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Woman’s ‘abusive’ interview at UK tech firm sparks outrage online

Male and female business people shaking hands Photo: Credit: Franck-Boston

A woman’s account of an “abusive” interview at a UK tech company has sparked outrage online as the latest example of workplace bullying.

Olivia Bland, 22, attended the interview in Oldham, Greater Manchester, on Monday.

She said she was subjected to a “brutal” two-hour interview with the company chief executive, which she said “felt like being sat in a room with my abusive ex”.

Miss Bland shared her email to the company after the interview on Twitter, writing: “There is something very off to me about a man who tries his best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman and who continues to push even when he can see that he’s making somebody uncomfortable to the point of tears.”

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She told the Press Association: “He wanted to belittle me and wanted to show his authority and his power.”

Craig Dean, the chief executive of software company Web Applications UK, who conducted the interview, did not respond to requests for comment but wrote on Twitter that he was “very sorry if anyone has been hurt”.

By Wednesday night, Miss Bland’s tweet had been shared almost 20,000 times, including by SNP MP Peter Grant, who said it was “appalling that company bosses still think they can treat people like this in the 21st century”.

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Miss Bland said the interview started in an “utterly bizarre” fashion in which Mr Dean picked on her music tastes before revealing he was scrolling through her Spotify account while they talked.

He then asked “a lot of personal questions”, she said, before “tearing apart, line by line” everything she had submitted in the written part of the application process.

She said: “Later in the interview he asked me: ‘How do you think it went?’

“He said ‘I’ll tell you how it went’ and listed off everything bad he thought I did in the interview.

“He told me everything I did was wrong, everything I said, the way I sat, my body language, everything that he could do to attack me.”

Despite the tone of the interview, Miss Bland was offered the job. She declined to take it.

“I’ve been in this position before,” she wrote in response to the job offer.

“They tear you down, abuse you, take you to breaking point and then they take you out to dinner or buy you a present to apologise and make it seem like they’re the nice guy.

“This job is supposed to be the present. I don’t want it.”

In a message on Twitter he described as”sleep deprived and anxiety-driven”, Mr Dean wrote: “I have no desire to see anyone hurt; and can only apologise if anything I’ve done has had that effect.”

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Miss Bland dismissed it as a “non-apology” that”makes it all about him”.

“Sometimes you have to take responsibility for your actions and I think it’s about time he and other people in similar positions did,” she said.

Historic reviews for Web Applications UK on the employment website Glassdoor have often commented negatively on “the CEO” and, more widely, workplace bullying has been a hot topic in recent months.

Allegations of sexism and misogyny have dogged technology firms in the US for a number of years, while bullying and harassment in the Houses of Parliament has been “tolerated and concealed”, according to a report published in October 2018.

“If someone can read something that has come from me to identify that they are in an abusive situation and use that to come out of it then that’s all I could ask for,” she said.

“You can say no. You can walk away from these situations. I acknowledge I’ve been privileged in being able to turn it down and others won’t be able to, but you can say no and walk away from people that hurt you in your personal life or at work.”