By 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.