By Blessing Imonikhe
It is true that many women experience what is called “Quid pro quo harassment”. It is also true that a lot of women never get justice for the crimes they fell victim to. The responsibility of safety has now fallen on the victim and can be overwhelming when operating in a system that gives no support. The story below (A true story) gives a glimpse of hope for women out there; it shows that even in the darkenest, there is a ray of sunlight that we hope to reach someday.
“It is a step I loved my job until my boss called me to his office on a Tuesday afternoon and informed me that I was long overdue for a promotion. As anyone else would feel, I was elated at the news because it was what I wanted. I immediately shared the news with my parents and close friends that I was getting promoted. I know I was ahead of myself, but you know how it feels when you’re so excited and can’t wait to share the good news? That’s exactly what happened.
But that feeling didn’t last for so long because of the information I got the next day. He called me again and said there was a condition attached to the promotion. I thought he would talk about a training or something similar. Unfortunately, he said I had to scratch his back and let him scratch mine. It took me a minute to process what I had heard. I thought I didn’t listen to him clearly, so I repeated what I thought I heard him say, and he confirmed it. The happiness I felt disappeared immediately, the smile on my face vanished, I was confused and lost. He told me he would give me some time to think about it but that I shouldn’t take so long because I was replacing someone who had just resigned, and I had to resume the new position as quickly as possible.
I walked out without giving a response to what he had just said. I had different thoughts running through my head. This is something I had always wanted. I mean, I had worked really hard for eight years, I ought to have been promoted four years ago, but somehow, someone else got it. I deserved this promotion, but getting it by having sex with my boss never crossed my mind.
“What would I tell my family and friends? I already shared the news with them,” I said to myself while working. I was already losing focus. I couldn’t even carry on with my preparation for a presentation I had.
It was the third day already; I still hadn’t made a decision. Of course, sleeping with him was definitely not an option. But I really wanted the promotion, and even if I was to decline the offer, how do I tell my family and friends that I was no longer getting promoted. Would they understand? Would my parents be disappointed in me and write me off again just like they did when I failed in university? All these thoughts were running through my head, and then I remembered an ex-colleague who had serious issues with him. Rumour had it that he was giving her a tough time because she turned down his offer. She eventually resigned.
Resignation wasn’t even an option for me at this point because I would have to return to job-hunting, and there was no guarantee that I would get a job in 2 months or less. How do I pay my bills? I felt like I was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. Confiding in a colleague seemed like a difficult thing to do at that moment. It was so hard to trust anyone not to spread the news, whether knowingly or unknowingly. But I needed to speak to someone, so I confided in someone I was kind of close to.
Joyce was the first person I got along with when I resumed at the office. I asked her not to tell anyone, and she promised not to. She advised me to document everything and make a formal complaint. She also offered to serve as a witness because it was very important too. She told me someone who had a similar issue lost the case because she didn’t do any of these things she mentioned.
During the weekend, I opened google and entered the phrase “asking for sex in return for a favour,” and ‘Quid pro quo harassment’ came up. I read different articles on the topic and followed Joyce’s advice. Luckily for me, my boss sent me a Whatsapp text about what he told me; I guess that happened in my favour because the conversation was a piece of outstanding evidence.
On Monday, after settling at work, I made a formal complaint through HR, and two days later, I was invited for an interview. I said everything that had happened and presented my evidence. The matter was taken seriously, investigations started, and it turned out that he was found guilty. This wasn’t the first time such was happening, and I learnt that a check and balances system was set up after the last incident, which involved the lady Joyce told me about.
My boss manipulated the whole situation the last time, but he couldn’t do so this time around, and the organization doesn’t joke with anything that would tarnish its reputation. He was penalized. Now, I was glad that justice was served. However, I still wished I could get the promotion. My work profile was reviewed, I went through the whole promotion process and got promoted finally. I also found out that the person who got the promotion I ought to have gotten was involved with my boss but lost the position due to incompetency. Many employees go through this but can’t speak out for so many reasons. Organizations need to look into this matter and set up a system to prevent it.”
We at STER hope that organisations take more intentional steps to create a safe space for women. This can be done through annual training of the staff and also having good internal policies that discourage all forms of abuse.
Photocred: Financial News