Bad day at the office 7

UK CEO gets OBE for services to Bullying

Cleopatra LeGrande shouting


These are dark times indeed.

Unless you were paying attention back in December it may have slipped under your radar that Cleopatra LeGrande, CEO of UK Cash Cowboys, the sweat-shop payday loan company I work for (recently rebranded as a ‘Challenger Bank’, woo-fucking-hoo) was awarded an OBE for Services to Bullying in the New Years’ Honours list.

When you look at LeGrande’s track record since she took over Cowboys in 2007, it all falls into place. Here are the changes she brought in:

  • Concentration Camp dress code – Cowboys traditional ‘smart cas’ banned – an early shot across the bows.
  • Time clocking implemented – arrival and departure times closely monitored by management. Transgressors flogged in car-park ‘group humiliation outings’.
  • Worksheets – logging start and finish times on each job.
  • Personal phone calls – not allowed, monitored.
  • Personal email access – blocked.
  • Access to social media – blocked.
  • Sending attachments outside the business – blocked.
  • Use of computer files to store personal information – forbidden and monitored.
  • Music in the creative studio – banned.
  • Laughter in the office – banned (management ruling that ‘fun’ and ‘work’ are incompatible).
  • Whistle-blowing (reporting colleagues showing a bad attitude or lack of ‘engagement’) – encouraged and rewarded.
  • Compulsory attendance at ‘engagement’ workshops.
  • Enforced attendance at ‘fun’ corporate team events.
  • Absenteeism from work-related stress – quadrupled.
  • Staff Satisfaction rating in National Opinion Survey down from 85% to 15%.
  • Brutal weekly one-to-ones with line managers, where staff are sworn at, threatened, intimidated.
  • Corrupt annual review system resulting in a low performance rating for high performing staff.
  • Annual pay review and bonus – frozen indefinitely.
  • Senior management and ‘yes men’ get above inflation pay increases and bonuses.
  • CEO’s annual bonus for “managing down the costs of the business” – £1.5 million.

Think that’s bad? That’s nothing. LeGrande’s Nazi credentials are even better illustrated by a case study leaked to me by a colleague in HR today who has asked to remain anonymous. If her name gets out she’s bricking it she’ll wake up one morning to find her cat’s head next to her on the pillow, with her P45 stuffed in its mouth. Things like that happen around here, since LeGrande took over.

The case study concerns three colleagues in the Marketing Department who were bullied out of their jobs recently, despite having 35 years loyal service between them. They had consistently resisted the company’s efforts to ‘indoctrinate’ them, and spoke out against the growing culture of intimidation and harassment. For their sins they were given a new manager, who was told to ‘bring them into line’. My boss, in fact, Norman Shylock, a particularly nasty piece of work. LeGrande gave our CMO Dick Holder a mandate, and Dick passed it down the line to Shylock. “Shut them the fuck up, or make them disappear, kapeesh?”

First Shylock tried to ‘fix’ the three ‘troublemakers’ by trashing their end of year performance appraisals, on which their pay and bonuses depended. He basically fabricated a bunch of bullshit about missed deadlines and poor work, so he could pin the ‘failure’ tag on them.

When they appealed against his bungled attempt to blacken their name in the appraisals, and had his bullshit ratings overturned, he unleashed a campaign of bullying, intimidation and harassment on them.

It started with hideous amounts of work being piled on, then constant micro-management, nit-picking and fault finding over the most trivial thing. If they were a few seconds late arriving in the morning he would take them in a room and scream at them aggressively, using the most foul, obnoxious language. Man and woman.

It went on for several months until eventually, one by one, they all broke a little inside, and were signed off by their doctors with long-term work-related stress and depression, and suicidal thoughts.

The shit really hit the fan when the three employees filed a grievance against Shylock, for systematic bullying.

Camp Commandant that she is, LeGrande told Dick Holder to work with HR to make sure that, on no condition, was the grievance to stand. I can picture her drawing a finger across her throat as she spelled it out.

So HR conducted a charade of an investigation, taking a sham interest in witness statements and conducting fake interviews, then presented a complete whitewash, saying no bullying had taken place. They found Shylock guilty of some minor infraction like, ‘inappropriate behaviour’, and gave him a 15% pay rise for getting the job done.

For the three employees, when they’d exhausted the process internally and their six months statutory sick pay was up, they were given three alternatives by the company.

  1. Return to work and report back in to Shylock, the management thug who had bullied them to the point of depression and suicidal thoughts.
  2. Accept much inferior roles elsewhere in the team.
  3. Walk off into the sunset without a job or a penny in compensation. After 35 years loyal service.

“That’s what I call a result,” LeGrande was overheard saying to Dick Holder, as they high-fived round the coffee machine in our London head office.

Welcome to the new face of British Banking.

Stop Press – Bullying Works! UK Cash Cowboys see 127% increase in profits

Today at UK Cash Cowboys we heard the company had released its full year results for 2014. And wow, we got some idea just how lucrative LeGrande’s culture of bullying and intimidation has become around this joint. “The company have coined in an extra £120 million in profit,” said our PR spokesman, Scott Trotter. “We’re absolutely fucking minting it.”

There’s a rumour going round the office that Sir Richard Pickle, our Global Group Chairman, serial entrepreneur and darling of the British media, has invited Cleopatra to spend a week with him at his Caribbean hideaway of Slapper Island as a thank you. Not that she needs one, as the figures released also revealed Cleopatra awarded herself a staggering 21% pay increase last year, earning an eye-popping £3.65million.

So much for George ‘Ozzy’ Osborne’s brave new world free of greedy fatcat bank bosses. LeGrande also trousered a handy little £1.5million bonus on the side. While most of us here in the creative studio at Cash Cowboys Towers, where we’re labelled ‘trouble-makers’, got a BIG FAT ZERO. Thanks, Cleopatra. Makes it all feel worthwhile.

LeGrande was quoted as saying in the press today, “Our staff are at the heart of all the money we rake in from customers and I would like to thank them for their hard work for, well, practically peanuts, all year round. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to line my pockets with such an eye-watering amount in personal salary and bonuses. To those who might say I’m greedy and that’s a disgusting amount of money, I’d say shut up, I’m far more important than you and you don’t know what you’re talking about. The figure quoted in the press that it would take an average employee at UK Cash Cowboys 145 years to earn what I earn in a year, while factually correct, is merely an accurate reflection of my superior status at the bank. I get paid to make big decisions, the plebs don’t. What’s your fucking problem?”

This is a woman, let us not forget, who from 2001 to 2007 presided over a mortgage division at a well-known high street bank that lent money to broke people like there was no tomorrow. When the credit crunch finally struck in August 2007 LeGrande’s bank had run up enough toxic debt to fund a small banana republic. A black hole of money that you, I and every other UK taxpayer are still picking up the tab for, seven years later.

But they don’t call her the Teflon Lady for nothing. Like some Auschwitz guard slipping silently away to South America, LeGrande quickly jumped ship on Thursday 9 August 2007, the day the credit crunch went off like a time bomb around the world. That black Thursday when Sir Richard Pickle unveiled LeGrande as the new CEO of the UK arm of the Cash Cowboys franchise. A black day indeed. We didn’t just get LeGrande and her Nazi management philosophy, we got her personal Gestapo of brutal oberleutnants from the Royal Bank of Snodland. These are the goons who now strut about UK Cash Cowboys slapping their rubber batons in their palms.

Cleopatra LeGrande’s strategy for business success is brutally simple. Take over the company, make half the staff redundant, and bully the remaining employees into twice the work for half the pay. It’s a strategy she’s employed at every company she’s ever worked at, destroying the culture and sending morale through a trap door and profits through the roof, over the bodies of her employees. Not for nothing is she known in the industry as Voldemort, on account of the cheery effect she has on employee wellbeing. At Cash Cowboys, most days it feels more like we’re working in a chain-gang than a marketing department. Maybe the fifteen-foot electrified barbed-wire fence, searchlights and machine gun posts have something to do with it.

Here’s the thing about Cleopatra LeGrande. For anyone who doesn’t know her. For anyone misled by the friendly air-brushed photographs our Public Relations team put out in the press today, of Cleopatra as the smiling face of business, standing alongside a beaming Rich Pickle. She should be fucking smiling, she’s just trousered £3.65 million. But here’s the thing. Cleopatra LeGrande likes to pretend she has a heart. But she doesn’t have a heart. Oh no. Cleopatra LeGrande is a machine. Let me tell you. A ruthless terminator in woman’s clothing. Like something out of Orwell’s 1984.

If the definition of a psychopath is a cold, calculating, dispassionate, manipulative, uncaring individual with sociopathic traits, LeGrande ticks all those boxes, and then some. She kicks those boxes’ asses, until they run away and hide. In public she likes to portray the Cowboys as a business with a conscience. Like we’re some kind of co-operative run by philanthropists whose only aims are saving the planet and putting something back into society. A company where profit is a dirty word. Hence her blatant attempts to curry favour with the establishment through our charitable arm, UK Cash Cowboys Giving, and our funding of the UK Cash Cowboys Marathon.

If you believed all that crap you’d think we were one big happy family. You’d maybe imagine, for one misguided moment, that all the staff here are treated like royalty and everyone loves coming into work. That we all buy into her self-serving bullshit about Cowboys being on a mission to change the world. Uh-ho.

Let me tell you something. Anyone who has worked here for longer than a second would tell you this. Cleopatra LeGrande would knock over a cripple if he got in her way. She would steal a disabled person’s wheelchair. Then let down the tyres. And sell it. That’s the kind of selfish, greedy, despicable human being she is. She’s a tyrant, plain and simple. A petty little corporate dictator. One of the coldest, most ruthless operators I’ve ever had the misfortune to work for.

Behind the façade here at Cash Cowboys she’s unleashed a Kristallnacht of bullying and intimidation that’s slowly snuffing out the last vestiges of morale and engagement among loyal staff who have worked here for years. Day by day, piece by piece we are witnessing our company being turned into the worst kind of corporate hell-hole, run by LeGrande’s personal mafia of corporate thugs. They bully and intimidate with impunity. They harass and humiliate on a daily basis, piling on the work, driving down pay, punishing the least ‘insubordination’. Speak a word out of turn, say a thing off-message, you’re out. History. These are people with families, kids, mortgages, who can’t afford to lose their jobs.

As Cleopatra is fond of getting up and saying at company all-staff get-togethers, smiling like a crocodile, “either you’re on the bus, or you can fuck off and work somewhere else, make up your mind”.

For LeGrande to preside over a company pretending to stand for good causes and the wellbeing of staff, feels like having Jimmy Savile in charge of a refuge for abused children. There’s only one cause LeGrande cares about, as today’s revelations about her fatcat salary have revealed. Her own bank balance. As for the rest of us, we’re just tiny pawns in her big power game. Paper napkins that get used up and thrown out with the trash. We’re faces to be ground under her jackboot as she fast tracks her career among the great and the good. Fuck you, LeGrande.

So what exactly the Chancellor thought he was doing by giving one of the prime authors of the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s a licence to operate a high street bank out of a seedy little two-bit financial services company like the Cowboys is anyone’s guess. My guess is that Cleopatra spent most of 2013 on her knees in front of Osborne to make it happen. And I don’t mean tying his shoelaces. No doubt she milked the David v Goliath angle for all it was worth. Plucky little challenger brand standing up to the big bad high street banks. If Osborne only knew the truth he’d run a mile. This is a Mickey Mouse operation from its head to its toes. A corporate concentration camp where staff are brow-beaten and bullied into churning out over-priced, dumbed-down Mickey Mouse financial products that any sensible customer would run a mile from. One day the truth will out. Remember the name, Cleopatra LeGrande, OBE. The new face of banking.

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Bad day at the office 5

Bad day at the office 5 - picture of a rook

My rook, the opposite of Churchill’s Black Dog












Here’s a poem I wrote a few weeks back, in March, about a low-point I reached at work. Hopefully it’s self-explanatory.


The Bully

The doctor signed me off sick last month
With work-related stress
I was being bullied by my boss
I’d had some kind of breakdown

Don’t get me wrong
Just me and him in the car park
One on one
I’d have liked nothing better
Than to take him down a peg or two
Exposing the little Hitler
For the puffed-up corporate lickspittle he was
But that’s the whole point
Bullies never pick on those
They know can fight back
He knew I needed to keep the job
I had bills to pay
Food to put on the table
Just like everyone else
I couldn’t do a damn thing

It was death by a thousand emails
By a million shitty little tasks
Every day, on top of my day job
In his quest to humiliate me
And break me, piece by piece
To prove to his own bosses
What a hard driving son of a bitch he was
Using the ladder of my broken mind
To progress his career up the company

Being bullied is like catching a horrible disease
It takes over your life
From the moment you wake
Till you fall asleep at night
There’s no safe haven where he can’t find you
Even when he’s not there
He’s bullying you in your thoughts
That’s when things start to get really black
When there’s nothing else
Except the bully

For half a year I sucked it up
Refusing to let the jerk beat me
Until last month, when something snapped
A thousand miles down, at the very core of my being
I was driving in to work
When I pulled over to the side of the road
And burst into tears
I had come to the end of the line

I went to my doctor the following day
My story tumbled out like spilled ink
God bless that man, he sent me home
He listened, and believed what I had to say
I was no longer alone
It felt like a huge weight lifting from my shoulders

For three days I sat zombie-like, staring at the walls
Didn’t change my clothes, bathe, or eat
Til the tension began to slowly unwind
From the tightly coiled spring of my body

That was a month ago
Lately I’ve started going for long walks
Picking up pieces of my soul along the way
Sticking them together
With the band-aids of daffodils
The cries of rooks milling
Round their sky villages
It’s March
Spring is shooting out the earth like a rocket
Everywhere waking up what had seemed dead

Today, walking down a sunken lane
I came across a rook in the road
With a broken wing
As I approached, it hopped to the left
And scrabbled up the bank
Crippled as it was
Its life instinct clinging on
Maybe the wing would mend
Or maybe it would starve, or become some fox’s supper
But while there was still a chance
It hung on

I emailed an official complaint
To our HR department
I’ve decided to stand up and fight
And expose this bully for the slimeball he is
Even if it costs me my job
He’s in with senior management, you see
They always are
That’s how come they think they’re invulnerable
Well, this one’s got a wake-up call coming
And if I ever meet him down some dark alley
On some distant day in the future
Or in hell, on my turf
He’s gonna wish he’d never heard the name
Frank Bukowski

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