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!

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