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.


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