After seeing your campaign against the abuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements, I felt compelled to put pen to paper and say #MeToo.
The truth is my life is completely upside down right now and I’m finding it hard to see a way forward. Money, although it doesn’t buy happiness, makes life miserable if you’re struggling to make ends meet, which currently I am.
I have worked my whole life, most recently for a prestigious financial company in London.
I spent over a decade giving my all and now I ask myself, what for?
The first 6 years was a great experience, I was happy in my role, loved the team I worked with, felt valued, involved, confident, I had a great relationship with colleagues, then there was a change of management.
It’s not easy to discuss being bullied as an adult, because it feels like there will be an assumption that you’re weak of character or too sensitive, or worse over sensitive. I can tell you now, this is not the case.
Ignore it, rise above it, bury yourself in work, stand your ground, stand up for yourself, just get on with it, I did all that, except slowly over time chip by chip, the damage was done.
Report it? who to when management is involved? Individual instances can seem small, petty, it would be their word against mine and they hold the senior position.
Despite great appraisals, yearly bonuses, meeting or exceeding all expectations I was belittled, laughed at, excluded, parts of my role were given away. I was made to feel small, insignificant, an annoyance. I was teased, chastised, talked down to, it was hell to be honest.
Why not leave? I wanted to but by now I was terrified of going somewhere else and experiencing the same or worse. I had lost all belief in myself, in my abilities, I felt broken. I dreaded, every single day.
I decided the only option was to go in, put my head down and get on with it and try and ignore them, so that’s what I did, until it started to affect me physically. After several tests, I was diagnosed with stress and signed off work.
I stood my ground when contacted by the company, I made it clear this was stress from bullying, not stress from my workload.
After a few months I was offered a settlement agreement. It was presented as though it was the best option all round. It was awful, I didn’t want to lose my job, but I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Stay and experience more of the same to the detriment of my emotional and physical health – or leave with enough money to pay the bills for a while and find something else.
I had no support through this process, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise the impact it would have on me further down the line signing away my rights to discuss the abuse I had experienced.
I felt like I had no option but to leave, I just wanted to put this horrendous chapter of my life behind me, so I signed the NDA.
I updated my CV and began searching for new roles. Unfortunately, just reading job descriptions would leave me in total panic and floods of tears. A number of months later my money was running out and I was still unemployed. As much as I hated the idea, I knew I had to get some financial help, but this meant going to the job centre. There should be no shame in being unemployed, but we all know once you walk through those doors you are put in a box. Regardless if you have worked your whole life, there’s a judgement, an assumption about you and you’re suddenly treated like a second-class citizen.
The thought was unbearable to me, even more so because legally I am not allowed to explain to them why I am so traumatised.
I was crying all the time, I wasn’t sleeping, I just felt completely desperate, there was nowhere to turn. I felt in such a state and legally I couldn’t talk about it to anyone.
It was at this point I started having suicidal thoughts.
After hearing others had reported bullying and several of the management team had been sacked, I contacted the company. I told them I was still traumatised by the bullying I had experienced and explained my current situation.
I said I was reaching out to explain how it was affecting me not being able to discuss what I have been through. I told them I’d been having suicidal thoughts and said I needed to be able to speak to friends, a counsellor, my GP and also try and get some financial help.
My reply was in the form of a solicitors letter which stated that if I spoke to anyone I would be in breach of my NDA and they would come after me with full force, for monies I no longer had.
I am writing to you now because something has to be done, action has to be taken and I feel it is only right I add my voice to this appeal for justice.
How is it acceptable that I and others like me, hard-working law-abiding citizens can be treated like this?
I am absolutely terrified for my future, I had a job that paid well above the average UK salary, a job I would still be at had I not been bullied out of it. I used to be a bubbly person with a real zest for life, an adventurer, someone who loved to travel, someone who was the first to laugh at themselves.
I am now currently 2 years unemployed, in financial difficulty, terrified of people in authority, because in my experience no matter how much you stand up to these people you are still powerless.
I have lost all zest for life, I am anxious, I am depressed, I feel hopeless. I have lost thousands in income from a job I no longer have. I feel I am still being bullied and threatened because of the non-disclosure agreement that is around my neck.
I am sending this anonymously, not because I am too scared to stand up for myself but because I’m scared of the financial repercussions.