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, 29 September 2012

WEEK 246 Operation Overtime

Last week was National Work-Life Week 2012.  Embedded within in it on Wednesday was the inspired ‘Go Home on Time Day’. 

The information for employers is clear:Lots of extra publicity around to support the day, so make sure your organisation is geared up to join in the national campaign. Go Home on Time Day 2012 is sponsored by Bisto.”

Not that I’m saying there’s an ulterior motive or anything. 

Here are some of the suggestions to employers to enable them to prepare for the momentous occasion of allowing their staff home on time one day in 2012: 

  • Let people know the organisation is supporting Go Home on Time Day – put it on organisational calendars, newsletters etc.
  • Encourage people to avoid planning meetings or activities that will start within an hour of finish time, especially things that typically run over. Keeping that hour free allows for an orderly finish to the day, helping people feel more in control.
  • Encourage people to avoid planning out-of-office meetings that will keep them far from home at finish time.
  • Consider banning all business travel that day.
  • Designate or consult on a common finish time that day – warn that there will be a lock out or lights off time.
  • Let suppliers know you are participating – no last minute orders or deliveries.
  • Let customers know you are participating and why - make arrangements for any emergency out-of-hours contact if circumstances demand.
I wondered if they’d gone far enough. Here’s a few of my own suggestions for employers I might submit next time:

  • Inform your accountant that you are participating in Go Home on Time Day and there may be imminent bankruptcy.
  • The economy may spiral out of control and lead us into an apocalyptic nightmare. If this occurs then the basics will keep you and your staff alive: shelter, purified water, food and some kind of weapon to defend yourselves in the event of looting. Pre-order basics like bottled water and bread and tins of beans and gravy granules (see sponsor). Don’t forget a can opener and a camping stove.

Okay, maybe I’m going a little far, but it does read as though having your staff leave work on time is akin to organising the Normandy landings. It’s not Operation Overlord but clearly it’s Operation Overtime. My favourite suggestion is “consider banning business travel that day”. Really? Business travel might have to be banned because staff are leaving on time?

Do they think it stacks up as anything but a publicity stunt with the extra bonus that employers get to spell out to employees that leaving on time is not sustainable in business in the long term? 

They need to wake up and smell the gravy.

Very best


Saturday, 22 September 2012

WEEK 245 Jump Start

There we further scary workplace stress statistics out last week. 
The Daily Mail reported on new evidence in The Lancet that being bossed around at work could raise the risk of employees having a heart attack by a quarter.

And that was it, pretty much. The article was swimming with figures, breakdowns and information of how the study was compiled.

Like we couldn’t have guessed.

I often criticise over-reliance on statistics, receiving responses like “But they help prove there’s a problem and therefore something gets done about it”. Sadly, I feel it’s a case of proving something we already know and then realising too few care to find an answer.

We now have concrete proof that bullying in work leads to increased risk of heart attacks. Do we accept it as inevitable? In a business culture where ‘hire and fire’ is the fashionable answer to the country’s economic problems, increased risk of heart attacks are presumably seen as part of the sacrifice we must make for stability. 

Sadly, the only hope I can see at present is that the British Heart Foundation get their defibrillators into workplaces as soon as possible.

But I still don’t think any of it will jump-start the economy.

Very best

Saturday, 15 September 2012

WEEK 244 Eight Hours of Uncomfortable

New research from two surveys of 357 nurses conducted by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia suggests that people who witness bullying at work often have a stronger urge to quit their jobs than those actually being bullied. 

Sandra Robinson, Ph.D., a professor at the University and co-author of the study stated:

“Our findings show that people across an organization experience a moral indignation when others are bullied that can make them want to leave in protest.”

This idea was echoed in a number of related articles. 

Whilst it sounds reasonable, I have to completely disagree.

Moral indignation doesn’t make people want to quit. If it was moral indignation then people would speak up, confront that boss and defend that worker. To quit, on the other hand, is to throw your hands up and surrender. Wanting to leave doesn’t suggest protest, but suggests that people would rather seek work elsewhere than speak up on your behalf.

People rarely quit their jobs in protest over a colleague’s predicament because most of the time we realise the futility of doing so and the inordinate cost to ourselves. Do you remember that scene in Jerry Maguire when Jerry persuades Dorothy Boyd to walk out with him after he’s sacked for sharing his caring Mission Statement with his colleagues? Jerry and Dorothy make their exit past employees frozen in shock but, the minute they’re out the door, the workforce jumps back to work as if the two had never existed. Dorothy’s support of Jerry is relevant for all of 30 seconds. After that, nobody cared. And the same is true in real life.

If people want to quit, it’s far more likely to be because watching bullying reminds we have to toe the line and keep our mouths shut or lose our job. We know the right thing to do and yet we have to think of ourselves. Every day we’re reminded that there’s a price to our job. Every day, we’re faced with a tough choice. It’s no longer simply about doing a job well. It’s also about whether we look the other way if we see things that are unfair. Watching someone else bullied makes us feel bad for the other person, but it also makes us feel bad about ourselves every minute we don’t help - and it’s the feeling bad about ourselves element that make people want to escape. It’s eight hours of uncomfortable – five days a week.

Sadly, if you’re the victim of bullying and your colleagues are looking the other way or quietly applying for other jobs then, as anyone who’s been through it knows, you’ve haven’t got the moral support of the workforce. Quite the contrary; you’re entirely on your own.

That’s why it’s best to take these surveys with a pinch of salt and also why it’s best to seek solidarity outside the workplace – with others who’ve been there too. 

Very best wishes

Saturday, 8 September 2012

WEEK 243 Around the Corner

Two weeks ago something happened that I’d come to think never would.

I saw Howard.

As I visited my local shops, I was surprised to see Howard as I came around a corner. He didn’t see me, being a little way down the street. He was loitering by my local gym. And he looked lost. What was he doing there? Was he was deliberately trying to run into me or was he was uncomfortable about being so close to one of my haunts?

Who knows?

I coped rather well. I surprised myself. Good luck to him, I thought. I’m over it

But that was until a few personal difficulties arose with loved ones this week. I’m still hypersensitive to anxiety. Even years later, an upset in my private life leaves me feeling hopeless and scared. I’m exhausted. I can’t relax. The panic attacks come back. I can’t sleep or I’m suffering with night sweats/nightmares. I find it impossible to concentrate.

Howard isn’t the problem. That’s how I could calmly watch him for a few minutes as he stuffed his hands in his pockets, moved down the street and frowned at the properties in an estate agent’s window. It was like poking a bruise and realising it no longer hurts. I was struck to find it wasn’t the least bit upsetting.

So what is evidently a problem is the emotional touch paper he’s left me with. It’s the buttons in my head that loved ones can inadvertently press to cause a meltdown.

Can we fix the damage caused by workplace bullying?

It’s a slow old process, but I’m still hopeful. You never know what’s round the corner; sometimes it’s Howard, sometimes it’s heartbreak and with teacher training only two weeks away – sometimes it’s a new start.

Very best

Saturday, 1 September 2012

WEEK 242 The Lady Vanishes

For the first time in ages, I didn’t post a blog last week.

There were a variety of reasons. The first was that it was a Bank Holiday and in true 3-day weekend tradition I painted my flat, so my desk found itself tugged away from the wall and covered in dust sheets.

And then, as I filled up my DIY store trolley with rollers and tins of Dulux, I realised the subject of workplace bullying has been non-existent in the media for months. True, the Olympics have taken centre stage – but it’s more than that. One reason may be that Vince Cable’s employment reforms have all been rolled out, so his ridiculous “we’re doing it for the good of the workers” press releases have come to an end. Another reason might be that there have been fewer high profile Tribunal cases recently.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that workplace bullying has disappeared. Maybe I’m being cynical, but it’s a magician’s trick. It’s stage magic: smoke and mirrors. The unglamorous subject of workplace bullying has been dropped through the stage via a trap door and landed with a thud on an old mattress.

“Ta-da!” Announces Houdini Cable to his employer friends. “Workplace bullying? What workplace bullying?”

Workplace bullying is still going on and raising awareness at such times is essential or else targets of workplace bullying feel even more alone. And here’s my own spooky prediction - when the theatrical smoke clears, I believe those experiencing workplace bullying will have sadly multiplied.

Very best
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