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 July 2011

WEEK 180 Suzy Lamplugh Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of Suzy Lamplugh’s disappearance - sadly, HOWARD’S favourite joke.

It went way beyond banter.

I took his perverse modern retelling of June 28th 1986 (with me imagined in the place of Suzy Lamplugh) as a veiled threat. Who wouldn’t? His knowledge of the details worried me enough that I’d feel sick. HOWARD assured me he knew what happened. He told me in grisly detail, even miming some of the action. He said he knew her fate was what I longed for myself; male attention at any price.

These days, I wonder if he actually meant to scare me as much as he did. It was only last weekend I realised, with Suzy Lamplugh’s case in the papers again, that he’d been making it all up. Every word was fabricated. They never found her.

The joke was on me.

And take last Friday, for example. Where the world’s majority are praying for the Norwegians after the Oslo bombing and hideous massacre at the island youth camp, HOWARD would no doubt have viewed it as nothing more than another way to fire off cheap, disgusting jokes at my expense.

I worked with him long enough to know the kind of comments he’d be coming out with. But with people like HOWARD, their callous lack of compassion creates something else too. When someone else couldn’t care less – it often inspires others to care more.

And so we do.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 23 July 2011

WEEK 179 Horrible Bosses

Welcome to BBTB’s first film review:-

First things first, Horrible Bosses is crude; in similar style to The Hangover. I probably should have paid more attention to this before dragging my poor mother along.

The film’s workplace dynamics are as follows:-

Nick’s boss, Mr Harken (Kevin Spacey) is humiliating him and working him round the clock.

Dale’s boss, Dr Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), is sexually harassing him at work.

Kurt’s boss, Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell) is a coke addicted psychopath.

The main employer/employee relationship is that of Nick and Mr Harken (Spacey), with Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell playing for laughs, and crude laughs at that. Personally, I could have done with the whole movie drawn on Kevin Spacey and his worker. They had something there. Take it from someone who knows what it’s like to have a boss look you in the eye and tell you they’ll wreck your future chances of employment if you leave – Kevin Spacey was on the money. In a movie of one-dimensional characters, there was surprising depth to his carrot/stick abuse of Nick.

The first half of the movie is completely contrived. “But why don’t you just get another job?” one of them asks the other after they tell their horror stories over rounds of beer. Cue the co-incidental and timely arrival of an old school chum, once voted most likely to succeed, who is now a begging ex-Lehman Brother employee who’s been out of work so long he’s forced into offering the guys hand jobs for money. Yep. It’s THAT clunkly.

Nevertheless, the movie improves as it goes on. The empowerment the guys feel when they decide to go up against their bosses is spot on and funny. There are plenty of twists and Jamie Foxx’s character has his moments. The soundtrack was also good.

Overall though, as with real life, it’s the subtleties of workplace bullying rather than the crude incidents that you remember. It’s Nick having to drink a tumbler of whiskey at 8.30am because his boss said so. Doesn’t sound like much – but that’s the awful truth of workplace bullying – the things that don’t sound much are the most torturous.

So what did Mrs BBTB senior think? Being well acquainted with HOWARD, she wasn’t too shocked at the bosses behaviour. She did think the swearing, crude, misogynistic, racist and homophobic jokes were a little much. How did she put it?

That’s it...

It was hard work!

For a film that was 9 to 5 meets The Hangover, I give it 5 out of 10.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Monday, 18 July 2011

WEEK 178 Fake Fur

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll probably have picked up on the fact that I’ve little time for ‘experts’ who haven’t had real experience of workplace bullying. Statisticians and academics may mean well, but they often end up blinding us with untested theory or irrelevant statistics.

But at least theory and statistics are harmless. Poor advice, on the other hand, could cost someone their career.

Recently, a new and confident generation of corporate strategists are throwing their hat into the workplace bullying ‘expert’ ring. What worries me is that I’ve yet to read an article by one of these ‘experts’ which does anything other than pander to the fashionable ‘ethics’ of the corporate world – regardless of how risky their suggestions might be.

Bursting with confidence, the strategist is convinced they HAVE the answer. Their ideas WILL eliminate workplace bullying.

WOW! I went through it for years, studied it for years, worked with employment lawyers for years and I don’t claim to have the answer.

So what is it?

The strategists then offer a paragraph or two of generic, one size fits all suggestions, such as having a ‘roundtable’ meeting to expose the bully to their boss. Their articles are filled with buzzwords and management speak. Recently one corporate strategist confidently recommended a forensic audit once the bullying is made public. Really? A forensic audit? Can you see your average UK small business allowing the office junior to confront a bullying manager, upon which the small business sets about an immediate forensic audit?

ONLY IF THE OFFICE JUNIOR IN QUESTION IS THE GRANDCHILD OF THE CEO.

What happens, I want to ask them, when the company’s financial survival depends on the profits brought in by the bully? What happens when the internal damage a bully does is offset by their external commercial success? What about bystander apathy? What about the companies whose very culture encourages boasts about their CEO/Management bullies who plough through staff and makes lives miserable? What about when people are too scared of the consequences to challenge the status quo?

What’s missing from these corporate strategists and self proclaimed experts is that they’ve never lost their job because of bullying and they’ve obviously never sat down with anyone who has and listened.

Let me say it again so the strategists in the back can hear me. Workplace bullying is situational. You cannot eliminate workplace bullying because it’s human nature. All you can do is be honest, lay out the various resources to those who are going through it and hope they get themselves out of it as quickly as possible.

These new experts don’t care about those being bullied. Such articles are written to impress the corporate world and nothing more. They’re what my Nan would have called “all fur coat and no knickers”.

And in the new wave of corporate ‘ethics’ - it’s going to be fake fur.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Monday, 11 July 2011

WEEK 176 Match Fix

Ken Clarke, as Justice Minister, is doing everything he can to encourage Claimants to represent themselves at Tribunal. He’s harking back to the origin purpose of Tribunals; a place to represent yourself, or get a Union Rep to help. And, naturally, he believes that hundreds of millions of pounds would be saved.

Okay, so it takes money to lodge a claim and find representation. But if you’re taking a stand against your employer because of workplace bullying it is usually impossible to represent yourself and win. The law on workplace bullying is hellishly complicated. The timescales are tricky.

Many people think they’ll be okay gambling on common sense, but common sense, when it comes to accusing your employer of workplace bullying in the Employment Tribunal, counts for nothing. The bullying has to be on proven protected grounds, such as race, sex, disability etc. And your claim must be lodged within the strict time limits.

So time and again I hear lawyers coming back from Tribunal telling tales of Claimants who turned up alone and argued all the wrong points, even arguing themselves out of a claim they might have won. I hear stories of Judges rolling their eyes and trying their best to point a Claimant in the right direction, or drop massive hints, to no avail.

I can’t help wondering how different the statistics might be if people actually knew the law before they represented themselves. I have a feeling the success rates for employees would head skyward.

So just because you have the balls to represent yourself – doesn’t mean you should. Team up that courage with strong representation – and you’re getting somewhere.

Ken Clarke’s idea makes me question his role as Justice Secretary. Isn’t encouraging employees to represent themselves in Court going to pre-determine the result in most cases? Especially when your employer will always have their lawyers/barristers in tow?

It smacks of a Judicial match fix.

I say don’t make it too easy for them!

Best wishes

BBTB x

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

WEEK 175 True Colours

I wasn’t going to post this week. It’s been very quiet, but there’s always my 3 day watercolour taster course which ends today.

Oh boy. Has it been intensive!

Monday morning, my friend and I were nervous. We all were. Nine nervous students sat before our easels, carefully opening our boxes of 24 paints and clutching a handful of brushes as the register was called.

By the afternoon, practice over, the teacher assembled a still life of apples, vases, teapots and various backdrops.

“Choose whichever section you want” he said.

Me being me, of course, I did it all. I painted the green and gold curtains, the blue curtains with white birds in flight, the reflective red teapot, the two cobalt blue bottles, the plate of fruit and a little aquamarine cup with the gold rim.

It didn’t occur to me to make my first attempt easier and paint, say, JUST THE APPLES.

During break, I realised my fellow students had been more savvy. I was the only one to attempt everything.

“You’ve done this before” the teacher said.

I can’t remember the last time I used watercolours, but if it’s my overall approach he’s talking about - it’s one which seems to work for Bullied by the Boss. Even when I doubt I can do workplace bullying justice, I mix the colours in my palette and give it a go.

Best wishes

BBTB x
Bottom Swirl