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."

Friday, 27 May 2011

WEEK 165 Truth Will Out

Last Saturday, the Daily Mail published a story about how a council chief’s bullying tactics led to the hard-up council paying out £400,000 for compromise agreements to silence departing staff. The Counsellor is currently suspended after a colleague of hers committed suicide.

Having been the subject of a temporary Restricted Reporting Order and a compromise agreement, I’ve first-hand knowledge of gagging. But if the Daily Mail story and the recent super injunction debate show anything, it’s that the truth will out.

The problem with super injunctions and compromise agreements is that they give those handing them out the illusion of control. They think the problem has vanished when, in truth, it’s temporarily off radar.

Until these people learn to control themselves and their impulses, they’re unlikely to have any real control over those around them. The situation is bound to repeat. Replacement colleagues arrive and new friends are made, until they too are gagged when things inevitably go wrong.

As seen with the cash-strapped Council, how much companies and councils spend on keeping staff quiet is a story in itself. You cannot buy permanent silence and any business, organisation or footballer celebrity continually throwing financial resources at such an ill conceived investment is crazy.

Fortunately, even gagged I can still shake my head.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

WEEK 164 True Colours

I've finally finished a play I’ve been writing for the past six months. Hurrah!

Whilst it’s a play about job identity, you won’t be surprised that it touches on themes of workplace bullying. The following is an extract from the extensive first-draft feedback I received from two professional playwrights who kindly offered to take a look last month:-

“What is strongest or most prevalent dramatically, is the way that the harassment develops insidiously and escalates. This is in part because you sketch with detail the grey area in which the characters operate.”
The ‘grey area’ got me thinking. If workplace bullying was a colour – it couldn’t be anything but grey. It’s the epitome of grey. Firstly there’s the leaden depression which comes hand in hand when working for a bully. Secondly, there’s the legal grey area, where you can’t do anything about it unless it’s tacked on to a ‘black and white’ violation of your statutory rights.

It’s the subtleties of workplace bullying which make it grey. It’s the can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it/I’m-just-not-telling-it-right difficulties we face when trying to express ourselves which compound the overcast gloom already caused by workplace abuse.

But here’s where art comes into its own. When life’s grey areas are difficult to express in conversation, art lends a deeper, more considered vocabulary. I’m not saying we have to turn into tree hugging hippies, but it helps to creatively express ourselves when we’re mentally washed-out.

So I say we should do what we can to restore our true colours, and leave the bullies standing in our shadow, where they belong.

Best wishes


Saturday, 21 May 2011

WEEK 163 If you Can't Take the Heat

Gordon Ramsey’s made headlines again.

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to write about the king of workplace bullying. Perhaps there’s some psychological reason I chose to wait until his empire is crumbling around him.

After falling out with his CEO father-in-law, he unfairly dismissed his mother-in-law and anyone else related to his wife’s family because they were ‘too close’ to his wife’s father. His wife’s mother and brothers are now submitting their ET1s to the Employment Tribunal.

There are rumours of Gordon’s violent mood swings and speculation of drug addiction.

There are always going to be potential employment problems when a firm is set up by someone talented in a specialist field, but with no specific business training. For example, a good chef, solicitor, chartered surveyor, or architect can easily be convinced they can turn their hand to anything. It’s only a matter of time before they’re dreaming of their empire - a company of their own. That’s when it becomes apparent that their lack of business skill makes them lousy and incompetent to work for. And this is also where HR comes into play, protecting any talented liability at the top from accusations of from the bottom.

Running a business and managing people is a skill in itself. That’s why Ramsey needed his father-in-law CEO to steer him in the right direction. Without the business brain and human shield, the ET1s are flooding in.

If someone like Gordon can’t take the heat of the boardroom then let him get back in the kitchen.

It’s a lesson to them all.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

WEEK 160 Neighbourhood Watch

Last weekend, my blog about bystander apathy had a few nerves twitching and subsequently Twittering.

I can understand why.

I mean, it touched on those work colleagues that compound your problem by doing nothing when you’re faced with 8 hours of workplace bullying. And it’s a no-brainer that the apparent lack of compassion from co-workers allows the abuse to continue. Every claim that they didn’t hear a word screamed at you by your boss is a knife in the back. Talk about being lonely in a room full of people. Bystander apathy is enough to convince you that you’re completely invisible.

So why am I showing the silent, unhelpful onlookers such lenience? Well, consider what you’d do if it was happening to the person next to you. Really think about it. What would you do if your boss was abusing your nearest work colleague on a daily basis?

The name of the game here is doubt.

We all doubt ourselves, especially when our moral concerns might require us to tip an established workplace hierarchy on its head.

One of the first things you’re going to question is your right to involve yourself in someone else’s business. You’ll worry about getting the wrong end of the stick. If you wade in wagging a disapproving finger, you might come across like a meddling do-gooder.

Offers to help can backfire spectacularly. What if you’re misreading a 50/50 personality clash? What if it’s a case of office politics and they’re both used to it? Perhaps it’s a flash-in-the-pan flare up which will be settled later over coffee and a chuckle of how stupid it all was. What an idiot you’ll look if you took sides and offered to compile a witness statement!

But there is something you can do if you see a colleague going through it. Remember the Rope-a-Dope technique from my WEEK 152 blog? Being quiet is very different to doing nothing.

Record the specifics of the bullying behaviour you witness and leave it there – for the moment. You’ll know what to do with the information should the need arise. This way, you protect yourself and your colleague at the same time.

It’s the first step in creating a Neighbourhood Watch dynamic as opposed to a room of callous onlookers. Just because no-one knows you’re a curtain-twitcher is neither here nor there.

So let’s get those curtains twitching in your work environment and keep the Tweets coming.

Best wishes


Monday, 2 May 2011

WEEK 158 Game Plan

From the first time I pulled a workplace bullying book off the library shelf, looking for a solution to HOWARD’s behaviour, I’ve disliked categories. Do you know what I mean? Here’s an example of how they read:-

People are more likely to be bullied if they are creative/introverted/shy/popular/hard working/independent etc etc etc.

Fitting personality types into ‘bullied’ and ‘bully’ boxes is a bit of a game; a pretence that we can hold aspects of human nature in neat, identifiable lists. And the bottom line is that it puts the responsibility on the victim, saying “I know you can’t help it, but your personality is partly to blame.”

I never really bought that my identity cards were marked for life; that my personality predestined me to be bullied, whilst other’s personalities might predestine them to bully. Why couldn’t it be as simple as one person not liking another and being in a position to play games with them if they’re working in a subordinate position?

If anything proves my case, it’s my return to work tomorrow following the Bank Holiday. In my new job, I’m still surprised to be invited out socially by a variety of different departments. Colleagues phone me at home to shoot the breeze. They’re not laughing at me now - they’re laughing with me.

They like me just as I am.

So if it was the case that I’m the type to be bullied – where are they? Where are the new HOWARDS? Where are the people so incensed by my creativity/introversion/shyness/popularity/work ethic/independence etc etc etc that they’d do anything to destroy me?

The point is, even if there were people at this new firm who didn’t like me, it’s not the kind of place that allows colleagues to torment each other – even under the pretence of a joke. Staff aren’t floundering under the pressure of hundreds of urgent, yet utterly boring case files, and so praying for a dramatic diversion. There’s no bloodlust of boredom to keep the room happy, as in:-

“Quick! Throw a secretary to the lions!”

So if someone is trying to throw you into the amphitheatre for entertainment, don’t blame yourself for the fact that you’ve been picked. If it wasn’t you, it would be someone else. The important thing is to get out intact.

With any luck, you’ll end up working for a firm where the only entertainment discussed is what people got up to over the Bank Holiday.

Best wishes,

Bottom Swirl