Black women CANNOT be bullied in the workplace

 

If you follow me on SnapChat (Miss_Boansi for those of you who do not), you would have seen me throwing my papers & old work uniform into a bin bag, yesterday evening. Some people messaged me to ask me what had happened, as for the past week, I had not mentioned anything to do with my work life via social media.

 

A little over 2 months ago, I was blessed with a new job. I worked at Sainsbury’s to be precise. The store wasn’t too far from home, and my work colleagues seemed relatively ok. Unfortunately, my store manager had to go on maternity leave & so 1 guy called Mohammed took over.

 

Upon taking over, he immediately started to make me feel uncomfortable. He started off by verbally telling me that I “wasn’t needed” to start my shift when I did, and that he was looking to make some changes to my contract. I was not pleased with this conversation as he made it known that if I was refusing his request, he would have to contact HR and eventually end up “terminating contracts”. It made zero sense as to why I had been recently hired if my hours “were not needed”. Nevertheless, Mohammed proceeded to rant on about the needs of the business, with complete disregard to what I was saying, or my feelings.

 

I was disturbed by this conversation, and quite rightly so. I’d been out of work since returning from Ghana, for about 2 months, and after finding a suitable job for my current lifestyle, things seemed like it was about to change. How could he say something like that, and expect for me to jump back on tills with a smile on my face, as if nothing had occurred??

 

I confided in 1 of the supervisors, in order to find out if Mohammed could indeed attempt to force me into this contract change. This supervisor let me know that this change wouldn’t be necessary, and that Mohammed probably wouldn’t do so. Nevertheless, on my break time, I decided to contact Sainsbury’s head office and ask them if a manager had the right to terminate my contract, if it wasn’t possible for me to change my contracted time. To my surprise, they said that it was.

 

A few days later, as I was sitting alone in the canteen on my break, I heard someone ask “Hi, are you alright over there? I’m guessing you’re just enjoying some quiet time?” I turned around and responded. It was a woman that I’d never met before. I assumed that she was in some kind of authoritative power. I smiled and responded. I later on discovered that she was the HR manager for the area.

 

When I got the chance, I politely approached her, and informed her about my conversation with Mohammed and I. I expressed to her that I wasn’t happy with how he spoke to me that day, and how he has been speaking to me since arriving at the store. As expected, she proceeded to tell me about how much of a “great guy” Mohammed is…

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Eventually, she got around to letting me know that Mohammed wouldn’t be able to change my contract without going through her. That process alone would apparently be a long one. She asked me if I minded her telling him about my concerns. I gave her permission and within an hour, Mohammed and summoned me to his office.

 

He did NOT apologise. Rather, he spent 30-40 minutes denying what he said, and making it out like I was upset for no reason. He also made the comment “if I wanted to get rid of you I could, after all you’re new, but I haven’t”. Up until now, I have no idea what the point of him calling me into his office was, because he spent the majority of that time flexing his power. He also compared me to other people, stating that he did not understand why I took the conversation how I did, when others had not. I’m guessing we must all react the same to everything right?

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As weeks progressed, Mohammed would forever complain about 1 thing or the other. He would continuously compare me to other colleagues from his store (he is a store manager of another store, but is also now overseeing my store). I was continuously made to feel as if everything I did was worthless. He constantly reminded about the so-called fabulous colleagues from his store. I had several conversations with him about his mannerisms and how he was coming across towards me. In his eyes he was a “fair manager, who is very religious”. I will forever find it amusing how people behave wickedly and then use religion as a shield. Disgraceful.

 

In the last few weeks, I’d gone from enjoying work, to now feeling like I was treading on eggshells. I had called several of Sainsbury’s report lines, and NOTHING was done. It seemed like because I was a newbie; no one cared about what I was going through. Other people on the management team knew that his behavior towards me was wrong, yet they expressed that Mohammed was “their boss, and so even if they disagreed with his actions, they couldn’t do anything”.

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Last week was the final straw for me. Mohammed decided to talk to me disrespectfully in front of customers and a colleague. 1 thing led to another, and I could no longer deal with the bullying, so I….

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Do you have any idea how it feels to be continuously singled out in a work place that supposedly advertises itself to be a “GREAT PLACE TO WORK” YET WHEN YOU ARE BEING BULLIED BY MANAGEMENT NO ONE DOES ANYTHING!?

 

When I left, no one from the management team attempted to call me. I reported the incident to right line & the HR manager. As usual, she was on Mohammed’s side. It was all “you could have made things easier if you’d…” don’t you think you’ve made things worse?”. A classic case of blaming the victim, even though you know full well what has been going on for the past few weeks.

 

During my suspension I was informed by a colleague that Mohammed was gossiping about me in which he referred to me as “a nice girl with attitude”. Now my beautiful Kings & Queens, isn’t it interesting how when a black woman no longer decides to deal with bullying/being mistreated, she is described as having an ATTITUDE? It’s as frustrating as that silly angry black woman stereotype.

 

Anyway, long story cut short, I was suspended for a week. 2 days ago I had my hearing. I took 1 of my work colleagues with me and she was present throughout the whole thing. I spent 1 hour and 25 minutes talking about EVERYTHING leading up to that day, as well as what happened on the day. The manager who took the hearing was stuck on the fact that all the statements made against me were similar. You see, Mohammed, my work colleague, and my deputy manager (whom had recently done my 4 week work review and said that I was doing well) all lied against me.

 

My colleague Geeta, who witnessed everything, LIED AND SAID THAT MOHAMMED HAD SPOKEN TO ME POLITELY WITH NO CUSTOMERS PRESENT.

 

My deputy manager Mansoor, who wasn’t even on the shop floor when the incident occurred, stated that he was, and that Mohammed had politely spoken to me with no customers present.

 

Lastly, the main man himself Mohammed MADE HIMSELF LOOK LIKE A SAINT. If you didn’t know me, you’d have thought I was the devil himself.

 

Each person had a motive to lie:

 

  1. Geeta was being investigated for calling in sick for a week, after her paid 3-week holiday.
  2. Mansoor is trying to progress to store manager and needs to keep Mohammed sweet so that his plans can fall through.
  3. Mohammed has got to make himself look as “good” as possible.

 

My work colleague and I requested that the CCTV be checked, as that would prove that what I was saying was true. However, it was clear to see that the truth did not matter. All that mattered was that I refused Mohammed’s rude request, and walked out. The manager taking my hearing informed me that due to that, my contract would be terminated.

 

At that point, I wasn’t fussed. There is no way I would have returned to such a hostile working environment, where to be frank, all the Asians had now ganged up on I the 1 black woman, and nothing was being done.

 

The manager taking my hearing then added insult to injury when she said, “I can tell that you’re a smart girl. You also seem VERY PRIDEFUL. I can tell by looking at you”. In my head, I asked myself “what does she mean by that”? Is it because I’m a black woman, with my hair wrapped up, and looking presentable that such a comment was made? Why should I not take pride in my appearance? If I was white, would that comment have been made?

 

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My look for that day.

 

 

Nevertheless, I decided to not respond to that comment, when she further continued with “I know Mohammed. Well not on a personal level, but on a manager level and I do not know him to be a bully”. Great! So I was sent to have my hearing with someone who is dear to Mohammed? That definitely sounds fair.

 

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Either way, my contract was terminated. Blessing in disguise if you ask me. Sainsbury’s claim to be a fair company that keeps colleagues happy, yet this obviously is not the case. So long as you’re a manager and business wise you’re doing well for the company, it doesn’t matter how you treat colleagues. It certainly doesn’t matter if they are 1. A woman 2. BLACK. Us black women are automatically seen as almost inhuman with no feelings. Therefore, when we report issues such as bullying, and then take matters into our own hands when nothing is being done, we are called different things, which masks peoples inner dislike for us. I am thankful that I did experience this, as it opened my eyes to a lot. Not only would I NEVER want to work for Sainsbury’s again, but I will KEEP ON TALKING ABOUT THIS STORY FOR YEARS TO COME, ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS!

 

Had I been a white girl, words such as “attitude” & “prideful” would not have come into the equation. However, because I am a well-spoken black woman, with great energy and Empress appearance, there you have it.

 

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