There is no doubt that the industry that I work in has changed for the worse and at times even the most diligent of individuals can feel overwhelmed.
I would say that I had been suffering from bouts of depression for years brought on by the pressure of the job and the ever increasing demands of clients and the ever changing rules within the industry and that I like many others in the industry had used alcohol as an anti-depressant, self-administered until you felt better.
The last job I had was the final straw and my experience was not just being overwhelmed but being ignored and left feeling like a leper and isolated in an office that had previously been welcoming. It all began when the business that I partly own started to make profits for the first time. These profits were used to open a new office specifically to manage a new product, however, I became suspicious that one of the board was using this to further his own wealth and profit shifting to another jurisdiction.
I brought this up in a board meeting and was told not to be stupid! I was then almost immediately after, asked to move desk to a different part of the office, away from everyone, isolated. I had a further meeting with the Managing Director and was told “you are being PARINOID and to stop it”. I then saw the minutes of the previous board meeting and they did not truly reflect the discussions that had taken place. No mention of my suspicions. If I reported this to the JFSC it would be the end of my career and also how do I get the money back for my shareholding, I was trapped.
I called a shareholders meeting to discuss these points and was told by the entire board/shareholders that I was acting paranoid. They then went on to discuss the possibility of bringing another marketing person to help me with the work load. It was discussed at length and decided that it was not necessary as the board could commit some time to the travelling.
A couple of days later I was away on a business trip. Upon my return to the office I was told by the Chairman and Managing Director that they had met with and interviewed another person for the marketing department and that he would be paid a similar salary to me. I told them that we had discussed this at a full board meeting and it was decided NOT to do this. I disagreed and decided that I did not want him there and said so. It was decided that they would wait until I returned from my next trip abroad to discuss it further.
Upon returning from my next trip I was presented with the contract for the new employee, signed by all parties with a start date. I was fuming and asked to see the minutes of the shareholders meeting, no mention of the discussions about the new marketing role. I quizzed the Managing Director and was told that this was not relevant and to just get on with it. Once again I was told if I reported this it would mean an investigation and potentially closure of the business, and my shares would be worthless…. I felt trapped.
I then asked to see the share register of the new company in Guernsey and it showed that all the shares had been issued in the name of the chairman and one other investor and that this had been “agreed by the board” whilst I was away on business and that “the chairman would make sure we were all looked after if we behaved”.
I was about to report this to the authorities when I was suspended without pay whilst they investigated my behaviour over the last 6 months. They then went on to look at every piece of work I had done, what was on my lap top, all work emails, all text messages and they even went into my personal email account without my consent to see who I was talking too. The last straw came when it became clear that they had been recording my telephone conversations without my knowledge.
All this was happening when the board knew I was struggling having been recently diagnosed with a chronic health condition. There is no doubt in my mind that they took advantage of this.
This episode left me suspicious of everyone, doubting everything and everybody and with the inability to even converse with people properly.
I became severely depressed and it is only the fact that I had the right people around me and sufficient support that stopped me from doing something really stupid. I am not afraid anymore to talk to people about the fact that I had considered suicide on more than one occasion. I will never forgive or forget what happened to me and I wish I had the strength and financial resources to fight my old firm in court.
I am still a shareholder of that firm and know that I cannot report anyone as it would result in the loss of my investment. All I can do is wait for them to buy me out and try and work a few hours a week until I am stronger and even then I will never work full time again.
The one thing that has helped is the fact that I have two really close friends that have been in a similar place and with very similar circumstances so it makes me wonder how many more directors or ex directors are out there feeling the same.
It has taken 3 years for me to recover from the ordeal totally but I am now working with a great bunch of people and am content in my role within the business.
How did I get there?
- I had a good consultant who identified the issue and convinced me to be brave.
- Good strong relationship with my wife, who I have been married too for 26 years.
- Friends and family, are and always will be so important listen to the people close to you and trust them to be honest.
I worked as and when I could with charities to build my confidence, I started a part time job, I learnt not to worry about money, it is irrelevant if you are not fit. Take the time you need, time is a great healer, do the things, hobbies that make you smile. I had to learn to enjoy life again and no longer drink too much.
I am now working in the finance industry again and have already spotted people who do not realise that they are on a slippery slope that drink too much, stressing and being bullied into doing things they know they should not, but the alternative is looking for another job, with a reputation of being a snitch or “difficult to work with” as a reference.
It is cut throat industry and I am glad that I am coming to the end of my career.