Don’t Shush Me

A lot of credible hardworking Nigerian employees are going through the most inhumane conditions in the hands of their employers IN SILENCE. They are silent due to the fear of direct or indirect retaliation from their employer; the current adverse economic situation, and the lack of an adequate workplace system that addresses/redresses these kinds of situations.

Share

Share
Text size
+

It’s Monday morning and I’m a mixture of rage, relief, passion and resignation. As always, I let my conflicting emotions spill on ink. I’ve always had to subtly apologize for being too smart but recently I found more things to apologize for. Being too young, being black, being female, being too easy on the eyes, professing my faith, speaking up; I have always been the rebel against the kind of male dominance that breeds chauvinistic or narcissistic behavioural tendencies. It’s a terrain I’m all too familiar with unfortunately.

My freinds will say and my mother will echo, ‘you are a girl, a girl is not meant to be so outspoken’. We are forced into some sick form of fake subservience where the only form of outspokeness accepted is when it takes the form of competition for the attention of men.

This should be an expository article on workplace harassment, all the forms it takes and especially how to avoid it. It could alternatively serve as a rant ( although I think that would be a disservice to the cogent message in this article). It’s whatever you choose to call it. I chose the title ‘don’t shush me’ as a protest speaking for my protest to exercise my right to speak and my right to live and work freely.

A significant proportion of workers are victims of workplace harassment but are unaware of this. Victims are often unsure of what qualifies as harassment and what to do when they’re being harassed, it often goes unreported and continues to be an issue. Workplace harassment can ruin a great job and turn a company into a toxic and unproductive environment.

I, for one have a problem with people that tilt the responsibility to uphold character and right moral disposition to just the employee and leave the employer out of the ropes. It is biased, very discriminatory.

What happened to dignity and basic respect for the individual regardless of age, size, economic class or what you need from them. You hired humans not machines. Humans feel and their productivity is affected by that, machines, not so much.

It is the obligation of both the employer and the employee to be on their best behaviour at all times. If this happens, then there is clarity in judging who was out of pocket or not.

A lot of credible hardworking Nigerian employees are going through the most inhumane conditions in the hands of their employers IN SILENCE. They are silent due to the fear of direct or indirect retaliation from their employer; the current adverse economic situation, and the lack of an adequate workplace system that addresses/redresses these kinds of situations.

I hold on to the philosophy to treat both the CEO and the cleaner with the same respect. Its just basic. There is a minimum level of respect required for basic human relations. Anything extra is earned. You dont get to treat or talk to your direct employees or non-office workers anyhow just because you can and they depend on you at the moment for survival.

You paid me to work for you and get your profits up, as long as I’m doing just that and giving you the same respect as I would give anyone I meet, we should be good. You don’t have to project your inner self esteem issues on me and go on to project it to others as a deficiency in my character.

I’ve been on the receiving end of constant workplace harassment and bullying from a direct employer. I didn’t know workplace bullying was real until it happened to me. (Seriously, you should look it up, you should know your rights on how to be treated in the workplace)

I am undoubtedly skillful at my job and it could be proven from the revenue I was generating for the company, I was meeting deadlines and giving unpaid overtime hours. However, I was earning a stipend barely over what an average lagos cleaner would earn despite my being super qualified for the job. I was still happy working there because I was passionate about my Job…I specifically exclaimed to my employer one day ‘I love my job!’

And that was why I stayed. I was in love with my Job and I was ready to do it for little or no pay.

However, I was subjected to having to defend or shield myself from one form of harrasment to the other. The mental/emotional environment was intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and at the very most offensive. I didn’t feel respected by my boss as a person or for my work. It felt anything but safe.

I don’t know what made my boss feel that his behaviour was acceptable to me or anyone for that matter. Oh! …I know….he was paying my salary….he was in the seat of power and as they say, power intoxicates. It’s the worst kind of high.

I was forced to resign without salary due to the toll the incessant harassment was having on me. It got to a point where I was consciously preparing myself every morning on my way to work, for the abuse that was waiting for me at the office. My boss’s constructive dismissal hampered on my productivity and I wasn’t able to actively participate in the job that was starting to grow on me. I left feeling very used and under- appreciated.

This kind of employer will go on to say in his defence, that his actions were excusable due to the deficiency in the character of the employee; and everyone will nod in agreement but nobody listens to the employee. Its sad that this happens in this part of the world or anywhere else for that matter. Where there is no functional system in place  to address situations like this adequately.

Hardworking and credible workers are forced to NOT have a voice due to the fear of retaliation directly or indirectly from their employer. I should not have to put up with abuse just because you are paying my salary. It’s not a master – slave thing.

I’ve learnt one thing in life however, it’s that majority vote is not always the right vote and no matter how long it takes you can’t hide the truth for so long. What goes around always comes around.

If you find yourself in my shoes, the worst thing you can do is keep quiet. Make an effort to resolve the issue internally, reach out to the offending individual directly. Describe your feelings and the unacceptable language or behavior and request that it stop. However, if after doing this it doesn’t stop, know the law and exercise your options with the law. What is most important is that you have a right to work freely in a stable and safe ( not just physically but mentally safe) environment. You owe it to yourself as an individual to put your mental health first above anybody or anything else. I hope you love yourself enough to do this and let your light shine. 

Have you been a victim of workplace harassment? Share your thoughts with me in the comments. Your thoughts help more than you know.

Looking forward to knowing I’m not alone in this.

Responses

  1. Hafutesi
    I can relate to this post Iseyemi. My elder sister’s boss ALWAYS makes life miserable for my sister. She’s the supposed manager of this man’s company, but it doesn’t look like she’s the manager at all. Then you have the direct and indirect passes he makes at her, the odd hours of work (Sundays are now normal working days) someone who’s engaged to be married. Looking at the current situation in the country, she can’t afford to walk away. The sad thing is she still needs this job to fall back on after her wedding. It’s so bad that everyone in my family knows the story. I’m pained too.
    0
    1. Iseyemi Ayotunde Post author
      Hi Hafutesi, I’m so sorry about what your sis has to go through. I hope she finds the courage to move on from that terrible situation and go where she can truly live. It’s easy to set up a business and call yourself a boss any man on the street can do that. It takes real humanity and deep insights to be a boss or as I’d like to call it, a leader. And not everyone is called to be one. That’s what most people don’t get and that’s why the cycle of toxic employer to employee relationship continues. It’s even more sad when the victim of workplace is female. I know direct and indirect passes all too well…but we are expected to let it slide because after all it’s our fault, why should we be coming to the office looking like a hot glass of champagne..so the pervy boss just has to make those passes. It’s all too wrong. More employees need to stand up for themselves without fear of retaliation. More employees need to be commited to their workers mental health. More workers need to know their rights at the office. It’s more than just getting paid every month. And I heard some don’t even get paid????
      0
  2. Sly
    ‘However, I was subjected to having to defend or shield myself from one form of harrasment to the other. The mental/emotional environment was intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and at the very most offensive. I didn’t feel respected by my boss as a person or for my work. It felt anything but safe.
    ….It got to a point where I was consciously preparing myself every morning on my way to work, for the abuse that was waiting for me at the office. My boss’s constructive dismissal hampered on my productivity and I wasn’t able to actively participate in the job that was starting to grow on me. I left feeling very used and under- appreciated.’

    You just gave words to my feelings. Thanks for this

    0
    1. Iseyemi Ayotunde Post author
      Hi , I should be thanking you. Thanks for reading and resonating with this. I got more private replies from employees that have faced one sort of harassment or the other at work. And the confessions are staggering. It’s amazing what people allow power to do to them. I’m sorry my reply is coming late. I should give you a hug and pray you find a better and more fufiling narrative
      0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+