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."

Saturday, 29 May 2010

WEEK 67 All or Nothing

The biggest problem people have when trying to prove they’ve been bullied is a lack of evidence. After the event, when asked to give examples of the incidents including times, dates and names of those involved, it's hard to recall specifics.

“But I left months ago...” they'll say. “I can’t precisely remember, but it was around October, or maybe it was November – but it was horrible. And it got worse!”

The best case scenario, with no evidence, is a lawyer will pull out a Compromise Agreement and the worst case scenario is they’ll say it’s a waste of time. Not a leg to stand on. The bully has sneakily covered their tracks. The victim looks like a liar.

My own bully, on the other hand, got complacent. HOWARD, secure about the amount of money he brought it, wasn’t concerned about covering his tracks. The more they let him get away with it, the more he believed he was invincible. He sent me scores of offensive e-mails for a start. And I collected the evidence.

Too much evidence apparently.

There is so much evidence my solicitor isn’t comfortable. He’s had to book a “reading day” at the Tribunal, which will cost me more money. There was a tone to his voice, as if he wished we could leave half of it at home.

“It’s just expensive all round,” he said.

It may be expensive and inconvenient for people to take time to review the evidence but it is more costly and inconvenient to have no proof against HOWARD when he accuses me of being the secretarial version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

Keep a workplace bullying diary; keep e-mails which prove what you are saying. Keep everything you can. If you are being bullied you’ll need it all.

“Reading days” are a good way of reminding the Employment Tribunals, Employment Lawyers and Barristers just why they’re doing the job in the first place.

Eva x

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

WEEK 66 The Award Goes To...

Yesterday, when I told my solicitor I want to make an example of my old firm, I knew he wouldn’t be happy. “But Eva,” he said, “The legal costs will eat up your damages. I’m just thinking of you...I want you to walk away with a good settlement. If you go to Tribunal the only ones who win are the lawyers.”

If I don’t go to Tribunal, the only one to win is HOWARD, who, it so happens, is also a lawyer.

I am surrounded by lawyers saying I should take a cheque and walk away. Apparently, they’re all just thinking of me.

You might know already, there is something called a “nuisance award”. Self explanatory, it’s when a company pays some annoying ex-member of staff to drop a legal action.

The Compromise Agreement is one step up from the “nuisance award.” Of course it’s the easiest option - take the money and keep your mouth shut. It is also the laziest answer to staffing problems. Not that the Compromise Agreement doesn’t have its place...it just shouldn’t be first.

So HOWARD is calculating my “nuisance” cheque to get lost.

“Your principles could cost you,” my solicitor warned, doing everything to put me off Tribunal.

I gave it a great deal of thought – knowing I’m facing months of pressure to settle from my own side and ACAS.

There’s only one way I’ll do it, I told my solicitor. The Senior Management team, including HOWARD, will all have to take a nationally recognised “How to Treat your Staff with Dignity” training course, and the settlement will have to allow me to write anonymously about workplace bullying.

There’s no way they’ll agree to it, of course. Their egos won’t take being ordered around by a secretary, let alone being forced into people management training. It just tickled me to put it in.

This is going to Tribunal.

Anyway, this year’s award for biggest nuisance has already gone to HOWARD.

Eva x

Sunday, 23 May 2010

WEEK 65 Happy Anniversary

I’m off to celebrate in my own quiet way - enjoying the sunshine with a glass of wine or two this afternoon.

Exactly a year ago on the 23rd May 2009 Eva James/Bullied by the Boss was born. The design, the tone; everything popped into my head. I knew exactly what I wanted. I just had no idea how to pull it off. I could type, but I had no IT skills at all. It took a while to set it all up. I certainly couldn’t have done it without the most helpful and generous IT experts (now firm friends) and repeated loans of “Blogging for Dummies” from the library.

Like a year ago, my plan from this point on couldn’t be clearer. I know exactly what I want, but again, I have no idea how I’m going to pull it off. I only know that this time I need the help of solicitors, witnesses and all the documentary evidence I’ve collected. I’ll still need your help, you know. I need your company on a new journey - all the way to the Employment Tribunal.

So it’s about time for a birthday wish...and maybe a drink to courage.
Let’s hope it comes true.

Eva x

Thursday, 20 May 2010

WEEK 64 Memory Lane

I don’t know if you read my WEEK 29 blog, called Resurrection. In it, HOWARD wrote offensive sexual comments across letterhead paper and subsequently shredded it. In the blog I mention, as an aside, that the Senior Solicitor and Head of Personnel had also starting pestering me with e-mails about spanking at the same time.

I was so pre-occupied with proving my case against HOWARD I had forgotten all about these other e-mails. Then, picking up a folder, a load of original e-mails from HOWARD’S superior fell out. I couldn’t believe it. There they were, lying all over the floor – e-mails where I’d apologised for not having typing capacity and he’d replied he wasn’t going to wheel out the ‘punishment chaise longue’ this time, or the ‘spanking stool’. In some of them he apologises, and then continues – as though he cannot help himself.

What shocks me most is that these e-mails, disgusting though they are, were an afterthought at the time. I simply printed them off and chucked them in a separate folder. I was in so much trouble with HOWARD.

I’m sure, however, having sent them on to my solicitor, that my old Head of Personnel is going to find memory lane as bleak and as dark a place to visit as I did.

See you next week.

Eva x

Saturday, 15 May 2010

WEEK 63 Ghost Writer

I’m haunted by HOWARD’S ET3 Grounds of Resistance. I enjoy writing myself, but if you’re interested in sexually morbid fiction then HOWARD’S your man.

The first time I read it, I couldn’t digest it because I kept shouting at the document, or bursting into tears and raging against the lies. Days later I tried reading it again. The same thing happened. The bits I hadn’t read the first time had me yelling, cursing and crying within seconds. I cried all night.

Desperate, I phoned my solicitor the following morning and asked if they were allowed to make it up completely. Are they allowed to lie from start to finish?

The answer is yes.

Why isn’t this made clear to people? Even as a legal secretary I had no idea. I knew they’d lie, but the important thing is that everyone expects them to. So although I’m still having nightmares because of the allegations, I’m not so worried that the Tribunal sees me as a boorish, swearing, sex starved secretary who’d do anything to get her poor, mild mannered boss into bed. (Just writing that makes me ill).

My solicitor ensures me that cases are won and lost on the evidence. He said he admired me for what I’m doing and really doesn’t want me to give up. He called me a “trooper.”

I told him that HOWARD had seriously underestimated my ability to find help and support outside work, when none was forthcoming within. I told him there were independent people I'd reached out to for help, who might back me up. If they do, then HOWARD won't have a leg to stand on.

I’ve put the ET3 away for now. I can’t even look at it, let alone get to the end, but from what I’ve read of his fiction so far...

The butler probably did it.

See you next week.

Eva x

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

WEEK 62 Mad Scientist

They attacked.

I was going to give loads of specific examples from HOWARD’S Grounds of Resistance as they are such outrageous lies, but my dignity wouldn't allow it. I'll give you a few though. The allegations are so outrageous it’s almost funny...

Almost.

Most of his behaviour towards me, HOWARD claims, was to deter my sexual pestering. Without knowing I’ve done so, HOWARD mentions many incidents I’ve blogged about. He says I did them to myself in an attempt to get sexual attention. At one point he says he believes I quit because I didn't think he'd leave his wife! Other things, like the shredded letter from my ‘Resurrection’ blog, he claims never happened at all.

I'm so angry and upset. Even though it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. As I predicted in my WEEK 41 blog, they are alleging that I’m desperately lonely and needy because I live on my own.

The examples went on and on.

The thing that struck me as most odd is that HOWARD seems to genuinely think everyone will buy this. Okay, I live on my own and I'm divorced...that doesn't automatically make me Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. One look at me will tell you I’m quiet and a bit shy. I’m hardworking and very active. Talk to me for a short time and you’ll realise I’m understanding, patient and probably a closet feminist at heart. I’m the last person who would use crude sexual language around the office, or log myself into match.com
as “secretarybitch” claiming in my hobbies “I enjoy self gratification on rainy days.”

I feel like I’m in the middle of an extraordinary experiment into workplace bullying. It’s hard to explain, but the allegations on both sides now are so terrible I don’t know what will happen next. HOWARD and his colleague are, as yet, unaware of the mountain of evidence I’ve been collecting for almost a year – but they will find out soon enough.

So I guess the experiment is this:-

If I can’t prove that I was being bullied by HOWARD and employed by the biggest bunch of liars – then no one can.

Wish me luck.

See you soon. Eva x

Saturday, 8 May 2010

WEEK 61 Hung Parliament

The attack I predicted in my last blog came to nothing. My old firm didn’t lodge a defence at the Tribunal calling me a liar or a villain, or at least they haven’t yet. Nothing happened. Not a sausage. My solicitor hasn’t even called.

Perhaps it’s the news and the hung parliament, but I sense negotiations are taking place.

My solicitor is adamant they’ll settle with a compromise agreement because the extent of the bullying is horrific. He confirmed that HOWARD and his friends will do anything to keep it out of Tribunal where some clever journalist might spot it.

I’m disappointed, of course. I want to make an example of them. I want to use my own case to highlight workplace bullying to put the spotlight on how it can happen anywhere. The agreement will inevitably include a confidentiality clause – gagging my mentioning it again. My old firm can pretend it never happened. They will pay me to keep quiet.

But I don’t want to stay quiet. I want to help other people.

So, if I’m forced to settle they will have to allow me to write about workplace bullying under a pen name and keep their identity anonymous. Aside from the blog, I intend to write a book about how employees can protect themselves personally and legally if it happens to them. It will be thoroughly researched and draw on every ounce of insight I’ve gained into the problem.

If they refuse to allow this clause in the compromise agreement then I will cease negotiations and march my band all the way to Tribunal. I’ll then write a book under my own name and dedicate it to the real HOWARD and my old firm.

They won’t be happy about it, but as this weekend sees the Tories and Liberal Democrats trying to work together - anything is possible.

See you soon. Eva x

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

WEEK 60 Artist's Impressions

A couple of weeks before I walked out, something happened in work which was overshadowed by the later events. I received a telephone call asking me to attend the conference room.

“Nothing sinister,” the Senior Solicitor said. “Just a quick chat.”

The Senior Solicitor reminded me of the former secretary bringing a tribunal claim against them for unfair dismissal about 8 months prior. She had a good case. She also had copies of our e-mails when we worked together, which supported her claim. I was told there might be redundancies if I didn’t help. They painted her the villain.

It had been awful when they’d sacked her. I wanted to speak up in her defence, but I didn’t want to lose my job. I'd always felt sorry for not saying something.

They told me I had until the next day to confirm whether I’d side with them.

Later, as I bit my nails and stared at my PC, the Senior Solicitor was at pains to highlight the seriousness, whilst telling me not to get too stressed. HOWARD had stood up.

“I couldn’t give a shit if you’re stressed,” HOWARD announced. “I can’t be blamed this time. I’m just happily watching. This time it’s not my concern!”

After listening to HOWARD I was happy to tell them I wouldn't help.

After I left the firm, I wrote to the secretary and asked if there was anything I could do. I drafted a witness statement for her just in case.
Her solicitors said they couldn’t use me as I hadn’t stood up and supported her at the time. They assured me that the cross examination would be ruthless and my motives for helping would be attributed to a desire for revenge. I’d also joined too late in the day. Live and learn. I won’t keep quiet in the future that’s for sure.

Then my solicitors phoned and said my old firm are about to go on the attack.

They’ve obviously forgotten what I look like too. I’m a secretary who was bullied out of her job, but I bet in their artist’s impression I’ve grown claws and fangs; probably whilst stirring a cauldron and cursing their name.

But it's still a nicer description than anything HOWARD had given me whilst we were working together.

See you soon. Eva x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

WEEK 59 Eleanor Rigby II

Starting back to work last Friday was one of the hardest things.

My new firm couldn’t have been friendlier, but it was a nightmare. I was lost, tongue tied. I was nervous and awkward. If someone laughed, I worried it was about me. In short, I was drowning in paranoia. I felt like I’d been sucked back in time, I’d time-warped back to the beginning again for it unfold afresh. I was Eleanor Rigby from WEEK 1. I was terrified.

I sat down, nodded at my new colleagues and began typing. The job was in the employment department and I lost myself in the minor details. I tried to drown out my new surroundings by concentrating on the job at hand. I found comfort in the familiar...the ‘yours sincerely, yours faithfully’ routine I was used to.

As I got through the audio-tapes, absorbing the stories behind the witness statements, the letters to Employment Tribunals and clients, I realised I wasn’t Eleanor Rigby. I certainly wasn’t alone.

I was typing about people like me, people who’d suffered problems in work so big they’d ended up in court too. The shelves groaned under the weight of workplace bullying experiences, safety at work complaints and whistle-blowing. I had no idea it was so out of hand and so common.

"All the lonely people..."

I typed faster.

I’ll get myself back to normal as soon as possible. Then I can consider what more I can do against workplace bullying in my own way.

See you soon

Eva x
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