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, 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


Mamoscurr said...

I've just spent this weekend going through your Blog from start to finish, through your comments and others who have posted you have made me realise IT'S NOT JUST ME!

I am now going through my 3rd experience and was beginning to think that as I am the common denominator it must be something about me. All I feel at the moment is guilt, failure, my confidence is gone and generally like a really bad person.

My first experience was under a boss who had been extremely successful in a previously role but clearly didn't have a clue in his present one. He undermined me in front of staff and clients and then started the bullying and intimidation tactics. I resigned from that post and moved on.

The second was slightly different, a colleague through work, health and other pressures became ill and I think suffered some sort of break down. Unfortunately I bore the brunt and was subjected to being followed into meeting rooms and cornered with him demanding to know who I was on the phone to, I received not very nice emails and he declared that I only got my promotion because the boss wanted to get into my pants!! Whilst it was hard at the time I was able to forgive as the man was ill and it was the Directorate who refused to accept this and do anything about it so I lay the blame at their door for allowing me to be subjected to it.

This time round I find it much harder to articulate how I feel, why I feel the way I do and what has led to this. My boss has been a lot more subtle and very clever, so clever that I didn't realise what was happening at first. Having had a period off work with stress I have submitted my resignation and am now going to start my own business.

What has been interesting in this latest episode is that the whole team feel the same way about this guy as I do but nobody will speak up. I understand that the results of the staff opinion survey have recently been published and his are terrible - but will the organisation do anything? Big fat no! My colleagues have actually said to me he is bullying you, you should take it further because that's the only way he'll be stopped. Interestingly, none of them have stuck up for me and I can't see them willingly coming forward as witnesses if I did take it further!

I have decided that I just want to leave quietly and with dignity however, I did, in a moment of madness last week, let myself be drawn into a heated email exchange for which I am really upset with myself. I am still employed until end of September and tomorrow is my first day back at work in 7 weeks. My boss's boss is coming in to see me first thing to see how we can best work this. This evening my nerves are shot, I am fully anticipating that this is going to get turned round on me tomorrow and I'll be the bad guy. I guess I just have to stay focussed like you did - I do have a way out (hopefully!), it's a risk but it has to be worth it for my sanity!!

Thank you for the good read and for the inspiration! x

EmilyLloyd said...


The common denominator might be you.

You might be too obviously competent. You might be too obviously not someone who follows the herd. You might be the person who shows someone up by being too good.

Do you really want to change those qualities? No, thought not.

Hope the meeting went well.

Bullied By The Boss said...

Dear Mamoscurr

I'm so sorry you've had this awful experience. Thanks so much for sharing it here, where your story will also inspire others.

I'm so pleased you aimed for dignity and don't blame yourself that it's not always possible. It's certainly not always possible with me to put a brave face on every time - but we do what we can.

There's no doubt that you'll find something better. Since working for that firm I've realised there are loads of nice firms and it's only our unravelling confidence levels that keep us stuck; thinking better the devil you know. Do keep me updated. Are you on Twitter? If so I'm at @bulliedbyboss. I'd love to know how you get on!

Bullied By The Boss said...

Thanks Emily - that's such a good point. When we don't fit in, the only way of doing so is to change. And if the environment were struggling to fit into is toxic, we're far better off leaving!

Thanks again for your comments!

Mamoscurr said...

Thanks both for your comments. Perhaps you have a point, have these guys seen me as a threat without me realising it?
The meeting last Monday went ok, it was suggested that I go on gardening leave until my official leaving date rather than put myself through any more stress. Whilst I agree this is probably the best result, I can't help but feel that I have left under a cloud and he has got off scot free. Interestingly his boss didn't want to know about what had led us to this point but he did ask if there is anything I wanted him to do to which I replied "Make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else". I've taken the risk of trying to set up my pown business but at least I have found a way out and my husband is behind me supporting me but I know there are a lot more out there who can't see a way out and hopefully blogs like yours will show them that there is life beyond the bullies!

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