• Never Grow Up

The Seemingly Small Indicators of Workplace Discrimination


One week ago, you receive a notice of dismissal on the grounds of incompetency and drop in productivity. However, for more than three months now, you have been receiving very little support from your manager. Communications have not been addressed to you directly, information for execution of tasks has been withheld, and are also time and again being told that being a parent takes up more of your energy during working from home.

However, your peers involve you in every discussion, your clients have no complaints, and you even bagged the star performer award last quarter. What then could have possibly gone wrong?

Are you overthinking it?

OR

Could it have been intentional?

This illustrative example showcases just one of the instances that can occur in a hostile work environment. But time and again, these questions have plagued the minds of those subjected to inappropriate and unjust decisions made at the workplace.

What will people think?

Has there been an instance when a colleague passed a lewd comment on your social media profile? Or in the current form of new normal, have you felt repulsed by the kind of foul language being used during video calls?

One of the recently witnessed forms of harassment during remote working is Cyber-Bullying – Intimidating, humiliating, threatening, and even harassing a peer through the means of electronic devices such as cell phones and computers. Harassment beyond the workplace can also extend to a ‘Third-party’ such as the clients and vendors - Situations where you are ‘forced to keep quiet to protect the reputation of your organization.’

An age-old taboo

A 2019 survey conducted by Ipsos (a market research firm) with 1,019 Singaporeans stated that 45% of respondents feel - Women who wear revealing clothes bring harassment upon themselves a sentiment that was dominant amongst 52% of Singaporeans above the age of 50 years.

Sexual abuse and violence have been taboo topics in majority of the Asian societies and are often linked with immorality. Thus, giving rise to a culture of ‘Victim-blaming’ – A situation in which people justify the culprit’s behaviour and blame the victims self-conduct, instead. This leaves the survivors in a state of confusion, questioning their own role in what happened. And the trauma of reliving the entire scenario while ‘blaming self’ gives rise to severe mental health issues such as lowered self-esteem leading to social anxiety, and depression.

Drawing the line

Harassment is a form of discrimination and can be majorly classified on the grounds of ‘different treatment’ basis age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, skin colour, race, national origin, mental or physical disability, pregnancy or parenthood, and bias, amidst others. Employment discrimination could also mean asking for or excluding a specific candidate while recruiting, differences in pay gap despite being in the same job profile with the same work experience, denying the rightful compensations and benefits, or even unfair promotions and appraisals.

There may have been a situation when a colleague or even your boss would have said something hurtful in the heat of the moment. But if something like this happens ‘consistently’ and it escalates into causing you severe harm, draw the line – Immediately! Know your rights as an employee, document the incident(s), and report it to the authorities!

Speak Up – Because It’s NOT You!

According to the Ministry Of Manpower, about 1,000 companies are suspected of indulging in discriminatory hiring practices and have been placed on a close watchlist under the Fair Consideration Framework that promotes fair hiring practices. In fact, on the basis of infringements, MOM has also suspended the work pass privileges of 90 employers.

Discrimination is not a one-time action and sometimes, one may not even be able to tell the difference. But if something bothers you and makes you feel uneasy, it’s not you! It’s been a tough time for everyone. But if you are continuously being ridiculed or spoken to in a condescending manner, it’s time to speak up!

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