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."

Monday, 27 June 2011

WEEK 173 Telepathy

Impatient, as always, to find a publisher for my workplace bullying book, I’ve been thinking about the market. At first, I kind of accepted the market was niche, and therefore placing my book would take time. But then I started to wonder. How many people are actually suffering enough to go in search of literary assistance?

Just thinking about the people in my circle, my best friend’s brother was bullied out of his job and is still struggling to get back on his feet. OLLIE’S ex secretary, as we know, is getting counselling and trying to gear up for a return to employment. They’ve both been hit hard.

Considering my wider circle of friends, there are a number of examples of moves made due to workplace bullying. If you think about employment experiences of your own family and friends, a job change or transfer because of a boss from hell is not unexpected.

For such a common occurrence, it’s strange that it’s so rarely discussed in a solution seeking way. Now and again, nightmare bosses are joked about – but that’s about it.

Let’s face it. Workplace bullying is an employment taboo.

Few of us are happy to admit that a boss hated us enough to force us to walk out. We worry people will think we’re at fault, either incompetent at our job or annoying to work with. We’d hate to give our new colleagues the idea that, “Hey, what if she’s super-sensitive to constructive criticism? What if I say the wrong thing and she accuses me of bullying?” We worry our new workmates will be walking on eggshells, thinking we’re litigious or oversensitive, prone to exaggerating or combative, paranoid or vindictive.

And that’s the magic of books. As Stephen King writes in On Writing:-

“[Writing is] telepathy of course...I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room...except we are together. We’re close.”

And so we are.

Lots of us.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Thursday, 23 June 2011

WEEK 172 Interview with a Vampire

This week I’ve been reading Payback: Why we Retaliate, Redirect Aggression and Take Revenge, as recommended by a friend on Twitter. It’s so in keeping with my BBTB philosophy, I’ve decided to share it with you.

It didn’t take me long to realise that HOWARD’S problem wasn’t actually me. We’re not targeted because of some annoying aspect of our character or personality. We’re targeted because someone in a higher post is in pain and needs to make someone pay for that. And they’re always going to choose the person HR would (albeit reluctantly) let go if it was a 50/50 decision between you and them.

HOWARD had significant problems outside work which caused him pain, and his way of coping was by passing it on. I soon realised I had to put my pain somewhere or I’d take it out on my family and friends.

Pain is Vampiric. Once bitten, we have an almost compulsive need to bite back and if we can’t – we may well experience an urge to bite someone else, someone completely innocent. Unfortunately, whilst it’s not right and possibly dangerous even, it does make us feel better – short term.

So we have two problems. The first is, obviously, what we are going to do about being bullied at work. The second is how we are going to avoid biting and snapping at someone else. I tried everything and anything to successfully control my anger and frustration. The last thing you want to do is become the epitome of what you hate in the first place.

If we have to bite through something, let it be the chain of bullying.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Monday, 20 June 2011

WEEK 171 Definition

I’ve been asked a number of times this week for my definition of workplace bullying. The first question that always pops into mind is why. Why is someone curious or struggling to come up with a definition?

Our motives will greatly affect our definition.

This is why definitions of workplace bullying in HR Staff Handbooks are long and woolly; an attempt to cover everything. For example, here’s an extract from the Staff Handbook HOWARD and his HR pals hastily scrambled together after the office junior tried to take HOWARD to an Employment Tribunal:-

Our firm 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 was to be no intended isolation or exclusion, stalking or offensive sexual remarks. There was to 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”.

This definition was intended solely to protect HOWARD and his pals from future legal accusation. It did not stop the bullying, nor was that its primary goal. On the contrary, HOWARD was comforted that, should he be accused again, he could throw the Staff Handbook at the Tribunal and say – “Hey, we DEFINED it! We’re not bullies.” This is the dangerous thing about definitions. It implies understanding. It implies awareness. It implies some academic thought.

It is academic. The more people that discuss it, the more abstract it becomes. Experts want to be heard and naturally want to include all the various legal, ethical and social angles. This prompts more questions. A researcher thinks they have a good definition until someone says:-

“Yes, but can racial, sexual etc bullying could be defined as 'bullying' or is it more 'harassment/discrimination’?”

Or

“Is it perhaps dependent upon how the individual themselves perceives it?”

Definitions belong in the same place as statistics and surveys. It’s the territory of the ‘expert’. It may be interesting, but it proves little assistance to a torturous employment problem.

So where do I stand?

Workplace bullying is situational. Within any firm, company or organisation every employee arrives each day with their own prejudices, problems at home, stresses at work, personal likes and dislikes, preferred ways of working etc. How they are allowed to behave toward each other and how these prejudices and problems manifest are down to the company structure and management. Therefore, it really doesn't matter much why one employee is targeted, so much that it is left unchecked and becomes a real problem.

So my definition of workplace bullying is "Where a firm, company or organisation permits one employee to torment and harass another".

I don’t claim for a minute that my definition is the best example or the unquestionable conclusion, but I’m happy that it works for its money; it implies a company is to blame.

What are your thoughts? Do let me know.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

WEEK 169 Traversing the Wire

Having arrived fresh from a lively discussion on Bully OnLine relating to digitally recording incidents of bullying at work, the following ‘rules’ aren’t only drawn from my own experience of recording bullying (January 2010 WEEK 31 to WEEK 34), but also from a legal and HR perspective.

1.If you do record your colleagues, don't use the material until after you've left. Recording colleagues in work is gross misconduct. Therefore, if you were to play it in a grievance meeting - even if it does show evidence of bullying - you'll probably face disciplinary or dismissal

2. Don't turn it into a fishing expedition and become 'the human wire'. Try it once or twice - and only if you are really scared of your bully. In my case I had a deal of trouble with my boss when there were few around. If it's bordering on criminal levels of harassment - by all means use a digital recorder.

3.If you do record colleagues and they find out - they'll hate you for it! They will personally want to see you fired.

4.I know a case where someone recorded meetings and came up with only minor incidents of their boss behaving like a jerk. That's not to say their boss didn't behave worse than that - but the tape did them no favours and, yes, the person who recorded the meetings was fired and their colleagues hated them.

5. It's also very stressful
So, for the moment, I would advise that no-one tape records anyone until there is serious abuse at work taking place and I'd certainly advocate trying everything else first.
Best wishes
BBTB x

Saturday, 11 June 2011

WEEK 168 The Law of Attraction


I still kick myself for initially believing everyone’s assertion that HOWARD was harassing me because he’d developed a crush. It’s taken me this long to open up and write about something so personally embarrassing.
Staff assured HOWARD’S fixation on my appearance and sexuality was his inability to deal with very strong feelings. I was told I should be flattered. Who wants to make socially awkward guy even worse by reporting his relentless, but insulting, attention to HR? Not forgetting he was my superior. Not forgetting also that everyone felt sorry for him. Time and again I gave HOWARD the benefit of the doubt because of it.
I knew it was bullying, but these issues made it tricky
Whilst it didn’t take me long to realise how wrong we were, years later I’m still humiliated. It annoys me that I believed someone who later came close to destroying my sanity actually liked me in the first place. Gullible, I call myself, for believing all that reverse psychology hokum. And now I find myself doubting any guy that teases me. What’s he trying to say? Is he another HOWARD, I wonder?
So I was heartened by a report recently circulated by Bullying UK about sexual bullying. It made me think. The list they give of sexist incidents is this:-
·         Abusive, sexualised name calling
·         Unwelcome looks and comments about someone’s appearance or attractiveness; either face to face or to others.
·         Spreading rumours of sexual nature
·         Inappropriate and uninvited touching
·         Inappropriate sexual innuendo and/or proposition
·         Graffiti with sexual content
·         Display/circulation of inappropriate material of a sexual nature
·         Badges or clothing depicting inappropriate sexual innuendo or language
·         In the most extreme form, sexual assault and rape
The thing my former colleagues and I readily misinterpreted is that some of the above list genuinely are the preoccupation of immature teens and young men. It’s a grey area. Sometimes it really is an inexpressive, awkward guy trying to impress his friends and having a secret crush on the girl he’s teasing. Abusive, sexualised name calling can be construed by an audience as banter. The same goes for sexual innuendo.
As I said, however, I did know there was a difference.
So what was it?
The difference is this; where the behaviour is 100% negative then it’s sexual bullying. HOWARD indulged in many things from the Bullying UK list, particularly name calling, comments about my looks, rumours, graffiti with sexual content and a preoccupation with sexual violence and rape.
What he didn’t once do is say anything kind or complimentary.
Not once!
Never.
So I guess the Law of Attraction is very much on face value. If you’re not sure whether someone is attracted to you or sexually bullying you then think about the last time they genuinely gave you a compliment. Even the inexpressive, awkward guy is itching to find a way to show his softer side. If you’re trying too hard to twist what may be reverse psychology, then you’re probably dealing with a very twisted character.
And it’s time to run a mile.
I realise now I’ve been a little hard on myself.  It’s only over a period of weeks or months that you’re going to get a true picture of someone’s motivation. The important thing is that you trust your instincts and listen to yourself. We all read people wrong, especially with our workmates telling us this, that and the other, but with increasing amounts of information to hand, we learn to keep ourselves and each other safe.  
And we learn to forgive ourselves in the process.
Best wishes
BBTB x

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

WEEK 168 "I QUIT" Sequence

This week, I thought I'd give you a break from my relentless blogging.

Ever felt unappreciated by your boss, but not sure why? Here's a hilarious sequence of photographs I was e-mailed yesterday from a friend:-



































Brilliant. Hope you enjoyed.

Best wishes
BBTB x

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

WEEK 166 The Sermon of Father McKenzie

My workplace bullying book receives high praise, but my small social platform is causing publishers to think twice. It’s not big enough. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since that major publishing rejection.

The mistake I’ve made, of course, is in concentrating so hard on the message - I’ve overlooked my lack of messenger. This was something concerning me in my first ever Eleanor Rigby blog, 167 posts ago. I wrote:-

“I’m not scared of HOWARD. I’m not scared of being just another Eleanor Rigby either. I suppose at the moment I’m scared of one thing. I’m scared of blogging to no-one and, like Father McKenzie, ‘writing the words of a sermon that no-one will hear”.

Yes folks, I’ve been a bit naive. I’ve written my sermon, only to neglect to tell everyone there’s a new preacher in town.

Tackling workplace bullying begins with two schools of thought on education and awareness. One is employer focussed and the other is motivated toward employee. I’m pro employee. At present, employers have all the power. We need more examples of employees who creatively kicked back against workplace bullies. We need to get those employers a little concerned. Not that they should be terrified, but they should be aware that their employees have the power to do something more than raise a grievance or telephone ACAS if they’re targeted by bullies at work.

But who cares what I think, because the point is – with a small social profile, too few are going to get the message? At this rate, no-one (God forbid) will read the book.

So I’m geared up to shout a bit louder and help similar minds get their voices heard too. I’m getting to grips with Twitter (thanks to the help and support that is @Twiterrock). So if you like the blog and the message behind it – then please follow me on Twitter. I’ll follow you back and I’ll retweet.

Please re-tweet to your friends.

And ask them to re-tweet.

For ever and ever.
Amen.

BBTB
Bottom Swirl