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."

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

WEEK 33 Eternal Optimist

Yesterday a new temp gave me a contact at a recruitment agency.

“Sasha’s great,” she said. “You have to ignore the recruitment sales talk – but they’re all like that. Sasha’s fantastic, truly fantastic. Tell her I recommended you. I’ll vouch for your character.”

I uploaded my CV. Ten minutes later Sasha called. She had the perfect job for me - a secretarial job with the local university. It had only come in yesterday morning. “In fact,” she said, “I’ve just been telling them about how experienced you are. This job will be made for you. Come in tomorrow after work and fill out the forms!”

I was reeling. The new temp beamed at me as I thanked her from the bottom of my heart.

So today I fixed the photocopier five times in a row – no complaints; I filled up stationery; held open doors; made rounds of coffee. Mostly, I thought about how best to leave HOWARD up to date. I was, in my way, saying a cheerful goodbye to the place because, without a contract, I only have to give a week’s notice.

I arrived at the agency this evening telling myself I’d earned this job after what I’d been through. Six recruitment consultants were screaming with laughter at the far end. One of them signalled they’d seen me. I perched on a bright red reception chair, telling myself it was probably only like this because it was late. A thin blond girl ran over, introduced herself as Sasha and unleashed her lengthy recruitment patter. Then she told me to sit next to a young boy, threw a pile of forms at me and ran back to her friends.

Was it me or did they look and sound more like 18 - 30 holiday reps?
I studied the forms. They wanted my full residential history, employment history, references and personal details. This was horrible. Sasha had taken my CV and I hadn’t thought to bring duplicates. Why were these people so noisy? I couldn’t concentrate. The boy looked at me aghast. “I’ve filled my form out wrong,” he said...”I’ve done it wrong.” Uncertain, he repeated it again louder. The girls giggled, but nobody moved.

What about the university job, I thought?

Sasha came back. “Let’s swap you two around, huh?”

The boy and I looked at each other.

“She’s got to do a typing test” Sasha said, jerking a thumb at me. “So she’ll have to sit there.”

“Typing test?” I said. “No-one said anything about a typing test!”

Every one of HOWARD’S typing insults sprang to mind. I’ve been typing full-time for almost a decade but my hands still trembled with nerves.

“Can’t you tell me about the university job?” I asked, as she logged me into the test screen.

“Well,” she said, frowning at the PC, “I may have given you the impression that there was a job available now...that’s not to say that there won’t be soon. What I meant was...I told the university all about you...how we had someone of your...experience on our books and they were quite interested.”

“There’s no job?”

“But there could be...They were very excited about you.”

The typing test started. I’d been so desperate; so happy. I tried my best to copy type as the words swam. My shaking hands wouldn’t type what I told them. Ringing phones were left unanswered and the recruitment consultants screamed with laughter.

I didn’t finish the test. I sat there – staring at the screen. They showed me out.

All the way home I cursed our temp. I should have guessed what was in store after her annoying comment yesterday as she'd gave me Sasha's details.

“Good luck. It must be difficult for you working with HOWARD,” she said. “Has he always been obsessed with you like that? It’s romantic really.”

They've decided to keep her on for a bit, but it's a good thing. A few months with our firm will do wonders for her optimism.

See you soon.

Eva x

1 comment:

Fiona WordsBird said...

As you're now supposed to be an aspiring fee earner, how about this:

Tell whoever new business is supposed to come via that you've been asked to recommend a legal firm to someone you used to work with - you're not sure whether it's a sexual harassment or constructive dismissal suit.

Work out in advance a de-personalised description of the behaviours you endure every day, taking care to use language that paints the perpetrator as an aggressive insecure *******, and not the merest whiff of 'victim' about the person complaining.

You then say at the end, "I have just described H's/your behaviour to the letter, and you agree I would have a case? That's interesting, thank you for that."

Then walk away back to your desk, and continue with whatever you were doing. Ignore all body language or comments not requiring a sensible answer for the rest of the day. Force a fixed smile on to your lips and keep it there - if you don't make eye contact it's much easier, especially when you know it's rattling him.

If you analyse the tactics he uses against you, you can adapt them for your own use and he won't know what to do about it.

A legal firm that behaves in an actionable way against its own staff deserves to be sued - and it does happen. Causing the odd brown trouser moment with that thought may not cure the problem but it'll give you back the initiative and make you feel a lot better.

Bottom Swirl