Dave Theobald has worked at Inland Revenue’s Christchurch office for the last 20 years. His work is valued, he is a highly intelligent literate man. And he has problems with mental illness, something the TV ads tell us happens to 10% of the population.
He was diagnosed paranoid after self referring himself to a doctor. Because of the medication his work output became low. Dave was assigned a colleague within the department and this is where the real problems began.
This unqualified colleague would make her own “diagnosis” based on ‘OOh I don’t like the look of your eyes, I think you’re a bit mad today’ and other such remarks. On this basis she would insist on visits to the doctor where she sat in attendance and would insist on Dave’s medication being changed, often with adverse side affects to Dave.
On one occasion shortly after being assigned, when Dave was off work for a week and enquiring whether he had any money and being told he had $800 for emergencies, she proceeded to borrow first $300 then another $500 off Dave till “next payday”. The money wasn’t repaid for a year until Dave insisted.
Another episode illustrates the stress Dave was under.
Dave: “I had gone through a particularly trying time, after being assaulted in my own home by gang prospects and burgled twice by my next door neighbours.”
The colleague insisted on driving him to Psych Emergency.The diagnosing psychiatrist, asked to talk to her alone first. After speaking to her, the psychiatrist seemed very concerned and was insisting Dave be admitted for 3 weeks of residential psychiatric care at the local hospital. Dave already under stress from the burglaries and having to appear as a witness against the gang prospects was shocked.
The psychiatrist decided that even if Dave didn’t go to hospital he required three weeks off work, no annual leave, no sick leave, so totally unpaid and with no chance to prepare.
When Dave applied to sight the doctor’s notes he discovered his colleague in her private conversation with the psychiatrist had said blatant untruths such as ‘His house is filled with rotting food and swarming insects such as ants’ – Dave has photos of his house he’d taken at the same time, which although messy was quite habitable.
But do not get the impression that Dave is a charity case, somebody employed to demonstrate Inland Revenue’s commitment to human rights. He is a highly intelligent individual, very good at his job and insanely knowledgeable about tax. In a working environment where these extra stresses weren’t laden on him he is a productive and useful member of a team. His department in Inland Revenue was one of the more specialised, making decisions on very large refunds.
In workplace assessments over the three years these events occurred his overall marking was 106% out of an unattainable 120%. Exceptional results by anyone’s measure.
Dave is also a gifted multi-instrumentalist musician and has played keyboards for one of NZ’s top indie bands for the last 20 years.
In short Dave is a functional, valuable member of society, who recognises that he has a problem, but is well equipped to deal with it under normal circumstances.
Events finally came to a head last week when after Dave’s repeated efforts to have his colleague’s behaviour looked into, IR Management in Christchurch responded with a list of unachievable demands at a meeting on Friday:
1. Only working between 8:30 am and 6pm on whatever he was assigned which is basically the stuff nobody else could deal with. He was expected to clear up to 9 cases per hour, his section dealt with refunds of over $100,000. Previously Dave had been starting work at 10:30am (because his medication makes him drowsy first thing in the morning) and working till 7 or 8pm.
2. Dave has a 4 day week for mental health reasons, and if he was unable to work on any particular day because he was sick, he would swap the days around. The new edict from management demanded that he only take Wednesday off, any other day had to be leave without pay and a medical certificate would have to be provided by Dave. The reason given was for “structure and consistency”.
This regime would continue for a month and if Dave hadn’t met all targets by then it would be “formal discipline” time. Management referred to this unattainable plan as “moving forward”
How many times have we heard of management trying to get rid of “difficult” staff by assigning them impossible tasks so at the end they can sack them for non fulfillment?
In Dave’s case it was even more dangerous. After spending a sleepless night on Friday worrying about his future, and realising that while at the moment he was sane, he certainly wouldn’t be after a month worth of stress and sleep deprivation from worry about meeting these unattainable targets.
So in Dave’s own inimitable way he decided on Saturday to show his response to their demands and the stress IR were trying to put on him.
After checking the cleaners had left and the building was unoccupied, Dave drove his car through the plate glass windows of the Christchurch Inland Revenue Office and left it parked, lights on and surrounded by shattered glass, in the foyer.
Calmly waiting for the police to arrive, car keys in one hand, a copy of Emma Goldmans “Anarchism and other Essays” in the other Dave quipped to the arresting officers “It’s OK – I work here”
Conventional media has remained absolutely silent on reporting these events for two days, possibly because they feel uncomfortable about what has probably been presented by the cops and IR as the act of an unhinged person.
But this is *not* the act of an insane person – rather the actions of a man, confronted with abuses of power and a work regime designed to push him over the edge, to *protect* his own sanity and highlight the overwhelming wrongs and abuses perpertrated against him as an employee.