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, 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



Anonymous said...

Agree 100% it MUST be talked about. And it's not just the responsibility of the victims to expose this. Other people in the office KNOW what's going on. If you are silent you are complicit.

Everyone that speaks up throws more light on this issue. Good on yer :)

Bullied By The Boss said...

That's a very good point actually. It can't be all down to the victim to expose the problem - because it's asking too much of someone having a tough enough time.

I couldn't agree more that being silent is being complicit.

Thanks so much for your feedback - we'll get there if we can keep the dialogue going. x

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