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!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Cry for Help

A big thank you to @Evil_Scot on Twitter who forwarded me the unusually titled Worchester News article:

“Man blames work stress after stealing condoms and octopus”.

As well as the condoms and a tin of octopus, Mark Brookes’ also stole a magazine, an ordinance survey map, a compass, light sticks, black bags and a shoe brush.

He admitted the thefts, of course, and agreed that he had been drinking after struggling to cope under the pressures of his job. It was, the defence asserted, out of character for a normally law abiding and hard working man.

I don’t know about you, but my first instinct was to grin. Not at Mr Brookes, of course, and I’m the first to admit that stealing isn’t a laughing matter. It’s the surreal nature of the crime. Why the tin of octopus? Why the ordinance survey map?

It was the same with my Betty Crocker pancake addiction. My family and I still laugh about it now – especially on Shrove Tuesday. They still laugh at the memory of all those pancake mixes monopolising the space in my sister’s car boot after a trip to the supermarket. You can’t get a more disconnected reaction to workplace bullying.

So the article got me thinking. There’s a fine line between laughing and crying. At the less extreme of the spectrum, when we’re stressed to the point of acting wildly out of character and our actions are a little surreal, does a cry for help often turn into a laugh for help?

I’m sure Mr Brookes is now getting the help he needs, but you can imagine his friends and family will never forget it. At some point, it would be nice to think Mr Brookes will, with hindsight, view his moment of madness with a touch of humour as I do.

We don’t talk about this enough. So I want to hear about your 'cry for help/laugh for help' experiences. Have your family or friends wiped away tears of laughter whilst performing an intervention? Have you ever reacted to work stress in an unconventional and inexplicable way?

Do let me know either here or on Twitter.

This should be interesting!

Very best

Saturday, 23 June 2012

One-Off Pay-Off? **** Off!

I’m sure many will agree when I say there is something particularly sinister about workplace bullies who pretend they’re bullying you for your own good.

Howard was a master of this. This was the boss, after all, who once explained in an email that his calling me a lesbian was not meant to cause offence, but was “more constructive criticism”.

So I find it particularly shocking that the most recent Government employment law reform proposal adopts the same technique.

Ministers are suggesting a reform to enable bosses to sack staff with an instant one-off pay-off as part of their Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. If the money is accepted then employees lose any right to bring an unfair dismissal claim in the Employment Tribunal. This sounds suspiciously like asking staff to sign their legal rights away at a time when they’re going to be most worried about money. Bad enough. But here’s the worst bit:

It’s all packaged up as a reform designed to allow employees to leave a firm with dignity.

Yes. Apparently such an exit package allows that when an employee is sacked, handed their P45, a confidentiality clause, a cheque (comprising probably one month’s wages) and a legal disclaimer saying they’ve signed their rights away to bring legal action at Tribunal, they will feel pretty good about themselves. They’ll be able to hold their heads high, knowing they’ve struck a bit of a savvy bargain. 

Who needs lawyers or legal rights when you're making stressful, spur of the moment life changing decisions?

And what if an employee’s sacking is the end result of a campaign of bullying? We know how often this happens. Can you imagine how bullied employees will feel being offered this one-off pay-off from the people supposedly protecting them from bullying at work?

The Government is really just proposing a generic, employer-led Compromise Agreement. It’s just one more hurdle between you and justice if you find yourself out on the scrap-heap.

And the fact that they’re telling us it’s all for our own good? It makes me angry. Like I said, I’ve heard it all before. I’m not usually one for swearing but:

One-off pay-off? **** Off!

So much for inspiring dignity!

Very best

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Labour of Love

Temporary work has dried up.

I’ve contacted the agency and they say it’s one of those things. They say it'll change.

There are some, I’m sure, who’d tell me I’m lucky not to be working at the moment. I should count my blessings. True, I’m spending quality time with loved ones - a rare treat. My PGCE is on the horizon and the weather is divine.

Nevertheless, those who say I’m lucky to be in this position are probably the same people who’d flippantly advise any employee candid enough to admit to being bullied in work that they should just quit or sign on until they get a better job.

The reality is tougher. I defy anyone to be unemployed for a spell and not feel excluded. I’m confused by my enforced holiday. I give myself pep talks. I tell myself I’m a good secretary and the lack of temporary work is a blip. It’s only been a matter of weeks, but my self-esteem is already taking a nose dive. I’m worried about finances.  I wonder why, with all my willingness to join in and contribute, I’m often sidelined.

What would I do without my blog and Twitter? As was the case when I worked for Howard, they prove that my contribution can be worthwhile and reciprocated.   

The fear of unemployment is, naturally, what workplace bullies capitalise on. Of course they do. It’s the worst case scenario. Unemployment is the ultimate marginalisation.

So if you’re being bullied and someone says: ‘Just walk out’, then stop listening right there. They’ve obviously never been bullied at their firm and/or had a spell out of work. Your unemployment will likely satisfy your bully. You need to find another job. This isn't easy in a recession, granted, but you must make it a labour of love to find a job where you’re wholly appreciated.

I won’t give up if you don’t.

Very best
Bottom Swirl