Pawned for a 34-24-36 and a virgin brain (totally un-used)
over the years I feel I have been one of the fortunate or unfortunate victims of what modern day activists called ‘workplace discrimination’. I am glad I found an online community with whom I can share the deep scaring I have experienced at the different workplaces I was in to keep my mom and myself going. I know I am not alone in experiencing similar or even worse incidents. Looking back I am happy that such incidents have helped me to understand what is realistically needed to succeed in the world of work. All of which works really well in the country I live.
I was once with a startup company. The tea exporting industry was doing really well and many senior executives were starting out their own enterprise. The big guy in here was someone I had known for a couple of years. He was starting his own enterprise and invited me to join. Once more it was the money that mattered nothing else. We were living in a modern age slum (I actually do not like referring that one to a house, it would be too respectful) There was one medium sized room which didn’t have an even floor a small area posing as a kitchen and a bathroom/toilet that had a white ants infested sliding door. We didn’t have a lot of furniture and that was the best we could get for the rentals that were affordable to us.
Once more it was insane working hours for me. Six day work week with hours starting from 7:30am to 09:00 pm with an occasional day or two being 10:00pm. I rarely saw sunlight except when I drew the curtain from the window where I sat. The money from the job was consistent and kept us going and thus I had to stomach in all the late working hours filled with never ending work. The big guy was enterprising and the company rose quite rapidly within a few years, even building their very own modern production house in the outskirts of Colombo.
As customary new employees came on board and the need to get someone to share my load of work was becoming more and more obvious. The usual procedure followed with job advert placed in the local daily, candidates coming in to be interviewed and finally someone chosen….and so began my ordeal of having to put up with a very strange kind of behavioral change coming from the big buy.
The young woman who had been chosen was attractive and had her way around with many of the men in power at the office. I silently observed the big guy changing over time and realized that there was an usual kind of closeness among the two. Honestly I couldn’t care less. But what actually got me hot under the collar was the fact that she was not cut out for the job, she had no clue as to how the business operated, could not grasp anything that was being told, simply said dumb as hell. Every other colleague’s levels of irritation grew alarmingly high because they couldn’t rely on her to do a job properly. Strangely the big guy didn’t seem shaken. It was very unusual of him. He wouldn’t agree to anyone pointing out that it was a total waste of money to have this woman on board. Everyone couldn’t understand why no action was being taken to suspend her over poor performance.
The weeks rolled on into months and the insanity continued over the years. Personally I ended up working later than ever having to guide the woman, proof read her work and supervise what she was doing in addition to doing my usual work. I was to train her to reach my standards of independence. To me it was getting over the limit and I was trying to figure out what the reasons were for this woman to remain and for us to put up with this craziness. It wasn’t only me who had begun to think this way but many other minds too. Getting more curious I began a personal observation to closely study them both. After many weeks I realized the initial closeness had grown to a more stronger bonding. I wouldn’t say it was intimate but was somewhere in between closeness and intimate. Bingo ! ..the bells rang…So this is why there was denial and refusal to send her off. The water cooler, lunch room gossip levels increased and made every woman at the workplace somewhat uncomfortable to realize that this no brainer woman could be favoured for a better pay raise and promotion. There was shrugging, disgust and annoyance on a high tempo. I was disheartened once more but hung on hoping there will be a thin ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The bonding between the two of them only improved. She was elevated to more of an important position-similar to an Executive Assistant while I was to sit behind the curtain and do all the work, correcting her dumb mistakes as well.
This difference was eating into me very badly. It made me realize that if a no brainer could be elevated to the position of the next in command to the big guy, what can’t I be having all the right skills? I was struggling inside trying to find the solution until one day I couldn’t take it anymore. The walls of my inner self esteem came tumbling down. Not being able to curtail myself any longer I raised this issue with the big guy. I have to admit that the whole thing turned sour and I was fired for voicing out and daring to challenge the big guy. His useless cronies sat around him and uttered utter foolish words that should never pop out of a so called management member. I wasn’t the least bothered because by that time I just had enough and had to draw the line at some point. I had my skills and my work experience and was confident that I deserve better than this. I was determined to find a job that will take me in a different direction than merely being an office support service assistant.
On a day nobody ever expected I walked out of that door letting every employee know that I was kicked out for daring to challenge what is obviously just! Even though many disagreed to what was happening, they told me that they were too afraid to voice out because it was the big guy. I wished them all but when I walked to the rooms of the big wigs none of them could look me in the eye. I guess deep down inside they knew that it was a wrong decision but had no choice because they had to blab something to please the guy. I wrote a letter to the big guy ..one that thanked him for kicking me out and also wishing him luck in the business. I crafted the words so carefully that it would prick his conscience often and make him feel a worm.
A month later I landed in an international aid agency who took me on as their in house reporter. The work was to travel to all corners of the country and develop their communication material. The opportunities were ample, It was a easy, relaxing working environment with less stress. A five day week and after many long years I had a complete weekend. Learning was key and encouraged, looks were immaterial, brains and the right attitude was more important. I was assigned a task and given the freedom to do it. Every assignment was interesting and different. I developed my photography and video skills. I made many friends in the different districts, cultures, countries, represented different workshops, training sessions, meetings networked with people. Could I ask for anything better?
This is not to proclaim that non-profits are better than the corporates. The non-profits also have their own share of hiccups. But having been a victim of different kinds of discrimination the one NP I landed in was a sure breath of fresh air.