“You were disrespected time and again in past years in public and private. When you protested you have been sidelined from core discussions. I am surprised not even once you escalated”, I said summarising the conversation I am having with Shyahi.
Shyahi recently reached out to me to get coached. A young girl from rural areas of Tamilnadu with a big smile and pleasant personality. She is working for a reputed company with handsome salary. She was unhappy with her current job environment and was explaining her current situation.
“I was not sure whether it was the right thing to escalate”, Syahi said, She took a long and deep breath while head remained down in a thoughtful posture.
“What is the thought that was blocking you?”, I asked.
“You know Sakti”, She made an eye contact. “I got this job after so many struggle. I come from a very lower income family where job is for survival not for fulfilling passion. After my father’s death I took the place of my father in family. My salary is running my family. Hopefully my younger brother will start his job soon then I will be relieved.”, Shyahi said maintaining eye contact. I could see her eyes getting misty. I could feel the pain.
“Thanks for sharing. I can understand. I strongly feel we must remember we work for not only salary but dignity as well. If you compromise your dignity nobody in this world would give you your basic respect.”, I said with a heavy voice.
“Dignity, Huh!”, Shyahi grunted.
It was disturbing. At this age people are working in reputable jobs just for money and dignity doesn’t even count in their list of basics. Have we not progressed at all.
“Sorry, I did not mean to disrespect you but do you think dignity even counts. People with even lowest level of authority thinks it is right to disrespect people.”, Shyahi said.
“I understand. People will disrespect but how you respond to it matters. What do you think would be the consequence when you protest and express the feeling that you were directed by an individual.”, I asked.
“People will maintain grudge and retaliate when time is right for them and wrong for me.”, She said in one breath.
“Is it your assumption?”, I asked.
“I have experienced. My lead used to publicly share his frustration about team member’s work in a deragotory manner. It was not all my fault, he had misunderstood a lot of it. I requested to my lead to Kindly share such feedback in private.He did not say much and accepted. Now that he is a my manager, he is intentionally assigning me difficult projects to ensure I fail.”, She said with confidence.
“Hence you connected the dots that he is retaliating as you gave a critical feedback”, I completed the statement.
“Don’t you think so”, She quizzed.
“What if its coincidence? Let’s find out other situations where you protested and faced retaliation. Can you share some more examples?”, I asked.
Shyahi thought for a while but could not gather much. This incidence only the one which cemented her thought that protesting results in retaliation.
“What stopped you protest in all other occasions?”, I pestered.
She spent lots of time thinking before responding. I could see her misty eyes have started accumulating enough moist to form drops of tears. She wiped her tears and looked straight in my eyes.
“I did not. I feared loss of job. I could not have afford loss of job”, She said while tears were flowing uncontrollably.
“You believed that you will not get job anywhere else. Was that the biggest fear?”, I asked.
“I can get job in 30 days time. I can prove you that.”, She protested.
“Thats great! You have option but you did not pursue any of them. You could have raise your voice by escalating into your higher management or HR but you did not do so. You could have looked for opportunities outside but you did not do so. What is stopping you?”, I asked.
She was thoughtful. “Not sure!”, Thoughtfully she responded without weighing in much on words, “I am not really sure”, She said.
Our lack of awareness about our own calibre and capabilities makes us vulnerable. People take advantage of our silence. Protesting is our right when we are not treated fairly. Every occurrence of disrespect towards us is our failure to give justice to our self-respect. If we tolerate too long, it results in damaged ego and confidence which never let’s us stand up again.
We must stand up for ourselves today so that we can stand up for others in the society. This requires us to ensure we create and preserve options for our career always. When you have more than one option, you respect the option that you are pursuing more than when you did not have any other options.
I meet dozens of professionals in organisations every year who are silently suffering and many who have created self-destroying attitudes and behaviours due to continuous suppression of emotions when treated unfairly for long in their early careers.
The fear which is keeping us quiet today will kill us tomorrow. Many a times these silence are not because we do not know what to say in protest but how to say. Lack of soft skills to communicate damages our confidence to stand up for ourselves.
We must help each other in this journey to create a beautiful environment around us where we are working for benefit of society at large than satisfying somebody’s ego.