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 May 2012

WEEK 228 Olympic Games

The controversial employment report commissioned by David Cameron and prepared by Adrian Beechcroft has hit the headlines again. The contents, of course, were leaked to the Telegraph last November, but it was published earlier this week.

The crux of the report is that Beechcroft recommends making it easier for employers to sack staff that they don’t like. Labour have rightly dubbed it ‘fire at will’.

Again, a Business Minister was wheeled out to explain that these measures are necessary. With the threat of global competition, employees must surrender their rights or the UK economy is sunk.

It’s hardly an Olympian attitude to global competition. Can you imagine this kind of sports psychology at the Olympic village?

“In 2012, Olympians, we’re not going to out-perform the competition by pushing ourselves harder and creatively excelling. No we won’t. We’ll do the same thing we’ve always done, but we’ll get rid of anyone in the athletics team we don’t like the look of. Working with people we don’t like is toxic for Olympic success. ”   

And that’s what this report comes down to – blame someone else and use it as an excuse to make questionable employment reforms. The problem with this business model, of course, it that you have to keep finding people to blame and employee scapegoats to “take one for the team”. 

Where will it end? I have a feeling it ends with us fighting amongst ourselves whilst other, wiser countries take to the podium for their bronze, silver and gold.

Very best

Saturday, 19 May 2012

WEEK 227 Workplace Bloggers Anonymous

I’ve been accepted on a PGCE teacher training course this September!

My secretarial career is coming to an end! WHOOP WHOOP!  You can imagine the quiet Mexican wave being performed in firms of local solicitors.

Want to know the best part? I’m not actually going to be teaching in schools. Nope. In 2013 I’ll be teaching adults who need to improve their skills for the jobs market. Now, I know what you’re thinking, BBTB will immediately have to rename her classes ‘Workplace Bloggers Anonymous’.

Shame on you, cynics! I shall teach my students to master Twitter first.

I’m kidding! Just look what blogging and tweeting did for my secretarial career. It’s thanks to that I must radically improve my own skills for the jobs market. But outside school, it’ll be business as usual for Eva James - especially if it’s business as usual for UK employers.

Very best

Saturday, 12 May 2012

WEEK 226 The Voice

An interesting story in HR Zone caught my eye this week. It’s not specifically about bullying – but it’s worth a blog post nonetheless.

A US graduate left New York University with a job offer from a paper in Delaware. Delighted, he shared his good news on his Tumblr blog. He quoted from the letter and included the company logo.

As a result, his job offer was rescinded.

Naturally, his potential employer dished up as many reasons as they could to explain their decision. They said the use of the logo was illegal and to quote from their letter was inappropriate. Despite the graduate offering to remove the blog, they refused to honour the offer.

Of course, we all know what really happened. The paper’s management played the ‘Will he blog about that?’ game. Since the graduate was happy to share news publicly, their thinking probably went as follows:

What if he starts work and doesn’t like us? Will he blog about that?
What if he fails to get through probation? Will he blog about that?
What if he’s not happy with the work we give him? Will he blog about that?
What happens if he sees something he doesn’t like? Will he blog about that?

People who write honestly are often treated as though they’re patently dishonest – even when, in this case, nothing bad was said. The graduate was simply expressing his happiness over the new job. But it’s the unknown quantity. His employers can’t know what he’s going to say next. They won’t have any control about what he publishes.

Employers do like to believe that their own PR and marketing is absorbed into employees’ minds and that we won’t offer an opinion, either good or bad, without asking what the party line is first.

The threat perceived by employers when faced with an employee’s enthusiasm for publishing anything about them on social media is an important lesson. It’s good to remind them that they don’t have as much control as they’d like to imagine over the voices of their employees.

Quite right too!

Very best

Saturday, 5 May 2012

WEEK 225 Family Business

I often warn of the dangers of sympathising with stressed colleagues, but there can’t be a greater example of this than the New York employment claim which hit the headlines this week.

In late 2010, Deborah Stevens volunteered one of her kidneys to her boss desperate for a kidney transplant. Whilst it’s an extraordinarily generous act, you can imagine how it came about. Watching her boss grow weaker, Stevens convinced herself it was the right thing to do. Stevens could potentially save a life. She’d be lauded by her firm. Deborah Stevens would be the self-sacrificing Atlantic Automotive Group heroine.

A complication arose; the first of many. Stevens’ kidney wasn’t a good match for her boss. Nevertheless, presumably having grown accustomed the idea and having had the battery of medical tests, she proceeded to donate her kidney to someone else on the waiting list.

Unfortunately, the major surgery left Stevens with nerve damage, digestive problems and depression.

On returning to work, Stevens expected her generous gesture to carry some weight; that her firm would be patient with her delayed recovery. She found the opposite. Her boss afforded her little empathy, complained about her sickness record and promptly moved her to another office. Then HR fired her.

Her union rep explained to the press: ‘Instead of being sympathetic, they were very hostile to her’.

Atlantic Automotive returned with the statement: ‘It is unfortunate that one employee has used her own generous act to make a groundless claim’. In one sentence, they reveal the truth of why this awful series of events occurred in the first place. Her firm accept the generosity of the act, but believe they owe her nothing.

The bottom line is that we spend a great deal of time with our colleagues, often seeing them as an extended family. Obviously, this is encouraged by firms. It’s nice for the employees and the company benefits in the long run.

But, as victims of bullying often find out, the big difference is that within your corporate ‘family’ there might be many people behind the scenes you don’t know so well. There might be many people involved in decision making who don’t have an ounce of support for you – whatever you’ve done for the company or whatever trouble you’re in.
And the more you buy into a ‘home from home’ or ‘second family’ employment dynamic, the more at risk you are of giving far more than you’ll ever receive. 

They're always colleagues, not cousins!

Very best
Bottom Swirl