The post below is by a guest who wishes to remain anonymous. It's an important topic and I'd love it if you'd please share on your social media or other platforms. I have recently been driven and inspired to share my story with you all in hopes of giving courage to anyone out there who might be having a similar experience.
About 9 months ago, I achieved just one of my dreams. I landed my dream job of being a designer. I had been struggling for so long to gain this, but it looked like my hard work and dedication had paid off! Like anybody else, I was brimming with enthusiasm and was looking forward to the adventure of starting my new job and relocating from a city to a town.
Months passed, and I loved my days, designing for international and national brands. Life and work were good. It was only a few months into my role that things took an unexpected turn. Although, as a teenager I had experienced bullying on some level, I never thought for one second that I would experience it as an adult - and from other adults!
On a number of occasions, I experienced comments regarding being teetotal and my lacto- vegetarian diet. Some I took on the chin as lighthearted humour, but when it continued I knew something wasn't right.
It became even more questionable that it was not right when people laughed and I didn’t join in! Comments such as the following arose: “We will have to change that about you," “That has a whole egg in it you know," “Come on, you don’t drink, you're vegetarian...what do you do then?" Following these comments, the instigator would always laugh whilst others joined in.
However, on a much more serious level I also experienced direct racial comments. I was called "Brown [my name]" directly to my face by a fellow colleague, following a number of inappropriate words taking the mick out of my Indian culture.
I was totally numb and shocked! Had this really happened to me? It took a few hours for me to even register what I had experienced.
I sought out much advice from family and friends. Half of them urged me to leave my job, and the other half told me this was direct racial discrimination and I should tell somebody in a position of leadership.
After much deliberation, I had to go with my own gut feeling and what my heart was telling me.
Eventually, I built up the courage to tell my manager. I thought I could trust her and usually as you do find in life, there is always one person with whom you feel most comfortable, right?
I told her what the fellow colleague had said to me whilst she was away from the studio, and she was as shocked as I had been. I felt a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
But I was to learn later that this really wasn’t the case.
Once I had told my manager she went and informed the HR manager. When she came back, her opinion of the matter had changed. She seemed more inclined to the idea it was not as serious as I was making it out to be. In my head, I was thinking perhaps the HR manager or someone else had influenced her.
Nevertheless, I was told that the HR manager would have a talk with this colleague and it would go on her record.
A few days later, the colleague who had made the comments apologised to me. She said it was a joke to which I responded that I didn’t find it funny! She made a few other excuses, but I accepted the apology in hopes that things would change and I could move forward.
Later, I was to find out this was just the beginning of everything getting worse.
A day or so after the apology, I saw and heard the colleague who made the remarks to me telling other workers around the business. Following on from her unprofessional behaviour I received further comments like “Brown” as I walked through to the office from another worker and other inappropriate remarks relating to the fact that I had told the HR manager.
Upon receiving these backlash comments, I felt both intimidated and anxious at work. My trust with my manager had been broken and I didn’t feel I could trust anyone in my workplace. At this point, I had been logging and writing down what comments had been made to me.
I would wake up every morning feeling sick. I was restless throughout the day. Eventually, my work and health suffered; I could no longer focus. Weeks at work seemed like months, and I always had the anxiety of being bullied about my colour, culture and life choices.
You might be wondering, why I didn’t tell anyone? Honestly, I believe it’s because of the fear the bullies had put in me. My confidence vanished and hence I had to do something about it. Clearly, I could not carry on like this. I had to make one of the hardest decisions. I handed in my notice.
On my last day, I did inform my manager and HR manager of all the incidents that had happened. They suggested it was banter and that I was getting mixed up, but clearly it was much more than that, especially as I didn’t start any of this, nor did I join in or laugh with them.
Ultimately, they didn’t want to take responsibility for their behaviour. Even though not many people understood, I was proud of myself for speaking up, even if it was my last day.
I guess the main point I am trying to make to anyone who is reading this who might be experiencing a similar thing is you must speak up and out. Don’t leave it until it begins to affect your health and performance. If the people you tell break confidentiality or trust, as happened in my case, there is always someone higher.
Try managing directors, Citizen's Advice Bureau, or great anti bullying organisations.Good people and advice are out there; don’t suffer in silence.