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."

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Control



Since I have been helped by an amazing lawyer, wrongs are still being righted and I found myself having a fresh look at the piles of evidence I collected.
 
Then, yesterday, I watched an insightful BBC Panorama programme on domestic violence. The clear message of the documentary was that domestic violence is about control.



You’ll probably know that I have always been in full agreement with the Workplace Bullying Institute that domestic violence and workplace bullying are first cousins. 

The idea that control is the agenda of the workplace bully was something I had already identified from a key piece of evidence I hold. 

When I, yet again, handed in my notice in November 2009, Howard had a meeting with me and later emailed the practice manager to let her know what he’d said. I was fortunate enough to get hold of a copy of this sensational email. Apart from the fact that there is no mention of all the ridiculous things they later alleged in their Defence, Howard’s language is as telling as the content of the email itself. He says to the practice manager:

“I can only control what happens in the workplace”.

Later, he asks for my mobile number. He says: “knowing how her mind works” a personal call is in order. (The practice manager gives him my telephone number and says she thinks I’m probably just oversensitive because I’m overtired).

You don’t have to be a psychologist to recognise that Howard’s language is that of someone who believes he is in full control. He was to a large extent. A few days later he had my desk moved three or four feet directly in front of his and the company allowed him to commence one to one ‘training’ in a private meeting room. Needless to say, these meetings were low on training and high on threatening language and abuse.

However, in that initial meeting with him, I recorded in my diary that Howard said the fact that I had given up going to the gym and writing had left me adrift. I wrote: “He said that he was not only my boss, but he was also my friend – and he understood that I was a vulnerable, unconfident person who was lonely.” 

The truth was, however, that I hadn’t given up writing or the gym. I simply told him I had after he bombarded me with emails trying to put me off both. I had stopped writing fiction, for example, but I was hard at work writing my blog. For a quiet life, I gave Howard the illusion of control. Later, I learned how essential this was.

For your psychological good, you must not allow your bully to take full control, but you must not let them know the degree to which you are resisting. That’s workplace bullying for you. Just as with domestic violence, it’s best to let them think they have control while you plan your final escape.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

All Writing is Autobiographical





A couple of weeks ago, a lawyer accused me of being a creative writer, implying that Bullied by the Boss may be a work of fiction. 

A coincidence: the bullying started in 2008 after I managed to get a work of fiction published. I can only conclude that Howard, my boss, thought I was getting above myself. 

What I didn’t record online was what Howard initially said about my writing. He said it was easy for me to write a contemporary story and that anybody could. He said that metaphor was a ‘con’ and would send me prosy paragraphs to show that he could write better. He would read paragraphs from my novel to colleagues using comedy voices and encourage them to laugh. He would scour the internet for interviews I had done in the press and mimic them for colleagues. He made jokes about buying copies from Amazon as he alleged the book was cheaper than toilet paper.

If I got upset, I was publicly berated for taking myself too seriously. If I tried to laugh along, he made it clear that I was inviting his insidious behaviour. Seeing that nobody objected to his belittling my small literary success, he enthusiastically moved on to everything else he didn’t like about me. And there was a lot.

For a fledgling novelist, it took me years to recover my creative writing confidence.

I told myself that if I ever did write another novel, then it would be a historical novel so that nobody could again accuse of me of being lazy. I have almost finished this new novel and, until recently, I believed I had achieved what I set out to. It’s a novel from a male perspective and set in a time before I was born.

However, when I started thinking about the theme of my novel, I realised it’s about a character who becomes obsessed with revealing the truth behind distorted media coverage. In the case of my own life, of course, it’s not about the media, but it is about the bullying I went through and the lawyers who lied and distorted evidence to cover it up. So, somewhat unsurprisingly, I have written a novel about distortion and obsession.

And this makes sense. Those with real experience of writing often say that all writing is autobiographical to one degree or another.

Perhaps we can forgive what happens to us, but to forget we have to have some acknowledgement of what we went through by the people who put us through it. In the meantime, I suspect that there may be a number of future novels on the horizon where I find my preoccupation with truth coming to the fore.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Creative Writing


In last week’s blog, I mentioned there is a solicitor out there trying to cast doubt on my credibility. I know that it’s hard for some solicitors to believe that everything I blogged about actually happened in a law firm. They compare it to their own business and say: ‘Bullying could never happen to that extent. You must have been exaggerating or brought it on yourself’. 

Sadly, it really did happen and I did nothing to deserve it.
 
The gentleman in question is a partner in a HR Department and a specialist at defending employers against employment claims, so do I expect him to have much empathy for a bullied member of legal support staff? No, of course not.

With an implied insult that I almost found funny, he has drawn attention to the fact that I am a ‘creative writer’. The implication being, of course, that I have a vivid imagination and that this might impinge on my ability to know truth from fiction. 



Petty insults aside, I have been fortunate this week to run into an old friend from my original firm from hell. She walked out years after me and has all the inside gossip. What she told me left me reeling. It’s a list of horror stories involving inappropriate behaviour in terms of bullying, partners treating staff as though it’s a dating agency and, as they did in my day, no one ever hands in their notice. You simply get to the point where you walk out – whether you have another job to go to or not.

The good news is that she’s putting me in touch with my old colleagues. It'll look more like a  support group than a creative writing circle. As I said on Twitter earlier this week, I’ve been running my anti-bullying campaign since 2009. 

That’s not creativity - that's passion.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Solidarity


I’ve been reading a rather marvellous book by Owen Jones called ‘Chavs’ which exposes how the middle classes have come, due initially to Thatcherism, to deride the entire working class as money-grabbing, lazy and ignorant. Jones describes the modern day working class as including roles such as secretaries, nurses, call centre workers and service industry workers, including retail. 

I cannot help but think of things in terms of class at the moment, especially when there are still lawyers who still insist I wasn’t bullied, but that I am, instead, a money grabbing individual out to extort the system. 

Newsflash and timely reminder: I took my settlement money and this is what I did with it:

1) I wrote and self-published my self-help book Bullied by the Boss. I hired a marvellous English editor (@FionaWordsBird) and an American editor to make sure it had cross-channel appeal and I used my own money to do so.



2) I launched the book in Canary Wharf tube station and hired a barbershop quartet to sing work related songs while hired helpers handed out flyers. I bought my ‘team’ Bullied by the Boss T-shirts. All this came out of the settlement money, as did the hotel and travelling expenses. I also hired a great photographer, Adam Hollingsworth.


 
3. I made a donation to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

4. I retrained as a literacy teacher.
 
Just because we’re secretaries, nurses or clerks standing up for ourselves, whistle-blowing or taking legal action doesn’t mean we’re out to extort money. Sometimes, just because of a sense of solidarity and a stubborn sense of fairness, we will spend our time and money trying to help people in the same boat.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

A New Chapter



Two years ago, a well respected lawyer read my Bullied by the Boss book and blog and decided there was some action that could still be taken to right a few wrongs. 

The opponents in the new claim attacked my lawyer, alleging he was subjecting me to unnecessary trauma. I should be left to put it behind me, they said. 

I didn’t realise there was still action that could be taken. I had resigned myself to the fact that publishing the book was the only means of addressing many unsatisfactory aspects of what I’d gone through from start to finish or, more accurately, start to present.

It was his offer to help that made me realise how unfinished it all was. You don’t so much put bullying like that behind you as bury it deep in your subconscious and try not to think of it again. I tried not to dwell on anxieties about my appearance or worries that I was a terrible writer. I endeavoured not to be scared of the drummed-in-by-my-bully idea that men perceived me as vulnerable and an easy target for abuse. I attempted to bury the fact that I’d been lied about in the Court documents and accused of a number of awful and ridiculous things I’d not done. And, lastly, I tried not to think about the fact that my last set of lawyers hadn’t taken any of this as seriously as they might have. 

There was a lot to bury. 

It was the new offer of legal help that actually made me feel better: really better. Someone in the legal profession agreed with me. Few people have had to endure the extent of bullying I had to, and there’s often no knowing what’s going to make someone feel better in the long term. Perhaps it’s the writer in me that means I was never going to completely settle down with so many unresolved subplots in this tale of workplace horror.

My lawyer, it seems, thinks I deserve a better ending to the story and as things start to progress, psychologically speaking, this is huge for me.

I’ll keep you updated as to the next chapter.

Best wishes
BBTB X
Bottom Swirl