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. Bullied by my boss in 2008, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I started this blog. 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." I was unaware back then that it would catalogue one of the most extreme cases of workplace bullying in the UK. I've found another job, but am subject to a gagging order. I'm still blogging, of course. Just don't tell the lawyers!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Can't Beat 'Em?

Behind the chipper Twitter exterior, I’ve been pretty low this week.

The second publisher falling through was a real knock. Having worked so hard on my workplace bullying book, I couldn’t understand where I was going wrong. Obviously, I could hook the fish, but yet again I’d failed to get it in the net.

Then there was the legal training I’d asked for – months ago. My boss was excited when I’d initially asked him. Despite e-mail reminders, nothing had come of it.

So I’ve been in a bit of a funk; feeling sorry for myself and throwing a pity party. “What’s the point?” I asked myself. I’m a victim – of a publisher’s random change of heart; of recessionary cutbacks in training and of general misfortune.

I did snap out of it. Of course I did!

A Twitter friend of mine, @Fiona_WordsBird, who happens to be an editor, offered to give my book a final edit before I self-publish. I found a great cover designer. I also decided if my boss doesn’t fund my course, I’ll pay for my own employment law studies in night school, in the New Year.

All this made me think of an apt phrase from Susan Jeffers’ famous book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”:-

“What am I expecting others to do for me that I could be doing for myself?”

It’s hard to get over these psychological slumps whether they're caused by workplace bullying or publishing setbacks, but if we adopt a position of ‘victim’ we are both giving up and beating ourselves up about it. There are enough people out there who’ll give us a tough time without us lending them a hand.

When others are letting us down, we must be wary of thinking “If you can’t beat ‘em, join em” because that’s exactly what we want them to think when they look at the example we set!

Best wishes


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ravens in the Tower

Firstly, I’d like thank everyone who sends me Twitter links to newspaper bullying stories. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it is.

If it hadn’t been for one such helpful act, I’d have missed the next instalment on the Beefeater bullying saga. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s been rumbling along since 2009 when the first female Beefeater, Moira Cameron, admitted that she was being regularly bullied and harassed during her duties at the Tower of London.

What followed was a saddening tale of two Yeomen Warders bullying their female colleague. One apologised to Moira and was allowed to keep his job. The other was dismissed and went running to the Tribunal. A £65,000 settlement was offered to him to shut him up.

The sad thing is that the Beefeaters’ bullying of Moira continues still. She recently said to the press “I love my job, but can honestly say that I would never recommend another female to apply for the position of yeoman at the Tower”. And this is from a woman with a 20 year history in the army - hardly a pushover.

The icing on the cake for me, however, was the spokesman for Historic Royal Palaces who said the organisation “does not tolerate bullying or harassment on any level of any members of staff.”

Did I read that right? Sorry spokesman, but actions kind of speak louder than words on this one! It reminds me very much of my WEEK 27 blog post ‘All Banter’, when the firm I worked for wrote exactly the same thing in their new Employee Handbook, but did nothing to address the bullying.

If you’re familiar with the legend, you’ll know that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London the tower and the monarchy will crumble. But ravens, of course, are mythically considered the birds of ill-omen so I guess, with all the bullying going on, the Tower and the Monarchy really haven’t a thing to worry about.

Best wishes


Monday, 29 August 2011

The Best Disinfectant

This week, I’ve been thinking about the many obscurities to the real figure of those bullied at work.

There are two major masks to the truth.

The first is us - the targets. A recent ACAS report revealed that a major obstacle to dealing with bullying is the reluctance of victims to come forward due to guilt, shame and anxiety. I can sympathise, of course. It’s a million times easier to pretend to my new colleagues that I’ve never had a work problem than admit the things I’ve experienced. I don’t know how I’d begin to tell them. If I had to, I’d cringe with embarrassment doing it.

Even on a wider scale, Brits don’t easily share problems; men shrink from going to the doctor when they know they’re ill and women have to be desperate to ask for help, even when they’re drowning under their own multitasking. This, after all, is the culture of ‘keep calm and carry on’.

And even when targets do speak up, the second major obstruction to the truth comes into play - the confidentiality clause.

I have a real problem with the legal use of secrecy in settlement agreements to ensure employers’ wrongdoing remains hidden. It seems unethical. Surely it gives employers no incentive to change? Surely it masks the real scale of employment problems today?

As well as suiting the employers, the lawyers benefit too. Helping employers pretend nothing happened by way of compromise agreement is an uncomplicated income stream for lawyers. Take away the confidentiality, however, and the employer might have to change for the better. If they did things right, employers would have less of a requirement for solicitors to clean up their dirty work.

Would removal of the confidentiality clause make a difference to the amount of cases which settle? Of course not. The compromise agreement is still the cheaper alternative to litigation.

So perhaps it’s 50/50. We don’t want to talk about it and they don’t either. What we need is a bit of tough love. We have to talk about it. We must to get it out in the open. In doing my American employment law research, I came across a great quote from Justice Louis Brandeis:-

“Sunlight is the best of disinfectants”

I couldn’t agree more.

Best wishes


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Judge & Jury

I’d like to extent a huge thank you to everyone who left comments on the HR debate. The feedback has given me serious food for thought.

It seems I’m not alone in considering HR to be a role of conflict of interest.

Every one of the comments left here (or on Katherine Connolly’s HR blog) agreed with this point. However, a many readers took it a stage further, allowing HR the mitigation that they were often not sufficiently trained to deal with such complexities.

On researching the point, it seems they’re right. An ACAS study revealed that from an ‘Opportunity Now’ survey of 800 line managers, 59% of female managers and 74% of male managers felt ill-equipped to deal with bullying. Aren’t these the same line managers who are supposedly giving HR the resources to deal with it instead?

When it’s one staff member accusing another of abuse – the only in-house option is for HR to play Judge & jury. How many people would rise to that challenge? Even Trade Unions baulk when faced with representing both the accused and the accuser in cases of bullying.

Helen Frewin makes the pertinent point that the role of HR has transitioned, whilst the training has remained the same. And allnottinghambasearebelongtous’ comment that HR staff are often from an admin background further supports Helen’s observation. I’m sure there was a time when recruiting for HR from an administrative background was appropriate. This is certainly no longer the case.

Trying to see it more from a HR perspective, the pressure HR receives from management can also be intense. Management routinely views employees with problems as one or all of the following:-

1. They’re creating an unwelcome distraction to business.
2. They are a potential legal/financial liability.
3. They want to turn the workplace into a Courtroom drama.

Until the situation is resolved, management will be constantly chasing HR for progress updates.

Sadly, the situation in most cases (as the example from Fiona WordsBird shows) is that the accuser is terminated. Remove them – and you’ve removed the immediate problem. HR can relax, management can relax and the bully can relax. It’s difficult for HR to try a different approach when jobs are on the line. I’m sure many feel it’s not the place to experiment with outcomes.

But this, it seems, is the point. Things have changed. HR has to play Judge and jury whether they like it or not – to ensure a fair outcome. And they need to be trained accordingly. They can’t be allowed to continue to overrule the target for a quiet life.

Anything has to be better than the situation at present, where HR’s refusal or inability to play the Judge has them holding every victim of bullying in contempt.

Best wishes


Thursday, 4 August 2011


Too many companies have a legendary bully.

Bullies who are central within a firm have often had time to build up an aura of haranguing folklore and fairytale to be enjoyed by the people who don’t work directly for them. You know what I’m talking about, right? The bully’s exploits are re-hashed in amused whispers. They provide an element of humour to a dull working day. And when the current target of their bullying walks out or complains, the whole firm ends up rallying around the bully with indulgent sympathy.

Sadly, it doesn’t stop there.

It’s all too tempting for people to then believe currying favour with a legendary bully reflects well on themselves. They’ll say:-

“I worked with them when so and so was off – and they loved working with me. In fact, they asked if I could work with them more often”.

I guess we all know people like this too. They’re happy to be involved in the drama – and happier still that a short term period of working well with a well known bully endorses their own self esteem.

When you think about it, this egocentric bias is unbelievably harmful. It can put us in harm’s way. We tell ourselves that in the same circumstances, it wouldn’t happen to us. We’d be the exception to the rule. They’d love working with us. It also places all the blame on the targets of bullying. They obviously weren’t good enough. If that person were more like us - they’d have worked out just fine.

Too easily, the bully becomes an occupational stress test – by which strength of character within a firm is measured. In the world at large, however, it’s the opposite. It’s your ability to resist the dramatic pull of such ‘legends’ that really says volumes about who you are.

Don’t forget it.

Best wishes


Monday, 27 June 2011


Impatient, as always, to find a publisher for my workplace bullying book, I’ve been thinking about the market. At first, I kind of accepted the market was niche, and therefore placing my book would take time. But then I started to wonder. How many people are actually suffering enough to go in search of literary assistance?

Just thinking about the people in my circle, my best friend’s brother was bullied out of his job and is still struggling to get back on his feet. OLLIE’S ex secretary, as we know, is getting counselling and trying to gear up for a return to employment. They’ve both been hit hard.

Considering my wider circle of friends, there are a number of examples of moves made due to workplace bullying. If you think about employment experiences of your own family and friends, a job change or transfer because of a boss from hell is not unexpected.

For such a common occurrence, it’s strange that it’s so rarely discussed in a solution seeking way. Now and again, nightmare bosses are joked about – but that’s about it.

Let’s face it. Workplace bullying is an employment taboo.

Few of us are happy to admit that a boss hated us enough to force us to walk out. We worry people will think we’re at fault, either incompetent at our job or annoying to work with. We’d hate to give our new colleagues the idea that, “Hey, what if she’s super-sensitive to constructive criticism? What if I say the wrong thing and she accuses me of bullying?” We worry our new workmates will be walking on eggshells, thinking we’re litigious or oversensitive, prone to exaggerating or combative, paranoid or vindictive.

And that’s the magic of books. As Stephen King writes in On Writing:-

“[Writing is] telepathy of course...I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room...except we are together. We’re close.”

And so we are.

Lots of us.

Best wishes


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Interview with a Vampire

This week I’ve been reading Payback: Why we Retaliate, Redirect Aggression and Take Revenge, as recommended by a friend on Twitter. It’s so in keeping with my BBTB philosophy, I’ve decided to share it with you.

It didn’t take me long to realise that HOWARD’S problem wasn’t actually me. We’re not targeted because of some annoying aspect of our character or personality. We’re targeted because someone in a higher post is in pain and needs to make someone pay for that. And they’re always going to choose the person HR would (albeit reluctantly) let go if it was a 50/50 decision between you and them.

HOWARD had significant problems outside work which caused him pain, and his way of coping was by passing it on. I soon realised I had to put my pain somewhere or I’d take it out on my family and friends.

Pain is Vampiric. Once bitten, we have an almost compulsive need to bite back and if we can’t – we may well experience an urge to bite someone else, someone completely innocent. Unfortunately, whilst it’s not right and possibly dangerous even, it does make us feel better – short term.

So we have two problems. The first is, obviously, what we are going to do about being bullied at work. The second is how we are going to avoid biting and snapping at someone else. I tried everything and anything to successfully control my anger and frustration. The last thing you want to do is become the epitome of what you hate in the first place.

If we have to bite through something, let it be the chain of bullying.

Best wishes


Monday, 20 June 2011


I’ve been asked a number of times this week for my definition of workplace bullying. The first question that always pops into mind is why. Why is someone curious or struggling to come up with a definition?

Our motives will greatly affect our definition.

This is why definitions of workplace bullying in HR Staff Handbooks are long and woolly; an attempt to cover everything. For example, here’s an extract from the Staff Handbook HOWARD and his HR pals hastily scrambled together after the office junior tried to take HOWARD to an Employment Tribunal:-

Our firm did not condone:-

“Harassment related to gender, race, ethnicity, colour, disability, age, religion, nationality, occupation, marital status, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. There was to be no abuse through e-mail, texts or websites; no invasion of personal space, spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone. There was to be no intended isolation or exclusion, stalking or offensive sexual remarks. There was to be no public ridicule, sarcasm or humiliation; no abuse of power, position or knowledge. They did not want people to be stressed, demotivated or frightened”.

This definition was intended solely to protect HOWARD and his pals from future legal accusation. It did not stop the bullying, nor was that its primary goal. On the contrary, HOWARD was comforted that, should he be accused again, he could throw the Staff Handbook at the Tribunal and say – “Hey, we DEFINED it! We’re not bullies.” This is the dangerous thing about definitions. It implies understanding. It implies awareness. It implies some academic thought.

It is academic. The more people that discuss it, the more abstract it becomes. Experts want to be heard and naturally want to include all the various legal, ethical and social angles. This prompts more questions. A researcher thinks they have a good definition until someone says:-

“Yes, but can racial, sexual etc bullying could be defined as 'bullying' or is it more 'harassment/discrimination’?”


“Is it perhaps dependent upon how the individual themselves perceives it?”

Definitions belong in the same place as statistics and surveys. It’s the territory of the ‘expert’. It may be interesting, but it proves little assistance to a torturous employment problem.

So where do I stand?

Workplace bullying is situational. Within any firm, company or organisation every employee arrives each day with their own prejudices, problems at home, stresses at work, personal likes and dislikes, preferred ways of working etc. How they are allowed to behave toward each other and how these prejudices and problems manifest are down to the company structure and management. Therefore, it really doesn't matter much why one employee is targeted, so much that it is left unchecked and becomes a real problem.

So my definition of workplace bullying is "Where a firm, company or organisation permits one employee to torment and harass another".

I don’t claim for a minute that my definition is the best example or the unquestionable conclusion, but I’m happy that it works for its money; it implies a company is to blame.

What are your thoughts? Do let me know.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Traversing the Wire

Having arrived fresh from a lively discussion on Bully OnLine relating to digitally recording incidents of bullying at work, the following ‘rules’ aren’t only drawn from my own experience of recording bullying (January 2010 WEEK 31 to WEEK 34), but also from a legal and HR perspective.

1.If you do record your colleagues, don't use the material until after you've left. Recording colleagues in work is gross misconduct. Therefore, if you were to play it in a grievance meeting - even if it does show evidence of bullying - you'll probably face disciplinary or dismissal

2. Don't turn it into a fishing expedition and become 'the human wire'. Try it once or twice - and only if you are really scared of your bully. In my case I had a deal of trouble with my boss when there were few around. If it's bordering on criminal levels of harassment - by all means use a digital recorder.

3.If you do record colleagues and they find out - they'll hate you for it! They will personally want to see you fired.

4.I know a case where someone recorded meetings and came up with only minor incidents of their boss behaving like a jerk. That's not to say their boss didn't behave worse than that - but the tape did them no favours and, yes, the person who recorded the meetings was fired and their colleagues hated them.

5. It's also very stressful
So, for the moment, I would advise that no-one tape records anyone until there is serious abuse at work taking place and I'd certainly advocate trying everything else first.
Best wishes

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

"I QUIT" Sequence

This week, I thought I'd give you a break from my relentless blogging.

Ever felt unappreciated by your boss, but not sure why? Here's a hilarious sequence of photographs I was e-mailed yesterday from a friend:-

Brilliant. Hope you enjoyed.

Best wishes

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Controversial I know, but since my teenage days, when I came across a tape of Mohammed Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman, I’ve been inspired by Ali’s legendary rope-a-dope and boxing in general.

The rope-a-dope technique 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. Maybe he wonders if the guy is ill. He unloads his punches. 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.

A friend of mine recently asked what I thought about them trying to expose their bully to the press or TV. They wanted revenge or justice. It’s understandable, but not advisable. It’s not our job to punish our colleagues for their antisocial behaviour, however appealing the idea might be.

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. 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.

Simply give them enough rope-a-dope to hang themselves, and you may find they do it all for you.

Best wishes,


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Crepe Crusader 2011

I can hardly let Pancake Day slide without reference to this time last year when, suffering from anxiety and depression, Betty Crocker pancakes were my dietary staple, seconded only by Greens pancakes (the only difference is you have to add your own egg).

What I don’t know about pancake mixes or workplace bullying isn’t worth knowing.

I was tickled yesterday every time some asked “Will you have pancakes tonight, Eva?” as my new colleagues discussed crepe fillings. I did have pancakes yesterday evening. I’m not going to buck tradition - but that’s my lot for this year.

There’s a saying about those who want to change the situation they’re in. They’re said to be trying to “flip the script”. A year on, I feel I’ve done just that. And I’ve also flipped the pancake on comfort eating.

Best wishes


Saturday, 5 March 2011

Forgive and Forget?

Do you like reading tweeted literary quotes? I do. My current inspirational favourite is:-

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much”

Not only is he right, Oscar Wilde would have adored Twitter!

Ordinarily, forgiveness is a controversial subject when it comes to workplace bullying. Emotions run high. It’s very easy to confuse sympathy and forgiveness. Sympathy allows the anti-social behaviour to repeat. Forgiveness is a cut-off boundary that our abuser has no control of. It’s easier to do once we’re out of the bullying situation as it’s an act of letting go, releasing and moving on. It’s an inner mission statement – “You have no power over me. Your place is in the past – and I’m forgetting you.”

I’m not saying that forgiving someone is plain sailing. It takes work. I can go for months thinking I’ve forgiven HOWARD and my old firm, and then have a weekend where I’m so angry at them, I don’t know what to do with myself.

But if you’ve suffered from workplace bullying, then do make every effort to forgive the person/s who did it. Not for their sake (as Oscar Wilde points out - they’d hate you for it anyway), but for yours.

You deserve it.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Best Medicine

Feeling a bit under the weather, I phoned my mum.

“I know it was hell. It really was,” I said, “but there were plenty of times we were crying with laughter weren’t there?” I asked. Mum chortled, and reminded me of her favourite comedy moments. These moments were mainly behind the scenes scrapes; before it got deeply unpleasant.

One of the scariest was when I posted a letter and cheque to the IT guy helping to set up the blog. In a rush, I threw it into the sack of office mail to be collected that evening. Two days later, the receptionist handed it back to me, minus the envelope. I’m never going to forget staring in horrified confusion at my damning correspondence which began “Re: Bullied by the Boss blog.

It’s an industry standard that a Partner helps to open the mail. PHILIP had opened my undelivered, returned-to-sender letter and stamped it with his date stamp before realising it was personal.

I had no idea what kind of trouble I might be in. Would I be called to explain? Would he have given it anything more than a cursory glance? Would he put two and two together and sack me for gross misconduct?

I was stuffing the letter in my bag and cursing myself for being a complete idiot when PHILIP marched over. I froze. Beads of sweat materialised as I stared at my computer screen, waiting for the axe to fall. Just as I was about to make up some ridiculous lie as to what ‘Bullied by the Boss Blog’ might refer to, he started dictating a letter over my shoulder. I tapped out the benign letter to the Court under his instruction. Once done, he said he was popping out for lunch – and he was gone.

He obviously hadn’t read it.

Watching him drive off from the corridor window, I laughed with the sheer relief of it. I called my mum and told her about PHILIP date stamping my Bullied by the Boss correspondence. She laughed her head off, and told me someone up there must like me. That was one of her favourites.

One of my favourites was the time when I’d printed out two early blogs for my mum to read and told her I’d masterminded a plan to collect a particular piece of workplace bullying evidence. People around us wondered what we were laughing about. “It’s like a film! It’s like Mission Impossible,” my mum said. “Is it?” I asked, pointing out that I was a target of workplace bullying and we were sitting in the laundrette waiting for my washing to dry.

That’s probably my favourite memory. Maybe it's because my sense of humour lifted us both out a city laundrette, away from an otherwise miserable tale of workplace bullying and transported us somewhere creative and challenging.

A sense of humour is liberating. Find something in your situation to laugh about; turn a case of nerves into nervous laughter, and you’re halfway there.

Best wishes

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Statistically Speaking

Sometimes I wish there were a ban on workplace bullying statistics and categorisations. Although I use them occasionally myself, I don’t think they contribute much. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional relevant bit of data but, when I see experts using stat after stat, part of me thinks, who cares?

When you’re trudging to work knowing that you’re in for another 8 hours of someone humiliating you, lying about you and treating you like dirt, knowing that “72% of bullies are bosses” or that “surveys show 73% of bullied targets endure bullying for more than six months; 44% for more than one year” actually doesn’t help. It borders on completely irrelevant.

These things can even make you feel lonelier. The numbers may say I’m not alone, but emotionally the percentages give me nothing.

I’m sure many of these workplace bullying mathematicians know something about their specialist subject, but I’d be interested to see exactly how much they’d be able to assist if you took their calculators away and asked them for advice over a cup of coffee.

The most important psychological statistic is this:-

The person going through it feels like they’re the only person in the world it’s happening to
Despite the fact that the above sentence is proved wrong by the statistics – there remains a real emotional truth there. Until the experts give this the respect it deserves, I’m always going to question their credentials. I’m going to wonder how much they can help me.

If you think about it, surveys, tables and statistics can be a distraction. Sometimes, it’s all about the expert telling us they’re an expert. So, let’s take the ego out of the equation. Come to think of it, let’s take the equation out of the equation.

Workplace bullying is about psychology and emotional abuse and, frankly, you can’t get a less emotional subject than mathematics.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

On Your Bike

Yesterday, there was an interesting feature on the BBC about cyclists. They’re regularly being shoved off the road or injured, but other motorists have little sympathy for them and insurance companies don’t believe them. Their complaints fall on deaf ears. Their cuts and bruises are put down to their own stupidity.

So some cyclists have taken to wearing cameras in their helmets.

It’s worked. The footage can be used to name and shame guilty motorists who’ve squashed them. They can also use it in legal action against motorists suffering road rage. Further, a lawyer pointed out that it safeguards against the often differing accounts of eye witnesses.

Ben Parker, a cyclist featured on the report, said that he didn’t want it to become a case of ‘us versus them,’ and it would be nice if the evidence weren’t needed at all.

Sure, it would be nice not to need hard evidence, but allowing someone to walk in your shoes is the quickest way to unite people. The cameras enable everyone to see what the cyclist goes through. When the car on the film pulled out and smashed into the bike – I bet everybody watching flinched. I know I did. When the tanker scraped past the bike on a roundabout, narrowly avoiding pulling the rider under the wheels, I wanted to yell along with the terrified guy in trouble.

Likewise, this is why we need to record our experiences of bullying. And as far as possible, we need to be as unemotional as possible in our recording of it too. We need to give the facts and leave it there. Others will empathise of their own accord. We should allow them to consider what they might feel if this was their experience.

I’m sure that the motorists who watched the footage will be a little more considerate. Perhaps with the same considered use of shared experience in respect of workplace bullying, employers and the legal system might at some point follow suit.

Best wishes


Sunday, 23 January 2011

Punch Line

I’ve made many Aussie friends through my blog, so it was especially sad reading about Geoff Stephens in the papers this week.

Mr Stephens was subjected to years of teasing in his Council job because of his Australian accent. His colleagues constantly ribbed him about it, but nobody realised how it was affecting him. The jokes culminated in him taking months off work and relying on a cocktail of anti-depressants. He said the abuse was such that it would “eventually kill him”.

You can imagine how it all started – one person cracking wise now and again. I’m sure Geoff Stephens took it for the light hearted fun it was. But when everybody starts joining in, it’s a different matter. Jokes about one person can all too quickly become utilised as an ice-breaker. Having a bad day or facing an awkward client? Simple – crack a few jokes about the Australian guy. Who doesn’t love a comedian, right?

Geoff was probably world class at laughing off ‘G’day, sport’ jokes and ‘throw another shrimp on the Barbie,’ but the anxiety, as I found myself, comes from the knowledge that all your colleagues see you as a cardboard cut-out. Your role at work, no matter how well you do your job, is one dimensional. They all sum you up in one word. In Geoff’s case, it was the word Australian. In mine, it was the word Ugly.

When you’re the butt of every office joke, you know you’ll never be taken seriously again.

It’s brutal.

They don’t call it a punch-line for nothing. And I guess Geoff finally had enough of rolling with the punches.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

National Bullying Helpline

Almost a year after Gordon Brown was accused of bullying workers at No 10, the National Anti-bullying Helpline which brought the story to the media spotlight has listened to its last worried caller and shut.

The Charity Commission didn’t approve of the Helpline’s actions at the time. I admit it was controversial. The normally discrete charity director, Christine Pratt, was so angered by Downing Street’s flat denial of a bullying culture (having listened to 4 calls from No 10 staff) that she went on record with a public accusation.

I thought workplace bullying would be launched into the media spotlight, but what actually followed was a raging argument on whether Mrs Pratt had the right to speak her mind or not.

One questionable outburst from Mrs Pratt has resulted in a struggle to get funding and the subsequent closure of her charity, with its 13 year history of listening to up to 30 calls a day.

Talk about rough justice when Britain has its fair share of horribly run business where angry outbursts are a daily occurrence. No-one is cutting off the funding to these businesses. No-one is giving them a hard time or putting them through trial by media.

There’s one less workplace bullying resource as we head into 2011.

It makes me all the more determined to keep going.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Supermarket Sweep

On Monday I was shocked when I heard the BBC reporting about employers lobbying the government.

British employers are calling for the qualifying period without employment rights extended from the one year to two. Can think of an altruistic reason they might want it? Me neither. I predict rising numbers of people bullied/harassed and unfairly dismissed at 23.5 months. That’s right, you can treat them how you like, just move them on before their employment rights kick in.

Employers are also asking for a mandatory £500 payment to be paid by employees wanting to take their employer to a Tribunal. What’s interesting about this is, at present, the £500 deposit is the amount a Tribunal Judge can order to deter a potentially unjustified claim by an employee. It seems employers, envying judicial power, have asked that every employee be treated as though they’re trying it on.

If you were ever in doubt as to whose side the law is stacked on – here it is.

We’ll see if it’s put into practice. If so, then surely it’s only a matter of time before the Employment Tribunals are made redundant by the retail giants. And your local Court may close – only to reopen as Tesco Extra.

Best wishes

Bottom Swirl