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."

Sunday, 18 September 2011

WEEK 191 Bomb Disposal

Last week was a toughey.

Writing’s therapy. But like all things that are very good for you (vigorous exercise and healthy diets etc) it’s not necessarily pleasant.

I’m in the middle of a massive re-write of my workplace bullying book. I realised that just because I’m anonymous, doesn’t mean the reader can’t get to know me. I’m now wearing my heart on my sleeve for what is part workplace bullying memoir and part self-help. There’s nothing like it currently on the market, but it comes at quite an emotional price.

As part of the editing process, I had to go back through my documents and reconnect who I was when I was working with Howard. I had to relive my most uncomfortable moments and consider them again for the reader. I did, and the book is greater for it, but I crashed again. I cried all night the first evening. I barely held it together in work. On Wednesday I had another of my terrible headaches. I felt sick and constantly on the verge of tears.

As I calm down and make headway with my manuscript, it amazes me that Howard’s jokes which started three years ago in the autumn of 2008, still do so much damage. How many of us underestimate the long term effects of workplace bullying? We all do, surely! We all figure our problems will be solved the minute we leave the bully behind and start a new job. The minute our external problem is resolved, we think it’s dealt with.

We mustn’t underestimate the internal problems. It may be easier to bottle it all up and pretend it’s gone away, but if we don’t deal with it by talking or writing, at some point our bully might start attacking us again from the inside out.

Can you imagine what state I’d be in if I hadn’t have written the blog or the book? What shape would I be in had I not expressed myself and got my grief and anger out in manageable stages? Quite easily I could have buried it and pretended I was over it all, but it would have been sat there like a psychological time bomb.

The emotional damage from workplace bullying takes a long time to defuse. Make sure you dispose of it safely.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Monday, 12 September 2011

WEEK 190 Assistance for Assistants

This week, I’ve been asked to write a little piece for Bully OnLine for their ‘bullying within professions’ section. Here’s my breakdown of the kind of bullying that exists in law firms:-

1. Partner

The higher a person is in a law firm, the less likely they are to be bullied. By the time a solicitor makes partner, whatever people think of them – only the brave or stupid are going to say it to their face.

2. Solicitor

A few rungs down the career ladder, and the chances of being targeted increase a little. Bullying, as we know, can take many forms, but in the legal profession it’s often jokes and ‘banter’ about one particular person, or it’s a superior riding someone about every case file they’re working on.

3. The Trainee or Solicitor inexperienced in a new legal field

From my own observations over a decade working in law firms, complaints of bullying come mainly from trainees. I think the Solicitors’ Assistance Scheme may well agree with me on this point (provides initial free employment law advice to solicitors in trouble – visit www.thesas.org.uk).

This is a profession well know for the demands of the job. The long hours are legendary. The pressure to bill is constant. The areas of law are complicated and vastly different to each other. Therefore trainees and solicitors crossing to a new field need much assistance and, if a solicitor or partner takes a dislike to them, it’s easy to flag up every error made and every request for help to imply they’re not making the grade. Stonewalling is common to help a trainee sink rather than swim. A friend on Twitter wrote that her boss routinely met her requests for help with “utilise your resources” before eventually firing her.

A lack of support can be cruelly delivered it in the guise of “I’m doing this for the good of your future career!”

A further problem is that, given their law training, trainees, paralegals and solicitors are more likely to seek legal redress when bullied at work. The law is an adversarial field and legal bullying is a part of it. There’s no law against it - but what they can do is claim for any connected disability/sexual or religious discrimination etc. Law firms, in anticipating legal retaliation from a soon to be ex-employee, will sometimes resort to ‘stitching the employee up’ under the banner of ‘self-defence’. Targets of bullying may find their case files examined for the slightest mistake or unnecessary delay, their billing may be gone through with a fine tooth comb and even their conduct may be monitored. Then, if possible, the word ‘incompetent’ or ‘liability’ will creep into their personnel file. If the bullied trainee wants to take legal redress – they know they’re taking their future career in their hands to do so. That file will be the first thing shown to a Tribunal.

4. The Assistant

Lastly, there are the support staff and secretaries to consider. There’s no ‘Assistance Scheme’ for this group when it’s in trouble – and you’ve got the legal profession bearing down on you if you take action. Obviously, it’s the group most targeted and most openly bullied. I’ve yet to work in a place where there wasn’t one legendary bully making his/her secretary’s life hell.
So, the solicitors have the Solicitors’ Assistance Scheme. But perhaps what the profession really needs is the Assistant Scheme where assistance is offered to the assistant of the professional person under stress.

Maybe that’s my next move...

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 3 September 2011

WEEK 189 Ravens in the Tower


Firstly, I’d like thank everyone who sends me Twitter links to newspaper bullying stories. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it is.

If it hadn’t been for one such helpful act, I’d have missed the next instalment on the Beefeater bullying saga. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s been rumbling along since 2009 when the first female Beefeater, Moira Cameron, admitted that she was being regularly bullied and harassed during her duties at the Tower of London.

What followed was a saddening tale of two Yeomen Warders bullying their female colleague. One apologised to Moira and was allowed to keep his job. The other was dismissed and went running to the Tribunal. A £65,000 settlement was offered to him to shut him up.

The sad thing is that the Beefeaters’ bullying of Moira continues still. She recently said to the press “I love my job, but can honestly say that I would never recommend another female to apply for the position of yeoman at the Tower”. And this is from a woman with a 20 year history in the army - hardly a pushover.

The icing on the cake for me, however, was the spokesman for Historic Royal Palaces who said the organisation “does not tolerate bullying or harassment on any level of any members of staff.”

Did I read that right? Sorry spokesman, but actions kind of speak louder than words on this one! It reminds me very much of my WEEK 27 blog post ‘All Banter’, when the firm I worked for wrote exactly the same thing in their new Employee Handbook, but did nothing to address the bullying.

If you’re familiar with the legend, you’ll know that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London the tower and the monarchy will crumble. But ravens, of course, are mythically considered the birds of ill-omen so I guess, with all the bullying going on, the Tower and the Monarchy really haven’t a thing to worry about.

Best wishes

BBTB x
Bottom Swirl