Breaking the silence – a guest post

Fran Hall

Guest post

Ed’s note – the writer of this blog post is known to us, however their identity is being withheld for reasons that are obvious.

‘The subject of bullying is in the media a lot these days, especially bullying within the work place. Most fair and just people think that any kind of bullying is abhorrent, although it’s a phenomenon that has been around since the beginning of time. 

Work place bullying, whether obvious or more subtle, is something that many of us have had to suffer and deal with. A lot of managers, company owners and bosses etc. are approachable and empathetic to the victims, and these situations can be dealt with: but what if the bullying and intimidation is not within a structure or institution like this?

What if it is happening to a person who is working for themselves and trying to develop and build a business, and the bullying and intimidation is from competitors within the same business?  The victim has then to deal with situation themselves, which, along with the stress of developing the business, building a new client base, forging relationships within the community, can cause a great deal of upset stress and anxiety.

I have been living this scenario for a few years since starting my business. It’s taken a lot of hard work, perseverance and determination. I am now becoming fairly well known locally, and feel I’m making a difference to the families I work with. It’s been a hard but very rewarding time for me, I love my job with a passion but any problems I have had to deal with along the way have been exacerbated by bigger, more established funeral directors, interfering with and trying to close my business.

Some of my competitors have a very unhealthy obsession with my business, my personal life and the people I work with/employ. I have had to deal with phone calls from different people, some of which have been vicious and threatening. I have been asked questions regarding almost every facet of my business; these calls are by supposed customers enquiring about using my services. I have been reported to various authorities, and they have been informed of many totally unfounded and fictitious wrong doings within my work practices. I have been followed to find out about my vehicle, and I have been ignored at places we all as funeral directors use, ie the local crematorium, the hospital mortuary, not by the staff of these establishments, but by fellow funeral directors and their employees.

I’ve been dismissed both verbally and by people turning their backs to me when I try and pass the time of day, being professional and courteous (we all have to work within the same places). I have had letters sent to these places and a barrage of phone calls with people giving false names and using throw away mobiles, questioning why I am afforded the same facilities and utilities as the other funeral directors. These are only a small selection of the bully boy tactics and intimidation I have had to endure by the bigger, more established funeral directors, sometimes on a daily basis. I have been in touch with the police, who investigated to the point where I was informed that an arrest would be made. Then the case was suddenly and mysteriously dropped and I was advised that there was no further action.

Obviously this decision by the police was another very stressful and upsetting blow, to a point where I almost decided not to continue with my business, as who was going to help and protect me in this situation if the police are not? I am a strong person and I am very much able to fend for myself, but the relentless – and it is relentless – barrage of calls and underhand tactics from these, and I can only call them ‘mafia’, almost broke me.

Fortunately as I said, I am strong, and after a lot of soul searching and deep thought I decided that the only way to deal with these people is to carry on regardless of everything.  So, for want of a better phrase, I put on my ‘brave face’, suppressed my fear and anxiety and continued with my business.  

After having the independent inspection from The Good Funeral Guide, with the results of this I felt vindicated and was hopeful that the campaign would end. Although it went quiet for a while, there are still episodes of bullying and letter writing. Recently a funeral director forcefully questioned and intimidated a celebrant who was working with me on that particular day, querying what the actual connection is with my business, in other words are they affiliated to me in some way, with an underlying veiled threat – appalling and unacceptable behaviour.

It seems that some of the other funeral directors feel threatened by a small independent like me, and certain ones will stop at nothing to try and put me out of business. Whether it is misunderstanding, a need for patriarchy, or just plain greed that drives this ongoing campaign, I don’t know, but amongst it all I am lucky to have a great team around me, and  I won’t bow down to the pressure. I will continue to be there for my families and offer the alternative, cost effective service as I always have. 

I decided to break my silence on this as it occurred to me that maybe someone else is currently, or has in the past experienced something similar?  I hope mine is a one-off case and that no-one else has had to put up with the bullying I have, as it’s a very lonely place to be, but I doubt it. Unfortunately, where there is money involved, there will be unscrupulous greedy people who think they are entitled and no-one will get in their way.

I’m interested if anyone else has experienced anything similar to mine? If so how did you deal with it?’

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Chris Price
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Chris Price

As a celebrant I wonder what my reaction to being questioned by a funeral directors like that would be. I’d like to think I would tell them to mind their own business in no uncertain terms.
Unfortunately not all celebrants have the luxury of a work pension as I do and I could see some being intimidated by these tactics.
Unfortunately some funeral directors still seem to live in the past and see this behaviour as OK.
I can honestly say I have not seen this with the FD’s I work with, but it appears not all are so ethical

Evie
Guest
Evie

I am simply a member of the public but I have experienced unfair and offputting tactics from an organisation, which should have known better, wishing me to “move on”. The best technique is what you are adopting – don’t let it get you down and just carry on moving towards whatever your goals are, doing the right thing, head held up high. Don’t let it take up too much of your time. For something like this unpleasant conversation with the celebrant, it could be beneficial to tackle it in writing with the offender and cc in the celebrant — along… Read more »

Anon
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Anon

The Independent celebrant concerned was quite shaken up when cornered and questioned, with the veiled threat of we may not use you if,,,
When I have explained to people the full extent of what has gone on it is quite unbelievable and actually quite shocking. I can only think whoever is on this mission has some serious issues going on as no normal person/people would embark on such a vicious campaign. Onwards and upwards, they can try but they won’t beat me

Brad
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Brad

That is unpleasant. I am sure that business rivalry causes some nasty tricks between many businesses. Continue to build your own good reputation, do everything well as you do, and mud will not stick. Get stuck into the local community in other ways – both real and online. Don’t let the dirty tricks campaign distract you from your bereaved customers or other aspects of the business. Did anything untoward happen as a result of the cross-questioning of the celebrant? I would probably not expect police involvement depending on the type and level of the “go away” campaign you are experiencing.

TonyB
Guest
TonyB

Dodgy doings: Check out Kansas undertaker Almon Strowger (1839-1902). He was losing clients to a competitor whose telephone-operator wife was redirecting everyone who called him and this motivated to him to invent the first automatic telephone exchange.

Charles Cowling
Guest
Charles Cowling

Puts one in mind of the Glasgow ice cream wars of the 1980s. Antipathy from established traders is to be expected by any new business regarded as a competitive threat. Or is it? Anyone who’s any good will welcome the challenge and rise to the occasion. As Walt Disney said, ‘I’ve been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.’ It is very difficult for an undertaker to establish prominence in a local market on the strength of their quality, the more so if they don’t do a USP and their advertising… Read more »

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