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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Bad day at the office 4 1

Hitler featured image

My boss at UK Cash Cowboys

My boss Norman Shylock is making my life hell. No newsflash there. The ass-wipe casts a shadow over my life like some ogre in a Goya etching. It’s not helped by his long downcast face, dead-fish eyes and stick-out ears. Shrek on steroids, uglier on the inside than out. Shylock’s face is the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. He haunts all my dreams. I often wake from them soaked in sweat in the middle of the night, clutching a bloody knife or a smoking shotgun. He’s the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning, tossing and turning at some ungodly hour. The caricature I’m describing here fits the classic definition of a toxic workplace bully. The kind of monster whose CV is a case study in ruining people’s lives. Did I tell you about his nauseating new catch-phrase, ‘good buddy’, with which he punctuates every sentence? If he says it once more I swear I’m going to punch it right back down his flabby slack-jawed, spittle-flecked mouth.

How bad is it? It’s this bad. Every morning when I walk into the office I glance over in the direction of his desk to see if his deformed head is poking up from behind his monitor. If I don’t see it, for that oh-so-precious fleeting moment in my day, my heart skips a little beat at the prospect of a rare happy seven and a half hours in the office. I utter a silent prayer that Shylock has been called to our London headquarters, or up to our northern regional office. Sadly, as I near his chair I notice his coat draped over the back, his loathsome flaccid briefcase slumped against the wall, and my heart plumbs back to the darkest depths of a Marianas Trench. It’s going to be another shit day. The ordeal begins immediately when I switch on my computer and log on to the company email, dreading the monster’s name appearing in my inbox. My line manager. Norman Shylock. If I don’t see it bolded anywhere I’m like, yesss! giving a little fist-pump inside. I wish. Most days begin with six or seven emails from the oberleutnantfuhrer. They lie in wait like crocs in the shallows of a placid lake, ready to leap up and devour me. Every one contains instructions to perform some shitty pointless task, some wanky process to complete, a control to pass, a form to fill out, in triplicate. All PDQ, with drop-dead urgent deadlines, or my ass is on the line. He words them in sly ways that contain little traps for me to stumble into, obstacles to trip me up, hoops to jump through. Such is my life at UK Cash Cowboys, the friendly smiling face of UK finance. One big fucking happy family to the world.

I kind of knew it was coming, since the day I appealed the wanky end-of-year performance rating he gave me last December. He’d basically made up a bunch of bullshit about my ‘attitude’ at work. The lying shit. And when I put in the appeal to HR in the New Year, Shylock went ape, like the big corporate bullying twat he is. He fired off a snotty broadside to the HR Appeal Manager – two full sides of A4 on which he’d vomited a dung-pile of vitriolic abuse that misrepresented everything I’d ever done or said over the past year, twisted every conversation we’d ever had to portray me in the worst possible light. The wanker used every trick in the Shit Manager’s Handbook to try and blacken my name, so he wouldn’t look a jerk in front of his boss if my appeal succeeded.

How it goes at UK Cash Cowboys is like this. You turn up, do your job, and are grateful for all the shit they make you eat throughout the year. They’re into managing their overheads down as a company. Year on year. My salary is an overhead. The way they keep that down is by turning my performance on its head and claiming I’m crap at my job. Which I’m not. That’s why they employ shits like Shylock. Fixers. Corporate bruisers whose only purpose in life is to beat up staff so often and make their lives so shit, that when the company cuts their pay it almost feels like good news.

The end of year performance appraisals at UK Cash Cowboys are when jerks like Shylock really come into their own. It’s when he really rolls up his sleeves, cracks his knuckles and goes to work. His sole purpose in life, from what I can gather, is to make everyone in my team at the Cowboys feel a complete waste of oxygen as a human being. So worthless we feel grateful for receiving no bonus or pay review for the sixth year in a row. That’s how it works, and always has. Nobody EVER, but ever steps out of line, or speaks up. They daren’t, for fear their name will go straight in the book as a trouble-maker. They’ll get marked down for ‘corrective treatment’, a ‘personal development plan’, some ‘one on one coaching’. Out will come the thumb screws, the slow steady water torture of aggressive micro-management, the sneaky man-traps they’ll set every day, the work they’ll pile on, teeing you up for failure, so they can strap you to a desk and butt-fuck you even harder at the end of the following year. And most of all, nobody EVER appeals their lousy appraisal rating, on pain of death. An appeal goes up to HR, it goes up to senior management, and causes a whole shit-heap of aggravation and administrative pain that they aren’t used to. Don’t even go there.

Look, don’t get me wrong, mostly I suck up all this corporate bullshit and just get on with my job, anything for a quiet life. I’m no trouble maker, even though most days work feels like I’m climbing out a trench and advancing into no-man’s land. It comes with the territory, right? Work is a perpetual war with an army of bullying middle managers whose only purpose is to keep the company’s foot on your neck, work you to the bone, suppress your pay and make sure you don’t step out of line. And when you’re all used up, to sack you. Workplace bullies. Little men who amount to nothing outside, who get put in positions of power and think the way to prove they’re somebody is to fuck everybody over underneath them, proving us inefficient and lazy and a failure, even if we aren’t. But hey, life sucks, get over it, most people say. So mostly you just hawl it up and take home your pay. Like everyone else I have a mortgage to pay, steam to put on the table, gas in the tank. Life may not be perfect but I’m not being nailed to a cross. Well, not literally. I’m sure Shylock’s working on it.

But this year, it was different. Shylock stepped over a line. He tried to put a big black mark on my largely glowing 15-year performance track record at UK Cash Cowboys. ‘THIS GUY IS A LIGHTWEIGHT AND A TROUBLEMAKER WHO IS CRAP AT HIS JOB’, is what he’d written at the end of my appraisal, in as many words. He also gave me the lowest rating he possibly could. Basically, he was fucking with me. He was saying, I’m in charge here good buddy, and don’t you fucking forget it.

Okay, flap-ears, I thought. Bring it fucking on. I didn’t pick this argument but if you’re going to make it personal, you’re fucking with the wrong guy. As it happens I grew up in a tough working class town where if somebody hits you, you hit them back, and ask questions later. Shylock was humping the wrong dude. Like a lot of corporate schmucks Norman’s problem is, all he’s ever known or been is a manager. Outside of work he doesn’t know shit, he’s invisible. A nobody with no special talents or gifts and a big fat zero of a personality. But in the workplace he thinks he’s Robert Mugabe. He thinks he’s Saddam Hussein. The boss who gets to dick people around just because he can. He also thinks, deluded fuck that he is, that pain is just a one way process. Pain comes down from above, and never goes up the other way. So he thinks. Well, fuck that, good buddy.

My first week back after Christmas, I worked over until 2am every night, going through a year’s worth of emails to find evidence that disproved all the bullshit allegations he’d made against me in my appraisal. Five thousand emails. That’s a lot. Most nights I staggered from the office around 2am, drove home half asleep and got to bed around three, to be up again for work at seven. You see, people like me, I guess, we can be quite passive on the surface, but push us too far and we’re like a dog with a bone. My Appeal meeting was set for the Friday at the end of that week. At the meeting I slam-dunked a two-inch thick dossier on the desk in front of the Appeals Manager, systematically destroying, line by line, all the lies Norman Shylock had made up about me, proving I’d completed all the tasks he said I hadn’t, and I hadn’t done the bad shit he said I had.

Everybody knows at UK Cash Cowboys that appeals aren’t supposed to happen. And they never succeed. Normally one manager gets on the line to another, they have a cosy chat with the Appeals Manager, whose own boss lets him know in no uncertain terms that he should ‘make the problem go away’. Well, fuck normal. I was going to send some pain back the other way. My demolition of every shred of Shylock’s bullshit gave the Appeals Manager nowhere else to go. He had no alternative but to find in my favour, unless the company wanted to find itself in an employee tribunal or court of law. Which, of course, would result in a whole heap of negative shit smeared all over their precious shiny brand in public. Even stupid assholes like Shylock and his boss Dick Holder, our so-called ‘Chief Marketing Bullshit Officer’, knew that wasn’t going to be much help in growing the business. So Shylock was made to suck it up and look a dick in front of Dick. What a pair of dicks. Dick had set the dick an objective to fuck me over, and he’d fucked up. The dick.

The Monday after my Appeal meeting, Shylock called me into his office. “Okay Bukowski,” he said, like he was sorry. “Twenty fourteen is going to be our busiest year ever. Dick Holder says we need to draw a line under this and move on, good buddy. He’s worried about the shitload of work we have to deliver this year. For the sake of the whole team, we need to work together on this. Deal?” He stretched a hand across the table.  “Fine,” I said, shaking his mitt. It felt cold and clammy, like grasping the week-old corpse of a decomposing salmon. Shylock nodded gravely, like one of those dogs in the back of a car, his dead eyes sending rays of hatred over the desk. And I knew there and then, that the deal was this. Norman Shylock wasn’t going to draw a line under anything. He was going to make it his sole mission in 2014, numero uno, right at the top of his personal objectives, to personally destroy me. He was going to make my daily working life as close to living hell as he could. Welcome to UK Cash Cowboys, good buddy.

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc

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