The #metoo and Times Up movements have opened up the conversation on sexual harassment and gender inequality in the workplace. While these issues have existed for as long as time itself, these movements has kept them in our consciousness by dominating the awards season thus keeping the topic in the news cycle.
The momentum of both movements has brought about a mindset shift for me concerning a career advice that has been passed down and one I have abided to religiously; “never badmouth a former (or current) employer”.
The argument for this piece of career advise is that most organisations would not hire a candidate that speaks badly about a former employer because such candidates cannot be trusted as they can also speak ill about you when the opportunity arises.
Job seekers have been advised to skirt around the reason they are leaving or have left toxic workplaces in job interviews. They are advised to spin their negative experiences into strengths, strengths that will appeal to a hiring manager.
I’m starting to wonder if this career advice is actually helpful, in fact I’m starting to believe it is not only unhelpful but festers abusive behaviour in the workplace.
The Me Too movement was started to help victims and survivors of sexual assault and harassment realise they were not alone and the overwhelming support and acceptance it has received so far has exposed how prevalent these issues are in the workplace.
It has also helped in breaking the culture of silence that had allowed sexual assault, harassment and gender pay gap thrive for so long. Thus giving rise to the Times Up Legal Defend Fund, a non-profit organisation set up to offer subsidised legal support to individuals who have experienced sexual harassment or related retaliation in the workplace.
It is in the same vein that encouraging employees and jobseekers to refrain from bad mouthing their employers has allowed the said employers to continue the circle of abuse/toxicity. Toxic and abusive employers will continue to treat their employees badly when they know that there are no consequences.
If we can agree that the best brand ambassador for any organisation is her employee, shouldn’t the organisation make it a priority to protect its employees? Why should the onus of protecting a toxic organisation rest on the shoulders (silence) of the victims?
I think we should change this narrative by encouraging employees to speak their truths. Maybe if they are allowed to, more employers would start looking into making their workplaces safer and less tolerant of bad work environments.
It can be very difficult for victims to come forward due to social and emotional repercussions. Yet not all accusations are in fact true. Cases have existed of disgruntled employees fabricating stories to get even at their employers.
As with all claims of abuse, the victim’s statement should be taken seriously and due process followed through to verify such accusations.
Besides, any organisation that is afraid of hiring an otherwise qualified job candidate based solely on the fact that she spoke out against her mistreatment in the hands of her employer probably is not the best place to work anyway.