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, 24 November 2012

WEEK 254 Dear BBTB

Following on from last week’s post where a journalist in the Guardian laid the blame for workplace bullying at the target’s door, I’ve been surprised by a related matter. I came across one of those ‘Dear Jeremy’ columns in the Guardian, published in late October, related to bullying. 

The question to Jeremy involved whether someone who was just about to leave a company should blow the whistle on their vindictive bully. What really grabbed my attention were the comments from readers. There were almost 100 of them and the majority of them were along the lines of: 

‘Yes, of course you should!’
‘It will make life easier for your colleagues’.
‘If no-one does anything, nothing will change’.
‘It will be really helpful [for remaining colleagues] to place your experience on record’.
‘Fill in your exit questionnaire!’
‘Tell them please, you’ll feel so better for it [sic].’
But as anyone with experience knows, workplace bullying is more complicated than that. HR will read the truthful, tell-it-like it is questionnaire and think: ‘Holy crap! I bet they told their colleagues this before they left’.  In what we’ll call Operation Damage Limitation, they’ll rubbish their former employee to their colleagues the minute they’re gone. They’ll say they had mental issues. They’ll say they couldn’t cope with the job. They’ll discredit that person - and they won’t be around to defend themselves. They may even go as far as not being particularly helpful when asked for a reference in the future by this particular employee.

As Anti-Bullying Week came to a close yesterday, it made me think that we’re not going far enough. We need to go beyond simply telling people it’s wrong to bully. It’s a stickier situation than that. In the workplace, bullies are often protected by a management structure, or the money they bring in. Stating that it’s wrong or encouraging the target to ‘man-up’ and do the right thing isn’t particularly helpful. 

Bullying is wrong, but we have to deal with it carefully.  

We should start by pointing targets of workplace bullying in the direction of those who have been through it already. The good news is there is a growing number of us out there ready to listen and understand.

Very best

Saturday, 17 November 2012

WEEK 253 Amateur Dramatics

 Eugh! Did anyone else read Guy Browning’s article in the Guardian? I missed it in August, but someone just sent me the link.

I’ve given a brief description below, but I’ve put the link at the bottom of my blog in case you don’t quite believe what you’re reading. This is the second article of this kind I’ve read in the past few weeks. The theme of this disturbing trend is that if you’re bullied at work, you’ve only got yourself to blame.  

Tip 1 from Guy Browning:

If you tour the workplace asking if people hate you, you're very likely to encourage people to do exactly that even if they only found you mildly irritating before...Office workers who worry about workplace rejection generally don't have a grip on how to operate in the workplace’

I was subject to one of the worst cases of workplace bullying – but I never once ran around asking if people hated me before it happened. I couldn’t have cared less. After the bullying started, however, I did worry about workplace rejection. And the worse the bullying got, the more I worried. 

Guy, it seems, is a bit of an amateur when it comes to workplace psychology.  Anyone with an ounce of emotional intelligence will realise that a significant lack of confidence and self worth are the result of emotional abuse – not the reason it happens. Worrying that our colleagues hate us is one effect of bullying - not the cause.  

Furthermore, is he really saying that had I followed the unwritten social rules, my boss wouldn’t have put 2 packets of Paracetamol in his draw and encouraged me to take them? Doesn’t it make more sense that there might have been something terribly amiss with my boss? And if you’re being bullied at work the chances are, there’s something wrong with yours.

Sadly, Guy’s insights into workplace bullying don’t stop there.

Tip 2 from Guy Browning:

The truth is that people don't hate you until one of two things happens. Firstly, you show that you already hate yourself and that others are welcome to jump on the bandwagon. show very quickly how much you like other people.

I might send Guy Browning my book. It’s all I can think of to dissuade him from using phoney psychology designed to make targets of bullying feel like everything is their fault. 

For years it’s been recognised that there’s a link between workplace bullying and domestic violence. Just imagine the outcry if he told battered spouses it was their fault. It wouldn't happen if they just obeyed the the rules of the house. Twenty years ago, I’ll bet some guy just like Guy Browning wrote an article along the lines of: 

“If your husband/wife is terrorising you, then it’s because you’re self loathing and needy”. 

I’m so disappointed the Guardian published this. I’ll say it again and I’ll keep saying it.


Very best

Saturday, 10 November 2012

WEEK 252 Speech Bubble

The latest workplace bullying story to hit the news this week is about a PA, Dawn Bailey who, after turning 50, was subjected to jokes that her boss should trade her in for a younger model.

Despite being almost a decade older than his PA, it’s alleged that Stephen Ball wanted a younger staff. Overlooking 19 years of exemplary service to the firm, Stephen Ball also allegedly focussed on his PA’s recent illness as well as her age as a sign that she needed replacing. 

Miss Bailey complained, of course. She raised a grievance.

The internal investigators found no evidence. But wait a minute. What evidence were they looking for? We’re talking about insidious jokes about age made in 2011. Were the investigators expecting these comments to have hung suspended in speech bubbles above her desk for a year until the investigators turned up?   

The government is seeking to reduce the need for Tribunals, but this is why we need them. They’re independent.  They’re not funded by the accused employer. They’ve got some common sense. They know there won’t be damning speech bubbles to be gathered up like balloons and marked Exhibit A. They’re able to weigh up character from witness statements and cross examination and they’ve seen and heard it all.

With the government’s employment reforms, employers have significant and growing power to contain, control, badly investigate and dismiss workplace bullying complaints.

We have to do all we can to burst that bubble.

Very best

Friday, 2 November 2012

WEEK 251 Prisons Exposed

Last week, I went to the book launch of 'Prisons Exposed' by Michael O'Brien, who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. 

Given that his book gives an in-depth analysis of the prison system and suggestions for reform, I wasn’t too surprised that bullying in prison is a huge element of his painfully unjust story. Michael O’Brien, during a lively question and answer session, expanded on how he’d been bullied by police, prison guards, other prisoners and how, in the process, he’d learned to bully people to survive. 

Then he began to talk about a kind of bullying I didn’t expect.

He went back to his school days, when he’d been regularly picked on. Being the little kid wearing the NHS glasses had been tough. So tough, in fact, that upon his eventual release Michael O’Brien told how he was consumed with the desire to track down his former school bullies and confront them.  It was clear that even he’d been surprised with his overwhelming reaction to what had occurred so long ago in school, especially in light of the awful chain of events which had taken 11 years to put right.

I wanted to ask him more on the subject, but didn’t want to distract him from the main subject of the book.

I’m left wondering whether he felt as though the prison bars had started going up then. After all, school had been the start of his being targeted and treated appallingly for no reason. 

Yet out of this experience, Michael O’Brien is doing extraordinary things. ‘Prisons Exposed’ is his second book. He’s campaigned tirelessly for those falsely convicted to be freed. 

After his years in prison, he’s street wise. His friends are tough. His eyes have been opened. There aren’t any quick fixes. The injustice has taken its toll. But he still cares. He’s still got endless compassion for others.

He’s an example for us all that wherever we come across it, whether in the school yard, the workplace or the prison system, bullying must never be tolerated or condoned.
Very best
Bottom Swirl