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."

Sunday, 20 November 2011

WEEK 201 Slow Burn

I’ve been saying it for years - when a company has significant problems, look to the man or woman in charge. This, of course, is at odds with the usual message from the press and government. You know the one - where every employee who claims to have been bullied is presumed to be simply compensation hungry and litigant happy.

But this week, a central London Tribunal heard how a multi-billion-pound firm was brought to its knees by a city bully.

Mr Duffield was well known as the CEO of fund manager firm New Star Asset Management, but he was known for something else too.

As Jonathan Russell wrote in the Telegraph:

‘The Central London Employment Tribunal heard how Mr Duffield called employees "morons and criminals" and asked them whether they were ashamed of themselves if their funds under-performed’

The Tribunal also heard that when a colleague accused Mr Duffield of bullying, the member of staff was labelled ‘emotionally disturbed’ and sacked. Mr Duffield also had a history of bullying young women. He’d settled a prior claim for sexual harassment in the early 90s. He had a reputation for prowling floors and barking at his staff. But presumably, Mr Duffield’s business partners and associates believed his business skills outweighed any negative personality traits.

They were wrong.

The case continues in the Tribunal, but what doesn’t continue is the trading of the company. The firm collapsed. It’s claimed that Mr Duffield’s toxic work environment had a great deal to do with that.

It’s an extreme example of how workplace bullying harms a company, but this situation is being played out countless firms in the UK. It’s just happening at a slower rate.

I’d be interested to see how often the slow burn of workplace bullying from a profit making CEO eventually leaves a company in ashes. And I bet those numbers are far greater than the press or the government would have us believe.

Best wishes


Sunday, 13 November 2011

WEEK 200 Twelve Percent

Jogging past the Senior Solicitor from my old firm threw me off balance last week.

My Water Under the Bridge blog was a little premature because the incident caused more than one spell of water works. Initially, I was pleased I’d carried myself with dignity, but following our crossing of paths I kept recalling awful bullying incidents from my old firm. It culminated in my bursting into tears in front of my new boss – much to his surprise. Choking and sobbing, I apologised and ran off the toilet.

‘You’re only human’, I told myself.

Feeling down, I went to ‘hot yoga’, listened to my affirmations, and threw myself into work and activities like Twitter, which is where a Twitter friend (@pprmintpatty28) asked me to look into mobbing. I’d heard of it, but wasn’t sure exactly what it entailed.

Professor Heinz Leymann invented the term. It means:

‘Hostile and unethical communication which is directed in a systematic manner by one or more individuals, mainly towards one individual, who, due to mobbing, is pushed into a helpless and defenceless position and held there by means of continuing mobbing activities.’

I may not have used the definition myself, but I know exactly what mobbing means.

I’ve always referred to it as dehumanisation (as it’s known in armed conflict), where the aggressor convinces himself and everyone else that the target is sub-human and beyond the bounds of human decency. It’s far easier to commit atrocities when you convince yourself the target has nothing in their makeup that’s redeeming.

I’m sure my delayed but overwhelming emotional reaction was because the Senior Solicitor himself, together with Howard and the Practice Manager, had been involved in the mobbing/dehumanisation. Indeed, my desk was eventually positioned in the centre of their three desks.

As I said, it’s a psychological technique used in armed conflict (see my Sticks and Stones blog at WEEK 37). Professor Leymann writes:

“Not infrequently, mobbing spelled the end of the target’s career, marriage, health and livelihood. From a study of circumstances surrounding suicides in Sweden, Leyman estimated that about twelve per cent of people who take their own lives have recently been mobbed at work”.

Hand on heart, I can believe it. Twice, I stood on the brink of joining that twelve per cent.

The most dangerous stage of this most extreme form of workplace bullying is when the target begins to accept the majority opinion. It’s when you question whether they must be right. They’ll convince you your objections are unfounded. The collective will persuade you that there's something badly wrong with you. They’ll assure you they’re just telling you the truth – for your own good.

And you begin to believe them.

It takes years to overcome this kind of emotional abuse. Even when I convince myself I’m fine – it just takes a close encounter to bring it all back. But perhaps it’s timely. This is my 200th blog and I’m considering what I can do to celebrate the launch of my workplace bullying book early next year. I’ll be pulling out all the stops to raise awareness of workplace bullying.

Whatever I can throw at it in terms of time and money I will.

I’ll be remembering the twelve percent come 2012!

Best wishes


Monday, 7 November 2011

WEEK 199 Water Under the Bridge

On Sunday mornings, I run.

Come rain or shine, I’ll jam myself into my trainers and head for the lake.

Yesterday morning, it wasn’t hard to motivate myself. It was textbook autumn; my favourite time of year.

I ran down to the playing fields, here and there still studded with the black stalks of the previous night’s rockets and fireworks. Then I followed the stream, crossing at the bridge where the stream bed on either side was a glittering mosaic. Autumns leaves were everywhere; covering metallic green grass with gold and red. Distant church bells cut through the silence.

Runners smiled as they jogged past on the popular route, as if to say: ‘Those in bed don’t know what they’re missing’.

The lake is popular.

And then it happened. I knew our paths would cross some day, because we both enjoy running.

The Senior Solicitor from my old firm was jogging towards me.

This was the guy who helped cover up Howard’s bullying. He was the one who lied in the ET3 by implying I was the one virtually stalking Howard. The only mitigating factor was that I’d heard from my own solicitor that this guy felt pretty bad about it all afterwards. I don’t know how true this is, but that’s the way I heard it.

I could see it in the guy’s face. ‘Eva’, he said ‘Are you alright?’

What did I do? Did I cry? Did I run away? Did I scream at him? The times I’ve imagined I might do one or all of these things!

No, I threw him a smile and said cordially ‘Good Morning’.

It was a huge test for me. The importance of it lies in the fact that it proves my interest now lies with workplace bullying as a whole and with your experience. My experience, thankfully, is past.

The main thing is to get you to a place where, if you were to pass your bully or those covering for him or her in the street, you can also say its all water under the bridge.

Best wishes

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

WEEK 198 Trump Card

I've read the same statistic twice this week from various sources:

'Statistics show that around 80% of employment claims do not go to a full hearing'.

First, this was quoted in connection with Adrian Beecroft's leaked attack on employees last week. Then it turned up in a promotional pack for a lawyer touting anti-Claimant seminars.

Read out of context, of course, it implies that 80% of claims lodged are unjustified or bogus.

The true picture, however, is that the legal system throws everything they can at Claimants to encourage settlement. I have no problem with this as such, because going to Court can be hugely expensive and stressful. Also, it rarely brings the kind of justice people really want – the sort where the bully ends up crying and apologising from the witness box. But to then exploit settlement figures to paint a picture of litigant hungry employees is fundamentally wrong.

This was further demonstrated by a lady who got in contact with me this week to ask for my advice.

Having lost her job after an unpleasant case of racial bullying, my anonymous friend had secured Legal Aid. She was determined to go to trial and asked her panel solicitor at the outset: 'Will this cost me anything?' Her solicitor assured her it would not. As time went on, her solicitor tried everything to tempt her to settle. She was resolute. She wanted her day in Court. Then, a week before the hearing, her solicitor said: 'Do you have the money for a barrister? It's going to cost you £750.'

The poor lady was distraught. She did't have the money.

This happened to me, of course, written about in my blog 'Impossible Causes'. Back in the summer of 2010 I faced the same previously unmentioned, insurmountable hurdle of barrister's fees, quoted at the last minute, in the region of £10,000.

There is, of course, no reason why her solicitor couldn't represent her at the informal Employment Tribunal. Equally, there was no real reason why my solicitor couldn't have represented me either. In the end, she decided to ask for an adjournment until she could raise the money.

I now wonder how often solicitors use barrister's fees as their 'trump card' to get their own way. It's not really surprising, therefore, that I'm annoyed that this 80% settlement figure is used as an indication of money-grabbing fraudsters, when more often that not, it's the Claimant's inability to raise any money at all which forces settlement.

Best wishes

Bottom Swirl