So then...

About Me

Welcome to my blog. My pen name is Eva James. I'm an aspiring writer paying the bills working as a legal secretary. Relentlessly bullied by my former boss, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I recorded everything in this blog, which serves as a revealing insight into workplace bullying. WEEK 1 starts the story and, as the weeks progress, you'll note what starts as banter soon spirals out of control. Sadly, it's all true. Whilst along the way I've found alternative employment, my passion for blogging about workplace bullying remains. Trevor Griffiths, legendary theatre, TV and film writer said at the outset, "I like the writing a lot: smart, cool, placed. If you were prepared/able to take your prick of a boss on, you'd marmelise him."

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

All Banter is Friendly

It was a quiet return. Thanks to the office junior’s legal action, HOWARD has been scared to speak to me. After days of peace, without HOWARD’S ridiculing banter, I was content churning out lengthy letters with their over-complicated legal jargon. Often I think how I’d re-write them. It’s surprising how simple law is – when you cut to the chase.

My letters were interrupted by the Employment Lawyer’s delivery of a Staff Handbook she’d written for the firm. The front cover had a place to sign and date. Underneath read the following sentence:-

"Please note the following policies are not contractual in nature".


A quick flick through told me all I needed to know. It was, in the main, an anti-bullying mission statement - the firm’s internal response to the office junior’s witness statement.

“We expect our staff to treat each other with respect and dignity at all times. We will not tolerate bullying or harassment of any staff by any staff”

Put simply, without the legal padding, the company did not condone:-

Harassment related to gender, race, ethnicity, colour, disability, age, religion, nationality, occupation, marital status, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. There was to be no abuse through e-mail, texts or websites; no invasion of personal space, spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone. There must be no intended isolation or exclusion, stalking or offensive sexual remarks. There should be no public ridicule, sarcasm or humiliation; no abuse of power, position or knowledge. They did not want people to be stressed, demotivated or frightened.

Wow, I thought, that’s great. But I’d forgotten this was written by a lawyer - things are rarely clear cut.

“Nothing in this policy is intended to stop friendly banter between staff.”

I was amazed. I had to read it again:-

“Nothing in this policy is intended to stop friendly banter between staff.”


HOWARD closed his Handbook and sauntered over.

“Eva, do you have any regrets?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“So, you don’t regret not being on the property ladder before the economic downturn; or not having a husband and kids; or the fact that you can’t afford a car and live in a bed-sit? Or the fact that the few times a passing motorist’s beeped at you, you’ve taken it as a compliment because maybe you look like a prostitute, when the truth is they think you have the depressed look of someone who’ll walk in front of their car deliberately to kill themselves.”

I laughed. Good old “friendly banter”, I thought. A couple of weeks and the crying with laughter will turn into, well…just plain crying.

The Staff Handbook waffled on, with its pages of tightly packed legal definitions of harassment and bullying; the carefully phrased meanings and its non-contractual foundation. I thought how I would have re-written it more concisely. The best I could come up with is one sentence with an Orwellian twist:-

ALL BANTER IS FRIENDLY BUT SOME BANTER IS MORE FRIENDLY THAN OTHERS.

See you soon,

Eva x

1 comment:

Johanna said...

OH wow, you hit the nail on the head! policy without procedure..meaningless..like our school perhaps they could have done a bit of restorative justice for a man with such empathy he could laugh at the system so speedily. put you in a room with him for a bit of victim offender mediation.(VOM!)(I DONT think).guess sometimes the only defence is escape..and strikingly a recognition that " we are all human...but some people are more human than others!" evidence! keep records
identify! name and shame
monitor ! keep a close watch with consequences for continued offending. for the bully
for the victim
listen and support
protect from further damage
implement support system to aid reovery..
we need to get something PRocedures in place to deal with this crime of inhumanity!

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