suite, or the founder?

          2. cornetman Silver badge

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            > But what happens when it's the 4th , 5th or 6th person making the complaint?

            Depends.

            If the original complaint was known of generally, then it tends to attract others, some with a grudge, others just because they want a piece of the attention. Hell, we see it all the time over the Twitterwebs. Someone makes a public allegation and suddenly hundreds of people turn up all singing the same tune. They might all have a valid point, or they might be just airing a grievance ranging from "yeah, that guy was pretty creepy" to "he had the temerity to ask me out, what a loser" to "he touched me the other day and it grossed me out". This is exactly how witch-hunts start.

            Allegations are just allegations. Not worth the paper they probably aren't written on. The thing is though, if the alleged perpetrator really is making an arse of themselves, the more often they do it, the more likely they are going to slip up and they will get caught.

            We have all a duty to stick up for victims, but we also have to realise that people *do* make fake and malicious accusations. Sorting out one from the other is not always very straightforward. The maliciously accused are victims as well.

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Rednecks incoming.....

      "...We have courts for this stuff!

      It's not your job to protect other people from abuse!

      Stop being Woke!

      When you own the libs they always scream "harrassment!"..."

      I've seen some pricks in my time but you're an entire cactus.

      First of all - you are out and out wrong. It is everyone's duty of care to ensure that everyone else is safe at work, from a H&S perspective up to actually being a decent human being (you are clearly lagging behind here).

      I don't know you, but I can almost guarantee you think shouting at people is a perfectly good management technique. It isn't - it's used by the bullying, the weak and weak of personality. You exhibit all those traits in a few simple lines.

      You're also a coward in the literal sense of the word. Proven by your very comment being posted anonymously and by your trolling, keyboard-warrior'esque language. Equally I imagine that you wouldn't dare shout at someone like, say, my son, for example (6'4", elite athlete (rugby player) and ex-British and European BJJ champion) because he'd literally snap you in two. As would, I suspect a good percentage of the readership here.

      Disgust aside explain something - if someone is bullied and then gagged, how and when do the courts actually get involved?

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        > I've seen some pricks in my time but you're an entire cactus.

        Thanks for brightening my day: ---------->

        Funny how people using a phrase like "own[ing] the libs" are always flaming shit weasels.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        "Equally I imagine that you wouldn't dare shout at someone like, say, my son, for example (6'4", elite athlete (rugby player) and ex-British and European BJJ champion) because he'd literally snap you in two. "

        So it's not good for a boss to raise his voice but it's OK for your son to snap someone in two..

        That seems to be an opposing set of ideas, now which is it ?

      3. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        Seriously, you are saying that your son that you are so proud of us an uncontrollable killer? Tony, you managed the almost impossible: Being more disgusting than the anonymous red neck.

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          So it's not good for a boss to raise his voice but it's OK for your son to snap someone in two..

          That seems to be an opposing set of ideas, now which is it ?

          My point was that bullies only bully those weaker than they are. Kind of the very definition of bullying, but you knew exactly what I meant now, didn't you?

          Seriously, you are saying that your son that you are so proud of us an uncontrollable killer? Tony, you managed the almost impossible: Being more disgusting than the anonymous red neck.

          Are you thick? Because... see point one... of course I wasn't saying he's an uncontrollable killer, but per the above, you knew it.

          Both of you should write daily fail headlines because you sure like to miss the point while trying to go for the sensationalism. Well probably not because you both failed. Dismally.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            "but you knew exactly what I meant now, didn't you?"

            Yep. I believe the saying is "might makes right".

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: Rednecks incoming.....

              "...Yep. I believe the saying is "might makes right"...

              No. It was that bullies will only try to bully those they perceive to be weaker.

              Your phrase is more fitting to US foreign policy, I'm afraid.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Rednecks incoming.....

                "It was that bullies will only try to bully those they perceive to be weaker."

                And they don't bully those they perceive to be stronger, because might makes right.

                "Your phrase is more fitting to US foreign policy, I'm afraid."

                We learned from the best. Has the British Museum given back all the national treasures you lot stole from all those furriners you were bullying yet?

                1. TonyJ Silver badge

                  Re: Rednecks incoming.....

                  "...We learned from the best. Has the British Museum given back all the national treasures you lot stole from all those furriners you were bullying yet?...

                  We are just waiting on you to return the lands to the native Americans, or make right Vietnam.

                  Or stop interfering in the Middle East, right now, or have schools where kids can go and expect to survive the day without a mass shooting, or be stopped by the police and expect to survive if we aren't white and male...

                  Then there's the fact that the world was actually pleasantly surprised when a racist murderer with a badge was found guilty, for once, despite his entire crime being recorded... Read that again. The entire thing was caught on film and yet the civilised world was actually taken aback that the perpetrator was found guilty!

                  Your entire society is broken. Right now, in 2021, but sure, lob rocks about ours from 200+ years ago.

                  I don't think we are really in a position (as a country) to bully anyone, anymore, but yes, we did have a habit of it. Back then. Your point?

                  Your whole beef against me has been ad hominem and trying to put me down in your usual bullying and condescending manner - like you tend to do near constantly on here to people, but surprise surprise, I won't be bullied by you... go figure. I find you to be quite deserving of pity.

    4. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Rednecks incoming.....

      In an ideal world, yes this would and frankly should be dealt with in court.

      The problem is that in the real world only a minority can actually afford to go to court. And the minority that can afford to go to court are typically those doing the abuse, not those receiving it.

      This is actually a problem with the court system; it has the best justice that money can buy. If you are a multi millionaire then you can get perfect justice but if your on the minimum wage then your stuffed.

      Various organisations such as unions which should nominally help solve the problem are more interested in building palaces for their C suite or donating their membership subs to political parties so they can play national politics rather than doing anything useful for the membership, so few sane people are willing to join them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        Peter,

        The ideal world is just that, an ideal... It cannot, and will not ever exist due to it's very nature.

        The world we currently live in is actually the best that we are capable of, given the constraints. Evolution has ensured this from the beginning of mankind.

        We will never achieve any better than we deserve.. If we want better , we have to be better but as long as people chose to live as they currently do then nothing will change.. Most people do not want to change, therein lies the problem... Those that do want to change, already have...

        1. Stanislav Bonita
          Thumb Down

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          "The world we currently live in is actually the best that we are capable of, given the constraints."

          It's obvious to most that it actually isn't.

          Because people are almost never being the best they are capable of. They are normally being dicks.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          Hence my point "in an ideal world".

      2. First Light Silver badge

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        In some jobs unions train people. A friend was an architect in NYC and he said union contractors always did a better job than non-union. Cost more, but did better work. I'm in favour of people bring paid well to do a good job.

      3. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        In an ideal world such a thing would never happen let alone get to a court and that is a part of the point, colleagues turning a blind eye to the abuse of fellow workers for fear of their own jobs shows that society at least in many work environments is broken.

        What happened to decent reasonable people standing up for each other?

        Settling anything in a court of law, ought to be a last resort because everything else has failed, the mere fact that litigation is seen as a normal response to almost anything is a sure sign that any sense of social responsibility is fading away.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rednecks incoming.....

          Chris G:

          "In an ideal world such a thing would never happen let alone get to a court and that is a part of the point, colleagues turning a blind eye to the abuse of fellow workers for fear of their own jobs shows that society at least in many work environments is broken."

          This world view does exist and it is far more prevalent than you might think.. I am not sure that you would enjoy it though, its' called "Sharia Law"... Think a little about what you ask for and then ask again if what you currently have is actually as bad as you might first believe.

          Fanaticism is arrived at very quickly, this is why the woke movement has momentum, they just haven't thought about the end result and the dangers of being falsely led.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Rednecks incoming.....

            I find it quite remarkable that you've somehow managed to draw a link between a suggestion that workers should expect better protection from harrassment by colleagues without being contractually silenced, and a decent into Sharia Law.

            1. Citizen of Nowhere

              Re: Rednecks incoming.....

              >I find it quite remarkable that you've somehow managed to draw a link between a suggestion that workers should expect better protection from harrassment by colleagues without being contractually silenced, and a decent into Sharia Law.<

              To be fair, the hyperbolic ranting about wokeness, anarchy and kangaroo courts was something of a give away as to the general direction things were heading ;-)

      4. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Rednecks incoming.....

        "Various organisations such as unions which should nominally help solve the problem are more interested in building palaces for their C suite or donating their membership subs to political parties so they can play national politics rather than doing anything useful for the membership, so few sane people are willing to join them."

        This a million times

        When I was in the Home Office I was encouraged to sign up to the union. A few years later I found that my pay was way below those being recruited 2 grades below. I filed pay disputes that got no where, I contacted the union and they didn't want to know. I later found my pay was far less than others of the same grade in other departments doing my job, evidenced pay disputes & again the unions didn't want to know, complaints all around fell on deaf ears. I cancelled my union subs & they phoned me to badger me into staying with lots of false promises.

        I then left a job I really loved, the no nothing contractor they replaced me with was on over 4 times my salary.

        it wasn't so much the money but the fairness. There was literally nothing I could do to ensure proper balance. Any promotion would send me to the bottom of every pay grade. The cheat was to work in London 2 days a week and claim the London weighting plus expenses but I'd still be below my compatriots doing the same job. Had I just joined I would have got the correct rate. If there was so much resistance to sorting an obvious issue what would I do If there was a more nuanced problem?

  4. analyzer

    Illegal in the UK and EU

    It is illegal to have a section of a contract that circumvents or breaks a law on this side of the pond. This applies to both personal and corporate contracts.

    Where I work there has always been avenues to report bullying and harassment and has been posted up on notice boards and elsewhere for a few years now.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

      Exactly, and I've actually been in offices where this type of policy has been enacted and people who have (sexually) harassed others have been kicked out on their rears.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

        I've seen people thrown out WITHOUT there being an official policy.

        About a billion years ago in Internet time, call it roughly 1985, my Boss and I were in my office in Sunnyvale talking to the company owner on the speaker phone. The guy in charge of Advanced Manufacturing slammed into the office, making all kinds of demands, threatening us with firing and worse of we didn't drop everything to do his bidding. Until the owner's voice came out of the telephone, saying three magic words: "Dave, you're fired." ,,, My Boss was given the newly vacated AdvMan seat the following morning, and I took over his position. The owner cautioned both of us separately "Play fair with everybody, I don't like assholes". Needless to say we took him at his word.

        I've seen similar for sexual harassment, and etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

          It may be apocryphal - but there has been a story about the olden Walmart days when an older guy in a beat up pickup truck pulled into the parking lot and entered the store. He began talking to one of the staff and after about 5 minutes the store manager decided that said employee had wasted enough time and came up, berating the clerk for wasting time and not getting on with his assigned tasks, tearing him a new one right in front of the customer.

          This went on for a few moments, and then the old guy stepped in. "I have two things to say to you", as he glared at the manager. "My name is Sam Walton" (the founder of Walmart for you across the pond that might not be familiar with the world's largest retailer) "and you're fired".

          As Sam had the habit of driving an old truck with his favorite hound dog around to visit locations, this both is possible, and what I wish would happen more frequently.

          I am in manglement (with a heavy side of customer service and employee training), and I get annoyed when I am in another business and I see bad practices. My wife and I we seated right next to the main terminal at a restaurant where meal orders and employee log in's happened, and a manager and an employee were at it, They started talking about a specific employee and some problems, and I turned to them and said that it really wasn't a good idea to discuss personnel issues while a customer is 5 feet away. You never know if that customer is there just to enjoy a meal, or is there and happens also to be in a position where your job is on the line due to your behavior.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

            Such stories often do the rounds. It is nice to think they are true.

            When I was growing up (late 70s, early 80s), there was one about the Earl's Court Boat Show (it was the biggest boat show (indoors) in Europe at the time. On one of the big luxury yacht stands, a guy in a t-shirt and ripped jeans turns up and starts snooping around a high-end yacht (something that would cost millions these days). The sales rep on the stand is a little put out and questions the guy and tries to usher this "uncouth" person from the stand, before he scares off the people in cheap suits that are browsing his yachts.

            The guy turns to the salesman and says, "I'll take one."

            The salesman thinks it is a joke, tries to talk the guy out of it, but takes the AmEx card and phones it through, fully expecting it to be refused. "There is some joker here trying to buy one of our yachts on American Express."

            "Yes, sir, that joker could buy a dozen of your yachts on this card, if he wanted to."

            Ashen faced salesman is suddenly very attentative and offers the gentleman Champagne.

            I've also heard the same basic story in terms of a shabbily dressed rockstar walking into a car dealership, hotel etc.

            1. NXM

              Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

              I live a few miles away from Carlisle.

              There used to be a health food shop run by an elderly gent (a lot older than me, anyway) who was very helpful and courteous, but not snappily dressed.

              He owned a huge chunk of the city centre. Don't judge by appearances! Except if it's me, as I'm shabbyly dressed and a total pleb.

              1. TonyJ Silver badge

                Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

                I had an ex colleague wander into a Porache dealer. Now to be fair he did generally look like a hobo, but was loaded.

                Oh and the dealer was owned by his brother in law.

                The salesman that told him that they didn't have anything in his budget was fired after a quick phone call to resolve the issue.

                I also had the same treatment when I went to loom around some show homes.

                Both these incidents were 20+ years ago and I'd really hope sales drones are trained a bit better these days

              2. Denarius Silver badge

                Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

                Same in Perth WA in late 1960s. A local bag lady who wandered the streets actually owned a fair bit of an upcoming accommodation suburb.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

              A friend of mine and I were down in the engine room of a rather large boat parked in the Municipal Harbor[0] in Redwood City, California. We were doing routine maintenance, changing the oil & filters, checking seacocks and other through holes, shaft logs, bonding wire, and that kind of thing. As usual in such hot, cramped, potentially dirty conditions we were both wearing old jeans and t-shirts and ratty shoes.

              It turned out that we forgot the oil, so the other guy volunteered to run up to my truck to get a couple gallons. He didn't return after fifteen or twenty minutes, so I went ashore to help. My friend was no weakling, but managing 6 gallons of oil by hand is a bit of a pain (even our wimpy US gallons).

              I got to my truck just in time for the cops to show up, the harbo(u)r master had detained the suspicious character who was breaking into my truck, and called the police. Just as I arrived, the cops broke into laughter.

              The boat we were working on was called "The Catch". The bum that the harbo(u)r master had detained was Dwight Clarke, the owner ... who also owned the restaurant "Clarke's By The Bay" located in the same harbo(u)r. Needless to say, the harbo(u)r master tried to bluster his way out of his embarrassment. He was a crap weasel of the first order.

              [0] That's a proper noun, no (u) needed.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

      Same here in the US, despite some grandstanding to the contrary.

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

      I'm not certain it's actually illegal to include an unlawful clause in a contract, but it certainly will not be binding. No agreement between parties that contravenes the law will be upheld in the Courts, for obvious reasons. There was a famous case in the 18th century where two highwaymen went to court about the distribution of their jointly ill-gotten gains. Even then, the judge dismissed the case, saying that the Courts were not there to adjudicate on the proceeds of crime.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

      The UK was in the EU on the 9th of February 2019 when the BBC published

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47179344

      about the actions of Sir Philip Green. The Daily Telegraph published a story claiming that 5 former employees of Green had been victims of bullying, sexual harrassment and racial harrassment (see story for the details). They had then received compensation, but had to sign gagging orders (non-disclosure agreements) as a condition of receiving the money. Green had also successfully obtained an injuction preventing the Telegraph from reporting the story - it was published only after the paper had got the injunction overturned. How much it cost the Telegraph to fight the case wasn't made public.

      NDAs are part of civil law in the UK. Fighting them is impossible for most people, particularly if the other party is a large company or multimillionaire. They have been used by the NHS, councils, universities, housebuilders and many other businesses to silence victims of many kinds.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Illegal in the UK and EU

        "...NDAs are part of civil law in the UK. Fighting them is impossible for most people, particularly if the other party is a large company or multimillionaire. They have been used by the NHS, councils, universities, housebuilders and many other businesses to silence victims of many kinds..."

        In fact, as reported here in El Reg just the other week - the guy who won £1.7m who was offered £60k to shut up and go away - providing he signed a gagging clause - sorry, NDA.

        He told them to shove it and won in court.

        But at the time, I did wonder how often they or other gambling sites may have used a similar tactic, as ultimately, we'd never find out. Are there dozens of potential millionaires out there that simply took a small (but still significantly large, to them) sum of money, thereby saving the firms huge sums overall?

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

    I've never signed an employment contract that had a clause that would prevent me from filing a complaint in court.

    Obviously, an employee is expected to keep company secrets, but that only pertains to how the company functions and what it does with its data. It has nothing to do with how people are treated.

    If you're treated badly, you have the right to complain to all and sundry, and if it's sexual harassment, take that bastard to court. The company should not be a shield for workplace harassment of any kind.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

      "I've never signed an employment contract that had a clause that would prevent me from filing a complaint in court."

      Never mind signed, I've never even seen one.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        I did have to sign the (UK) Official Secrets Act a few times over the years. I suspect that it could be bent to suit, if the person being complained about had sufficient clout...

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

          If the OSA could be bent to suit, it would apply everywhere: it's a law, not a contract. Signing it just means "I have been made specifically aware of this law"

      2. haiku

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        Ditto

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

      I think my contract (which I've not re-read for a while) has something non-specific about not engaging in behaviour that would be detrimental to my employer's reputation.

      In the past I've taken that to meaning that if I wrote to the tabloids to say how much I hate my boss, it would be grounds for action against me, but I'd assume that the action would be limited to losing my job rather than anything as vindictive as some of the comments imply.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

      Yes. Part of a redundancy package contract. Given the redundancy process was somewhat fractious, it appears the employer in question learned from their first mistakes (they'd done a round of redundancies before) and included a clause that made it clear they would sue to get back the money they paid out as part of redundancy if they got slagged off for said redundancy.

      Lawyers looked it over and said "Take the money and run. They're not worth fighting". We did.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        I had that too... it's been tempting since then, if anyone were to ask me about the management of that company. to say "I signed a non-disparagement clause when they made me redundant, and therefore have nothing to say about them."

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        That's not an employment contract, that's a redundancy package contract.

      3. jtaylor Bronze badge

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        Yes. Part of a redundancy package contract....Lawyers looked it over and said "Take the money and run. They're not worth fighting". We did.

        Don't blame you at all. I gave notice at one company, and was offered a compensation package to stay longer. It came with a non-disparagement clause. That was a very nice carrot but, if I hadn't parted on such good terms, the stick was awfully big.

    4. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

      In the UK I think they (and NDAs) are common in "redundancy settlements". In other words, where the employer wants staff to leave without fuss and offers to pay them more than the legally required amount of compensation. Sometimes it is for a particular individual (often senior, or well known in their market). Sometimes it is tied to other voluntary agreements such as agreeing not to work for a competitor for a while.

      I have never seen one in an employment contract, though.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        NDAs are a whole 'nuther kettle o'worms.

    5. First Light Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

      Yes but if it's someone who brings in alot of bucks, like an obnoxious surgeon or a lawyer bringing in multiple millions to the firm, or a Scott Rudin, who voluntarily stepped back, not because companies refused to work with him, then it's nit so easy.

      Added to that, abusers especially sexual harassers often pick their victims carefully.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone ever seen a non-disparagement clause in their contract ?

        "Added to that, abusers especially sexual harassers often pick their victims carefully."

        Very true, but again that is a whole 'nuther kettle o'worms.

  6. jake Silver badge

    "non-disparagement clauses in many employment contracts"?

    Really? Where? What country? How many is "many"? Can we please see examples? Surely you have multiple examples, given the serious nature of what you are charging the industry with.

    Personally, I have never seen such a contract. If I did, I'd flat refuse to sign it -or- I'd line through that clause and date & initial the modification (which I have done for other things in the past; never stopped me from working),

    Nor have I ever heard any of my friends (male or female) talk about such a thing. Are you trying to tell me that my friends have ALL been silenced? That would be quite the trick, given the nature of my friends ...

    By way of reference, I work out of Silicon Valley, and have done for about half a century.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: "non-disparagement clauses in many employment contracts"?

      I do not believe that I have ever agreed with Jake on many subjects, but I will stand with him on this one.

      Will the author kindly explain just how much is "many" ?

      I have worked in 5 different countries; I have signed contracts in 3 different languages, and I have worked for many differing kinds of companies and never have I seen such a clause. I am not saying that they don’t exist, just that I have never seen such a clause nor every heard anyone speak about such a thing.....

      Why would someone agree to sign for such a company in the first place as it is obvious where you stand in case the shit hits the fan... You read the contract, you do not like it, you either renegotiate or you do not sign. Neither party has any obligation to the other before that signature.

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: "non-disparagement clauses in many employment contracts"?

      I'd say that if you tell the truth (and not just literally the truth but in a way that nobody will draw wrong conclusions from what you say), then _you_ are not disparaging anyone. Sure, it's possible that a company might disparage itself by its actions, but that's not your fault.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: "non-disparagement clauses in many employment contracts"?

      Well, the thing with legalese is that you can take bricks and wrap them up pretty and make them look like foam blocks, or vice versa, if you catch my drift. The interpretation is open to the person reading or enforcing the contract.

      I've taken to reading my contracts with a fine tooth comb, and have made my own arrangements for ensuring my own rights, where necessary. Non-disparagement clauses are thankfully *very* rare in Europe, although I'm sure those employers celebrating the B-word-that-I-won't-use would be delighted in watching employment laws rolled back to the eighteenth century to match the wild wild West that's the US employment landscape, where anything is possible and anything that can be gotten away with, is.

      That said, the times I've been employed by US-based employers directly, I've had good, decent contracts, mostly because the management was fully aware about what was decent, what wasn't, and what should *never* *ever* be in contracts.

      And maybe, just maybe, because I consider myself to be a reasonably decent human being, I've never had to fend off accusations of being an asshole.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I've never had to fend off accusations of being an asshole.

        <grits teeth> .. I ... must ... not .. make ... unnecessary ... accusations... for comic ...effect ....

        ,

        :-)

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: "non-disparagement clauses in many employment contracts"?

        First you state that "employment laws rolled back to the eighteenth century to match the wild wild West that's the US employment landscape" ... and yet you go on to say that you have actually been employed by US employers who all had "good, decent contracts"?

        Do you not see a problem with that dichotomy? Perhaps sharing your actual experience as opposed to what you may have been told would hold a trifle more credence.

  7. Maximus Delfango
    Unhappy

    Harassers and bullies succeed *everywhere* because silence is encouraged

    ^ How the world works, sadly.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You think it's bad in tech...

    Try being female and working in the film industry. I don't mean acting, but anywhere in the industry, you will be ignored, shouted at and generally treated like a second class citizen, despite 20 years of experience, and being able to do the job better than most of the people you work with.

    And that's before all the sexual harassment and all the studios completely ignoring health and safety law, because anyone who complains will never work in the industry again, and there are hundreds of people willing to put up with everything just to see their name on a list 10 minutes into the credits.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: You think it's bad in tech...

      " there are hundreds of people willing to put up with everything just to see their name on a list "

      Having been exposed to the periphery of this shit, this is one of the reasons I have as little to do with the "entertainment" industry as possible. Many of those involved spin it out into everyone around them (even in amateur dramatics)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You think it's bad in tech...

      And yet aren't the film industry and it's ilk some of the most prolific wokesters, now that's ironic...

      1. First Light Silver badge

        Re: You think it's bad in tech...

        Nah the film industry is full of right wingers like the movie producer that let lil scaredy cat Wayne LaPierre hide out from scary liberals on his yacht.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: You think it's bad in tech...

      "Try being female and working in the film industry."

      I'm not female, but I've worked in the film industry. The odd thing is that many people there are gay or "swing from both sides of the plate". The harassment takes on a whole new flavor. I was very tempted to have a shirt made that said "I like girls that like guys one at a time" just to discourage the random clumsy approaches. These days I might have to also print a scientific definition of "female" to clear the air as well.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tales from the Crypt

    I have had the misfortune to work for a couple of organizations where senior management changes resulted in a culture change which made the organisation toxic.

    In one case I was a contractor and simply delivered my project and moved on.

    In a permanent role a senior manager took a personal dislike to me and made my life hell, in the end threatening to push me down a 'capability assessment' route to dismissal, or I could just resign. I was not in a personal position to move jobs at the time I needed the 'security' that a permanent role gave me to look after a seriously ill wife. The Manager involved had already tried this successfully with half a dozen people who's faces didn't fit the new culture.

    When threatened I was lucky enough to be able to respond that he could try that approach but I would fight it every step of the way and did he realise my daughter was a Lawyer specialising in employment law. Amazingly my job performance must have improved remarkably as this was never mentioned again during my employment there, it still was an uncomfortable place but at least the personal bullying stopped once my wife's health improved I did leave and returned to contracting. These things do happen in every organisation often the people going through it feel ashamed and isolated, wondering why me. very few people can afford to walk out and start an unfair dismissal case and would be worried about doing so in case this affected future employment prospects. I've also worked in a management team where the only female member earned £5000 for no apparent reason, whilst hers was a non-technical role she was responsible for a large team of administrators and managed the budget, training programme etc for the entire department. After a restructure when she started leading a technical team (very well by the way) the £5000 discrepancy remained.

    Whenever this subject comes up thees always a huge number of well Iv'e never seen it posts. What this usually means is 'it's never happened to me'.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Tales from the Crypt

      "Earned £5000 for no apparent reason"

      £5000 LESS, surely? And yes, I've never understood why capable people earn less just because they are of another gender.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: Tales from the Crypt

        Well, usually it's nothing to do with their gender.

        For instance I started one job at the same time as a younger lady with less experience. She was earning more than me, because she was able to negotiate a higher salary for, well, reasons.

        Was it her gender? No, she joined from a high paying 'big five' consultancy, I joined from being made redundant by my previous company.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tales from the Crypt

          I joined one company just after 9/11 and had to mentor one guy quite extensively, and about half the department to some extent (including 2 that were later promoted to be my boss.).

          When he left, the guy I mentored extensively said that he couldn't stand the travelling any more and was going back to his old job for less money - £45K. When pushed he said that he was on £47K. I, as his mentor was on £42K!

          When I pressed my boss, it turned out that he thought that I would be fairly desperate, being unemployed at 9/11 and that he could offer me less. HR did agree that I was paid the least in the whole department, including all the people I was mentoring! The "we have no money for pay rises" in the previous 3 years was also rubbish, but at least I received what he claimed was the "average" pay rise for the next few years.

          It was an excellent company apart from that one guy, and I was very glad when I moved sideways into another department and onto more normal pay rates.

          Anonymous, due to gagging order and restriction on choice of new employer clauses, because it was a US company, and I can't be bothered to fight in court!

          Some bosses are just shits!

    2. Fogcat

      Re: Tales from the Crypt

      This will no doubt attract a number of down votes, but ... these sorts of things are an example of where the backing of a union can be very helpful, they have their own legal resources, unfortunately lots of experience in similar cases and more time and money than an individual can dedicate to fighting back. They're a bit like insurance, you hope you never need them, but they're damn helpful when you do.

  10. grizewald

    People really need to stand up for themselves

    I encountered a psychopathic IT development manager at a previous job. Out of the blue, he came barging in to my office shouting at me at the top of his voice and was obviously extremely angry. Very intimidating.

    My sin? I had forwarded the project plan I was working on to the rest of the team for their comments so that I could get agreement from them before presenting the plan to him. An action which was mandated by our internal standards. For some reason this sent him into an incandescent rage.

    Once he had left and I had managed to calm my shaking hands, I went straight to the managing director's office, described to him what had happened and stated plainly that I wasn't prepared to tolerate such an attack again and that I would leave if they didn't do something about it. The manager left the office within the hour, fired on the spot.

    The point of the tale being that if you don't do something about abusive colleagues right there and then, you are tacitly accepting their behaviour and allowing it to continue.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: People really need to stand up for themselves

      Cool story bro!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People really need to stand up for themselves

      I had a similar experience with a foul mouthed and angry project manager. Turns out I was the unwitting scapegoat for the "technical architect" on our project, who had messed up big time and was trying to deflect the blame onto me.

      Very different result though. The project manager and architect stayed, as they had been with the company long enough to get employment rights and I was new. I was "managed out" of the company, but I enjoyed making it as long and drawn out as possible while my very public predicament poisoned the relationship between developers and management.

    3. First Light Silver badge

      Re: People really need to stand up for themselves

      Some abusers are clever about selecting targets who are too damaged by life experiences to be able to speak up.

    4. onemark03 Bronze badge

      psychopathic IT development manager

      Well, bloody good on you!

      The trouble is that not everybody has the personal psychological resources to stand up for themselves.

      Also, you were lucky the boss believed you over him. Or weren't you?

      And you were lucky the company didn't want to lose you. Others don't have that kind of luck.

      1. grizewald

        Re: psychopathic IT development manager

        Yes, the company probably needed me more than they needed him, but that's not the point.

        Everyone is entitled to assert their right not to be mistreated at their job. Yes, it takes an ounce of courage and yes, sometimes the person mistreating you happens to be his manager's best buddy. In that case, you make sure you have all the notes, witnesses and arguments needed to go over their heads. You enlist all the help there is in the form of colleagues and union resources and you fight, if needs be. Or, if you can't weather the fight, you get the hell out of there and do your best to warn others.

        What you can't do is accept or put up with it. What's wrong is wrong and the less people speak up, the more the abusers perceive that they can do whatever they want.

        Do I have to quote Niemöller?

        First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

        Because I was not a socialist.

        Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

        Because I was not a trade unionist.

        Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

        Because I was not a Jew.

        Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

        1. jtaylor Bronze badge

          Re: psychopathic IT development manager

          Everyone is entitled to assert their right not to be mistreated at their job. Yes, it takes an ounce of courage...What you can't do is accept or put up with it.

          You speak as someone with power. I mean, someone who is used to having social capital, economic choices, credibility with Authority. What you say is not wrong, but it assumes a set of experiences that not everyone has.

          Yes, the company probably needed me more than they needed him, but that's not the point.

          I disagree. I think that is the point, albeit in a more general sense than just that particular company, that particular job.

    5. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: People really need to stand up for themselves

      The point of the tale being that if you don't do something about abusive colleagues right there and then, you are tacitly accepting their behaviour and allowing it to continue.

      And, if your manager had said, "I'll handle it. Get back to work." and nothing you could discern had changed, would you have quit if you heard another outburst, perhaps at another colleague? Or if the behavior had started out as merely being annoying or boorish, but subtly escalated over time to uncomfortable levels? "You didn't complain before, why all of a sudden?'

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT people aren't often people people

    I work in a place with all the right anti-bullying and harassment policies are in place. They just aren't enforced.

    I had an employee regularly make serious false accusations aginst me informally to other managers, I was told flat out by HR that since I was the manager I was just expected to accept it, "a manager cannot be harassed or bullied", yet if i tried to work this person out the door for their misconduct I would be subject the the full might of the policies.

    This was only resolved when I stated to managment that if nothing was done I'd resign. I was offered a demotion to move the person away. They are still in post and still making accusations against collegues and their current manager.

    I am also aware of IT staff who have claimed and evidence bullying (from female managers) that the senior management simply refuse to address it and brush it away. In effect unless you are physically assaulted at work in front of witnesses, or overtly racist sexists slurs are made in front of witnesses then the basic response it to do nothing. And doing nothing is widely supported by HR.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: IT people aren't often people people

      And that is a big problem. HR is meant to handle this, but it seems they are more concerned about saving their own skins in this...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT people aren't often people people

        In most companies I have worked for that is not the job of HR. HR are there to protect the company from employees, and specifically to prevent the company from being sued by employees for breaching employment legislation. For example, discrimination is fine as long as it is not based on any protected characteristics. Diversity only has to be based on protected characteristics too, getting a tattooed biker into the HR team isn't seen as adding diversity in the same way as getting someone with a protected characteristic in.

      2. onemark03 Bronze badge

        HR is meant to handle this

        Not quite.

        HR's purpose is to keep the company out of court.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: IT people aren't often people people

      "In effect unless you are physically assaulted at work in front of witnesses, or overtly racist sexists slurs are made in front of witnesses then the basic response it to do nothing."

      One of the problems, ironically, is law that defines a specific and exclusive list of harassments. If it's not demonstrably on the list, it's hard to get HR to accept it's harassment, because like everyone else with "processes" they go by the letter of the law.. However experienced harassers get wise to ways of circumventing the specifics on the list. And most harassers become experienced, as it derives from a combination of character flaws and power.

    3. grizewald

      Re: IT people aren't often people people

      In which case you should tell them of your intention to quit and file an action against them for constructive dismissal. Keeping documentation of your grievances, how you have alerted HR and senior management to them and their responses is crucial.

      If those in HR and upper management refuse to take responsibility, dragging the entire problem out into the light at an employment tribunal may well make them think again about their negligence.

      If you are a union member, enlisting their help is normally very useful.

      Either way, you should already be looking for a new job and unless you have signed away your rights in your employment contract, you should make why you left as public as possible. This kind of culture only gets changed if people are prepared to do something about it.

  12. Trenjeska
    Meh

    Silence is not encouraged,

    but it is mandated within their contracts.

    1. grizewald

      Re: Silence is not encouraged,

      Signing a contract with clauses which disadvantage you is foolish and if you do, you have only yourself to blame.

      Case in point: my current employer sent me a new contract to sign which contained a new, no-compete clause. Given that I work in a very specialised branch of IT, the no-compete clause would effectively make me unemployable for the two years that the clause covered.

      I refused to sign the new contract unless they also added a golden parachute clause which gave me full pay for the duration of the no-compete clause. This is standard practise in the country where I live - a restrictive clause has to be matched with a complementary clause which prevents the restrictive clause from imposing an unreasonable burden.

      They gave up once they realised I wouldn't let them treat me like an idiot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They gave up ...

        For most people, there are two ways the potenital employer might "give up". Firstly, they might give up, adjust the contract, and hire you after all. Secondly, and most likely - given that few are quite so indispensable as your good self - they might give up, and decide to hire somebody else.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Silence is not encouraged,

        " my current employer sent me a new contract to sign which contained a new, no-compete clause."

        It's a good thing to know how those sorts of clauses are treated where you are employed. In the US, it varies greatly from state to state. Some states don't recognize those clauses for employees, others will side with the company every time. The only time it's upheld universally is if you are an owner and the entity you sell the company to has that in the purchase contract.

        I've had non-compete clauses tried on me as a free-lancer as silly as that sounds and they wouldn't budge when I lined it out. That ends all discussion as far as I'm concerned. If a company won't negotiate a poor contract, I walk. I understand that they paid some useless ambulance chaser a big pile of money to draft the contract and aren't going to pay them another stack of bank notes to amend it. This is what happens when they have a generic attorney rather than one that understands the norms of the industry they are writing the contract for. Technically, a nephrologist should be able to perform an appendectomy, but you would only want to do that in a huge emergency and if they weren't really long out of medical training.

  13. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Ostriches

    'See no evil', 'Hear no evil' will eventually explode in a company's face and do much more damage to the company. The 'Do not disparage' clauses are misguided, idiotic attempts to protect the company when the company should be more proactive about bad behavior of their employees. I am not concerned about the occasional bad hair day we all have but that genuine slimes are protected by the self-inflicted Omerta. When the slimes are found out they are often in relatively high level positions which makes the situation much worse.

  14. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    I've been around long enough

    To see two entirely independent waves of this. There was a spasm of complaints in 1990. They started with the complaint against Senator Packwood. They miraculously ended when Senator Kennedy's name came up. Originally, the claim was, "a woman would never lie about such things". Then, "we must assume innocence."

    The entire exercise was blatantly about who's ox was being gored.

    Of course, this wave started with one aging starlet taking on perhaps the most notorious Hollywood abuser (see the original "A Star is Born" to get an idea of how long this has been going on), which immediately turned into an anti-Trump crusade. We also got another spectacular attempt to destroy a Supreme Court justice by false claims.

    Wise pastors have known for decades never to have a closed door when counseling a woman. The Reverend Billy Graham was not the only one to have what amounted to a reputation body guard that _always_ went first into hotel rooms for him. I know two state legislators in the 90's who were not so careful and who lost their jobs this way.

    And people complain that a certain US senator today won't meet with a woman over a meal by himself.

    I feel ridiculous for having to say this, but I am NOT suggesting that even a majority of complaints are unfounded. I am saying that tribalism regularly eclipses everything else in these situations. Also, that anyone suggesting that we do away with due process in the workplace is bringing in lions to drive out dogs.

    This is already long, but let's talk about solutions.

    Singling out particular types of unacceptable behavior as if they are somehow more problematic is beneath us as IT professionals. It's not sexual harassment, or racism or some other narrow thing--it's abuse. The solution is a culture that does not tolerate it. But at the individual level, it is not so simple. I've been out of work for almost eighteen months. Do I refuse to even talk to Uber? High-minded behavior is a luxury of the fed. My longest period of employment was at a company which had a horrible culture--because for years my wife's health needs prevented me from pursing a move.

    As for sexual harassment, it's bizarre to watch the blatant sexism in people's approach. It is not even a little bit credible to claim, for instance, that men and women should be paid the same while a woman's complaint of sexual harassment against a man is to be accepted without challenge. The problem is that we are attempting to deny a billion-year-old fact: men and women are deeply different creatures. Until our approach to the matter uniformly acknowledges that fact, we are like the cartoon of someone fighting a fire while a stick in their back pocket is dropping sparks.

    1. First Light Silver badge

      Re: I've been around long enough

      Equal pay for equal work is a problem for you?

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells
        Paris Hilton

        Re: I've been around long enough

        That isn't what he said. Why are you pretending that it is?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: I've been around long enough

          This is ElReg. Commentards reading for content before getting bent out of shape and pounding out a hissy-fit reply is optional.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've been around long enough

      I'm not going to condone most of what you have said.

      However, in the UK, the Police Force had an issue with a certain sector of society, where upon imminent arrest, the female shoplifters (almost exclusively) would put at least one hand inside their underwear and then try to touch as much of the Police Officers (male or female) as possible.

      Then on entering the Custody Suite they accuse the Officers of sexual abuse, at which point the Police Doctor will come and swap the Officer and find female bodily fluids on them.

      The rest I will leave to your imagination, as I have only first hand experience relayed from one Desk Sargent and other forces may deal with it differently.

      Body Cams have saved many Officers since their introduction!

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: I've been around long enough

        My post was saying that 1) due process is not optional and 2) equality of treatment has to be total if it is going to be true.

  15. First Light Silver badge

    Reverse psychology

    A friend of a friend had a handsy boss in the late 90's NYC. He would put his hand on her shoulder, her back, etc. The old feeling the bra strap routine.

    One day she went to work wearing a black bra and a see-through white shirt. She had large breasts and the boss spent the whole day avoiding eye contact. He never touched her again. It adds another angle that she was Black and he was White. It was a very smart move on her part.

  16. Stanislav Bonita

    Not only tech

    Many years ago there was a certain HR manager working for Boots The Chemists Ltd.

    Since I was an HR officer, she was my boss.

    After 5 years of being bullied by her with nothing being done about it by directors who were well aware of it, I left, and gradually, so did others in the team.

    The last I heard was that she'd been moved to a project based role with no people management, but that was about 5 years too late.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Not only tech

      "After 5 years of being bullied by her with nothing being done about it by directors"

      That's far too long. At most, it shouldn't take more than a month for corrective action to be taken. If it isn't, you should walk keeping in mind that a manager might be tasked more to the interest of the company than the employee, so feeling hard done by might be a problem on your side if that's the case. If it is a case of a P-poor manager, they should be moved out as quickly as possible. Turnover is a huge problem for a company. Even a stock person at a retail store gains value as they learn where everything is should a customer ask, moved items need to be put back and new stock needs shelving. It's not hard to train a new person to be so-so rather quickly, but it's still a big loss in efficiency if they have to roam aisle after aisle to find where to put something back.

  17. Toby Poynder

    What is the difference between someone speaking *the* truth and someone speaking *their* truth?

  18. Nerdy-Nerd

    Until both parties can expect a fair trial ...

    ... nobody is going to have the desired attitude towards these types of complaints.

    I get that it is not fun to be accused of theft either, but being accused of anything like sexual harrassment or worse will totally destroy your life and career, no useful defense possible. Does anybody really expect people to just accept that, and not fight tooth and nail to prevent the complaint from ever surfacing?

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

      Re: Until both parties can expect a fair trial ...

      A friend of mine is currently being accused of sexual harassment.

      Fortunately for him the story keeps changing ( including who actually said what he is currently alleged of saying ).

      If his former boss could keep her story straight, this would be a huge problem for him. As it is, he'll probably get a decent (but not high enough) payout from it,

  19. tip pc Silver badge

    Institutional

    This article explains how things are institutional and why organisations are incentivised to keep things quiet.

    Change must happen, but change involves more than just words as we all know the public corporate policies are at odds with there obvious actions.

    Every time there is an article on here about amending language used there is huge uproar as to why that shouldn’t happen, ignoring the fact that the language is actually fostering institutional bias and keeping people down and out.

    You can’t stop changing. it likely never ends, constant change fosters innovation

  20. Sometimes an Engineer

    People leave for bad reasons.

    Unfortunately its something I've seen before, and all my colleagues have seen the same in multiple companies. The most common type of harassment seen is bullying or just generally very unpleasant behaviour from people senior enough that the company won't take action. It's very rarely overt (eg overly aggressive behaviour or shouting), more things like not listening to people's concerns, misinformation (or even gaslighting), ignoring expert contributions, favouritism, "forgetting" to supply information etc. Small things that are really damaging if they build up too much over time.

    I work in hi-tech fields (not "tech", but physical technology) and work with very highly skilled people, so if things get bad enough people just walk. It's not worth the fight, and our skills are in demand. However, its not a good reason for leaving and puts people in bad situations. If you're leaving because you've found a better job, great. However, if you're leaving because you just can't take the company culture anymore you're in a much worse situation. I've seen many people leave without a job to go to, which is risky even for highly skilled people. There is no guarantee that you will be able to find an equivalent job straight away, and people often get lower quality or inappropriate jobs because they need to pay rent/mortgage/whatever and they cannot wait for the "right" job.

    And there's not much you can do really. The courts? Well generally people need something more immediate, and cannot wait months/years for a solution (as well as all the time, stress and money needed for the courts). Dealing with it internally? If that was working we wouldn't be posting here. Post a negative review on glassdoor? It may give a bit of catharsis, but its not an solution to the problem.

  21. TechHeadToo

    And the net of all the chatter...

    I've read the comments, and the tirades, and the frothed up righteousness below.

    The net of it all it seems to me is that harassment is a Bad Thing.

    'We' don't know if someone os being harassed or bullied unless there is evidence beyond the words of the parties.

    It's a good way to tarnish someone by inventing a story. Blackmail even. Or preferences 'unless you give me a pay raise I shall claim.... '

    So the law needs to prevent NDA's and only accept affidavits from more than 1 person regarding another person's behaviour.

    And the idea that society could come up with a better way is perfectly valid. If we make the media responsible for what they punish, then of course society can change. We have stopped slavery. We have mostly stopped the idea of invading the next village and stealing goods and cattle and people.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: And the net of all the chatter...

      There is nothing inherently wrong with an NDA. I've signed many of them, mostly having to do with not commenting on proprietary technology, procedures, processes, formulae and the like, and always with a set start and end date.

      A few have tried to include a "no working for the competition for X time" clause, but I routinely refuse to allow that (I'm a contractor, ALL of my work is in this field!). I just line out that clause in what is obviously just boilerplate with an initial and date. This has never stopped me from getting a contract.

      Not a single "sign here before starting work" NDA that I have ever seen included anything to do with matters of personnel.

      Occasionally, an HR department tries to hit me with that kind of thing during an exit interview on the conclusion of a given contract, but I just laugh at them. My contract is complete at that point, I'm not signing another one. This has never stopped me from working for that company again.

  22. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells
    Coffee/keyboard

    Did anybody else stop reading at "That’s not a good look"?

  23. MachDiamond Silver badge

    A contract you are handed may be a huge warning

    I suspect that if a company is fairly large and has these sorts of clauses, they may have had to deal with these issues and Legal would prefer to have an easy out rather than having to do anything that might lead to a confrontation. Smaller companies may have just copied somebody else's employment contract or bought some boiler plate since doing it in house can cost a lot of money. The more specific and lengthy, the more the issues may be a problem at the company.

    If an employment contract delves deep into differing forms of harassment, requires Woke vocabulary and insists on arbitration and mediation, maybe you want to look elsewhere. If you wind up getting caught up with a bad employee/manager, make sure that you not only work through HR, but make a contact in senior management that you copy in. Most of them will be very interested in seeing statements such as "fostering a hostile work environment". When you make a formal complaint, write it up on paper, discuss it with the appropriate person and get a signed copy back as a receipt that the issue has been brought up and discussed. Be as neutral and polite as possible clearly delineating facts and opinions/feelings. Some think this is backing the company into a corner and it is if they don't plan to do anything about it. Otherwise, it's the same thing they might do to you if you are brought in to conference for a rule violation or work deficiency. They'll often have you sign a form describing the meeting and the meeting will be conducted to that script.

    The last full time position I left was due mainly to "lack of adult supervision" amongst other things. You must value your health, safety and professional reputation enought to walk from a job at any time. This means having savings or "FU money". Forget the iPhone with unlimited service, sat TV, a new car, eating out all of the time and new Xboxes for each child every time a new rev comes out. If you box yourself in, they have you by the short and curlies.

  24. John Savard Silver badge

    A Simple Solution

    I should think the solution is simple. Make sexual harassment a criminal offence. As if it isn't one already. Anything that makes it harder for the police to investigate criminal acts and bring their perpetrators to justice... is, then, obstruction of justice, which is also a criminal offence. Prosecute it aggressively. It should not take long for drastic changes in corporate behavior to result.

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