Wednesday, 25 November 2009

News of the World fined £792,736 for bullying. Where was HR?

It seems that the world is waking up to the problem of workplace bullying!

And this case will inevitably receive a good deal of media attention especially as the perpetrator of the bullying (in his former role as an editor with the News of the World) is now David Cameron's head of communications.

Matt Driscoll, a sports reporter sacked in April 2007 while on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression, was awarded £792,736 by the east London employment tribunal. It is believed to be the highest payout of its kind in the media, and legal costs could take News International's total bill well over the £1m mark.

Driscoll commented:

Andy Coulson was at the heart of all of this. He should look at himself and decide if his actions in the course of the way I was treated were correct. If I were him, I would find it very hard to look in the mirror. I was subjected to unprecedented bullying and he did nothing to stop it, if anything he accelerated it. I didn't do anything wrong. I was in the top 30 sports writers in the country. I then came up against the venom of Andy Coulson.

The tribunal found in December 2008 that Driscoll had fallen victim to "a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour". "The original source of the hostility towards Driscoll was Mr Coulson, the editor; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson's departure; or shared his views themselves. Mr Coulson did not attend the tribunal to explain why he wanted the claimant dismissed.

The News of the World defended the case by claiming that the main reason for Driscoll's dismissal was his capability or qualifications for performing his work.

Driscoll, who joined the paper in 1997 and was promoted twice, was initially highly regarded, according to the tribunal ruling. That changed in August 2005 when Coulson turned against him for failing to follow up a rumour that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts, a story that later appeared in sister paper, the Sun.

According to the tribunal, the bullying continued after Driscoll went on sick leave. Senior management at the paper sent Driscoll a barrage of emails, phone calls and visited his home to demand that he see a company doctor, despite Driscoll's GP advising him to "distance" himself from the source of his stress.

Guardian: News of the World faces £800,000 payout in bullying case

  • Provocative question for HR Professionals: shouldn’t a half-decent HR Director have prevented this from happening?


  1. Now what kind of HR Director do you think would be successful in such an organisation - one who challenged senior managers to ensure they played fair by their employees or one who was adept at sweeping up after the damage had been done?


  2. EBTG:

    What kind of HR Director WOULD be successful in such an organisation, or SHOULD be successful?

    I'd like to think that there are HRDs who are successful because of their readiness and bravery to challenge inappropriate behaviour.

    Perhaps I'm too naive though . . .

  3. Perhaps any Half Decent HRD's don't have to or want to work for such an organisation!

  4. Is this just another case of HRD doing as they are told by the senior management team?

  5. I am sure we have all experienced bullish leaders who surround themselves with managers whose favourite words are ‘Yes, how high?’ And seen really good people been driven out because they just don’t fit in or ruffle too many feathers.

    Of course a competent HRD should be able to prevent such things happening but I think that faced with such a challenge there are very few that would succeed. Most would either vote with their feet or have someone else’s foot on their backside!!


  6. This case is so similar to what I have been put through by my senior management and that includes HR managers who were appointed to deal with my complaint of B&H. HR managers will never ruffle the feathers of management. I hope my case is as successfull at tribunal. WELL DONE for taking a stand!

  7. Anonymous (28 Nov 17:05)

    It's always disturbing to read such instances as yours, especially when those who generally have responsibility for People Governance (i.e. HR) seem to be either bystanders or even perpetrators. Let us know how your case progresses

  8. I am surprised at any notion of misendeavours by Andy Coulson, as he was vindicated of any misdoings by his subsequent appointment to No 10 by David Cameroon?.