“What do I want? I want this behavior to stop. Someone has to speak up. Someone has to get mad. ”
Gretchen Carlson, Bombshell
As we can get information from news, journal articles, movies and TV series, a range of topics related to harassment and bullying have been covered. Bombshell, an Oscar-awarded winning movie, is a great example. It discloses the ugliness of working in a famous Fox News. Three actors, including Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, play an excellent job in ensembling the actual scenarios in Fox news. Getting harassed by supervisors or senior managers is an unspoken secret in every industry. #MeToo and # Timesup campaign become signatures to be against predators such as Harvey Weinstein and also some powerful men who can keep their hands to themselves.
Harassment and bullying at the workplace become a genre that producers and writers like to explore and present. Truth is that this is happening every day, every min and every second. They might not be as worse as the lift-threatening Coronavirus or SARS. But psychologically and emotionally, it is damaging and exhausting to live with. They can eat people alive. Nobody should deserve that, regardless of man or women, black or white, young or old.
Here is a story that happened in the workplace:
A new girl came to a new office in a high-profile law firm. When she stepped outside the elevator, she vowed to herself that this new job was going to be great. New outfits, new haircut, new job and new life. She might not be the most smiley person in the world, but she was a hard-working paralegal. Later on, she arrived at her table and she took out a small picture frame with two kids from her bag. They were her biggest motivation.
All her female colleagues wore the expensive dress, bags, high heels and makeup, looking all tall, smart and confident. It was like a fashion show in the office. But she did not realise that she entered a circle of arrogant, judgemental and mouthful people. Except for work, their coffee break was about gossiping and grapevine. Unfortunately, this new girl became their classic coffee break topic because she was different from them. Whilst she wore clothes that she bought from second-hand shops, her female colleagues put on their designer outfits. They went out for high-class restaurants with a glass of champagne, but she bought her lunch to save money for her kids to go to college. They made up of fun her as a “leftover” because she was a single mom with two illegitimate kids. This got worse, colleagues from other departments started pointing fingers at her. This is “mean girls” all again.
She kept her head down to work, hoping that this would go away after a few months. She was too afraid to report to the HR department and filed a complaint. HR department definitely would favour their existing employees instead of her. She wants to tell her boss, but he told her to ignore those people. This situation went on for three months, and 6 months, then a year. It was unbelievable that she could put up these behaviours for such a long time. Not just that, in some regular meetings, some colleagues picked on her and neglected her professional competence at work. Every single day, she was on the verge to quit. This company extorted her patience, capability and modesty. So-called a great job with fair pay, shiny office, generous commissions is a lie. Big mistake to work in here and being a big slave of money….
This situation might fall into a category of non-verbal and slightly discriminatory harassment. Without sufficient evidence, she could not file a complaint and get the plaintiff. If it is successful, this goes through the process by suing the company for a hostile working environment. This process may take a year or year and a half for court. It is going to be an overwhelming long process that nobody wants to bear with. This includes hearing, prosecution, disciplinary action etc. Please do not forget, she will be out of her job as she will be spending time preparing, discussing and paying the lawyers.
If this situation isn’t being alert, her performance will never be recognised. She had given the impossible timeframe and unrealistic expectation and she finished it all. What she wants is very basic – a safe working environment, equality and fairness. Realistically, she deserves it.
Some may argue this may not be as serious as we thought. Possibly, this is the new girl’s choice to keep its silence because she wants to avoid all the troubles. Even she wins her case, she will be emotionally drained. Instead of creating all the troubles by being the groups of bullies like in high school, why don’t we take a step back and be nice? Think about how corporate culture has indulged these shameless behaviours?
As harassment act often appears in distancing and isolating someone intentionally or not, some victims may be reluctant to come forward without an eyewitness’s statement or concrete evidence. Organisations should hold their responsibility to get a background check of all these ”alleged bullies’ as many details of each incident as possible. They should also encourage counselling services to reduce their injury of feelings and punitive damages to the victims while promoting zero-tolerance policies from Day 1.
Speaking of the ending, she pulled herself together and went to the exit interview as she wanted to quit. Head of the HR department interviewed her. Head of HR department was a strong, powerful and sensible woman. This situation of workplace bullying came to her attention 2 weeks ago. She apologized to her on behalf of all her employees and promised that it was a big-time to change. She made a statement about that harassment in the company meeting the next day. The whole company MUST conduct a bystander training program/campaign. It makes the company aware of these issues. Regarding how the training course is formulated and operated, we should discuss it next time!