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, 24 August 2012

WEEK 241 Mini-break

I'm taking a little break, but normal service will resume next week.

In the meantime, see the link below for a useful survey into workplace bullying compiled by the Workplace Bullying Institute. Their contrast between a target's view on why bullying happens and the public's view on why it happens is very interesting.

Until next Saturday...

Very best

Saturday, 18 August 2012

WEEK 240 Wise Monkeys

HR Zone magazine wrote a short article this week called “Can You Keep a Secret?” after a Mars Drinks Office Connections survey revealed HR Practitioners were the most likely to divulge personal information about colleagues. The results were as follows:

“While an average of 33.6% of those questioned had divulged private information to a co-worker, the figure rose to 37.6% among HR practitioners”.

The article raised more questions than it answered. The writer didn’t touch on whether this was appropriate or consider whether this was something that should be addressed. A spokesperson for Mars put a happy spin on it, commenting that it was heartening, in a world of technology, that people are still effectively chatting by the water-cooler.

The problem is, of course, is that it is HR’s job to be privy to private and sensitive information about staff. I found out the hard way. The most extreme example of this can be found in the transcript behind my WEEK 34 blog, Boutros Boutros Ghali (where I covertly recorded my bullying boss and the Practice Manager/HR being particularly spiteful). HR, laughing along with my boss, also joked about sensitive, personal information revealed privately to her by a former colleague. I still find it shocking that the transcript, reflecting the outrageous levels of bullying, also shows HR delighting in the personal problems of someone else.

It’s a lack of training, of course.

And perhaps HR forgets that people often reveal personal details only because they have to. Employees must give reasons for illness or explain a request for a few days off work at short notice. Employees are usually cajoled into talking to HR if they’re visibly angry or upset in work - whether it’s work or something personal that’s caused it. As time goes by, perhaps HR believes people confide in them, not because for their job, but for their friendship. Therefore, information may have been given on a conversational, rather than a confidential, basis.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 

We all know how HR often turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to workplace bullying. That’s the nature of the job in many workplaces. So in this context I can’t offer a better suggestion for HR to adopt than the three wise monkeys’ proverb:

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

They’ve got the first two mastered well enough.

Very best

Saturday, 11 August 2012

WEEK 239 If You Can’t Beat ‘Em...

When we feel like we don’t quite fit in and the company we work for seems inclined to agree, it’s easy to start jumping through hoops. To rub along with our colleagues we’re likely, over time, to start behaving more like them. If the company culture is to blame someone else for mistakes, then you could be forgiven when you dump the blame on somebody else. If the company culture is to bully certain people – that person usually being you – then you might breathe a sigh of relief when another member of staff is targeted.

Sometimes, all we want is to fit in. The world of work can be a lonely old place when we don’t.

But you must always be mindful of whether you’re being socially encouraged to suppress your better qualities and behave in ways that you’d ordinarily frown on. If that’s the case, you must seek employment elsewhere. If you do make it work, it may be because you’ve fallen in with the motto ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.

We all deserve to work somewhere where the unique qualities we bring to the workplace are encouraged and acknowledged. We all deserve to be treated with respect as an equal player.

There’s only one rule with when it comes to bullying - in whatever form it takes: If you can’t beat ‘em – leave ‘em!

Very best

Friday, 3 August 2012

WEEK 238 The Confrontation Situation

Today’s blog starts with another thank you to a friend on Twitter, @lucybrazier, the owner of Executive Secretary Magazine & The VA Magazine who, last Thursday evening, ran an excellent live discussion on Twitter about workplace bullying.

The debate was hosted by Mariachiara Novati, who has an impressive employment and academic record. Like me, she has written a book about bullying she has experienced and seen in Italian companies.

As the fast-paced chat on Thursday progressed, it was clear there are two main schools of thought when it comes to dealing with workplace bullying:

1.    Confront the bully/be assertive/stand up for yourself and call on others to join you.


2.    Be passive/collect evidence/look for alternative employment.

It didn’t surprise me that Mariachiara was, like me, in favour of the second means of dealing with bullying.

So why is workplace confrontation so often recommended?

I think the advice stems from how we’re taught to deal with bullying in childhood. It’s probably still sound playground advice. Kids are told to stand up for themselves and boundaries are set. It’s a tough process of learning and confidence.

However, confrontation is never a good idea in work. You will be viewed as the aggressor. At best, HR will scribble ‘troublemaker’ across your personnel file. At worst, your bully will demand you are dismissed or disciplined.

Employees are often targeted precisely when they have little room for manoeuvre. You may well find yourself provoked constantly, with the bully being aware that confrontation plays straight into their hands.

This is why these group discussions are so valuable. Workplace bullying is still a taboo subject and it’s too easy to apply general advice from other stages of our life, which may have serious and unforeseen consequences.

So here’s a brief reminder of my advice for dealing with workplace bullying from WEEK 152 posted on the 9th April 2011:

The rope-a-dope technique, as coined by Mohammed Ali, is where a boxer covers up, lying with his back to the ropes, allowing his opponent to take pot-shots at his defences. After a number of rounds, the opponent assumes the guy on the ropes has no fight in him. He goes to town on the weaker athlete. Pretty soon, the busy boxer wears himself out. It’s a tiring business punching away at something round after round. And it gets boring.

 It’s at this point that the guy on the ropes jumps out from his defensive guard and fights back with everything he’s got. Surprise!

Ali’s rope-a-dope is a now an accepted strategic move in any competitive situation outside sport. One party deliberately appears to put themselves in what looks like a losing position, but only does so with a view to winning in the end.

I’m only talking about this because the non-pugilist rope-a-dope is what I’d recommend anyone do when they’re targets of workplace bullying.

We need to find a solution, whilst not showing any fight or aggression. Patience is the name of the game. Bide your time observing. Think about what you can do to get yourself out of the unpleasant situation. Collect evidence. In the meantime, when they make a mistake, which they inevitably will, you can tell it like it is and people will pat you on the back.

There is, of course, always a danger when warning against confrontation at work that we may be accused of offering cowardly or weak suggestions.

I say, tell it to Mohammed Ali!

Very best
Bottom Swirl