Open Gender Monologues — Toxic Work Environments Part 3
In honor of International Women’s Day, we are publishing a series of monologues from women in toxic work environments in the open data, open government, and civic tech spaces. This model is based off OH’s Open Gender Monologues, opening up space for women to share experiences and tell their stories — either using their real names or anonymously.
The one about the victimizing, manipulating boss – by Anonymous
It has been four years since my professional career began actively. It has been four years of hard work, personal growth and sometimes a personal reward for hard work. But! With victimization and manipulation.
Out of a group of 24, I was the eighth woman to be hired. Going in, I had no good indication of the job description (I didn’t even get any letter of employment until 3 months after starting), so I was basically just doing as I was told. I soon noticed that I was in a divide-and-rule environment, where favour came with victimization and manipulation. I didn’t notice quickly enough. It had been the organization culture long before I joined — a silent but increasingly evident culture. Many chose to simply ignore it, largely because their jobs were still benefiting them, while it began to break down others.
Just three months after I had been confirmed as staff, I was asked to sign a payslip for the month I had not been paid. I refused. Just two minutes later, I got an email that clearly stated that I was not going to be paid if I didn’t sign the payslip. I still didn’t sign the slip, and I didn’t get paid.
My boss caught word of what happened, and he addressed it at a general staff meeting, berating and blaming me for not signing. To the group, he said that I would not have revolted if I was still under probation — implying that he did me a favour by confirming my employment status. When another male senior colleague intervened and defended my position, I eventually signed. His argument was strong with statements like, “Sir, don’t victimise her because you just confirmed her work status,” and, “You should apologize for bringing this matter to a general meeting instead of resolving it quietly.” I was not paid until the last week of the month that followed.
When I took up a new project that required me to travel and meet more people, my boss found more reasons to say I was simply being rebellious.
When he told others that I had an “entitlement mentality”, I confronted him, but he denied saying that. Since that encounter, he prefers to send others to talk to me, or to write emails instead of speaking with me directly. He would ask me to do work for him because he had given me an opportunity to represent him in a meeting outside the country — an opportunity he described as “personal favours”.
I excelled in my work because I cared about it despite that it came with challenges. I have always found a way to resolve or move on from these issues. But there was never a word of “job well done.” Sometimes, his compliments would come through another staff member, or to me or in an email that held a tone of, “If I hadn’t given you the opportunity to do your job, you couldn’t have done it well.”
I have survived too many incidents.
But I’m proud that the two I mentioned above didn’t break me. Instead, they made me even stronger, as the numbers of women in my office slowly continued to decline. Being in a male-dominated work environment is difficult, and I’ve seen firsthand how it fuels toxic work environments each day.
To improve the status quo, women must continue to defend themselves.
They must refuse to take part in any work environment that reduces their value, allows victimization and manipulation, extorts their capacity to thrive successfully, and relegates the ability to break the silence.