3 Lankan Women Share Their Workplace Bullying Experiences - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka

3 Lankan Women Share Their Workplace Bullying Experiences

It’s time to tackle this unspoken issue.

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In every office, you may always have to deal with a mean boss or colleague. This person will often cause trouble for you and make you feel like crap even if you’re the most hardworking employee out there. In most instances, you may not even realize that you’re being intimidated. Since most people expect bullying to be purely of the physical nature, it’s easy to miss signs of subtle methods being used to break you down.

A few of the local ladies shared their stories of workplace bullying and how they dealt with the situation.

“I’m a timid person so I was often bullied by my classmates in school. Once I left my teenage years behind and started a job, I thought my days of mental torture were done. Little did I know that I was in store for another round of nasty comments, hurtful gossip and damaging rumours. I was quite friendly with all my colleagues – or so I thought – until I learnt that some of the senior personnel were spreading tales about me dating the boss’ son (whose father happened to own the agency). At the lunch table, I was subjected to snide remarks about how I was sleeping my way up the ladder and hoping to gain a share of the company for myself. I stopped eating at work and then came down with gastritis. They would also sabotage my projects and purposely ignore my ideas in meetings. Since the HR manager was one of the guilty party, I was helpless as my superior was guided by him. After three months, I quit and found better working conditions at an events company. In retrospect, I wish I’d been able to stand up to them and given them a piece of my mind. What they did was so wrong!” – Shalini*, 25


“What’s with women and bullying? I worked in a large organization and according to the company policies, our superiors were shuffled between departments every 6 months. We celebrated if we got a male manager because every female superior assigned to us turned out to be a b****h. We were criticized for the tiniest mistakes in front of the whole department, and it was followed up by a long e-mail detailing our errors. No matter how hard we worked to reach our monthly targets, they were never satisfied. We were never appreciated for our efforts despite our long hours and dedication. I remember how demotivating it was to see other colleagues rewarded while we were left out with barely a mention. Things came to a head when a group of my friends started a signature campaign asking for improvements in the handling of the staff. We didn’t think it would work but the CEO took note and called a board meeting that included reps from every department. After a tense discussion, we came to a compromise and now most of the women have thawed slightly. It’s still work-in-progress, but at least we were united and tackled the root of the problem together. Teamwork wins every time, I tell you.” – Madhavi*, 28


“I’ve worked in many jobs and so I’ve faced all kinds of bullying at work. But the one time that stands out in my memory was when I was quite young. I was hired as an intern for 6 months, and since it involved a lot of creativity, I was looking forward to it! The staff was predominantly female and many of them were quite bold and fashion forward. At the beginning, I didn’t mind it but when I heard the boys laugh at what I was wearing one day, I got pretty upset. I dressed like a tomboy most of the time and I really didn’t care about keeping up with the latest style trends. I thought that it was just a harmless joke but soon I was hearing worse stuff: my family background, mode of transport and living conditions. That’s when the line was crossed. This particular group of women and men, who held the senior titles, were baiting me into losing my temper and getting into a fight with them. I’m a very tolerant person but even my patience was wearing thin. They’d stick notes on my laptop with crude images drawn and take photos of it and share it on their social media profiles. I’d made friends with only a handful of people, but they were helpless since they were new employees, too. Ignoring them didn’t work, so one day, I confronted all of them during lunch. I must say I enjoyed the look on their faces! They were so shocked to hear me yell at them. I suppose they expected me to bow down to them or buckle under pressure, like a few interns before me. Too bad it didn’t work out that way! Now they mind their own business and I haven’t heard a single rude comment or had weird images on my computer for weeks. My advice to everyone would be to confront the bully/bullies and call them out for their actions. After all, you deserve to work with respect and peace in a company, right?” – Pavini*, 31

Do you have any tales of workplace bullying to share? We’d love to listen.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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