Toxic E-Mails

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It's a symptom of today's it-driven workplaces. Now with rapid tools of communication like email at their fingertips, it's so easy for workers to hit and send, spreading toxic office gossip without it being heard.

Psychologist Rita Princi says this type of bullying is on the rise and bosses need to act quickly and fairly.

"it's a nastier form of bullying because usually the party at the centre of it doesn't even know what's going on," says Rita.

Tammy Dobo's case is both disturbing and alarming. Where an innocent worker became the target of vicious office hate mail, then be dumped by the very employer who you would have thought should have been protecting her and finally, to be let down by the Workcover process itself.

"In the last few months before I left I would walk into the room and they'd stop talking or giggling at me, I could tell something was going on but until I received those emails I didn't know what was going on," Tammy explained.

For ten years Tammy was considered a model office worker by her bosses at the Woodcroft College south of Adelaide, run by the Anglican Church. It was her first and only job after graduating with an accounting diploma.

"I was told several times that I was doing very well," she said.

Then last year by sheer fluke Tammy came across a series of nasty emails written between fellow office workers about her.

Emails like: "Just in case you were wondering, her husband is incapable of making phone calls, and she makes them all for him- pathetic ahe!!!!!! Suppose an excuse to use the phone?"

And : "they want her out! They have asked me to do a full written report and have told her she is being watched and under suspicion.

Or this one: "Had a row with Greg last night about Tammy! He recons I could be done for bullying and says I should 'put up with it and keep my head down!"'

They were unsubstantiated rumours and accusations which made her sick to the stomach.

Tammy managed to find 28 emails spread over just a few days. She's not sure how long the snide sniping campaign against her had been going on, or for that matter, the reason behind it.

Tammy says she was so distressed by what she uncovered that she took sick leave, eventually applying for Workcover.That's when she claims the cold war against her really intensified and the school refused to have her back.

Little wonder because there were six other office staffers were involved in the email conspiracy.

Tammy says she was disappointed at the reception she received from the School Head Mark Porter and business manager Graeme Murley who issued her with a performance review notice listing many accusations, many of which the school failed to substantiate.

But her biggest shock came the day after Workcover accepted Tammy's claim. She was sacked despite being on an EBA.

The school declined to be interviewed but sent us a statement saying Tammy had been given appropriate notice in accordance with current workers compensation laws. We do know that the school did counsel some of the staff responsible and brought in workplace expert Gary Collis. His investigation found inappropriate behaviour took place.

But it's no consolation for Tammy. She's received no income for almost a year and is still without a job.

" I'm very upset. They are the ones who did something wrong and they still have their jobs and still living a happy family life and I've been made to suffer financially and I have lost my job and its upset my family very much," says Tammy.

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