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."

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.


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
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