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."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

WEEK 139 The Best Medicine

Feeling a bit under the weather, I phoned my mum.

“I know it was hell. It really was,” I said, “but there were plenty of times we were crying with laughter weren’t there?” I asked. Mum chortled, and reminded me of her favourite comedy moments. These moments were mainly behind the scenes scrapes; before it got deeply unpleasant.

One of the scariest was when I posted a letter and cheque to the IT guy helping to set up the blog. In a rush, I threw it into the sack of office mail to be collected that evening. Two days later, the receptionist handed it back to me, minus the envelope. I’m never going to forget staring in horrified confusion at my damning correspondence which began “Re: Bullied by the Boss blog.

It’s an industry standard that a Partner helps to open the mail. PHILIP had opened my undelivered, returned-to-sender letter and stamped it with his date stamp before realising it was personal.

I had no idea what kind of trouble I might be in. Would I be called to explain? Would he have given it anything more than a cursory glance? Would he put two and two together and sack me for gross misconduct?

I was stuffing the letter in my bag and cursing myself for being a complete idiot when PHILIP marched over. I froze. Beads of sweat materialised as I stared at my computer screen, waiting for the axe to fall. Just as I was about to make up some ridiculous lie as to what ‘Bullied by the Boss Blog’ might refer to, he started dictating a letter over my shoulder. I tapped out the benign letter to the Court under his instruction. Once done, he said he was popping out for lunch – and he was gone.

He obviously hadn’t read it.

Watching him drive off from the corridor window, I laughed with the sheer relief of it. I called my mum and told her about PHILIP date stamping my Bullied by the Boss correspondence. She laughed her head off, and told me someone up there must like me. That was one of her favourites.

One of my favourites was the time when I’d printed out two early blogs for my mum to read and told her I’d masterminded a plan to collect a particular piece of workplace bullying evidence. People around us wondered what we were laughing about. “It’s like a film! It’s like Mission Impossible,” my mum said. “Is it?” I asked, pointing out that I was a target of workplace bullying and we were sitting in the laundrette waiting for my washing to dry.

That’s probably my favourite memory. Maybe it's because my sense of humour lifted us both out a city laundrette, away from an otherwise miserable tale of workplace bullying and transported us somewhere creative and challenging.

A sense of humour is liberating. Find something in your situation to laugh about; turn a case of nerves into nervous laughter, and you’re halfway there.

Best wishes

Saturday, 19 February 2011

WEEK 138 Road to Recovery

Last week was a tough one, so I spent my evenings in the gym or running. Endorphins help.

During Thursday’s gruelling exercise class, as I was doubled over gasping for breath, my trainer timed my recovery back to normal breathing. As my heart rate dropped and he clicked off his timer, he looked pleased. As with life - it’s not so much what you’ve been through, as how quick you can recover and throw yourself back into the game which is the greatest test of your health.

So although I had an emotional wobble mid-week, defaulting back to my books, my affirmation CDs and getting plenty of exercise meant I soon bounced back.

That’s what I’m taking from this week. If there’s one positive about going through life’s trials, it’s that you do get through them – and the more you go through, the faster you recover.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating if we had some way of measuring our mental resilience after prolonged bullying; a workplace health trainer stood over us holding a stopwatch? What an interesting experiment that might be.

In the meantime, I’m not just on the road to recovery - I’m up and running again.

Best wishes


Monday, 14 February 2011

WEEK 136 Valentine's Day

Is it really a year since I wrote the humiliating blog Just Dance?

Looking back, it’s like an anti-Valentine; a tribute to negative chemistry and passionate dislike. It ended, of course, with my bursting into tears at my desk and having to take a breather after seeing HOWARD dancing in triumph in front of our Practice Manager.

This year, nobody’s said a word. I’m probably one of the few singletons about to enjoy every minute of the day. I’ve bought chocoloate biscuits for my colleagues, and I’ve bought a separate box of fortune cookies for us single gals.

I don’t mind what my cookie says. Whatever the future brings, it can’t fail to be better than the past.

Best wishes


Thursday, 10 February 2011

WEEK 135 Fight or Flight

Sat opposite OLLIE’S ex-secretary, I’m struck how little she remembers about the way I was treated at our old firm. She had her own problems with PHILIP I suppose, and she bolted long before I did. It’s not just that though. She thinks I took the whole thing in my stride; water off a duck’s back.

I can’t help feeling a little disappointed.

At one point, I was so scared of HOWARD’S behaviour I wrote to a specialist on dehumanisation and bullying in America, telling them I didn’t know where it was going to end. A couple of times, I called the Samaritans.

After I left my old firm, they accused me of not having looked like somebody suffering from workplace bullying (despite suffering from hives, depression and having handed in my notice every few months).

But fear affects people in different ways.

Most people assume that if you were really that scared and intimidated – you’d run, like OLLIE’S ex-secretary and the numerous secretaries that walked out before her. Running away is a standard response, but there’s a second reaction to fear. The adrenaline that results from workplace bullying, like all adrenaline, produces a fight or flight chemical reaction. That’s what Bullied by the Boss was back then – creative fight.

It doesn’t mean for a moment I wasn’t scared. I was more scared of HOWARD, at times, than I’ve been of anyone else in my life.

I didn’t start writing my blog because I was immune to what was happening. Quite the opposite - I did it because I was being so badly affected.

Best wishes


Sunday, 6 February 2011

WEEK 134 Statistically Speaking

Sometimes I wish there were a ban on workplace bullying statistics and categorisations. Although I use them occasionally myself, I don’t think they contribute much. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional relevant bit of data but, when I see experts using stat after stat, part of me thinks, who cares?

When you’re trudging to work knowing that you’re in for another 8 hours of someone humiliating you, lying about you and treating you like dirt, knowing that “72% of bullies are bosses” or that “surveys show 73% of bullied targets endure bullying for more than six months; 44% for more than one year” actually doesn’t help. It borders on completely irrelevant.

These things can even make you feel lonelier. The numbers may say I’m not alone, but emotionally the percentages give me nothing.

I’m sure many of these workplace bullying mathematicians know something about their specialist subject, but I’d be interested to see exactly how much they’d be able to assist if you took their calculators away and asked them for advice over a cup of coffee.

The most important psychological statistic is this:-

The person going through it feels like they’re the only person in the world it’s happening to
Despite the fact that the above sentence is proved wrong by the statistics – there remains a real emotional truth there. Until the experts give this the respect it deserves, I’m always going to question their credentials. I’m going to wonder how much they can help me.

If you think about it, surveys, tables and statistics can be a distraction. Sometimes, it’s all about the expert telling us they’re an expert. So, let’s take the ego out of the equation. Come to think of it, let’s take the equation out of the equation.

Workplace bullying is about psychology and emotional abuse and, frankly, you can’t get a less emotional subject than mathematics.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

WEEK 133 On Your Bike

Yesterday, there was an interesting feature on the BBC about cyclists. They’re regularly being shoved off the road or injured, but other motorists have little sympathy for them and insurance companies don’t believe them. Their complaints fall on deaf ears. Their cuts and bruises are put down to their own stupidity.

So some cyclists have taken to wearing cameras in their helmets.

It’s worked. The footage can be used to name and shame guilty motorists who’ve squashed them. They can also use it in legal action against motorists suffering road rage. Further, a lawyer pointed out that it safeguards against the often differing accounts of eye witnesses.

Ben Parker, a cyclist featured on the report, said that he didn’t want it to become a case of ‘us versus them,’ and it would be nice if the evidence weren’t needed at all.

Sure, it would be nice not to need hard evidence, but allowing someone to walk in your shoes is the quickest way to unite people. The cameras enable everyone to see what the cyclist goes through. When the car on the film pulled out and smashed into the bike – I bet everybody watching flinched. I know I did. When the tanker scraped past the bike on a roundabout, narrowly avoiding pulling the rider under the wheels, I wanted to yell along with the terrified guy in trouble.

Likewise, this is why we need to record our experiences of bullying. And as far as possible, we need to be as unemotional as possible in our recording of it too. We need to give the facts and leave it there. Others will empathise of their own accord. We should allow them to consider what they might feel if this was their experience.

I’m sure that the motorists who watched the footage will be a little more considerate. Perhaps with the same considered use of shared experience in respect of workplace bullying, employers and the legal system might at some point follow suit.

Best wishes

Bottom Swirl