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, 23 April 2011

WEEK 156 DIY

There was a time when people thought the world was flat. It was just a matter of perspective, of course. Just because something looks and feels flat doesn’t mean it is. You have to look at it from all different angles.

Of course, some things are what they are. Take my home for instance. Wherever you stand, it needs decorating. Whatever light I shed on it, it still looks jaded and tired.

My home and I could both do with a fresh outlook.

So this Easter holiday I’m donning my painting clothes, buying paint and borrowing ladders. I’m putting in the elbow grease and then decamping to my mother’s whilst the paint dries and the gloss smell fades.

Do something different this Easter to give yourself a fresh perspective – even if it’s just a fresh coat of paint. It’s amazing how being domestically creative can feel like a holiday in itself.

See you when I get back.

Have a happy Easter.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Saturday, 16 April 2011

WEEK 153 Time Flies

If there’s one thing I’d warn targets of workplace bullying about – it’s the dangers of the extended present.

Extended present is where the prolonged bullying has gone on so long that it consumes target and perpetrator. Both employees become sucked into the atrocious drama of it all. It certainly happened to me. HOWARD was obsessed with bullying and harassing me; playing games by dragging in unwitting people to join him. I was obsessed with proving him wrong and eventually being in a position to expose him for what he was.

The bottom line is that the poisonous atmosphere in work becomes the only air you breathe; it consumes you. Past and future melt away. You shut down socially. If it goes on for too long, it seems you exist only to participate in a toxic game. Thus, present time is stretched indefinitely.

It’s nothing more than a coping mechanism, but the longer you remain in the extended present, the more damaging it is. The more you detach from a regular way life, the harder it is to it pick back up.

So it was a wonderful thing yesterday to have worked for my new firm for exactly a year. My employment lawyer boss laughed and said “Damn! It’s too late to sack you!” “Don’t think I’m not fully aware my employment rights just kicked in!” I replied, laughing too.

But the real good news is that the year has flown. Time seems to have righted itself.

I hope it’s working properly for you too.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Saturday, 9 April 2011

WEEK 152 Rope-a-Dope

Controversial I know, but since my teenage days, when I came across a tape of Mohammed Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman, I’ve been inspired by Ali’s legendary rope-a-dope and boxing in general.

The rope-a-dope technique is where a boxer covers up, lying with his back to the ropes, allowing his opponent to take pot-shots at his defences. After a number of rounds, the opponent assumes the guy on the ropes has no fight in him. Maybe he wonders if the guy is ill. He unloads his punches. He goes to town on the weaker athlete. Pretty soon, the busy boxer wears himself out. It’s a tiring business punching away at something round after round. And it gets boring. It’s at this point that the guy on the ropes jumps out from his defensive guard and fights back with everything he’s got. Surprise!

Ali’s rope-a-dope is a now an accepted strategic move in any competitive situation outside sport. One party deliberately appears to put themselves in what looks like a losing position, but only does so with a view to winning in the end.

I’m only talking about this because the non-pugilist rope-a-dope is what I’d recommend anyone do when they’re targets of workplace bullying.

A friend of mine recently asked what I thought about them trying to expose their bully to the press or TV. They wanted revenge or justice. It’s understandable, but not advisable. It’s not our job to punish our colleagues for their antisocial behaviour, however appealing the idea might be.

We need to find a solution, whilst not showing any fight or aggression. Patience is the name of the game. Bide your time observing. Think about what you can do to get yourself out of the unpleasant situation. In the meantime, when they make a mistake, which they inevitably will, you can tell it like it is and people will pat you on the back.

Simply give them enough rope-a-dope to hang themselves, and you may find they do it all for you.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

WEEK 151 Sixteen Tons

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt”

Since workplace bullying gave me first-hand experience of the justice system, I never miss law related documentaries. At the moment, I’m addicted to ‘See you in Court’ on BBC1. It follows people who have been libelled by newspapers. Swap the word ‘libelled’ with the word ‘bullying’ and that’s essentially what it’s about.

In the first episode, Lembit Opik alleged he’d been libelled (bullied) by Sunday Times columnist, Rod Liddle after he’d written that Lembit Opik was an ‘Estonian loon’ with a ‘misshapen head’.

Sheryl Gascoigne alleged she’d been libelled (bullied) over a 13 year period by the News of the World and the Sunday Mirror. She’d been called a ‘lying bitch’. The papers had collectively blamed her for ruining her husband’s career.

The overall outcome was depressing. It wasn’t depressing because Lembit had to drop his claim. We all saw that one coming due to his courting of the press every time he got a girlfriend. But in Sheryl Gascoigne’s case, she won a public apology and was awarded £60,000 in all.

Having spent around £200,000 to win that £60,000, the Courts then have to decide how much of those £200,000 costs they would make the losing side pay. Costs are assessed on the ‘Standard Basis’. Judges never make the losing party (in this case the newspapers) pay for all the legal fees – because they know full well, lawyers overcharge on everything.

So ultimately, having to pay 35 – 40% of her astronomical costs, Sheryl Gascoigne’s legal win was a financial loss.

Roy Greenslade, reviewing the programme in The Guardian, asked in his blog:-

“Why, indeed, do lawyers still claim their full fees from clients after judges have decided that they are worth only 65% of what they bill?”

It’s an interesting question because where it should have been Sheryl Gascoigne’s winning case, it somehow morphed into her lawyer’s winning case. Roddy Chisholm Batten won in the end. The whole set up reminds me of two lines in Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen Tons.

“One fist of iron and the other of steel. If the right don’t get you then the left one will.”
Best wishes,
BBTB x

Saturday, 2 April 2011

WEEK 150 Office Politics

I’ve been thinking about the Grievance Process this week; the ACAS official procedure for dealing with employment complaints. Getting the Grievance Procedure to work? Now that’s a real employment challenge. The irony is, of course, it’s pretty much unemployable.

A genuine attempt to resolve a problem with one or two colleagues usually gives the complainant a larger problem with management. Putting your hand up and saying “I have a problem” is often met with management asking “You have a problem with us? How do we know the problem isn’t you?”

And so it starts. You’re the one defending yourself.

It’s a complicated matter; with an unsatisfying outcome for almost everyone who goes through it. It’s office politics at its most basic. You play the game or they vote you out. So I’ve been thinking about what positives we can take from it. For an alleged problem solving process which gives us a bigger problem than we had in the first place, is there anything we can take comfort from?

Perhaps it’s this. Although I’ve never known a case where the company does side with the employee lodging the complaint – we have to strip it back to our initial expectations for lodging a grievance. Isn’t it to set boundaries? Isn’t it to make management aware that we’re sick to the back teeth of the situation we’re in? Even if the company defends itself - behind closed doors management won’t want the situation to repeat. They’re more than likely to be monitoring things in future. And that’s what you wanted, right?

We have to let go of the expectation that they’ll agree with us. Whilst they’ll never admit their company employs a difficult member of staff who enjoys making employees’ lives miserable, that’s not to say they’re completely ignorant of it. If you’re the one who flagged it up - you should be proud of it.

However, if you need management to publicly agree; if you need them to take charge, punish the person who bullied you and apologise on behalf of their firm then it’s unlikely to happen. It’s probably not going to happen if you stay, and it’s equally not going to happen if you claim breach of contract/constructive dismissal and pursue it all the way to the Employment Tribunal.

So you have to ask yourself what you really want in this situation. Do you want to make a complaint? On the other hand, do you want to change your firm and the way it operates? Perhaps you want to change firms and the way you operate?

These are just things to think about.

I’ve always held that the Grievance Procedure is useless. I’ve no expectations that ACAS will agree with me. Whilst they’ll never admit their organisation universally recommends a course of action which is more trouble than it’s worth, that’s not to say they’re completely ignorant of it either.

I just want to register my complaint.

Best wishes

BBTB x
Bottom Swirl