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Sunday 19 August 2018

Sinead Ryan: Tragic Anglo man's suicide doesn't surprise me. I know customers' rage

Bullying in the workplace is a dreadful thing. HR departments take it very seriously. But what if the bully isn't a co-worker or boss whom you can report? What if it's your customers? What if it's so bad that it causes you extreme stress and anxiety, so much so that you feel you have no option but to take your own life?

Such was the appalling and tragic step taken by Stephen Doyle, a 32-year-old married father of baby twins whose job was made so unbearable by his customers that he felt he couldn't go on.

What awful job did he do? Well, he was a customer services supervisor at Anglo Irish Bank. The institution has long become the focus of bile, hatred and vilification since its directors put Ireland in hock because of their woeful and greedy actions.

But none of those actions were taken by Stephen. He attended no board meetings, didn't sign over billions of euro to property developers, nor accept millions in bonuses. He was just an employee sitting at the counter trying to do his job.

Spitting

Yet he put up with harassment, abuse, emotional trauma, scorn and even spitting from people who wanted to take out their ire on Sean FitzPatrick -- but made do with Stephen Doyle because he was there.

I did a job like that for six years. I took dog's abuse from occasional customers in the financial services companies I worked for -- and they were good companies.

Yet for the minority who believed they had lost money on an investment which turned sour, they thought nothing of shouting, sticking fingers in my face, hurling abuse down the phone or demanding to 'see the boss'. They snarled at my staff and could make you dread work in the morning.

Money brings out the worst in people. If they feel hard done by, they can be vicious. For sure, Anglo customers and shareholders have plenty to be cross about. But attacking counter staff for something that is not of their making is outrageous.

Cowardly

Customers would roll up at the door, demanding to speak to the long-gone Sean FitzPatrick, and in his absence, attacked low-level staff like Stephen. Disgusting and cowardly. How dare they!

Well I hope whoever they are realise that they contributed to this young man's tragic demise and left his nine-month-old daughters without their father forever.

"He was a frontline staff member who was put through the mill by the public and he snapped," said one colleague.

When eggs were hurled at ex-AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson during an AGM, the egg-thrower was celebrated. Another bank had its front door damaged by vandals. What next? A return to lynching because it'll make us all feel better?

Anger at the banks is justified, but let us target it at the right people: the politicians, the regulator and the greedy directors.

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