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."

Thursday, 30 May 2013

ACCIDENTAL WHISTLBLOWERS, BULLYING AND EMPLOYMENT LAW


This week's informative guest blog comes from Kathy Pidgeon. Do click on the link at the bottom for more information.

I became aware of Public Concern at Work during my own experience of being victimised and hounded out of my job in the voluntary sector after raising some concerns about safety issues and accuracy of reporting to funders.PCAW are currently holding a public consultation http://www.pcaw.org.uk/Whistleblowing-commission-public-consultation   and I am keen to contribute to this  and would urge anyone else who has suffered detriment as a result of whistleblowing  to do the same.

Many people do not consider themselves whistle blowers initially –they are just doing their job. E.g. in health and social care making the assumption that they are working to a common purpose for the good of the clients they may express concerns about how something is being done –its safety or impact on wellbeing of client. The employer  often realises at this point that on-going bad practice/illegal activity/fraud is at risk of being exposed The ‘accidental whistle blower’ can then find themselves facing the start of the process to  discredit ,victimise and bully ,hound them out of their job and silence them. The employer’s priority too often is to cover up and protect themselves and their cronies rather than address the issues. Boards often become complicit in this as they realise they have presided over an abusive regime or bad practice etc.  The usual pattern is to discredit the ‘whistle blower’ often by spreading rumours about their alleged incompetence, trumping up charges against them, claiming they have mental health or personality problems There is frequently a subtle process of turning colleagues against them by making them think their jobs are at risk ,by offering rewards to them and not  the WB, telling lies about the WB etc
The accidental whistle blower  then starts to realise what is happening and  might appeal  against disciplinary action or raise  a grievance that they are being victimised etc. but all this is investigated and judged internally  so there is no chance they will succeed. The company/organisation has far greater financial resources as well as the other staff and board members, who by now fear for their jobs and/or reputations to back them and help them manipulate the situation in their favour as well as HR who are always ready to back the company that employs them rather than the target of abuse. 

If the WB/target of bullying hangs on and fights the employer can always fall back on Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR) to dismiss them using breakdown in relationship/trust +confidence. Any further attempts to defend their position is just seen as further evidence to this end + the target is so stressed by this time they will often agree to sign a compromise agreement (CA ) This is a contract  terminating employment supposedly by mutual agreement that includes a payment to the employee in return for forfeiting their right to take any further action against the employer or tell anyone what has happened to them. The original issues they raised are not mentioned in this agreement so as far as anyone is concerned it was signed over employment issues. The employer has therefore successfully covered up their wrong doing and silenced the employee.

Robust whistleblowing policies should be in place everywhere stating that any concerns raised by an employee that could be considered whistleblowing need to be lodged either first or simultaneously with an independent body. If an employer then triesto discredit an employee/trump up charges against them etc. after this date or if an employee raises a grievance for bullying, victimisation after this date it would have to be investigated independently and externally.  In these cases employers should not be allowed to use breakdown in relationships/trust and confidence as reason to dismiss an employee if legitimate, non vexatious, concerns have been raised and reported to an independent body.
The law and ACAS good practice as it stands makes it so easy for an employer to get rid of and silence a whistle blower or target of workplace abuse .Gagging clauses should never be legal except over business sensitive issues and client confidentiality. The ability to silence someone for raising concerns about patient/client/public safety leaves the way open for abuse of vulnerable people and bullying of staff to continue unchecked. To me it no different from allowing someone charged with domestic/child abuse to investigate themselves and silence anyone who has evidence of their guilt.

Kathy Pidgeon

Saturday, 18 May 2013

WEEK 273 The President's Wife



This week's anonymous guest blog has kindly been shared by @bullyingdecoded. 

Ten years ago I was bullied by the boss. We were a brand new department at an established company, which at the time wasn’t putting much effort into their marketing efforts, perhaps because of the success they gained back in the ’70s when the business was founded.

Our new department consisted of six people, five of whom lasted only six months. It started with the Director leaving and with the leader gone, everyone else dropped like flies. Except for me. I was a junior there, just learning the ropes.

Even though it wasn’t my job, I took over the manager’s duties because she too, jumped ship. I no longer had direction or guidance from anyone. Nothing like on the job “training” to really get you up to speed.

After a few months of working alone, I was given a new boss — the president’s wife. Turned out she was the reason why the new department didn’t work out. She terrorized each person, one by one. I got to enjoy a few months by myself and thought I was spared.

That strong perfume of hers — the scent of which, to this day, makes the hair on my arms and neck stand — made me cringe, almost as badly as if someone ran their nails across a chalkboard. Smelling it meant she was in the office and that I was going to have a bad day.

Bullying in the Workplace

The boss was a micromanager — one without people skills. She was always nitpicking my work, never encouraging or praising me, always criticizing with a goal to tear me down and build herself up. While that may prompt you to say “Suck it up and deal with it,” you cannot bear that kind of behaviour indefinitely.

She insisted on reviewing my work before it got sent to publishers. And while I understood she wanted to make sure my I’s were dotted and my T’s crossed, she would do so with the air of suggesting I was incompetent at my job. For example: she said my citings were incorrect and said that people’s work titles should be capitalized. But I Googled it and she was incorrect.

Plus, she started a sign in/sign out system for whenever a member of the group would step out of the building — even if we were just going to the car to grab something. It felt like a prison more than a workplace.

Health Consequences

After several years of dreading going to work and tensing up every time I smelled her perfume, I resigned. My health at that point had been affected. I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, which is an elevated form of hyperthyroidism. My endocrinologist said stress didn’t cause it, but stress does bring it out.

For me, it was always mind over matter. I would think: So what if work was stressful? She was the president’s wife. She was entitled to check my work, to criticize it. It happens everywhere. The grass is never greener on the other side so deal with it. Talk to your friends, talk to your boss.

In my case, there was no one at work I could talk to that could help me get the president’s wife off my back. She controlled the HR department. Heck, HR was afraid of her. I learned there were a lot of closed and pending legal cases against her. Someone told me to journal all the incidents, note the days and time and jot down my feelings. I did just that.

Appealing for Unemployment Benefits

Because I had to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible, I never had the chance to find another job. I filed for unemployment. I got denied. The president’s wife had a brother, who was VP there. He rebutted my claim with the office of unemployment so EDD declared that because I quit voluntarily, I wasn’t entitled to any unemployment insurance. I appealed.

Sitting in the conference room with the appeals judge as we endured a conference call with the brother, I was relieved I took the time to journal the details. I was too nervous to remember all the incidents. Some time had passed since the first “run-ins” and with so many things going on healthwise, I depended on my journal to cite these incidents. The judge determined I indeed was bullied and granted me unemployment insurance.

Workplace stress happens all the time. To be human is to stress. But when it gets to the point where your health is affected or if it affects the way you treat your family on an on-going basis, talk to someone and especially write it down. You never know when you’ll be opening that journal again.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

WEEK 272 Insensitive Bosses



THIS WEEK'S GUEST BLOGGER IS ANONYMOUS - ALTHOUGH MANY OF US WILL RECOGNISE THIS KIND OF BULLYING:
 
I used to great on great with my boss, then I made the mistake of having an accident and being off sick for 5 weeks.  When I came back to work, it was like I had a target on my back. 

In the last 18 months I have been called a “minion”, “little person” and referred to as “oh that just (name)”.  I have attended meetings with her and other staff from different departments, and at each meeting she has made a point of putting me down and speaking to me in a patronising / condescending manner, to the point that other people have noticed and commented.   I have spoken to my HR manager, my manager’s manager (both of them since one of them left) and also the Executive Director for our division.  In all instances, I was told “it’s just her unique way of communicating” and advised I could put in a formal complaint.  My argument against doing that was it would make my working life so much worse than it already is – do I really need that extra stress on top of what I am putting up with now?

But the icing on the cake happened in March – this really was the turning point for me....I discovered a lump in my breast and needless to say, I was not in a good place emotionally; my head was all over the place.  I advised my manager’s boss of the situation and said I would be having quite a few hospital appointments.  She told me I had to inform my boss.  I thought about this for a day or two, deliberating on whether to or not, and decided that I should, after all, her husband died of cancer a few years ago, therefore she would understand.  How wrong was I?  Maybe even a bit naive? What I was not expecting was what she said to me when I told her - 3 quick fire statements came rolling out of her mouth one right after the other:

1.    Her new partner’s wife died of breast cancer
2.    She told me my doctor was sending me to the wrong hospital for tests, I should be going to the hospital in the city where they have a specialist cancer unit
3.    I should call the Macmillan Hospice and arrange for a visit so I can see the facilities that they have to offer and speak to a specialist carer

This 3rd comment made me so angry that I couldn’t help myself, I had to say something.  I said to her “why would you tell me to do that? I’ve only just found the lump, not even got all my hospital appointments through and not had any tests, and you have me lying in a hospice dying?  Why would you say that?  That is the most insensitive and inappropriate thing anyone can say”.

I left her after having that chat and went directly to HR – they said “she probably meant well”.  What hope has anyone got when dealing with someone like that when HR defend her?
All my tests came back clear, the lump is just harmless fatty tissue.  The week that I got that news, I had a job interview, was offered the job and I have now handed in my notice.  I have 3 weeks left – and yes, she is making my last month hell.  However, I have an exit interview with HR, I hope they are prepared for comments – I have kept a diary for the last 18 months.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

WEEK 273 Navy Blue



THIS WEEK’S WORKPLACE BULLYING GUEST BLOG HAS BEEN WRITTEN BY LEE GOWER.

This blog follows an investigation into the members of Royal Navy personnel who had subjected me to bullying. Incidents like these do happen in Service, despite the Ministry of Defence denying that they do.

These following incidents occurred during my time on HMS Anglesey.

On returning from weekend leave on the first stand-off of the first patrol I found a chart on the table in the chart house.  It had been made clear to me that charts on the chart house table should be cleaned and put away, which is what I did.  A short while later I was called up to Lt. **********’s cabin where I was severely shouted at and told repeatedly how stupid I was for cleaning a chart that he needed.  

The next incident was when Lt. ********** called me onto the bridge.  He was on watch with the two QM’s.  I asked Lt. ********** what he wanted and he asked me where a certain chart was.  I said I had given it to him the day before and he denied he had it.  He then made me drag out every folio in the chart house looking for this chart.  Lt. ********** then came to the back of the bridge and said I had ‘fucked up big style’ this time and that I was ‘right in the shit’.  One of the QM’s then shouted that he had found the chart in the drawer of the chart table on the bridge, where Lt. ********** had placed it the day before.  Before returning to the bridge he said I was ‘a lucky fucker’ that the chart had been found.

Later on, I was walking off the bridge when Lt. ********** stopped me and accused me of calling him a ‘Fucking Wanker’.  I hadn’t even spoken to him and denied it.  He said if I spoke to him like that again he would ‘Fucking Troop me’.  Witnesses tried to tell him I hadn’t said it. He ignored them.

Whilst at sea I was walking up a set of stairs to the bridge.  As I got half way up the stairs Lt. ********** came down from the top of the stairs.  He ordered me to go back.  At the bottom of the stairs he said to me that not only is it bad luck to cross on the stairs but it is also dis-respectful because he is an officer and I am ‘only an OM’.

There were a number of incidents where it seems Lt. ********** would call simply to humiliate me, but I couldn’t tell RPO because I was worried about the repercussions.

 At the end of the second patrol, the XO approached me in the chart house.  He told me that the Gunnery Officer had noticed Lt. ********** giving me a hard time.  I told him that Lt. ********** had been getting at me and that it was getting me down.  The XO said he would have a word with Lt. ********** and I would hear nothing more of it.  Later on the same day I was in the chart house and Lt ********** approached me accusing me of ‘grassing him up’ to the XO and that I had ‘fucking stitched him right up’.  He said that if I had a problem I should go to him and not talk about him behind his back.  This was a one way conversation, as were most of the conversations with Lt. **********.

When I came home on summer leave in July 2000, I was in a very depressed state of mind.  My parents had tried to talk to me about why I was so depressed, but I didn’t want to talk.  I was just going over everything in my mind about how I expected everything to escalate once I returned from summer leave.  On the Monday morning after I had arrived home on leave I sent my mother a text message telling her of my overdose.  I didn’t expect her to get the message straight away because she was at work.  However, approximately 20 minutes later my mother came through the door, them I passed out.  The next thing I knew I was lying down in a cubicle in hospital.  I was treated and discharged later that afternoon.  Over the next few months, up until my discharge from the Royal Navy, I was seeing my GP and psychiatric counsellor once per week.

Throughout the whole series of events, I felt trapped in a situation where I believed I had nowhere to turn, based on the fact that complaints were supposed to go through the Divisional System and Petty Officer ***** was my Divisional Senior Rate and Lt. ********** was my Divisional Officer.

The whole situation has left me with a very bad opinion of the Royal Navy and I would never consider serving again.  I also feel that it is completely wrong that someone can treat a person in this way and expect to get away with it.  It seems that this is a case of senior people abusing their status.
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