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."

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

WEEK 123 Learning Curve

I’ve been thinking about some of the changes I made in 2010.

Instigating any kind of change when your confidence is at rock bottom is unspeakably hard. And the longer we work in toxic environments, the more we come to believe we are powerless to improve our position. We hang our heads and tell ourselves we can’t change our situation because a potential employer will spot our lack of confidence a mile away. We tell ourselves we’re trapped because of financial considerations, or because we haven’t the strength to retrain. We remind ourselves of our obligations and promise ourselves we’ll make that leap when we’re feeling braver or when a new job somehow finds us.

It’s understandable, but when we break it down – it’s the philosophy of defeat. If this is how you are feeling, then it’s time to start job hunting today.

If I learned anything from changing jobs after workplace bullying, it’s that we won’t feel any braver until we do something brave.

Good luck for 2011.

BBTB x

Saturday, 11 December 2010

WEEK 120 Letter to Santa

Stephen King wrote in his non-fiction book On Writing that you can tell if your book is up to publication standard by the kind of rejections you get from publishers. London publishing houses are too busy to give feedback to everyone who writes in with a proposal. There are many reasons why they might not wish to publish it, including changes in their chosen genre, marketing concerns and finances etc.

The two main types of rejection are as follows:-

Bad news rejection: A standard letter with a photocopied signature.

Good news rejection: An editor who liked it enough to write back personally.

I’m only telling you this so you understand why I’m so happy that my workplace bullying book proposal has been rejected three times this week. I’m celebrating because, although those publishing houses rarely publish self-help, here are two examples of the feedback I’ve been getting:-

“I found the writing to be compelling and inspirational...Please do continue to send us any ideas you think we might find appropriate.”

“I really loved your eloquent writing style, and you have a lot of really interesting things to say about workplace bullying – a topic which, as you point out, is not mentioned nearly enough in this country.”

Obviously, they’re still rejection letters but I’m even more hopeful that my book will get there. In fact, I’m thinking of enclosing all these letters to Santa and telling him all I’m looking for is a YES on the bottom.

Come on, Santa. BBTB has been a VERY good girl this year.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

WEEK 119 Christmas Cracker

Getting more and more panicky about the work Christmas party, I thought it best to have a chat with my boss and explain I couldn’t go. He knows I get nervous sometimes. I apologised and, again, said it had nothing to do with my new firm.

“What if you knew you had a friend going?” he asked.

OLLIE’S secretary has accepted the job. I instantly felt better. Even though she didn’t witness what I went through at the last Christmas party (having been bullied out months prior) she hadn’t been surprised to hear the jokes I’d been subjected to. There were so many jokes at my expense, I recorded only a handful in last year’s Christmas party blog. There were gems I left out, such as my taking my place in my best party dress as HOWARD told people:-

“Appearance wise - she’s the equivalent of a street van burger. Okay from a distance but close up its disgusting, the fat content makes you feel nauseous and you’re forever sorry you ever went near it.”

He’d also gone through a production persuading people to swap seats because he couldn’t eat whilst looking at me. Apparently - I put him off his food.

Thinking it was hilarious, a property lawyer exchanged chairs with him.

That’s why I didn’t want to go to the Christmas party. I’ve more than paid my dues in respect of pretending I’m having a good time when, inside, I want the ground to swallow me up. But there’s something about Christmas; and there’s something about goodwill to all men and all that jazz. I’m going to try and put it behind me. I told my new boss I’ll give it a go.

I’m just praying the only bad jokes I hear this year are pulled from crackers.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 4 December 2010

WEEK 118 Word of Mouth

On Thursday, I was delighted to hear OLLIE’S secretary was called in for an interview. My boss had a chat with me about her. I said how hard working she was. He called up her CV.

“Seems she’s following you around. I didn’t realise she was working at your old firm. For some reason she’s used the company initials instead of the firm name.”

“I can’t imagine why,” I replied. I couldn’t help smiling.

I’m cagey talking about my old firm, even though my boss has heard a number of unpleasant things on the grapevine anyway. He said once the interview was over I could pop down and see my old friend. As promised, he came up with his colleague at 4pm and said they were done, if I wanted a quick chat. His colleague stopped me and said she couldn’t believe what she’d heard about my old firm; PHILIP’S swearing, his terrible tempers and his throwing things etc. I didn’t say too much.

I ran down and saw OLLIE’S secretary. She explained they’d asked about our old firm and, not bound as I am by confidentiality, she saw no point in lying. My boss asked her if the things he’d heard were true. She agreed – PHILIP’S management style was similar to Basil Fawlty– and he allowed other fee earners to behave how they liked.

It’s not my word of mouth, or OLLIE’S secretary’s, that shocks people – it’s PHILIP’S own word of mouth and HOWARD’S own word of mouth. I’ll stick by the confidentially clause I’m bound to, but these firms that promote swearing, abuse and bullying don’t seem to realise how badly it’s their own word of mouth damaging their companies.

The subsequent confidentiality agreements keep the wrong staff silent.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

WEEK 117 Candid Camera

The only thing that still bothers me, psychologically speaking, is that HOWARD’S left me with rock bottom self esteem concerning my appearance.

I’m not very good at analysing what’s in the mirror. It’s like it’s been airbrushed by HOWARD. A-symmetry is accentuated. I now have a borderline phobia about how I may or may not resemble a Springer Spaniel.

This may sound weird, but when I’m in those moments when I’m really paranoid about how I look – I’ll take a couple of pictures on my digital camera to see my real image. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. The camera shows me someone pretty normal. Not conventionally attractive granted – but I’ll happily take normal over HOWARD’S awful exaggerating.

I trust the camera.

Then my IT friend, who helps me with website or blog restructuring, popped in last week. He’s a good guy, you know, the kind of person who’d put themselves out for anyone. With me, he’s always concerned about my lack of confidence and he hit on a bright idea to give me a boost.

“You should try working as a TV and film extra!” he said.

He was certain it would bring me out of my shell and be tons of fun. So yesterday I signed up for two casting agents to work as a film and TV extra. It’s a brilliant idea. Even if I get the very occasional bit of work – it’ll be worth it for my confidence.

It takes a bit of work to bounce back from workplace bullying, but who’s to say that work can’t be hanging around on a film/TV set, bringing in a bit of money and giving you a self esteem boost at the same time.

And the best thing is - they say the camera never lies. Now that’s refreshing.

I’ll keep you updated.
Best wishes
BBTB x

Saturday, 27 November 2010

WEEK 116 Can't Bully Me

I hope you saw the BBC Three documentary, Can’t Bully Me, which followed four youngsters as they tried to overcome the traumatic effects of bullying, with the help of the Red Balloon organisation.

It was very emotional. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy, let alone children. But it was a program of light and shade. The support the children got from Red Balloon was amazing. In fact, I took some of their advice myself yesterday.

Still unable to go to the work Christmas party, colleagues are curious. It’s only a week away now. As they discussed their dresses and gave me questioning looks, I felt under pressure to go. But I know full well, if I force myself, it will trigger a string of panic attacks. Work mates imagine I don't want to go because of a previous Christmas indiscretion. How can I explain it's because I'm terrified of being bullied and humiliated because of the way I look?

And that’s the reminder I got from Red Balloon. It’s to employ of patience. If something makes me very anxious – then that’s the way it is for the time being.

Another thing I learned is that at some point, I’m going to start looking into school bullying too. Those brave children from Can’t Bully Me taught me a lot. Maybe one day I can return the favour and give something back.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

WEEK 115 Family Familiar

Job identity is a powerful thing.

How many times have you worked with someone curt, driven and disinterested, only to find them the height of charm at social events?

I’ve known loads of people like this. The kind of people about whom colleagues whisper, “You should see her when she’s out! She’s a different person.”

I started thinking about this when a solicitor said, “It’s strange. Giving a client a dressing down isn’t difficult when I’m wearing the guise of a solicitor, but I wouldn’t dream of addressing someone in the same manner if I was representing myself.”

It made me consider how the employment roles we adopt often alter our behaviour completely, not only with clients or customers, but also the people we work with. We can be one person in work and someone entirely different off the clock.

Whilst we all compartmentalise, we should be mindful of ourselves when we do. We must resist, as far as possible, sacrificing our individuality for a generic job identity. It’s a short step from being curt, driven and disinterested to being outright rude to colleagues when the heat is on. And even targets of workplace bullying can succumb to the stereotypical labels directed at them and accept them as some sort of personal definition.

The goal, perhaps, is to be the kind of person in work your family and friends would still recognise if they chose to spend a day with you.

It’s extremely important, even if it is easier said than done.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 20 November 2010

WEEK 114 Catch Up

I never lost contact with OLLIE’S secretary from my old firm.

It was around this time last year that I carried her possessions home in a cardboard box. She’d left a ton of stuff behind when PHILIP had bullied her into signing on the sick. I gathered up her 2 pairs of shoes, her Walkers multi-pack, thick black cardigan, personal stationary, mobile phone holder, calendar, biscuits, tins of leek and potato soup, her paperbacks and snack-pack of assorted nuts. I crammed them in an archive box. Then I wobbled all the way to her house, trying to keep it steady as the rain fell.

It was impossible not to get upset.

She’s had a tough time since. She was ill for a few months, when her weight plummeted to 7 stone due to the stress. Then she had to work 7 days a week (days, evenings and weekends) to make up for her lost earnings. Finally, she got a good temporary job. She was on the mend. But last week they announced they’re letting their temporary workers go because of the cuts.

It’s not official yet, but there’s a permanent job coming up at my firm. I told her on the QT to get her CV in. They’re giving her an interview soon. I’m keeping everything crossed.

It’ll be my pleasure to help her unpack her cardboard box somewhere nice.

And the above sentence pretty much defines my ambition for us all.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

WEEK 113 If It's For You...

I’m forever reminding myself of the phrase, “If it’s for you – it won’t get by you.”

I tend to go after things like a Jack Russell. I exhaust myself working to obtain something - when sometimes it’s more sensible to trust these things will to come to you.

I was all ‘terrier’ in collecting evidence against HOWARD.

Then yesterday, out of the blue, I had a text from HOWARD’S first secretary. He’d always got on pretty well with her. She’d had a clear out and came across some paperwork from a couple of years ago. It included a couple of friendly e-mail exchanges between her and HOWARD. However, there were one or two serious ones, where he’d enquired with reference to me, “What the f*ck have I done to upset her now?” HOWARD’S secretary politely indicates that it’s his habit of standing over my desk for hours on end insulting me that does it.

There are also other e-mails where he’s sarcastic following publicly humiliating me. “I hope she’s not f**cking crying again!” he writes.

HOWARD’S first secretary asked me if I wanted them for evidence. She’s heard about my Tribunal attempt. It’s a gift. Although I’m not taking them to Tribunal, these e-mails are essential to back up my workplace bullying credentials.

If I’ve learnt one thing it’s that no amount of dogged, persistent lies by workplace bullies can keep the truth hidden for long.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Saturday, 13 November 2010

WEEK 112 Opportunity Knocks

It’s been a tough end to the week for my parents. They arrived home on Thursday to find they’d been burgled.

My mother took it the hardest. She felt the thieves might have been watching the house. She believed they’d been deliberately targeted. She wracked her brains as to whether they’d done something to make them stand out from the other houses in the street. She agonised over whether if she’d done this, that or the other – it wouldn’t have happened.

When the police arrived, they painted a different picture. They knew for sure the thieves had leaned on any number of doors until they found one that gave. It was impersonal and non specific. It was that simple. As night fell, the burglars had worked their way down the numbers and got lucky.

The police made my mum feel better. Not just because they agreed my parent’s house is now reinforced like Fort Knox, but because they’ve stopped her blaming herself. She realised she wasn’t asking for it to happen. It’s just one of those unpleasant facts of life.

The whole thing resonated with the way I look at workplace bullying. We spend inordinate amounts of time wondering what we did wrong. But I believe it’s more a case of the pressured boss or colleague working their way down the numbers. When they lean on someone without the neighbourhood objecting, it’s their choice whether they take the opportunity to destroy whatever you’ve got.

Opportunity may knock, but opportunists don’t.

So you mustn’t blame yourself if you didn’t see it coming till it was too late.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Thursday, 11 November 2010

WEEK112 Remembrance Day

I’m taking today out as a mark of respect for those the brave souls who fought and died for our country and those still fighting for it too. So today I’m going to keep it simple and leave you with the words of Winston Churchill:-

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Wise words for all of us.

Best wishes,

BBTB x

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

WEEK 110 Location Location Location

I’m back in every sense of the word.

It was a wonderful break.

I arrived at the retreat like something out of a Bronte novel - cutting across the cliff tops in the gale force wind. By the time the door swung open and I was scooped into the arms of Sister Nora, I looked as wild as the weather.

When I’d combed the twigs out of my hair and got to know my fellow retreaters, it was apparent they were searching for something spiritual.

They were convinced that, after all the yoga and meditation, I would return to the world a changed person. They said things would never be the same again – now I was embracing a different, gentle philosophy. I knew that wasn’t the case. I’m not looking to make inner changes. The change I want to see is in the workplace. I just needed my batteries recharged.

I got exactly what I wanted.

It’s essential, when you’re fighting against something or for something that you stand back from it now and again. The perspective doesn't have to be philosophical as much as geographical. You just need distance, a quiet change of scenery where you can reappraise. In my case the questions were along the lines of, is this worth continuing to fight for? Is this worth continuing to fight against?

Of course, the answer is yes.

The distance I needed to travel for that perspective wasn’t an inner journey so much as the distance from my flat to Sister Nora.

I highly recommend it.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Thursday, 28 October 2010

WEEK 109 Mini Break

Last week I wrote about my nerves being shot. I’m eyeing up the last of the pancake mixes again (8 boxes left = 54 individual pancakes). I can’t sleep or concentrate properly.

It’s time to take my first proper break of the year. I’m off to a yoga retreat on the coast, where Catholic Nuns cook wholesome vegetarian food and relaxing treatments are available all weekend.

I’m back on the blog next Wednesday, when I’m sure I’ll be back on top of my game.

Take care of yourselves too.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 23 October 2010

WEEK 108 Quiet Ones

Eight weeks have passed since I sent off my book proposal, and I’ve heard nothing.

Coupled with the fact that last week was to be my Tribunal hearing, my nerves are shot. To hide my jitters in work I’m working harder; getting in the zone. I threw myself into it this week. I was quieter than usual.

Even then, I’m clumsy. I broke a colleague’s mug when making her a coffee. I made mistakes, but I got through it. No-one suspects I’m fraying around the edges.

They were trying to persuade me to go out last night. I went for one drink, with one of the girl’s persuasive observations ringing in my ears.

“It’s not like you’ve got anything else on!”

Anyone suffering from workplace bullying would agree home is sanctuary. But more than that, it’s where we can stop putting a brave face on.

After I initiated my claim against my old firm, they claimed I didn’t act like someone who was being bullied. It makes me laugh now. (As if being withdrawn, covered in hives, complaining to HR and quitting don’t count).

I’m sure if you asked any of my colleagues now if I behave like someone who’d been the target of an extreme bullying campaign, set up a website and blog, settled a court case, and written a book to help others going through the same thing, they’d fall off their chairs.

They’d just tell you I’m a bit quiet.

It’s the quiet ones you want to watch. We don’t look like we’ve got anything else on – because we’re making every effort to hide the sort of emotional baggage few others can truly understand.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

WEEK 107 Final Chapters

I’ve been dreading this week.

My Tribunal was scheduled for this week and the start of next. It was removed from the Court list ages ago, but the date loomed large in my head.

I’m full of questions. Still heartbroken about the terrible lies they told in the ET3, I can’t help wondering if they would really have been prepared to take their fictional masterpiece to Court. Surely it was too complex a web? All those lies to cover up what they knew to be more lies by HOWARD. There’s a possibility, of course, if my barrister wasn’t up to much HOWARD could have taken it to Court and won. Can you imagine the field day the local press would have had if I’d lost? Sadly, it’s a possibility. I’ve seen it happen.

I know I did the right thing getting out of it.

Perhaps it’s the writer in me causing me sleepless nights. Every story has a beginning, middle and end. And with the original ending rubbed out of the diary, I’m waiting on word from the publishers.

I hope they give my book a fair hearing.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Sunday, 10 October 2010

WEEK 105 I Didn’t Do It

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt as a legal secretary it’s that, on paper, things aren’t always as they seem.

Employment claims, obviously, involve work conflicts. The worst ones (usually the ones about bullying or harassment) are the ones where the bully and the employer pretend there was no conflict at all. Bullies often claim their relationship with the accuser was 100% conflict free; that the Claimant has another agenda.

Under pressure, the employer or guilty boss/colleague will go to such lengths to prove they’ve been set up that the whole thing becomes bizarre. They’ll allege things like “After our innocent chat about the weather, the Claimant started to cry and complain of harassment! She’s obviously after money!”

I heard this hundreds of times at my old firm. “We didn’t do anything. So and so is suing us because she’s a money grabbing *****”.

Weirdly, people buy this. But here’s the newsflash. The majority of people walk away with a settlement ranging from one to two month’s wages. Considering they’ve probably walked out of their job months before and have a solicitor to pay – they’re probably stacking up debts that one or two month’s pay isn’t going to touch. They know they won’t get much - but something is better than nothing when you've been bullied out of employment.

We all know the real security is keeping the job you’ve got - more so when you have a family, a mortgage to pay and bills coming in.

So when an employer or one of its employees says, “I didn’t do anything – he/she was trying to maliciously extort money from the firm” – it’s only a matter of time before the thing they didn’t do happens again to somebody else.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 2 October 2010

WEEK 103 Sympathy Vote

Sometimes I have this recurring dream about HOWARD.

I dream HOWARD corners me in the street and begs forgiveness for the way he treated me. He admits he took his personal problems out on me and he’s sorry now, now that his troubles are resolved. He’s full of regret.

Emotional and sympathetic, I tell him not to worry about it. I tell him I understand. It’s water under the bridge.

I wake up annoyed at myself. You see, I learnt my lesson in real life. I’m done with making that mistake; sympathising, forgiving – and then being harassed all over again.

Whatever personal or professional troubles HOWARD had at the time – they were more than matched by the one’s he gave me.

He’ll never apologise in real life, but if he did, I like to think I have the maturity to forgive him – this time without an ounce of sympathy. Sympathy implies support.

And any sympathy I have is now reserved for the targets of bullying.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Saturday, 25 September 2010

WEEK 101 I Heard it Through the Grapevine

I’m going out more.

Mid week, meeting my best friend for a drink, I wasn’t at the bar two seconds before being tapped on the shoulder by a legal stationery supplier guy I hadn’t seen in ages. When I asked him how he was he looked appalled and said, “Haven’t you heard what happened to me?”

For the next 20 minutes I didn’t get a word in edgeways as he told me this awful story about how he’d delivered an inordinate amount of new equipment and paper to a large law firm. On the way out the door he’d taken a single chocolate from a complimentary tin sitting on reception. The Office Manager, having witnessed this, wrote a stern letter of complaint to his boss. He was sacked for gross misconduct and theft. The funny thing was, I’d heard the story of his Tribunal claim on the grapevine, but I had no idea I knew the guy myself.

Then last night I went to a wedding party for a girl I’d worked with a long time ago, years before I’d worked at HOWARD'S firm. It had been a good company and I’d made many a few long standing friends. I was soon catching up with them. I’d heard from one of the secretaries there more recently, however. She was the secretary approached by the Senior Solicitor for a discussion about me after I walked out. She’d got word to me about it on the grapevine. (Swimming with Sharks blog) Guessing I’d had serious problems, she knew I’d understand the similar problem her sister had had. I listened until she stopped talking and sat up with a start.

“You know what you should do?” she said, “You should become an employment lawyer! You know everything there is to know. You’d be brilliant.”

Nice idea, but for now I’ll continue what I’m doing. I’m still learning, but I don’t need an ILEX or a trip to law school to further my education.
I just need to keep listening.

Best wishes

BBTB x

Friday, 17 September 2010

WEEK 100 It’s a Man’s World (But it wouldn’t be nothin’...)

THIS IS MY 100TH BLOG.

Can you believe it?

In the last week or so, I’ve found myself dwelling less on bullying and more generally on how vulnerable working women can be, especially when we’re living on our own. There are so many stereotypes heaped on us; awful assumptions made by colleagues and society at large. It’s still a man’s world. HOWARD’S not the only guy to find the joys and miseries of working women one big joke. He simply took it to the next level – finding past examples of the rape and murder of women quite hilarious.

It’s a sobering thought.

Still, how can I be sad when this is my 100th blog? It’s such an achievement. And how I wish I could tell HOWARD that to celebrate my milestone – I’ve donated some of his settlement money to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

See you soon

BBTB x

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

WEEK 99 Can you keep a secret?

I hate secrets.

And I can’t remember what life was like without them.

My world has revolved around workplace bullying for exactly two years. Back then I wasn’t sure if it was bullying. Everyone said he fancied me. I believed them at first – all those childish insults, impressions and his negative attention seeking. It didn’t take me long, however, to realise I was in trouble. I didn’t know what to do...

So I secretly began reading about workplace bullying.

As the bullying cranked up a notch, I felt something no one wants to feel at work - genuine fear. One day the guy would say sorry and make me laugh, the next he’d be back to scaring the living daylights out of me.

So I secretly began writing about workplace bullying.

As things got even worse, I lost control of the situation; ended up walking out and trying to take them to the Employment Tribunal. In the end, I signed a Compromise Agreement swearing me to confidentiality.

So I secretly began writing my anonymous book on workplace bullying.

My next blog will be my hundredth. I’ve written my book on workplace bullying. It feels like I’m at the crossroads. Is it a good place to stop or a good place to really begin? I know I’m going to continue on regardless.

So now I secretly wonder if I’ve gone a little bit nuts.

See you soon

BBTB x

Saturday, 11 September 2010

WEEK 98 Stranger than Fiction

At my old firm, when events took a surreal turn, my secretarial friend used to lean in and and whisper, “You couldn’t write it, could you!” The irony was I was writing it, but she meant you had to see it to believe it.

This happens all the time. I often question whether I should blog about something when events sound unbelievable. Will people think I'm making this stuff up? And these serendipitous moments are starting to spook me out.

A few weeks ago a meeting was called with some new clients. I didn’t know what it was about – but I delivered the coffee and biscuits and thought no more of it. Later, I learnt that they’ve invited our firm to participate in a large corporate conference relating to employment law. Our firm’s role is to set up a mock Employment Tribunal and role-play a fictional ‘Day in the life of a Tribunal Hearing’.

I thought it was strange. It’s the experience I missed out on – and now I’m likely to have the whole procedure acted out in front of my eyes. The cast is assembled; my boss is the Respondent, another colleague is the Claimant, the Tribunal panel, witnesses etc have all been chosen. It’s going to be set up exactly like Court.

I’m supposed to be organising the details for the day in question. That’s right. Me. It gave me goosebumps – so I checked in my personal diary just to be sure. I was right. Underneath the Tippex you could still make out the ghost words ‘TRIBUNAL HEARING STARTS’ and arrows spanning the six consecutive days.

Is this the weirdest overlap or what? It’s exactly the same time as my actual Tribunal was scheduled to start and my new boss is playing Respondent.

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and fiction – in the case of mock
Tribunal hearings – is going to be just as informative and a million times less stressful.

See you soon

BBTB x

Saturday, 4 September 2010

WEEK 96 Dragons' Den

Do you ever watch Dragons’ Den?

I love it, all those hopeful inventors - with their questionable gadgets and even more questionable business valuations. It’s so risky. When they walk up those stairs with their ‘original’ product, I almost peep through my fingers. The Dragons usually end up tearing a strip off them, snapping that no one else has invented it already because no-one wanted it in the first place.

The ‘uniqueness’ of the invention is pointless if it has no unique selling point.

This resonates with me. I have a chapter in my book called ‘Suggestions from the Blue Sky.’ It’s a collection of my practical ideas about how to deal with bullying, or prove it, while it’s happening. But here’s the thing I find strange. I’ve never read similar proposals anywhere else. Why hasn’t anyone else done this? Where are all the other books with such concepts? When I read ‘Blue Sky’ through, it seems defiant and rebellious. But it’s not subversive, it’s just written with such lack of guile, even I find it disarming when I read it back.

Mr Fan noted a couple of weeks back in the comments section that bullying is the ‘silent nightmare.’ So true! Have we so been so cowed by our work dragons that we are reluctant to talk about it at all, let alone admit we’ve learnt anything that could help others?

I really am planning to walk up those stairs, face the publishing Dragons and tell-it-like-it-is.

Let’s hope I don’t get burnt up.

See you soon

BBTB x

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

WEEK 95 No Pain No Gain

I’m nursing a nasty case of sciatica. All this writing about workplace bullying both in and out of work has electrified every nerve in the base of my spine. After a few days it spread to my knees and calf. Finally, with the tension tying my tendons in knots, my Achilles became inflamed. Cue ice baths, Co-Codamol and a great deal of limping. I’m typing away with an ice pack tucked into the belt of my jeans.

Looking good!

The agony may be self inflicted from hours typing, but when I think about what I went through to create this book, it’s a fraction. I’ve written about workplace bullying every day for over a year and a half using the energy from a battery fully charged with emotional pain. I think it's finally beginning to discharge itself.

Sciatica is a walk in the park. Not literally - that would be a limp in the park, but you know what I mean. If you’ve been bullied, you’ll know. And if this sciatica is the result of writing too much about workplace bullying, I welcome it with open arms.

See you soon

Eva x

Saturday, 28 August 2010

WEEK 94 Rejection

Book finished, I couldn’t help sending a letter and sample chapters to the first 4 London publishers on my list. Aim high and all that.

As I plugged into my audio-typing, I consoled myself even if everyone on my list rejects it, it’s not the end of the world. I still have a full time secretarial job in a lovely law firm where no one is bullied and everybody is kind.

Hey, no problem if these publishers hate it.

What a lie!

Now I’m wondering how much of this crazy business is a knee jerk reaction to HOWARD’S constant assertions that I’m a social reject. What better way to prove him wrong than to write a fantastic book about workplace bullying. But I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, haven’t I. I’ve put everything on the line. I’ve chucked everything into this book to prove I’m not just a useless dreamer of a secretary who refuses to grow up.

When I think about this madness, the dedication it’s taken to write this book - he’s half right.

I’m a dreamer of a secretary who refuses to give up.

...Just yet.

See you soon

Eva x

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

WEEK 93 The Shining

When I said last week my physical and mental health were on the mend – I may have been premature. This time, however, the injuries are self-inflicted.

The obsession with my finishing my book on workplace bullying has shrunk my world to the path between two desks; work and home. Now I’m feeling it. The effort of sitting on an office chair staring at a screen for 12/13 hours a day is taking its toll. My back’s killing me to the point I can’t go to the gym. My wrists and thumbs pulse. By 3 o’clock I get PC claustrophobia. I can't stop wriggling in my chair. By the time I turn my computer off in the evening, the eye-strain enduced headache causes genuine tears.

A good example is yesterday when, late afternoon, I had to move because bits of me had gone numb. Walking like Ken Dodd, I made it to an absent fee-earner’s room and stretched. Holding onto the shelves I bent forward; spine creaking in protest. It was then I saw his stack of ELA Magazines. Flicking through them, I noted one or two featured the subject of bullying. After a quick sort, I hobbled back to my desk with 9 magazines to read at lunch today.

My mum is organising an intervention. She’s planning a bus trip to the countryside on the weekend. She’s worried if she doesn't, when she reads it, my book will have shades of Stephen King’s The Shining. Each page will read,

“All work and no play makes BBTB a dull girl.”

It’ll do me good to get a break; some fresh air and a stretch, but she doesn’t have to worry. I am obsessed, but only because I’m close to finishing. And the thought of finishing –

It makes me shine.

Eva x

Saturday, 21 August 2010

WEEK 91 Holiday Entitlement

It’s good to be back. I’ve missed you!

I didn't plan to go AWOL.

For the three weeks leading up to a week last Thursday, I was crossing off my days in work to my hols.

And the moment my annual leave arrived, my system imploded. The last 8 months of 2010 ganged up and pummelled me into submission. This year, I’ve been bullied within an inch of my life, I’ve had an operation, walked out of my rotten job, attempted to take my former firm to Court and been awarded a final settlement. In the midst of all this I was still recovering from my operation and I started another job.

Having found one, I dared not request for holiday entitlement until my feet were under firmly the table.

Shocked and surprised by my near physical collapse when I did take a day off, I listened to myself. I closed the door, turned off the computer and curled up for a bit. I went into an overdue emotional and mental hibernation. I watched old movies and broke up the days meeting friends for coffee. It was convalescent.

Only when I was ready, I turned my computer back on, but left the internet disconnected. I re-drafted my book and took it easy.

The second draft is complete. My physical and mental health is on the mend.

And if anyone is entitled to write about the long term damaged caused by workplace bullying, it’s me.

See you soon

Eva x

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Annual Leave

I'm taking a little holiday and will return on the 21st August.

Best wishes and see you soon

Eva x

Saturday, 7 August 2010

WEEK 89 Bounce Back

All week, BBC news has charted the Rocky style comebacks of the big banks. Financially crippled two years ago, the banking giants are now recording huge profits. Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC were up there in the list of those transformed, fighting fit and ready for a new era.

Lloyds Bank made a £1.6 billion profit following a £1.3 billion loss over the past two years. How so? By a drop in the bad debt and by dumping a staggering 16,000 staff.

RBS reports a similar picture. They also recorded a pre-tax £1.1 billion turnover for the first half of the year alone. Last year they recorded a £3.4 billion loss. Again, it was a drop in bad debt and the loss of approximately 23,000 workers that turned the company around.

It got me thinking about my old company. HOWARD, as far as I know, is still employed with the law firm and, I assume, still earning them a good deal of money. Perhaps they’re also recording record profits.

The banks, and my old firm, are breathing a sigh of relief. The worst is behind them. The guys at the top are patting themselves on the back, lighting cigars and taking the stopper out of a decanter of brandy.

I can’t help feeling nothing has changed. Has anyone learned anything? Will the guy at the top always screw the guy at the bottom to make a quick buck? Maybe I sound a bit cynical, but this is the way it works. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. In a world of corporate spin and marketing, it’s how quick you bounce back from corporate adversity which makes the headlines.

So, if you’ve lost your job or been bullied into half-shadow by a corporation, it’s time you did everything in your power to address your balance sheet and do everything you can to make your comeback every bit as extraordinary as theirs.

See you soon

Eva x

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

WEEK 88 To be or not to be...

I’m always patting myself on the back too soon. A case of pride coming before a fall, I suppose.

“Look how I’ve bounced back!” I say to my mum.

Everything in the world looked peachy and, well – in a nutshell - full of babies. My sister in law had her second scan last week and revealed on the weekend I’m going to have a little nephew at Christmas. A solicitor had to rush off from work as his wife was being induced (cue a last minute sweepstake on weight and gender). Another solicitor is also due at the same time as my sister in law and is sporting a very becoming bump. We’re approaching my best friend’s baby’s first birthday.

It’s a wonderful world, as the great Louis Armstrong sang.

But in parallel, I’ve felt a growing emptiness these last few days. I needed...something. Something else creative perhaps. I searched for artistic courses in my area. Fuelled by ambition, I didn’t want any old course. I found it in the end; a nationally recognised qualification one-day per week textile design course that had my imagination run riot. I could create folksy art products to sell on-line. It could be the personal investment to change my life and, who knows, eventually accumulate the net worth of the collective investors on Dragon’s Den.

I was almost sweating with the need to reduce my hours in work to four days a week and pull it off. I justified asking for the four days by telling myself it was unlikely I’d ever need to ask for maternity leave.

I had to see reason at some point. The reason came when I was told the course was cancelled due to lack of interest. I had to face it then. I’m craving the immediate emotional fulfilment writing the first draft of my book gave me. Had my creative passion become desperation? I considered why I might be missing it. Was it the pleasure of writing it? Was it boredom or the anti-climax after a frenzied bout of creativity? I had plenty to do, and in terms of writing I still have my blog.

Anyway, if I was that desperate, there was nothing to stop me re-writing it right now. I mean, just because writing experts say you should let the first draft just ‘be’ for a few weeks, there was no actual law against not doing so. But I knew, like we always know deep down, what I was really trying to avoid. HOWARD successfully drummed into me that childless women have no social purpose. We are a worthless old bunch. The act of writing my workplace bullying book gave me the sense of social purpose I felt put me on an equal footing to everyone else.

“Hey, I’m as important and creative as the next girl!”

Yes, reader, I’ve been running around like a lunatic the last few days trying to justify my existence. Not to HOWARD though. That would be bad enough, but HOWARD is long gone. He's left me trying to justify my existence to myself.

Horrible isn’t it? But I’m going to calm down now and take a leaf out of the experts on writing book. I’m going to just ‘be’ until the first draft re-writing deadline has passed. I can live without it for another week and a half.

Creating things with purpose is a wonderful, profound thing, whether its books or babies – but we shouldn’t overlook the elemental fact that we’re already the art someone else created.

See you soon
Eva x

Saturday, 31 July 2010

WEEK 87 Ying/Yang

I’ve been having a bit of coaching to get my life back on track. I hope she doesn’t mind me mentioning it, but Ann Lewis of “Recover Your Balance” fame has been helping me out a bit.

It’s not easy. I’m sure it’s not easy for her either. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable about questions being asked; sometimes I want to throw my toys out of the pram and stubbornly refuse to answer another question. But I’ve learned that’s precisely when I have a breakthrough. That’s the moment I realise something valuable about myself. Dark before the dawn I suppose.

I put my recovery squarely at the feet of my coach. The gravity of what I went through may have changed me forever, but the coaching has helped me begin to embrace the new me; who I am post HOWARD’S audio commentary.

So the events last Wednesday must be something to do with all this. It started innocently enough. I agreed to see a play with an old friend. Her husband had agreed to watch the kids so she was free for the night. My workplace bullying book first draft was locked away so I thought it would be nice to do something different. It was at a theatre I’d never been to and I didn’t know the title of the drama.

My friend and I met in an arty bar, which made me feel a bit old and out of it. I stuck to diet Coke and when other fabulous friends of hers turned up and offered to buy drinks I was determined to stay sober. It’s a school night so to speak. I enjoyed the play (even though half of it was over my head).

Afterwards, I realised my friend knew the cast, the writer and the director. We all headed into town for a few celebratory drinks and, for the first time in a long time, I let myself go a bit. I’ve not enjoyed myself so much in years. I forgot the time. I forgot myself. I was fun and cheeky and, well, alive.

Of course, the next morning it was a different story. Six years since my last hangover and little could prepare me for the struggle into work on Thursday. No amount of painkillers, hot early morning shower, coffee or endless gallons of water could ease the feeling of molten liquid lapping around in my skull. My eyes were hot and heavy. I felt irritable and sullen. It was the anti-climax of course. Surrounded by new friends who encouraged the writer in me – I was in my element. The next morning I felt like I was being tortured as I typed away, leashed to my desk by my set of earphones.

Sometimes these things are opportunities. It’s only in times of real crisis we get to strip everything back and ask, “Who am I and what do I want?”

HOWARD forced me to ask the question and Ann Lewis is helping me find the answer. See, in everything there's a positive and negative.

I’ve just got to lay off the Pinot Grigio.

See you soon

Eva x

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

WEEK 86 Pace Yourself

I did it! I finished the first draft of my workplace bullying book on Sunday.

Having shut myself away to get it finished, when I came up for air there were one or two domestic chores outstanding. I raced to Tesco, chucked my laundry in the machine and cleaned my little flat from top to bottom. Then I turned on my phone and PC to catch up on any messages. I resolved to get everything done before I opened my half bottle of Blossom Hill to celebrate.

I had the shock of my life when I opened my e-mails. My old employment solicitor had sent me an e-mail. I wondered what was up, because I’d paid his bill. It didn’t bode well. I don’t know about your e-mail set-up, but mine shows the first few words of the contents, which read in this case...

“I’m sorry about this but I’m afraid I’ve done something really stupid...”

My mind galloped off 10 scenarios where your solicitor needs to apologise and none of them were good. I tensed and opened the full version.

It’s always the last thing you expect.

He’s signed up for the half marathon for charity and wants to get some serious training in. Ambitious in everything, he wants to get the best time he can. He asked if I might help him, could I draw him up a schedule or go on a couple of training runs with him or something.

I was absolutely delighted. It’ll get us both fit.

Life throws up lovely surprises. I’ve just finished a first draft of a book which includes why employment law should be put through its paces and here’s my old employment lawyer volunteering to go first.

See you soon

Eva x

Sunday, 25 July 2010

WEEK 85 Two Birds, One Stone

What upset me most last week was not learning that the Christmas party was at my old office’s favourite hotel, but my reaction to it. After weeks of making happy and steady progress, HOWARD jumped straight back in my head. His mocking tone was loud a clear; how ugly I am; how my book is a big waste of time; how vulnerable dreamers like me will never amount to a hill of beans; one of life’s essential losers.

So this week’s blog is a short, quick one. I locked the door of my flat last Friday. The moment I got in from work I was determined to finish the first draft of my book, started a month ago. I typed yesterday until my brain fogged, the night fell and so did I, straight into a mentally exhausted sleep less than an hour later. I figure I’ve got about 8 hours of good typing in me today before I collapse. It should be enough. Then I’m going to have a celebratory drink and forget about it for three weeks.

It's such an achievement. I’ve never been so driven and ambitious for something. I also had no idea I have so much to say about workplace bullying. And while I’m writing, of course, I’m only in tune to my own voice. The glorious by-product of this is I’m too preoccupied to listen to HOWARD still trying to dictate my future.

Do wish me luck. I’m drowning him out by proving him wrong.

See you soon

Eva x

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

WEEK 84 Circle of Life

I’m not one for dwelling on traumatic events. I’m off, sprinting away from it. I’m fine if I don’t look back.

I mean, distance is good. The more distance I get from HOWARD and his pals, the better I feel. And here we are, July is almost over and that means we’ll be putting up decorations before we know it. I’m doing well, I think. And that’s what I was mulling over in work as the e-mail arrived from personnel. I was typing away, thinking about how things are getting better and better.

I should know by now that that is precisely when a person gets hit out of left field by the past or, to be exact, the ghost of Christmas past.

The e-mail wanted to know who could and could not make it to the works Christmas party at the beginning of December. The venue just happened to be the very same venue my old firm had booked two years in a row.

I went straight into panic mode. I couldn’t breathe. There was no way I could go. Not only had HOWARD made me feel like the most hideous person there twice but in the ET3 my firm had lied and said I pestered him for attention all night when I was the first to leave! The very idea that I would, for the third year running have to sit in the same room, only with a different bunch of solicitors was too much. It was unthinkable. It was absolutely unbearable.

I sent an immediate e-mail saying I couldn’t go.

Questions will be asked. It’s obvious I’ve got nothing booked for that particular afternoon and evening in December. I’ve only recently passed probation and now I’m refusing to go to the social event of the year. They’re already working on themes. It’s Hollywood glamour v ball gowns. I’m hiding welling tears under a heavy fringe hoping nobody brings me into the conversation.

The further the distance from my old firm, the closer the need for distance with my new one.

I’m calming down now, of course. I’ve told them I’m not going and that’s that. Enough of these circles already.

I’ve drawn the line.

See you soon

Eva x

Saturday, 17 July 2010

WEEK 83 Communication Breakdown

It’ll take me a while to get used to the cover-up.

My brother texted out of the blue to say he was paying me a flying visit with his family. I don’t see him that often so I shelved my gym plans and ran around for extra food and presents for his children.

When he turned up we had a couple of awkward moments; the unsettling aura of familiar kids grown into adult strangers. Separate lives. He wanted to know what I’d been up to recently. I paused. I frowned. I wondered what he’d make of my solicitors bill alone. “Not much,” I replied.

As his children bounced on the bed (a novelty having all your furniture in the same room) my brother noticed the papers on my desk. “Are you writing a book?” he asked.

I paused again. I frowned again. I thought about my current 56,000 word count. “Not really.”

“Will you ever get it together to buy your own place?”

“Maybe next year,” I said. “Anyway, what have you been up to?”

Fortunately, his children made it fun for us.

I can’t help wondering what he’d make of it all if he knew. I honestly don’t think he’d believe a word of it. When they left, I bumped my word count up to 58,000.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve signed the confidentiality clause saying I can’t talk about it. I can write about it – and I’ll have more things in common with those reading. We have a mutual interest.

Anyway, you don’t have to talk to communicate. I’m off to celebrate my growing word count by bouncing on the bed.

See you soon

Eva x

Saturday, 10 July 2010

WEEK 81 Saving the Day

I have a pedestrian attitude to money. I don’t spend above my earnings, but I don’t save either. As long as I can pay my rent, bills, food and clothes I’m doing alright. I used to have a friend who bragged about her ISA but, being honest, I couldn’t foresee the day when I would have the kind of savings to get one myself.

Thanks to HOWARD and his pals, I went to the bank this morning and got an ISA.

As the bank clerk did a sweeping examination of my accounts, he mentioned my mobile telephone bill, trying (as they always will) to sell me the bank’s insurance products. He pointed to the screen and I noticed an entry underneath saying that £11 had been direct debited out of my account for Unite union membership.

I told you I had a pedestrian attitude to money. I should have cancelled the Unite direct debit ages ago!


Now, perhaps you’re wondering why I didn’t seek help from Unite when everything kicked off?

Well, um, actually – I did.

The day I walked out of work, leaving HOWARD and pals my terrible resignation letter, I went to M&S cafe to have a cup of tea and think about what to do. The woman behind the till in the cafe was kind and I sat in the window in complete shock.

I remembered Unite had an office in town somewhere. Surely they’d help me. I’d been a member for a while. Most of the secretaries at my old firm had quietly joined one union or another.

I was on my way there when the PM left a couple of messages on my mobile asking me to call her back. She said she was worried about me. I wanted to phone her back and shout, “You should have helped me! You should have helped me!” I started crying and turned my phone off.

As you can imagine, I really needed advice when I got to Unite. I took out my membership card and went to their reception. There was no-one behind the desk. I waited 10 minutes. There was no-one around. The place was deserted. Confused, I went back outside and looked up at the scores of windows. There were definitely people moving about inside.

I phoned them up. A woman answered and I asked her if I could speak to a rep. I told her I’d walked out of my job and I was outside.

I was told they do not see people like that. I reminded her that I was only outside if someone could just spare me 10 minutes. I was told, no, they could not. She would get a union officer to call me back on the phone and take details. Incredulous – I gave her my mobile and membership number.

They never called me back. I can only assume they were too busy with newsworthy collective disputes to have time for a legal secretary crying outside on the pavement.

I went to the employment agency and the rest is history...

So today, I had the bank clerk set up my ISA and cancel my Unite direct debit.

It makes me laugh - after what I’ve been through recently and what the country’s been through economically – who’d have thought I’d actually have more faith in banking than the unions!

Lots of love,

Eva x

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

WEEK 80 Ruby Tuesday

At a little before 4pm yesterday, my solicitor e-mailed me in work to say the cheque was ready. There was a new light-hearted tone to his e-mail. I imagined him smiling and waving the cheque back and forth triumphantly, pretending he was just drying the ink.

I popped in on my way home to pick it up. We had an amicable chat, swapped pleasantries.

He recommended, with a note of kindness, I should put it all behind me. If I ever regretted not having my day in Court I should definitely take the time to visit the Tribunal, particularly if there was a sexual harassment claim listed, to see first-hand how Claimants are treated. He thinks I did the right thing.

He also reminded me again, if I was going to write about workplace bullying I would have to be careful to stay completely anonymous. I couldn’t tell anyone about any of this. It’s too small a world.

We shook hands and said goodbye like friends. He handed me a lovely letter saying he wished me all best and that I deserved every success in my future career – whatever I might choose.

I left his office and got swallowed up in the heavy swell of commuters, the hundreds of office staff leaving for home.

I want to be anonymous. I’m used to it now. There’s a real freedom in no-one knowing who you are. I want to be any one of these people in the crowd, rushing from the office.

I figure some of them will be wondering what they can do about their boss who made their day utterly miserable yet again.

I’m in the process of trying to come up with some answers and I’ll go to any lengths to ensure they never hang a name on me.

There’s no time to lose.

Lots of love,

Eva x

Saturday, 3 July 2010

WEEK 79 Anger Management

Last week was a good week. I finally got to a place where I could put HOWARD and his pals behind me.

As the immediate euphoria waned, I realised I was getting tetchy. I’m still unusually out of sorts. Something’s really bothering me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I’ve landed on my feet in my new job. My employers are kind and friendly. I’ve got the settlement money on the way. What’s to complain about, right?

Yet I could yell my head off in frustration.

My workplace bullying book is going very well. The ideas are tumbling onto the page. And there lies the problem. It’s the only time I feel good and I can’t get enough time with it. I’m resentful of having to go to work, do the shopping and see my friends. All I want is to be left alone to write my book. I’m annoyed at having to grab an hour here or 20 minutes there. I just want to get it written.

It goes without saying - creativity shouldn’t, ordinarily, make you antsy.

The underlying problem is I can’t forget the lies HOWARD and four Senior Management staff wrote about me in their submissions to the Court; allegations so disgusting I couldn’t even record them fully in my blog.

Those members of staff knew what they were doing. They know me as a person. They know the truth. I don’t know how they can face themselves in the mirror, trying and failing, as they did, to mislead a Tribunal with horrendous lies. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

I’m so angry, so betrayed. If I don’t do something constructive with it, it’s the kind of anger that destroys a person from the inside. I need to keep busy. I need to focus my energy and manage my emotions.

It’s essential to my health now. I’ve got a book to write.

Lots of love,

Eva x

Thursday, 1 July 2010

WEEK 78 Jarndyce v Jarndyce

There was a delay. The first time round HOWARD and his pals signed the Compromise Agreement, but they forgot to date it, rendering it invalid until it was sent back.

Would you want HOWARD and his pals to act for you? They can’t even get the ‘sign and date’ section of a legal document right first time.

Still, we got there in the end. It’s now legally binding.

I rushed off and bought my solicitor and his secretary a present to say thank you for their help. I know they were only doing their jobs. Plus he’s already getting his £7,050 fee for three months work. Can you believe this includes a slight discount? It’s the biggest bill I’ve had in my life.

I’ll never complain about council tax again.

In a few weeks time, if the case had gone on, my solicitor’s fees would have shot up again. If he hadn’t made me see sense, by Christmas I’d owe my solicitor a small fortune and had no settlement left to pay him.

My solicitor and Dickens’ fictional Chancery lawyers share the same advice about Chancery Court and the Employment Tribunal:-

"Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here!"

It’s a £7,050 lesson, but I’m grateful to my solicitor.

You can put a price on education.

Lots of love,

Eva x

Saturday, 26 June 2010

WEEK 77 Remembering

A lovely thing happened this morning.

Normally, my mornings go the same way. I wake around 5.30am. I go for a run or, more recently, I’ve started work on my new workplace bullying book. Then I line up 101 things to do. Monday to Friday I'm in work, but I’m also blogging, twittering, going to the gym, cleaning etc. The trick is to suppress memories of HOWARD by keeping busy.

Then this morning I overslept.

I awoke under a gold sheet of sunlight, so I knew I was late. It was, in fact, an hour and a half later than planned. But I still had feeling it was going to be a good day. I can’t remember the last time I overslept, but we’re talking years. Thankfully, I wasn’t late for the writers’ workshop I’d put my name down for. I haven’t done one for a long time and I was little nervous. However, I needn’t have been. It was a fantastic day. It was creative, inspiring, encouraging and among friends.

I’ve spent so much time recently with my solicitor having to recollect specific details about working with HOWARD, it was lovely to recall of the shape of my life before he came along. And I think that’s why I overslept this morning. My system is reminiscing - and relaxing. Looked at in terms of a life of 36 years, HOWARD is merely blip on the landscape.

I find having left my workplace bully behind, life begins to mould back into something resembling its old form. Only time will tell how complete a recovery I make.

But I’m remembering...

If you are the target of workplace bullying – I want you to try and remember too.

Lots of love,

Eva x

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

WEEK 76 Money Talks

They’re sending the money tomorrow.

It’s so quick my head’s spinning. My solicitor will hold it for me for a couple of weeks, but HOWARD and his pals are desperate to pay me off. They can’t get the money to me fast enough.

I can’t make sense of it. I never wanted money. I just wanted HOWARD to sort himself out and stop humiliating me. Why would they rather send over a wad of cash than apologise?

Truth is, I don’t know what to do with the settlement. What’s eating me up isn’t just the fact that I still wish I’d found a way to Tribunal, I’m also really scared. This is my big chance to change my life and I don’t know where to start. Do I really want to be a secondary school teacher? Maybe I’ve been insulted enough for one lifetime. What about writing? What about workplace bullying and raising awareness? What about the other creative things I want to do? What about using it towards a deposit for my own home and getting out of this rented shoe-box?

It’s a pressure I never saw coming. I have to make a decision about what I want to do with my life.

The money is nagging me to make a decision.

It won’t shut up.

But it wouldn’t be half so bad if it actually said sorry.

See you soon

Eva x

Sunday, 20 June 2010

WEEK 75 Avoiding a Void

I’ve had some tough weeks, but last week was the toughest of my life. I almost cracked. I was plagued with Hitchcockesque nightmares in which crows beat their black wings against the windows until they smashed through. I had night sweats, panic attacks and then, after signing the Compromise Agreement, the weight was gone.

My solicitor explained his new concern. He said after nearly two years of hell I would be facing a void almost impossible to fill. I didn’t doubt him. This weekend I planned to put my files of evidence away where I couldn’t see them. It was going to be one hell of an all-time great anti-climatic weekend.

I gave myself a Saturday survival routine; morning run, coffee with my mum, yoga, Ann Lewis’ Recover your Balance exercises, and then I returned from a trip to town to bury all my lever arch evidence files in a storage trunk. I put a smaller storage trunk on top. Then I spring cleaned my little flat from top to bottom. Now that’s what I call cathartic, or um...empty.

I tried watching the Ghana v Australia world cup match. I pulled Ghana in the work-sweepstake, but my many of my blog pals are Australian so I didn’t know who I was rooting for. I didn’t catch the end. I watched some CSI episodes to see what a friend of mine makes such a fuss about. CSI is interesting and clever, sure, but not void filling.

Then I woke up this morning sparkling with a new idea.

I woke up with a title in my head - the title for a workplace bullying book. I turned my computer on and tried it out on a blank page. I loved it and it loved me. I phoned my mum and asked her what she thought of it. She loved it too. She’s my mum – it’s her job to love it. In fact, she sounded like she was crying. It is the first time she’s heard me excited in a while.

I tried writing an introduction and the ideas came tumbling out.

So this is my marvellous HOW-TO-FILL-THE-VOID challenge. Each morning I’m going to set my alarm 1 hour early and write 1,000 words of my book. It doesn’t have to be polished, it just has to be 1,000 words on my workplace bullying ideas and observations, telling it like it is. My aim is to get it written, re-written and polished by the end of October. I don’t know if anyone will be interested in publishing it, but who cares. It’s not something I need to think about at the moment. I’m all about filling the void. And this is fun.

OH MY GOD. I AM HAVING FUN!

See you soon

Eva x

Thursday, 17 June 2010

WEEK 74 White Knight

Anyone reading my tweets will know I almost went AWOL this morning. I was going to go somewhere, anywhere. I couldn’t face work. I couldn’t face the Compromise Agreement. I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t know where I was going, but I couldn’t have cared less. I was going to ditch it and run.

That kind of panic is, in itself, a place that I never want to revisit.

I forced myself through it. I made it into work and later to the meeting, where I started crying when we started reading the Compromise Agreement.

But it dawned on me, as we read on, what my solicitor’s role was. The penny dropped. The problem was that I’d expected my solicitor to come to my rescue. I expected him to rail against the bullies. I expected him to defend me and to fight the other side. I expected him to make them pay and bring justice.

This is not what solicitors do.

You expect a white knight - you get a white flag.

Originally, for ambiguous reasons, HOWARD had launched an attack. It led to a 2 year war. His motives no longer matter. It simply had to end. This is a solicitor’s job. He/she stands between two feuding parties and tries to force peace/compromise/negotiation. They aim to get the best for their clients in the shortest possible time and, yes, they hope to earn lots of money.

My solicitor said he’s failed his client if a case gets to Tribunal. He should stop the war – period. Each week of ongoing litigation only brings his client more casualties, be they emotional or financial. I didn’t understand my solicitor on Monday, but he was on my side after all.

Thanks to him, I’m stumbling out of my trench and wondering what’s become of my world.

I’ll keep you posted.

Eva x

Monday, 14 June 2010

WEEK 73 Swimming with Sharks

HOWARD once drew a picture of me naked being menaced by a mighty shark. He said the shark represented male lawyers. He wrote the caption above it, “Help, help, I’m a vulnerable person.” Then he tore it up and threw it in the bin.

It sounds like nothing, but I almost went under that night. That was the first time I phoned the Samaritans. That was when it really felt less like bullying and more like mental torture. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but there was something about it, something that spoke on a subconscious level perhaps...I don’t know.

Or at least I didn’t until today. I didn’t until I was crying on the phone to my solicitor. He wasn’t sympathetic. He said people like me who don’t have the money to pay up front don’t get to call the shots. He said I can’t have it all ways. He said either way they’ll humiliate me and lie about me until it’s over so I can settle quickly or drag it out and waste more money. My solicitor couldn’t care less about my humiliation.

He just wants his cut of the CFA.

The conversation was instigated by the fact that the Senior Solicitor is running around town investigating whether there is a loop hole to get out of settlement.

Maybe the day HOWARD drew that picture he sensed I was already injured. There was blood in the water.

I wonder if it was a premonition.

I’m surrounded by sharks...and being torn to pieces.

How does anyone survive this?

Eva x

Sunday, 13 June 2010

WEEK 72 Not Lost in Translation

A secretary I worked with years ago got a message to me that she’d been approached by the Senior Solicitor. He e-mailed asking if she’d seen me recently. He wanted a chat about me. Knowing OLLIE’S secretary had a terrible time with his firm and assuming I’d had a similar experience, she ignored his e-mail.

Undeterred, the Senior Solicitor phoned her to ask if she’d had any contact with me. She told him I was an old friend and she was not going to be drawn into whatever was going on in his company. So he didn’t bother her again, she sent him an e-mail telling him to sort his own problems out; her polite way of telling him to “get stuffed.”

I’d already let a similar incident slide when, last week, I heard on the grapevine the Senior Solicitor had approached a lawyer I work with. I figured his questions about me might have just been opportunistic enquiry.

It’s more serious than that. The Senior Solicitor, scared of press involvement, is running around town trying to assess how many people know what I went through at his firm. He's also trying to find some dirt on me to get out of the settlement. So far, his investigations have turned up zilch. I can imagine him scratching his head and wondering if they’ve all got away with it.

He’s looking in the wrong place, of course. As we know, I’ve been candidly telling it like it is all over the place; confiding in my friends in the UK, Australia, Finland, USA, Canada, Israel, South Africa, Brazil and Japan etc.

I sincerely hope and trust that if the Senior Solicitor talked to any of you, the only difference in the unanimous “get stuffed” messages would be the accents.

See you soon

Eva x

Thursday, 10 June 2010

WEEK 71 Can't Blame Me

Last Friday, my solicitor gathered all the documents HOWARD swore didn’t exist.

They were the documents HOWARD assured Senior Management I was making up. He said the documents had to be an “elaboration,” a work of fiction from a deranged, lonely individual.

When my solicitor scanned them all and e-mailed them to HOWARD and friends they all went into meltdown. Nuclear style.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was stewing in depression, completely oblivious that a couple of miles away HOWARD and Senior Management were imploding. I don't know why my solicitor didn't tell me what he was about to do, but this is what happened:-

1.They issued an immediate Temporary Reporting Order to stop me talking to the press and followed it with an application for Permanent Reporting Order.

2.They threw a settlement offer on the table in the financial bracket that would be awarded at Tribunal for serious sexual harassment and discrimination.

3.HOWARD was told he would have to pay the lion’s share of the settlement himself out of his own pocket.

4.They agreed, without argument, I can write anonymously about workplace bullying and harassment and draw upon my personal experiences to do so.

It’s over, bar the signature on the Compromise Agreement.

I know it’s no Hollywood ending. I didn’t get to turn up to Court looking amazing, my barrister didn’t humiliate HOWARD to tears and make him admit he did wrong. My old firm didn’t write a blank cheque and promise to treat their staff better.

But I do have enough money to start teacher training in 2011. After I’ve retrained I’ll be looking for a place to live with more than one room and separate toilet. I’ll get a car again. Who knows, someday soon I might meet Mr Right.

Maybe I haven’t changed the world, but I’ve changed my world.

As for the rest of it, you can’t blame me for trying.

See you soon


Eva x

Saturday, 5 June 2010

WEEK 70 Marmalised

I owe you an apology. I was misguided. I thought I could change things through creativity and understanding; that truth would triumph; good would win in the end. And even as I write that, it sounds hopelessly naive. I genuinely thought I might make a difference.

My solicitor, who hasn’t known me for long, has called me an idealist twice, both occasions saying it like it was a dirty word. Its true people like myself are probably a little more open to being exploited by damaged individuals like HOWARD.

And I’m afraid, when I got drawn into putting up a fight, I may have dragged you along in my delusion that David could beat Goliath.

This is real life. David’s been marmalised. Goliath leaves the messy scene intact with an only an annoying headache and slightly less cash in his pocket.

It’s over for me in terms of fighting HOWARD and his friends. I’m outnumbered and out-financed. The only thing that remains is that if they won’t agree to remove the confidentiality clause – I will have to ditch my solicitor and represent myself to Tribunal. It’s my worst nightmare, but I’m in this process and it’s too late to back out.

Truth is, I think I may have got it wrong. Fighting for my cause changed nothing.

I’m not saying don’t fight...I’m just saying eventually you will have to chalk it up to experience and move on. Whether you cut your losses or fight all the way, it's hard, unjust and unrewarding. When my solicitor talked about how HOWARD would probably have to pay his share of my settlement out of his own pocket, all I thought of was HOWARD’S children. When you think about it like that, there are no winners.

There has to be a better way to resolve these things...

In the meantime, I’ll be here for you, like you’ve been here for me. If bullies are going to win as a rule, we need to support each other. As long as we’re trying to make a difference - maybe we’ll get there.

See you next week. Take care of yourselves and thanks again.

Eva x

Thursday, 3 June 2010

WEEK 69 Impossible Causes

I saw my solicitor today. I was determined to fight on until he threw me a question which I’d never considered.

Do I have any savings to pay a barrister?

Due to the volume of evidence my solicitor said I will now probably have to pay a barrister up front. “Few barristers,” he said, “will read all these documents and lead a 6 day trial on a Conditional Fee Agreement.”

Also, HOWARD and friends have panicked and employed a top London barrister so we can’t hire just anyone. He said, knowing their barrister, my chances of winning have fallen from 100% to 75%.

Who on earth have they got? Kavanagh QC?

I don’t have any money so it’s the end of the road for me. So I’m trying to get the message out...okay...I’m begging for a bit of help. If anyone knows any brilliant barristers who would accept this case on CFA please let me know. They can read about it first-hand here and decide.

I need a miracle.

I’m praying to St Jude.

If not, then I'm heartbroken to say there is no way to win. I have tried my best and found it to be impossible. If you have loads of evidence, you need loads of money. If you have no evidence, you have no case.

I'll keep you posted...

Eva x

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

WEEK 68 Alarm Bells

The time has come to suspend my blog.

For obvious reasons, I’m putting it on hold until the Final Judgement of the Tribunal hearing.

My solicitor has accepted I'm not going to settle whatever it costs me (45% of my damages in his case, not including VAT and disbursements).

I don’t want to risk jeopardising the trial so I cannot blog about the details over the next six to eight months. I will continue to write, but I won’t post all the details until the trial is over, at which point it becomes public record. I have a feeling, however, that what I learn will be more than worth the wait.

I will still be on Twitter. Please, please keep in touch there. I’m really going to miss your comments on my blog. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my thoughts before I proceed without the blog for a while.

When this country fell into the grip of recession, secretaries at PHILIP and HOWARD’S firm seemed more concerned than the lawyers.

Secretaries we’d worked with before began to text or e-mail about possible vacancies with us as whole departments were made redundant. CVs poured in. Worried, we discussed how risky it was to only have one client. What if something happened? We could be next. What if our big insurer found a cheaper firm? What if they found someone better? We could all be put out of work. Our law firm would close the same day.

But there were no redundancies at our firm. There was not even a whisper. This is because, as long as PHILIP’S one client is content, they aren’t going anywhere. The insurance client calls the shots. That client was, and still is, a major player in the legal expenses insurance market. They refer all sorts to my old firm, but over 50% of the cases they refer are employment claims.

We often wondered what our big insurance client would say if they knew that legal secretaries were treated worse at PHILIP’S firm than most of the examples in the employment claims they referred to us.

PHILIP and his colleagues were confident they were invincible - until my solicitor hinted at the serious evidence backing up my allegations of bullying. They started hearing alarm bells then. When you only have one client, and that client refers employment claims, the last thing you want is a former secretary telling her own true story to the Tribunal of public humiliation and harassment within your firm. The alarm bells got louder. What if the big client found out about the others who’d tried to claim? That kind of negative publicity could lose the client and sink the company.

Now, I’d heard alarm bells from the beginning. I heard them watching secretary after secretary bullied out by PHILIP. I heard them as I saw these girls’ Tribunal claims fail on technicalities or PHILIP’S lies. They were the soundtrack behind my awful treatment by HOWARD; the bystander apathy and the “let it go in one ear and out the other” advice from those who could have helped.

So before I suspend my blog for the duration I’d like to pass on this advice to them regarding those alarm bells, and to all employers who treat their staff abysmally.

Ask not for whom the alarm bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

See you in six to eight months.

Eva x

Saturday, 29 May 2010

WEEK 67 All or Nothing

The biggest problem people have when trying to prove they’ve been bullied is a lack of evidence. After the event, when asked to give examples of the incidents including times, dates and names of those involved, it's hard to recall specifics.

“But I left months ago...” they'll say. “I can’t precisely remember, but it was around October, or maybe it was November – but it was horrible. And it got worse!”

The best case scenario, with no evidence, is a lawyer will pull out a Compromise Agreement and the worst case scenario is they’ll say it’s a waste of time. Not a leg to stand on. The bully has sneakily covered their tracks. The victim looks like a liar.

My own bully, on the other hand, got complacent. HOWARD, secure about the amount of money he brought it, wasn’t concerned about covering his tracks. The more they let him get away with it, the more he believed he was invincible. He sent me scores of offensive e-mails for a start. And I collected the evidence.

Too much evidence apparently.

There is so much evidence my solicitor isn’t comfortable. He’s had to book a “reading day” at the Tribunal, which will cost me more money. There was a tone to his voice, as if he wished we could leave half of it at home.

“It’s just expensive all round,” he said.

It may be expensive and inconvenient for people to take time to review the evidence but it is more costly and inconvenient to have no proof against HOWARD when he accuses me of being the secretarial version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

Keep a workplace bullying diary; keep e-mails which prove what you are saying. Keep everything you can. If you are being bullied you’ll need it all.

“Reading days” are a good way of reminding the Employment Tribunals, Employment Lawyers and Barristers just why they’re doing the job in the first place.

Eva x

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

WEEK 66 The Award Goes To...

Yesterday, when I told my solicitor I want to make an example of my old firm, I knew he wouldn’t be happy. “But Eva,” he said, “The legal costs will eat up your damages. I’m just thinking of you...I want you to walk away with a good settlement. If you go to Tribunal the only ones who win are the lawyers.”

If I don’t go to Tribunal, the only one to win is HOWARD, who, it so happens, is also a lawyer.

I am surrounded by lawyers saying I should take a cheque and walk away. Apparently, they’re all just thinking of me.

You might know already, there is something called a “nuisance award”. Self explanatory, it’s when a company pays some annoying ex-member of staff to drop a legal action.

The Compromise Agreement is one step up from the “nuisance award.” Of course it’s the easiest option - take the money and keep your mouth shut. It is also the laziest answer to staffing problems. Not that the Compromise Agreement doesn’t have its place...it just shouldn’t be first.

So HOWARD is calculating my “nuisance” cheque to get lost.

“Your principles could cost you,” my solicitor warned, doing everything to put me off Tribunal.

I gave it a great deal of thought – knowing I’m facing months of pressure to settle from my own side and ACAS.

There’s only one way I’ll do it, I told my solicitor. The Senior Management team, including HOWARD, will all have to take a nationally recognised “How to Treat your Staff with Dignity” training course, and the settlement will have to allow me to write anonymously about workplace bullying.

There’s no way they’ll agree to it, of course. Their egos won’t take being ordered around by a secretary, let alone being forced into people management training. It just tickled me to put it in.

This is going to Tribunal.

Anyway, this year’s award for biggest nuisance has already gone to HOWARD.

Eva x

Sunday, 23 May 2010

WEEK 65 Happy Anniversary

I’m off to celebrate in my own quiet way - enjoying the sunshine with a glass of wine or two this afternoon.

Exactly a year ago on the 23rd May 2009 Eva James/Bullied by the Boss was born. The design, the tone; everything popped into my head. I knew exactly what I wanted. I just had no idea how to pull it off. I could type, but I had no IT skills at all. It took a while to set it all up. I certainly couldn’t have done it without the most helpful and generous IT experts (now firm friends) and repeated loans of “Blogging for Dummies” from the library.

Like a year ago, my plan from this point on couldn’t be clearer. I know exactly what I want, but again, I have no idea how I’m going to pull it off. I only know that this time I need the help of solicitors, witnesses and all the documentary evidence I’ve collected. I’ll still need your help, you know. I need your company on a new journey - all the way to the Employment Tribunal.

So it’s about time for a birthday wish...and maybe a drink to courage.
Let’s hope it comes true.

Eva x

Thursday, 20 May 2010

WEEK 64 Memory Lane

I don’t know if you read my WEEK 29 blog, called Resurrection. In it, HOWARD wrote offensive sexual comments across letterhead paper and subsequently shredded it. In the blog I mention, as an aside, that the Senior Solicitor and Head of Personnel had also starting pestering me with e-mails about spanking at the same time.

I was so pre-occupied with proving my case against HOWARD I had forgotten all about these other e-mails. Then, picking up a folder, a load of original e-mails from HOWARD’S superior fell out. I couldn’t believe it. There they were, lying all over the floor – e-mails where I’d apologised for not having typing capacity and he’d replied he wasn’t going to wheel out the ‘punishment chaise longue’ this time, or the ‘spanking stool’. In some of them he apologises, and then continues – as though he cannot help himself.

What shocks me most is that these e-mails, disgusting though they are, were an afterthought at the time. I simply printed them off and chucked them in a separate folder. I was in so much trouble with HOWARD.

I’m sure, however, having sent them on to my solicitor, that my old Head of Personnel is going to find memory lane as bleak and as dark a place to visit as I did.

See you next week.

Eva x

Saturday, 15 May 2010

WEEK 63 Ghost Writer

I’m haunted by HOWARD’S ET3 Grounds of Resistance. I enjoy writing myself, but if you’re interested in sexually morbid fiction then HOWARD’S your man.

The first time I read it, I couldn’t digest it because I kept shouting at the document, or bursting into tears and raging against the lies. Days later I tried reading it again. The same thing happened. The bits I hadn’t read the first time had me yelling, cursing and crying within seconds. I cried all night.

Desperate, I phoned my solicitor the following morning and asked if they were allowed to make it up completely. Are they allowed to lie from start to finish?

The answer is yes.

Why isn’t this made clear to people? Even as a legal secretary I had no idea. I knew they’d lie, but the important thing is that everyone expects them to. So although I’m still having nightmares because of the allegations, I’m not so worried that the Tribunal sees me as a boorish, swearing, sex starved secretary who’d do anything to get her poor, mild mannered boss into bed. (Just writing that makes me ill).

My solicitor ensures me that cases are won and lost on the evidence. He said he admired me for what I’m doing and really doesn’t want me to give up. He called me a “trooper.”

I told him that HOWARD had seriously underestimated my ability to find help and support outside work, when none was forthcoming within. I told him there were independent people I'd reached out to for help, who might back me up. If they do, then HOWARD won't have a leg to stand on.

I’ve put the ET3 away for now. I can’t even look at it, let alone get to the end, but from what I’ve read of his fiction so far...

The butler probably did it.

See you next week.

Eva x

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

WEEK 62 Mad Scientist

They attacked.

I was going to give loads of specific examples from HOWARD’S Grounds of Resistance as they are such outrageous lies, but my dignity wouldn't allow it. I'll give you a few though. The allegations are so outrageous it’s almost funny...

Almost.

Most of his behaviour towards me, HOWARD claims, was to deter my sexual pestering. Without knowing I’ve done so, HOWARD mentions many incidents I’ve blogged about. He says I did them to myself in an attempt to get sexual attention. At one point he says he believes I quit because I didn't think he'd leave his wife! Other things, like the shredded letter from my ‘Resurrection’ blog, he claims never happened at all.

I'm so angry and upset. Even though it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. As I predicted in my WEEK 41 blog, they are alleging that I’m desperately lonely and needy because I live on my own.

The examples went on and on.

The thing that struck me as most odd is that HOWARD seems to genuinely think everyone will buy this. Okay, I live on my own and I'm divorced...that doesn't automatically make me Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. One look at me will tell you I’m quiet and a bit shy. I’m hardworking and very active. Talk to me for a short time and you’ll realise I’m understanding, patient and probably a closet feminist at heart. I’m the last person who would use crude sexual language around the office, or log myself into match.com
as “secretarybitch” claiming in my hobbies “I enjoy self gratification on rainy days.”

I feel like I’m in the middle of an extraordinary experiment into workplace bullying. It’s hard to explain, but the allegations on both sides now are so terrible I don’t know what will happen next. HOWARD and his colleague are, as yet, unaware of the mountain of evidence I’ve been collecting for almost a year – but they will find out soon enough.

So I guess the experiment is this:-

If I can’t prove that I was being bullied by HOWARD and employed by the biggest bunch of liars – then no one can.

Wish me luck.

See you soon. Eva x

Saturday, 8 May 2010

WEEK 61 Hung Parliament

The attack I predicted in my last blog came to nothing. My old firm didn’t lodge a defence at the Tribunal calling me a liar or a villain, or at least they haven’t yet. Nothing happened. Not a sausage. My solicitor hasn’t even called.

Perhaps it’s the news and the hung parliament, but I sense negotiations are taking place.

My solicitor is adamant they’ll settle with a compromise agreement because the extent of the bullying is horrific. He confirmed that HOWARD and his friends will do anything to keep it out of Tribunal where some clever journalist might spot it.

I’m disappointed, of course. I want to make an example of them. I want to use my own case to highlight workplace bullying to put the spotlight on how it can happen anywhere. The agreement will inevitably include a confidentiality clause – gagging my mentioning it again. My old firm can pretend it never happened. They will pay me to keep quiet.

But I don’t want to stay quiet. I want to help other people.

So, if I’m forced to settle they will have to allow me to write about workplace bullying under a pen name and keep their identity anonymous. Aside from the blog, I intend to write a book about how employees can protect themselves personally and legally if it happens to them. It will be thoroughly researched and draw on every ounce of insight I’ve gained into the problem.

If they refuse to allow this clause in the compromise agreement then I will cease negotiations and march my band all the way to Tribunal. I’ll then write a book under my own name and dedicate it to the real HOWARD and my old firm.

They won’t be happy about it, but as this weekend sees the Tories and Liberal Democrats trying to work together - anything is possible.

See you soon. Eva x

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

WEEK 60 Artist's Impressions

A couple of weeks before I walked out, something happened in work which was overshadowed by the later events. I received a telephone call asking me to attend the conference room.

“Nothing sinister,” the Senior Solicitor said. “Just a quick chat.”

The Senior Solicitor reminded me of the former secretary bringing a tribunal claim against them for unfair dismissal about 8 months prior. She had a good case. She also had copies of our e-mails when we worked together, which supported her claim. I was told there might be redundancies if I didn’t help. They painted her the villain.

It had been awful when they’d sacked her. I wanted to speak up in her defence, but I didn’t want to lose my job. I'd always felt sorry for not saying something.

They told me I had until the next day to confirm whether I’d side with them.

Later, as I bit my nails and stared at my PC, the Senior Solicitor was at pains to highlight the seriousness, whilst telling me not to get too stressed. HOWARD had stood up.

“I couldn’t give a shit if you’re stressed,” HOWARD announced. “I can’t be blamed this time. I’m just happily watching. This time it’s not my concern!”

After listening to HOWARD I was happy to tell them I wouldn't help.

After I left the firm, I wrote to the secretary and asked if there was anything I could do. I drafted a witness statement for her just in case.
Her solicitors said they couldn’t use me as I hadn’t stood up and supported her at the time. They assured me that the cross examination would be ruthless and my motives for helping would be attributed to a desire for revenge. I’d also joined too late in the day. Live and learn. I won’t keep quiet in the future that’s for sure.

Then my solicitors phoned and said my old firm are about to go on the attack.

They’ve obviously forgotten what I look like too. I’m a secretary who was bullied out of her job, but I bet in their artist’s impression I’ve grown claws and fangs; probably whilst stirring a cauldron and cursing their name.

But it's still a nicer description than anything HOWARD had given me whilst we were working together.

See you soon. Eva x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

WEEK 59 Eleanor Rigby II

Starting back to work last Friday was one of the hardest things.

My new firm couldn’t have been friendlier, but it was a nightmare. I was lost, tongue tied. I was nervous and awkward. If someone laughed, I worried it was about me. In short, I was drowning in paranoia. I felt like I’d been sucked back in time, I’d time-warped back to the beginning again for it unfold afresh. I was Eleanor Rigby from WEEK 1. I was terrified.

I sat down, nodded at my new colleagues and began typing. The job was in the employment department and I lost myself in the minor details. I tried to drown out my new surroundings by concentrating on the job at hand. I found comfort in the familiar...the ‘yours sincerely, yours faithfully’ routine I was used to.

As I got through the audio-tapes, absorbing the stories behind the witness statements, the letters to Employment Tribunals and clients, I realised I wasn’t Eleanor Rigby. I certainly wasn’t alone.

I was typing about people like me, people who’d suffered problems in work so big they’d ended up in court too. The shelves groaned under the weight of workplace bullying experiences, safety at work complaints and whistle-blowing. I had no idea it was so out of hand and so common.

"All the lonely people..."

I typed faster.

I’ll get myself back to normal as soon as possible. Then I can consider what more I can do against workplace bullying in my own way.

See you soon

Eva x

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

WEEK 58 The More Things Change...

That temp agency I wandered into the day I left my job was founded by a woman who successfully sued after being bullied in work.

I had no idea of this when I walked in clutching my resignation letter. She’d used her settlement to start her recruitment business over a decade ago and the solicitor she phoned on my behalf was the very same who’d originally won her case.

When she read my resignation letter she’d wanted to kill HOWARD and was determined to get me back on my feet and employed again.

I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t want to be a secretary again. I quelled my panic by telling myself the jobs market hadn’t picked up. However, I’d overlooked my new friend’s ability to pull some strings and champion my cause.

The interview I went to yesterday for an employment secretary was sprung on me by the recruitment agency at short notice. The manager of the agency told me to call in and see her first, where she promptly read me the riot act. I was not to let HOWARD ruin almost a decade of experience. I was not to let him win. I was to go and put on a brave face and get the job. She told me exactly what to say if they asked about my previous employment and she gave me a reference.

I almost fell over when they offered me the job half hour after the interview ended.

I cannot believe I’m going to be working as a secretary again after all I’ve been through. I can’t believe I’m going to have to put on a brave face and pretend I’m alright. I’m reminding myself I’m in this position because of someone’s kindness and that’s the main thing.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ll keep you posted

Eva x

Sunday, 25 April 2010

WEEK 57 With a Little Help from my Friends

A year ago a good friend, tired of my moaning, gave me the idea of blogging about the workplace bullying I was experiencing. I had no idea if it would interest anyone, but realised it would give me a voice. It would also force me to resolve the situation. Cyberspace friends wouldn’t support endless moaning about how I was a ‘victim’ any more than my other friends would.

So where am I today? I once wrote of the difficulty keeping faith that everything will be alright in the end and used the phrase, ‘Leap and the Net will Appear’. A few weeks ago when I couldn’t take any more from HOWARD, I walked out. Thankfully, the net was there to catch me. I understand now the net refers to friends, Leap and the Friends will Appear. Most of my cyberspace friends are Australian and I owe them a special mention!

Then Ann Lewis, a leadership and workplace coach, kindly sent me her book ‘Recover your Balance: How to Bounce Back from Bad Times at Work.” Her book arrived just as the emotional fallout of working for HOWARD so long really hit me for six. My self esteem and my sanity imploded.

I’m still taking things one day at a time, but Ann’s book has been invaluable. There aren’t enough books on how to get through these situations. The most important chapters for me involved what to do next. I’ve gained a little perspective and realise I’m not really suited to secretarial work. Whilst my organisations skills are good, my creativity and literary ambition go against me.

I’ve always had a desire to teach secondary school, but never had the money to retrain and sit the PGCE. If I am awarded anything from a Tribunal, the money will go towards this. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future.

At the same time I’ll continue blogging and researching workplace bullying. Once the Tribunal action is over, I aim to write a book and/or consider how to reach businesses, employers or targets of bullying on a more personal level to pass on what I’ve learnt.

I don’t know where I’m going to end up, but I know I got by with a little help from my friends.

In the meantime, of course, I'll still be here. I hope you are too.

Lots of love and thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Bullied by the Boss.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner II

You’d have thought being away from HOWARD would have a positive effect. The opposite happened. He is still very much in my head telling me what an ugly, fat little loser I am. I’ve been shuffling round in my pyjamas crying, eating Betty Crocker pancakes and believing HOWARD voiced what the world is thinking anyway.

It was getting out of hand. I tried to claw my way out of a sinking depression, but I was lost. Things were black. I was consumed with thoughts of ending it again. Although I reminded myself I’d written for the Guardian on workplace bullying, and been on their panel of experts, it made no difference. Life had no purpose and no hope.

Then I read through my old blogs, telling myself how far I’d come; telling myself I couldn’t give up. When I got to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner I was reminded of my team mates’ arrogance before and during the race. They were going to beat me. They were men. They were my superiors. They were faster and taller. They’d trained for it.

They told me there was no way I could win. I was a fat, ugly little loser without their training, without their physical strength and experience. As if a secretary could ever win a race against senior solicitors with only three days notice.

But then, of course, I did win.

The more I thought about it, the more hope it gave me. Here we were again, the same old characters – Eva James v HOWARD and the Senior Solicitor. The only difference was this time it isn’t a race, it's a tribunal.

I called my mother and told her I was coming over for a visit. Whilst there, I dug out my “Memories Box” from the attic. I found my old race T-shirt, with my number still on the front. I turned it round and there they were; messages of support from the secretaries who’d wanted me to prove our arrogant bosses wrong.

And there was my favourite message of all; the message HOWARD’S first secretary had black-marker penned across the back.

“EAT MY DUST, HOWARD”

Its 8.10 am and I’m just back from the gym. Slow and stiff, I plodded away on the treadmill. I’ll go again tomorrow and I’ll get better. After all, if I’m going to win again I need to be in far better shape.

See you soon,

Eva x
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