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, 28 July 2012

WEEK 237 School Rules

This week, I have to thank @Vroomboo on Twitter whose interesting comparison of school and workplace bullying inspires this week’s blog.

When it involves children, bullying is a more immediate problem. School bullying is a heartbreaking and emotive subject. Therefore it generates more awareness. It causes more concern. And it makes sense. I mean, when we look at workplace bullying - we’re adults, right? We can shoulder more. We’re older and tougher.

But what @Vroomboo correctly points out is that in the workplace, bullying from a co-worker or boss is often denied and even supported by HR and colleagues who, if not actually joining in, will turn a blind eye. Complain too much and in the normal course of events you’ll find yourself at the Job Centre. Then there are the lawyers who may well advise that the best option is to comply with your employer; cut and run with a P45, one month’s wages and a two line reference that says nothing more than you were once employed. Insist on taking the matter to Court and your employer may even, as in my case, deliberately attempt to mislead the Employment Tribunal to conceal firm-wide negligence.

The point is this:

How would society view a situation where a child was bullied at school and, when the bullying was reported, the school denied the fact entirely and expelled the child with a sub-standard report card?

And we can take it a step further:

What if the child’s parents decided to sue the school in question for the child’s injured feelings (depressed and fearful of joining another school) only to have the lawyers say they can’t possibly help because recent law reforms have given schools all the power?

I don’t think I’m reaching to suggest there would be outrage. Parents would unite to restore a fairer balance between parent power and the education system.

It’s a scenario which would never be tolerated in schools in the UK, but it’s the daily story in UK businesses.  As adults, we may be more mature and better equipped to deal with the tough world of work, but we’re not invincible.

There should be outrage on the part of the bullied at work. We should be fighting to restore a balance between workers and employers. Sadly, I think only when enough good, hard-working staff have experienced the indignity of being bullied, expelled and given a ‘must try harder’ report card from their former employer will we be in a position to do something about it.

Until then, it’s an education.

Very best

Saturday, 21 July 2012

WEEK 236 Bad Apples

This week, I’ve been thinking about that well known assertion “one rotten apple spoils the barrel”.

The phrase makes sense in small firms, where a ‘bad apple’ bully is in contact with everyone, but what about larger firms where a bully is confined to overseeing one department?

In larger organisations, it’s usual that each department has its own independent head. And the issue of bullying becomes much harder to deal with when it’s isolated to a particular department, especially when all other departments are run very differently.  A company composed of completely separate departments can be ignorant of toxic behaviour in one area until it’s too late.

Here are just a few of the difficulties from this all too common scenario:

  • ·         Staff from the stricken department may remain deeply loyal to the firm as a whole, even whilst hating the environment they are in.
  • ·         Other departments will be aware of rumours of bullying, but unaware as to the true extent. They may even revel in the fact that a poorly run department next door makes them look even better in comparison.
  • ·         The troubled department’s problems will be viewed as that particular department’s problems – to sort out themselves.
  • ·         If you were to send a firm wide staff satisfaction survey out, the vast majority would confirm their work environment is simply lovely. The company ethos is great.  

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think what really makes it worse for the unfortunate employees in “Department Deranged” is that the rest of the firm has it okay. Overall their company may be run by lovely people who acknowledge and encourage their happy workforce. It’s a game of comparison. The problem is not that the barrel is spoiled, but the fact that all the other apples are oblivious to the quarantined rot.

Perhaps that’s why we feel that strange mix of shame or guilt when we’re bullied. It’s impossible sometimes not to be green with envy as we look at some of the happy, healthy green apples we work with, as we endure being psychologically mashed to pulp.

Very best

Saturday, 14 July 2012

WEEK 235 The Golden Age

The Golden Age of Workplace Fairness is over.

What Golden Age?

Trust me. We’ve had it and it’s gone. This weekend I’m gazing over years past with nostalgia. How could I have created something like my Bullied by the Boss blog in the good old days? How ungrateful was I?

We'd never had it so peachy. Sure, mine was a terrible tale of workplace bullying followed by a sorry struggle of trying and failing to access any kind of real justice – but who knew? Who knew that was the best it was ever going to get?

Recently, we’ve seen reform after reform subverting our employment rights. The latest is the final nail in the coffin. Yesterday, the Ministry of Justice sent out a press release. Next summer, fees will be introduced for the first time at the Employment Tribunal. The fees are in three levels, but bullying/harassment related claims will fall under level 2 or 3, meaning it will cost an employee at least £1,200 in Court fees to take their case to final hearing.

That’s IN ADDITION to whatever your lawyer is charging.

So there it is. I’m suddenly sad and sentimental for the one year period before entitlement to full employment rights and free access to the Employment Tribunal. How warm and liberal it all seems. Perhaps I should have written a blog called ‘Bullied in the Golden Age of Workplace Fairness’.

Which is funny because fair was the last thing it felt. God alone knows what it’s going to feel like now.

Very best

Saturday, 7 July 2012

WEEK 234 A Different View

Since booking a heavenly mini-break to Paris last Wednesday, my mind has been on everything French. The last thing I expected, of course, was that my love of Paris and my antipathy towards workplace bullying would meet head on. But the following day, The Guardian again highlighted the much publicised spate of worker suicides in France.

At the heart of the story is the formal investigation into Didier Lombard, former chief executive of France Telecom, where 35 staff took their own lives in 2008 and 2009. And it’s not confined to France Telecom. Peugeot, EDF and Renault share their own clusters of stress induced staff suicide.

Bill Stewart, Business Professor at the American University of Paris, said on France 24 News that due to the economic crisis some companies have realised there’s another option other than paying staff the redundancy they deserve. Some firms instead are choosing to submit their workforce to intense psychological pressure; bullying and belittling them, moving them around and/or forcing constant change on employees. Staff are deliberately harassed in the hope they’ll quit. Mr Stewart quoted some black office humour with regard to the way some French firms are treating their workers:

“These days they don’t show you the door. They show you a window”.

Back in Britain, Unite also recently linked a steep rise in suicides with the imposition of austerity cuts and warned that the government’s austerity measures put workers at increased risk. For example, they note a 40% increase in suicide rates in Greece and raise concerns that the same upward trend might be noted here.

If it’s down to the austerity, then maybe there’s a ray of hope for French workers in Socialist President François Hollande. I’m reminded of his election assertion on May 6th, “Austerity can no longer be inevitable!”

We’ll soon see if François Hollande’s claim that austerity is not inevitable has any correlation with worker suicides not being inevitable. I’ve faith that Monsieur Hollande will show the world a different view from a very different window.

Very best
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