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, 15 June 2013

WEEK 276 - Lessons Learned-Bullying in the Work Place

I spent four years in an organization, two of which were horrible, due to workplace bullying. I eventually left abruptly after things came to a head. My manager (due to pressure from our “big boss”) was harshly reprimanding me for not following guidelines of a loosely defined assignment, even though my colleague was doing the exact same thing but with no consequences. She also was going to write a negative yearly evaluation that didn’t take into account any of my accomplishments. My bullied experience took its toll on my health and caused me to choose whether to stay and continue the humiliation or leave and have faith that I can find a different way to support my family in a bad economy. With several young children it was a hard decision to make. Ultimately, I chose to leave and have not regretted it since. I cannot be specific as I was forced to sign an agreement  to not disparage the organization in order to receive severance pay.  Here is more of my story. 

I worked in a small organization and we did good work.  I established myself with some good projects and had a good rapport with colleagues. Things started to turn after I inherited an Ill-conceived and over-budgeted project. The organization’s leader was corporate-minded and the morale of the organization reflected this. After my second year any feedback given to me was always negative. As a good worker I accepted the feedback and tried to do better (we all must improve in whatever work we’re in). But, however much I improved or accomplished, I never received du credit. Additionally, any errors I made, no matter how small, were the focus of my performance. The feedback received was also vitriolic and delivered more to demean than to improve performance. With bills to pay and children to support I kept trying to be a good worker and accepting their assessment of me until I noticed major errors all around me, from fellow colleagues or even management. However, depending on who caused these errors, they weren’t looked at as errors and certainly didn’t receive the scrutiny I was. 

It was increasingly apparent that I was in the dog-house permanently, no matter what I did. I also noticed that those around me weren’t receiving the scrutiny that I was receiving, due to some type of preference. I still feel that there was some gender bias as I worked in a female dominated environment but we’ll never know. My suspicions were confirmed when randomly and unsolicited, colleagues came to me and indicated I seemed to always get a raw deal no matter what I did.  As a test, I even borrowed pieces of a previously heralded writing assignment that a co-worker (held in positive standing) used and was told “we don’t write like that here” and “this is not good writing”. On another occasion, my immediate supervisor complimented my presentation to our board on a major project I developed. Hours later she took it back because the big boss didn’t like my presentation, though the board members were clearly impressed. There were more instances where my successes were nullified and errors emphasized even while colleagues and bosses were making the same errors, but with no negative reaction. So when things came to a head, I chose to gather my pride and have faith in myself, rather than accept their bullying efforts just to hold on to a paycheck. 

The experience left me depressed, anxious, angry and my weight had been a yo-yo. I decided the stress of working there and the lack of respect I received outweighed the anxiety of not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from. Now, I feel great about myself and my health has improved dramatically, physically and mentally. I now work in a temporary full-time position that pays well and with people that value my work. I still need to look for a permanent situation but have no doubt that I took the right course of action. I know because my health has improved, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and my self-respect has grown immensely from how I ultimately handled the situation, by taking control of my career from the bullies. Some lessons I’ll keep from the experience are:
          Don’t wait to protect yourself from bad evaluations or feedback that you deem is unfair. If the bosses have negative items in your record, you need to have a written rebuttal, with examples backing your argument.  

·         Know the personalities of those around you (and above you) and what are the best ways for you to communicate with them. Some people are more “A” type and others are more “B” type. You need to know which you are and which they are (or at least seem to be). 

     In my situation, my boss was type A and very competitive. Her attitude was finding fault was like a competition, with a winner and loser. Once she didn’t like me she looked at me in a negative light no matter the situation. For these types of people you have to defend yourself aggressively, not say “OK, you’re right” which I did for too long. Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive. Sticking up for yourself garners respect.

·       Tout yourself. Not in a fake way but keep a file of accomplishments that you’ve made throughout the year/career and bring them up in your reviews.

·         Be honest with yourself and your boss in terms of the mistakes you make. That way you can improve. When you make mistakes (we all do), own them and look for ways to show improvement and note them

·         You’re only as good as your latest boss says you are. If your boss is always negative towards your performance and it doesn’t get better, it’s time to go. Kick the job search in high gear.

·         If you’re health is suffering (not eating, depression, anxiety) leave skid-marks. It’s cliché but your health is all you have at the end of the day. Letting the bullying boss negatively impact your health is unacceptable. 

·         Make connections within and around your organization. The more linkages you have the more positive you are viewed and that can be a protection from bulling bosses.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

WEEK 275 Be Brave!

This weeks heartbreaking and inspirational guest blog comes from @ALtillMom.

I was top of the leader board every month, held company revenue record, closed the largest deals, managed the biggest client base, had the best retention numbers, and I was also the target of the CEO’s daily office bullying.  Just because I was a top performer did not mean I got a free pass from his toxic tirades.

For 3 years I gave this small HR resource firm my all, including my identity.  The irony was, our clients were businesses in Canada who required support, advice and documentation to support proper Human Resources practices.  We did not practice what we preached.  Every day I was subject to belittling, screaming, yelling, name calling, sexual innuendo, discrimination and ultimatums.  I was called upon daily to train staff, lead the team to success and support operations in addition to hitting my required sales targets. I did it willingly because I was great at it and I loved my clients and my colleagues.  However, I was also constantly told I was toxic, people hated me and I was a horrible employee. I was paid really well and therefore lived in the false reality that the money made this abuse ok.

One Monday my reality cracked, my daughter begged me not to go to work, explaining I was mean when I came home.  I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person I saw.  Reflected was a person who drank daily, dreaded getting up, was on anti-depressants, and was 40 pounds overweight and borderline suicidal.  The very next day I started looking for another job, but every lead was at half my current income, so back into the misery I cowered as the primary provider for my young family.

Fast forward one month to the day, I got fired! I thought my life was over, how was I going to feed my family?  Where was I going to get a job?  I lived in a city with a 10% unemployment rate and I was a horrible toxic employee who was worth nothing!  Right? -- WRONG!

In a matter of hours my network of good people started recommending me for jobs, I had 10 interviews in 6 days and 3 offers within 10 days, but most importantly I rediscovered my value and self-worth.

I eventually chose the brilliant company I work for now, not for the money but for their corporate values:  respect, integrity, relationships, excellence, leadership and collaboration.  All the things I was missing under my previous CEO’s reign.   It’s been 18 months and I finally recognize myself in the mirror again! I’ve lost 40 pounds, rarely drink, eat clean, exercise daily, no more anti-depressants, and most importantly my family is happy  again!

Do I still get haunted by my former boss?  Yes, in my nightmares, occasionally on twitter, and every time I get a bill from my lawyer.  But I survived, and if you are in the same spot I was, you will too, but you have to choose you first.  You are worth it, you are a good person, and you are not the problem.  You can break the cycle for you, one step at a time. 

Be Brave, you are not alone!

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