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. Bullied by my boss in 2008, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I started this blog. 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." I was unaware back then that it would catalogue one of the most extreme cases of workplace bullying in the UK. I've found another job, but am subject to a gagging order. I'm still blogging, of course. Just don't tell the lawyers!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Birds of a Feather

The week began with HOWARD voicing concern that my laziness eats into his profit costs. He ruins my reputation deliberately - saying it’s for my own good. HOWARD believes secretaries are like battery hens. Keep us on our toes or we’ll get bored and destructive.

I’m fortunate that I sit near enough the Practice Manager for her to see everything HOWARD does. She knows how hard I work and I can’t blame her for not confronting him about his bullying. I don't confront him either. She'd had a series of meetings with him about it when he first started, and soon admitted defeat. However, she did tell him to stay out of my top drawer when he rooted round again to see if I had any food.

“Green tea with lemon?” he said, holding the packet up. “Glad to see you’ve not forgotten your prostate just because of the sex change.”

That afternoon, when I volunteered to help a solicitor by doing some extra typing, Howard warned her not to expect much. This’ll teach you, I thought, as I set about clearing my name whilst clearing the backlog.

My efforts had the opposite effect. Job done, she and Howard called a meeting for the following morning. I was asked to account for how I’d worked so fast. What usually held me back? Was I on the phone? Was I doing too much admin? Hurt and defensive, I asked if the Office Manager could join us. I needed backup, especially when Howard had his brain wave.

“There’s a spare desk opposite me,” he said. “Eva should move there. Then I could keep a proper eye on her.”

There is a tiny, single desk less than four feet away from However. Hmm, Mr Fox wants to take Miss Chicken away to look after her. Good old Mr Fox. Nice, kind, thoughtful Mr Fox.

“Unless…and I can’t imagine why - Eva wouldn’t want to sit there?” The three of them stared at me across the table.

“Um…um…” I blinked at the Office Manager, willing her to keep me in her little flock.

“I don’t know about moving her away from the others,” said the Office Manager. “I’ll think about it.”

When word spread to the other secretaries that I was to have my own desk there was uproar. For some reason they thought I was being promoted. Only fee earners get a whole desk to themselves.  The Office Manager told Howard that, unfortunately, there was no way she could move me, given the upset caused.

“I’m bored,” Howard said later, scrabbling about again in my desk drawer. “What have we got today?” He opened my packet of homemade sandwiches and stuffed half a sandwich in his mouth. I sighed.

“You know what this is called, don’t you?” he said, chewing.

“What?” I said.

“It’s called bullying," he said with a smile.

I may be a chicken when it comes to standing up to Howard, but his theory about battery hens is misplaced. No-one is more bored and destructive than Howard. I guessed correctly that the Office Manager was behind the promotion misunderstanding. I may not have privacy where I sit, but I do know I’ve got safety in numbers. Us birds of a feather, we flock together.

See you mid-week. I'm posting on Wednesday evenings too.

Eva x

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