Shicklegate: Workplace Stress – How not to deal with it

Work-Life Balance

As an HR professional, I was gobsmacked to have recently been forwarded the following email which I believe to be genuine:

From: Kieran Allen

25 September 2012 08:11

MEC London UK All Staff


Hello MEC,

It feels quite strange to be writing my leaving speech after 2 1/2 yrs. of loyal service to the company. It’s the longest I have spent at a company and I owe MEC a lot for my training and development. I leave in a position where I can go and further my career in digital if I so wish and for that I pay MEC great tribute.

However I leave with a horrible taste in my mouth after my working life for the past 8months has been ruined by Greg Shickle. 


Joined MEC in May 2010. Soon after I started to receive continuous praise from Kevin Kirby Account Director and Greg Shickle Head of Performance for my outstanding performance across accounts (mainly Specsavers) Inc. a commendation from Greg to Jason Dormieux about my ability and contribution. I also received high praise from Amy Creasey and Louise Temperley (re general Specsavers performance and securing a PPC turnaround for Colgate inc a 100%+ YoY spend increase). 

October 2011

I decide to hand in my notice and join another agency in order to further my development. Greg while initially cold to my departure rapidly changed tone and started to court me in order to stay. 

January 2012

I retract my notice after Greg promotes me to Senior AM and gives me a substantial pay-rise along with the promise of rapid development.

However while all seemed well on the surface things were far from ideal in the background. 

Oct-Feb 2011/12

My client load had been nearly trebled from 6 to 16 clients due to the departures of Aoife Bergin and Jacob Knox-Hooke (Brand team).

I was initially asked to help out in order to help service the clients while staff were recruited but I ended up being made the de-facto brand team manager along with my original client list.

The stress and strain took its toll and during late January – early February 2012 my health started to deteriorate rapidly.

I ended up breaking down to Greg that I couldn’t take it anymore and that I was losing my mind under the pressure. Nothing changed although he knew I was beyond stacked. 

Feb 21stI had to go to the doctors due to an imminent breakdown where I was ordered to stay off work indefinitely. I was signed off with Work Related Stress. I ended up needing over 2weeks off in order to recover.

On my return things went from bad to worse. Greg instead of welcoming me back and looking to make things right, instead attacked me and made me feel an outsider. I was made to feel that I had actually done wrong. 

Soon after my return in early March Greg

– blocked my 2011 bonus due to

1)”poor performance in 2011″

2) “being given a pay rise and promotion in Jan 2012″

3) “things not working out as recently planned”

4) “being monitored after coming back from illness”

– Gave me an official company verbal warning for poor performance in 2011

– Put me on a performance review 

All of this though after

– Praising me regularly throughout 2010/11

– Courting me to stay when i decided to leave

– Promoting me to Senior Account Manager

– Giving me a 15% payrise

– Describing my performance as “outstanding” as late as December 2011 to Anna May when there was a lot of issues due to staff departures

and my ability to step in and manage the brand teams PPC activity…

The only thing that changed during Feb/March 2012 is that I had to take 2 weeks off work due to work related stress and that Greg was questioned as Head of Department as to why this had happened under his watch and instead of taking responsibility he instead decided to attack me and my reputation in order to discredit my time off and make himself look less liable for blame.

This type of approach would seem extreme from a decent man but this is Greg the “man” who openly in front of other team members

– Made jokes about the “Spastic Olympics” (referring to Para-Olympics)

– Openly claimed to be proud “not to have a drop of Jewish blood in him”

– Regularly made sexist and other bigoted remarks

– Took a female colleague out for a drink on the day he interviewed her, then later took her back to the MEC offices that night and had

sexual relations with her in the meeting rooms on the 3rd floor

The above is all common knowledge throughout the team. This is Greg’s style of leadership and is gross misconduct on many levels. It is hard to fathom that such a man is responsible for the work wellbeing of over 30staff.

I am writing this message in order to expose these failings and protect others in future. I am far from perfect personally or professionally but I am a good human being who treats people with respect. In 2012 this behaviour is not acceptable and certainly not in a company which touts itself as being all about its people.

Not one thing on this email has been exaggerated or made up. This is my truth to you all.

No doubt I fully expect the above to be ripped apart but as long as the truth is out there then that’s all I can do.

Good luck to MEC and all those good people who strive to make her great.


Kieran Allen


Senior Account Manager


Unfortunately this example highlights what has long been an issue in many professions. It is often seen as ‘part of your apprenticeship’ to work upwards of 100 hour weeks to satisfy an ever increasing workload. Unfortunately, something has to give, and in this case it resulted in damaging and potentially long term health issue for a hard working employee.

Of course, this is the experience of one person, and MEC global do appear to have a track record of being a positive place to work, with 99.5% of UK employees recently responding that MEC Global is “a great place to work”. As such, I have invited MEC Global to respond to these allegations and will update you all as and when they get back to us.