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. Bullied by my boss in 2008, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I started this blog. 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." I was unaware back then that it would catalogue one of the most extreme cases of workplace bullying in the UK. I've found another job, but am subject to a gagging order. I'm still blogging, of course. Just don't tell the lawyers!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

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


Anonymous said...

This is so true! My colleagues don't understand why I don't treat them like buddies but I know from past experience if you let the guard slip they're just waiting to pounce at any weakness!

Always better to keep them at arn's length

Bullied By The Boss said...

Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you feel the same. It's easy to mistake a careful attitude for cynicism, but it's often coming from a place of experience.

Misinterpreting the working relationship can be so costly.

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