4 December, 2020

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My Experience: How To Deal With Sexual Harassment, Glass Ceiling & Bullying At Workplace?

By Nalindrani Malimage

Nalindrani Malimage

My article is open to arguments, discussions and questions.

Most women become silent victims of harassment in workplace. Particularly, the women who may not have the backing of a family, any male or other political backing are seen, easy targets. In Sri Lanka, the importance given to diversity and law is very less compared to that of a developed nation. The purpose of my article is to help vulnerable females in identifying characteristics of glass ceiling and to guide them on how to handle it. Most women become silent victims of men who are suffering from low self-esteem, poor education/skills and the crippled mindset.

I will explain my experience as a fresh female graduate. I started my first job at a leading multinational company in Sri Lanka which has won many awards such as, Best Employer etc. I was left with three choices in hand and I picked the one with the highest learning potential based on the information I have received at the interview. The job was in marketing and my goal was to move into sales which is my passion. The job title was, “Research and Information Analyst” in which at the interview I was briefed on the job role as well as on the path of career progression.  However, my boss who was a great trainer left the organization shortly. I was without a boss for 3-4 months in which my teammate took the maximum advantage of harassing me intensely.

I was told in the first week of work by the teammate that marketing in the respective field is not for a female.  He also stated that if I wanted to be retained in the organization I need to move into another function to which I refused. As my passion was in marketing, hence I was sticking to the same field right throughout regardless of all the harassment, marginalization and bullying. Eventually I recognized that the teammate is adjusting my job role which would differ from what I was recruited to do so. He started continuously giving me the type of work I had no skill in or any interest in. In addition to this, I was not given any training by the teammate even though he was instructed to do so. As a result of the absence of training, if I make an error, he will ensure that the error gets noticed by the entire marketing leadership team instead of addressing my training needs. His objective was to ensure that I never get retained in the organization. Whenever I used to speak to him on the training needs, he would state that it’s on the job training but on the other hand he would train only the male fresh employees. I was insisting him to contact the previous employee for me to get training on the role yet he kept on ignoring. I was also bullied by him on my attire or the appearance which was harming my self-esteem at a large scale. Another form of harassment I experienced was that  the employees I was working with would take things from my personal life and attack me in my professional life. There was only one female employee who was retained in the organization but she had been in the organization for years yet never was promoted. She too kept on laughing at me taking personal things which was a form of bullying. In fact, supporting all the harassment, bullying and the glass ceiling, I further I realized every female employee who had been working in the particular department had left for some reason. The female employee who had been there before me I learned was to be an extremely talented employee but she has been subject to sexual harassment.  The teammate threatened me not to complain regarding the harassment and also he ensured that I never get to contact with the senior marketing leadership. He did this by telling the others that I am trying to “sleep with them” to progress in the career which I was overhearing. These comments embarrassed me and since I did not know how to handle the situation I kept quiet and distant.

Unable to bear with the harassment and the glass ceiling I decided to speak to the newly appointed HR manager when the teammate was not in the office. The discussion with HR manager with this regard was useless since he seems to be a good friend of the teammate at personal level. The HR informed that I will be given any type of work which could contrast with what I was recruited to do. He informed it is not a matter of choice. In seeing the strong personal network among the senior employees left me in a very helpless situation. The solution given by the HR manager was that I will continue to be trained by my teammate. I cried so hard and another female manager in Finance noticed me crying so hard in the washroom and instructed me on speaking the Director, HR. However, I was scared and did not speak up. As I was living alone and my teammate was continuously threatening me against complaining I decided to keep quiet. The teammate kept on insisting me to move to a different department stating no female will be retained in the department. 

The experience was deathly to the extent that I was diagnosed with severe depression and attempted suicide. The company doctor was aware of the situation and tried helping me. He once asked me if he can complain to the Director, Marketing for me but I was scared to speak up thinking how it could affect my personal safety since I was living alone.

Eventually I moved to another leading organization. As I started experiencing the same situation in another leading organization, learning from this experience I decided to speak up. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by many senior employees who were supporting me. The situation was immediately addressed by the Director hence I was given safe and sound work environment. Even though I was drained out and have become mentally so weak at that point to perform in the job, I am thankful that I could raise my voice which was very useful in addressing these issues of sexual harassment and glass ceiling.

I had no one in my personal life to guide me on handling these and I suffered immensely as a fresh female graduate. This was a very good opportunity for them to put me through intense bullying, sexual harassment and glass ceiling. I am writing this to state that no female should tolerate even the slightest form of harassment. They should keep fighting such males who are suffering from low self-esteem, poor education and the crippled mindset. In the case if the manager does not listen to the complaints, the employees should go to the extent of complaining even to the global HR manager. I realized in my situation that the only way to address these issues is by speaking up.

I have overcome these and decided to write this article considering many helpless female employees who could become a victim.

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Latest comments

  • 20
    0

    If the purpose of writing this article was to bring awareness of this problem , then you have to bite the bullet and name these organisations and the people who harassed you . Else, nothing will ever change – just like politics and politicians in Sri Lanka .

    • 6
      0

      Yes. Name them and shame them. No such organisations should have a place in our country.

    • 1
      0

      You can go through her LinkedIn profile and easily recognize this information. It’s not professional for her to reveal all the information in a formal article.

  • 13
    0

    Ms. Nalindrani Malimage, I am really sorry to hear about your plight. Despite all this you have persevered, so you are clearly a strong person. But there is one thing you must do. Name and Shame the first company you worked for. The so-called “Best Employer”. If you are afraid, then talk to a human rights/labor rights lawyer about going public with the names. If the law provides protection then you must “NAME & SHAME” that organization. Otherwise this article will not help other women in similar situations. Most people are really scared. But remember even in a banana-republic like SL you still have rights! Fight-on child!

    • 9
      0

      B.A.T

      Now only if someone else can name the wonderful chivalrous “teammate”.

      • 11
        2

        Chinthaka Mahesh

  • 11
    1

    Thank you for writing the story.
    She worked for British American Tobacco. Then moved on to Uniliver.

  • 4
    5

    I am appalled to hear what happened to this daughter. If this daughter had a Father like me, I would not be speaking to any HR Director. I will come with a Gun and settle the issue then and there and probably send that effing teammate onto the Mortuary.

    This is also a reason why these girls should think of making a career in the Army. In the army we treat our female soldiers with utmost respect. One will never hear things like this in the Army.

    Of course, when boredom kicks in, we do develop relationships with our female cadre. But it’s always consensual.

  • 1
    0

    Most of MNC has lost values and morals of employees rights by ten finger salary scales.

    All in all MNC are count money and power of marketing power of business ventures. They violated labor standards of regulations by power of money.
    The employees sexuality come under subject to power of managements by administration maneuvering of individual hands of HR or Directors of CEO’s consent.

    That is how MSC are working patterns and ethics ?

  • 2
    2

    When you don’t name the names, writing about it is just useless. why you are so scared ?

    • 5
      0

      See the comments

    • 0
      4

      The names were mentioned, but you didn’t care to read them. This proves that this article is futile, and people will only grumble how certain things weren’t done…

      • 2
        0

        I had the courage to comment and write using my real name. I expect you to do the same if we are to discuss on the level of futility exhibited by this article. Then we can gauge the instances, examples and evidence with regard to the discussion. Thanks.

  • 4
    1

    Women have always been harassed by men who have assumed that women can be used as objects of pleasure. However, as women do not want to be treated like that, they often reject overtures that underline sexual intent.

    This then becomes a challenge for the men who want to have their way. So, they start harassing women to the extent of breaking their spirit or submitting to their needs.

    Unfortunately for poor countries, the political class never address these social issues as they themselves often behave that way. On the other hand, more and more women opt to study more and pursue career goals rather than get married and cook for their husbands and look after children at home.

    This again triggers jealousy and the animal in male chauvinism.While bullying is more psychologically a girl’s forte at school level, boys being more physical in their bullying, as they grow up, the men become more aware of their relative freedom to move in especially societies steeped in culture and tradition.

    Hypocritically, Sri Lankans often place femaleness on a pedestal with the noble status of motherhood in their literature and folk-lore, but in reality they often have contempt for women who are not related, and exercise their “freedom” with a sense of impunity.The incidence of rape is a classic manifestation of this power-play and assumption of immunity.

  • 5
    0

    We must appreciate the boldness of Nalindrani Malimage to have come out with the truth of the abuse she encountered in the work place. Sexual harassment in work place is a common syndrome in our region and it is rampant in Sri Lanka. Such problem aggravates when the victims keep quite fearing repercussions. In this particular case Nalindrani Malimage was reluctant to bring this matter to the notice of the top management worsen the situation.

    It is disheartening to note the that particular HR Manager did have personal relationship with Nalindrani Malimage’s superior was highly unethical and a bad example. This type of inhuman act should be banned in all types of organizations. We should take serious remedial action to address this crime to prevent it. All institutions campaigning to safe guard woman’s rights should come out with long term strategy by creating a system which should entertain complains, remedial solutions and counseling.

  • 2
    0

    I am not surprised by what you had to go through, it is still happening in Sri Lanka not only to women but men too. This feeling of you are insignificant,not needed, is portrayed just for their survival. To some cheap supervisors and managers growth is only to step on others, simply because they cannot grow on their own. Many internationally renowned companies are full of these cheap digits. Alas but the HR keeps getting many awards . They have internal interviews for promotions, and positions but before the interviews the person is already selected. Or they will select a person who never appeared for the interview. No one talks, they keep watching have seen extremely efficient people just wasted. The other discrete fashion in local companies is that they look after their own friends. Fortunately the younger generations throw the company ID and just quit and get a new job. This is our culture. Companies keep making huge losses and keep making those same mistakes. A leader who cannot make a strong team is a weak ,waste of space. Had you been in a strong team that mate ( Mahesh) would never expose his weakness . We can all say let’s voice our views, talk. I know the price you have to pay. It’s not worth.
    I am waiting to meet a similar SOB who recently retired, I will hold him by the collar and say he is nothing today without that weak,loss making company where you were a big boss and always a piece of shit.

  • 1
    0

    Harassment and victimisation do not take place only in Sri Lanka. I have someone (X) very dear and close to me who has been suffering like this in England for many years. She works in an administrative dept in a school. Some years ago the head of another dept asked for X to be transferred under her. X Was so happy but her present boss — who is the main source of the bullying — refused to release her. She would now find it difficult to get another job at her age so she stays and suffers. I am so sad for her. An intelligent and capable person whose working life is agony.

    • 1
      0

      She should speak up. I am sad to hear about it. In fact things have got worse because of her silence. Even if you look at the situation described in the article you could see that things were getting worse day by day due to her silence. I am sorry to hear about this situation. She should go to the person who holds the highest position in the organization and speak up.

  • 4
    0

    <<>>

    Give me this rif-raf’s address dear and I will go and meet him in person when I go to SL next time which will be in about 2 months time.

    I may be much older than this Chinthakaya but I am as fit as a leopard. I will kick his rear-end dear until he takes his phone, calls you and apologizes to you.

    Don’t worry dear we can correct this issue.

  • 2
    0

    This cannot be isolated from the general law and order situation. In developed countries law and order prevail in all respects from disposal of garbage to inquiring into the biggest crime. There re no soft corners.for any body. This should be started from homes. See the younger generation. some students of a leading school in Colombo intruded into girls school. What was the action taken . Authorities made the principal of the girls school say that the boys were invited by her to the school. What did the parents did? They should have taken this issue when this has happened to their daughters..Our country is extremely indesciplined and the society itself does not want it to be disciplined as in the long run everyone in this country is some way or other linked to this situation..In developed countries every one is conscious of their duties and rights. when thinking at depthe the conclusion that can be arrived is that SRI LANKA IS AN INCORRIGIBLE COUNTRY.

  • 3
    0

    There is no political will to solve these problems. Sirisena is busy on his 25th trip abroad and RW, if pushed far enough, will appoint a commission. Ragging, bullying, intimidation of women, the beating of school kids, the harassment of minorities, police torture, all these things are related to this lady’s experience in that they are part of a greater problem. Where is the politician who will face and solve it by applying the law equally to all? In the cradle or not even born.

  • 3
    0

    Dear all,

    Thanks a million for the concern. It means a lot to me. In fact I do not intend to disclosing the information of the company or the people who were involved because I am planning to take legal action against these people. Having said that, my main focus on writing this article is to make females feel empowered in raising their voice. I want them to know that still it can make a difference. I did not write this article to take revenge from anyone since these people are insignificant in my life now. Thank you for the wonderful words.. It gave me so much strength. I apologize that I am not able to reply to every comment due to my time constraints but I will keep your kind words in my heart. I am humbled. If you want to contact me further, please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn. Thank you and have a blessed day!

    • 0
      1

      Dear…..we need to teach this little prick a lesson in life he will never forget. I am visiting SL in two months time. [Edited out]

  • 1
    1

    Could this be considered sexual harassment. This could have happened to a male employee.

    • 2
      0

      It was mentioned that she has also experienced sexual harassment, probably she doesn’t want to disclose the nature of it in detail. However, she has raised her voice and it had made a difference.

  • 0
    0

    God should have looked into this when he created Eve. This is happening world over not only at work places but at temples churches kovils and devales.

  • 0
    0

    Very sad to hear what happened to you. I know it would have been very hard but thank you for penning your experience and enlightening us. When we speak openly about problems like this it helps educate people and inshallah everyone here im sure will be extra careful and vigilant on these issues around us.

    Im Just thinking how many more working ladies might be there silently suffering like this ar this very moment in this country? Why is this happening? Can it be rectified by teaching these things to our future generations through our education system? what about current workplaces? So much to do.

  • 3
    1

    I still think, this boy Chinthaka should be taught a bloody good lesson. Break a leg or amputate a hand.

    I will undertake this task. No task is too big for a former soldier who’s fought at the front lines.

  • 4
    0

    Very Sorry to hear this as we worked together around the same time lines and I was not aware this happened. Also very proud of you for coming out and stating things. I know a few other girls including myself who had to “tell a manager off” to stop his sexual advances . However this did lead to a lot of blocking of opportunities. I was not in the company with a long term plan so I managed to brush it off but it is sad for the girls who misses out on opportunities in life. Because at the end of the day it a good place to gain solid experience, its the people and the politics that’s just so screwed up. Along with the top management who are ready to cover up for the rest of the sleazebags.

    I wish you all the best Nalindrini you will do amazingly well. And just be ready for comments from the people who are still in the company that will read this and point figures and say you are in the wrong, because that’s what they do best.

    Take care
    All the best.

  • 2
    2

    Sorry to hear this to you too dear. I am against all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace after I migrated to Canada.

    When we were small of course, we used to squeeze the breasts of our servant girls in our house. Although now we are ashamed of those things we did in the past. [Edited out]

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