Recently, popular Instagram account Diet Sabya opened a can of worms against evil bosses and toxic work culture prevalent in the Indian fashion, beauty, PR, music, and advertising fields by splashing horrifying work stories all over the social media.
The campaign gained steam as screenshots of multiple harassment stories reported by users were shared by shaming the alleged perpetrators.
It all started with an unnamed CXO at a cosmetic brand company and her alleged misdeeds, followed by awful stories from top fashion magazines and a talent agency that manages top Bollywood stars such as Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor, among others.
Many stories highlighted the rampant unprofessionalism in these “creative” fields — fashion magazines, music industry, modelling, PR companies... — where casual sexism, bigotry comments and mental harassment were considered to be a rite of passage for beginners.
Online versus real-time bullying
In its latest Instagram post two days ago, Diet Sabya questioned the toxic culture in fashion magazines and business environments. “I think,” says a part of the message in the screenshot posted, “there’s a deeper issue that needs to be addressed here — WHY are fashion magazines/business environments so toxic?
Why does everyone in the industry feel so entitled to be bullies? And why the hypocrisy in what they publish and how they behave? (sic.) […]”
The post got over 4,800 likes and close to 250 comments. The self-proclaimed fashion watchdog account also shared that they received legal threats to bring down the stories and remove the names of the top brass that were exposed as bullies and sexual predators.
However, the trend to report online highlights a key issue — why are employees forced to report to an anonymous account instead of addressing the problem internally?
Shivani Mehta, a senior brand consultant, recalls her awful work experience at her last job. “In my last job at a PR agency, I faced a very disturbing work culture. My boss was a complete bully who was always shouting at us. He created unnecessary work pressure and overloaded us with work. I was asked to attend events at odd hours and my payments were delayed if I argued about anything. It was a small firm and there was no one to report to, so I quit after a few months.”
Stressful work conditions
In many small companies with dummy HR departments, the work culture is often dictated by the top boss and if he/she is a wretched person, the toxicity trickles down to lower levels.
Anushka Sharma, who currently works in an IT firm, shares with us her experiences when she worked in a hospitality chain. “I had to go through seriously unacceptable work conditions. Right from ugly politics of top management to no work-life balance, long unpaid hours, and an unsupportive boss — I went through a tough time and struggled with mental and physical health issues. I was stressed, depressed, and suffered from hormonal imbalance. I quit the job to save my sanity.”
Saad Mughal, a team leader at social media and content marketing firm, shares that a particular ex-colleague created problems among the team to get “attention”.
He says, “I worked with an attention seeker, who loved gaining sympathy and gossiped all the time to create a rift between co-workers. She made work very unpleasant and bitched about everyone. When we tried to confront her, she cried and quit.”
At the workplace, a clique culture is often a huge issue for newcomers. It causes friction among the team and encourages ragging by humiliating others.
A senior fashion editor, who requested anonymity, talks about the common sight in many offices of women not supporting other women.
“They pull down, rile and gossip in closed girl gangs. Many editors are insecure and dabble in petty politics to retain their positions,” she says.
According to her, the job is less dependent on talent and more on how much you can kiss ass.
“To top it all, I was a single mom. So when I had to go for my son’s parent-teachers’ meeting or report card day I was told that a day’s salary would be cut. When I was a feeding mom, I never got any help from my boss who would often ridicule me and say that companies should not hire mothers.”
The senior editor laments about how offices don’t have crèche or flexible, work-from-home options. “And, sadly you were never considered for a promotion if you were family-oriented,” she adds.
Lure of exposure and fake promises
Sarthak Kush, founder of Alfa Records, speaks about the exploitation in the music and events industry and how early in his career, he had come across many such fraudulent people.
“Young artists, especially women, face so much harassment when they enter the field. Even I had to work for peanuts and still chase people for my payments,” remembers Sarthak. “So many times, I would play live gigs till late hours and no one would even offer me a glass of water. When I started my event firm, many restaurant owners would ill-treat us and behave like spoilt brats, making us work extra without proper contracts in place.”
Similarly, blogger and tarot card reader Jeevika Sharma shares her experience and says, “It’s been more than a year that I have started practicing tarot card reading professionally, and for the past three years I have been blogging about food. I have experienced many brands and PR representatives mistreating us by insisting on taking up a barter deal or offering very less pay. Also, many PR companies are notorious for the extreme delay in payments as they don’t seem intent on paying for the brand promotions.”...