How I Stopped Working in a Hostile Environment

In 2015, an old friend of mine introduced me to a man (let’s call him Oga) who said he was in need of a writer to help him start and finish a book on the then sitting governor of Edo State. And so we met. Before we parted ways that day, he gave me N10,000 to start researching and gathering information for the book. There was another time he gave me another N10,000 for the same purpose.

When I started that book, I had high hopes. Or rather, he gave me high hopes that we’ll make millions out of the book. 

So while that was on-ongoing, he told me about his plans to run an NGO to help revive the reading culture in children. I agreed to be part of it. In 2016, the NGO kicked off. All the while, I was still on the book project. I had finished writing. I was editing; removing and adding.

Now to raise money for the NGO, we needed the book to be ready, as elections that would see a change of government was drawing closer. But then, Oga brought in another lady who was passionate about organizing reading competitions for school children. While we worked on the book, she kept pushing for the school reading competition to kick off.

Now that lady was well dressed than I was. She was also an ambassador for agriculture in some foreign countries. And according to the Oga, she was more presentable and marketable than I was. For every time he went to meet some politicians or people close to the governor to solicit their support in helping him pitch the book to the governor, he went with that lady or another tall light-skinned lady. And he’d tell me, it was for marketing purposes.

I wasn’t happy about the development, because,  even though the Oga and I did the research together, I was the one who wrote the entire book. I was the one editing, I was the one with the printer working on the first sample of the book. I could talk about this book with more passion because I was deep inside it. But I said, “No problem. He has a right to do as he pleases,  after all, it is his book”.

Meanwhile, before we even started the first printing, the printer had told me that he had worked with people like the Oga before. He didn’t trust them. “Karo, put your name in this book, else, you will not be happy in the end.” He warned me. But I was loyal. I wouldn’t go against an agreement, even though we signed no contract.

So events happened as they did. Oga noticed I wasn’t happy with his decision but he kept assuring me it was for marketing purposes.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t focus 100% on the book launch because the lady they brought in kept pushing for the school reading competition to hold. I told them it was best to focus on the book before the governor leaves office in a few months. Time was not on our side.

But since he wanted to please the other lady because he presents her a lot at meetings, they chose to kickstart the school competition.

She looked at the book a few times and made a few suggestions, which we considered. So while they pursued the competition project, I was to finalize the book sample to be taken to the governor. 

When I opened the acknowledgement page, it was heartbreaking. I was only acknowledged by the same man I wrote this book for, as an editor whose skills helped to perfect the book. While the other lady was acknowledged as the one who worked tirelessly,  day and night, to ensure the book project was materialized. 

Phew! 

I was pissed. But I decided I’ll say nothing. I’ll print what he had written. When I got to the Printer’s place, he saw the acknowledgement and asked what I would do about it. I told him, “nothing”. So we printed it like that.

After long hours on the job, as we made the design very colourful, I returned to the office and gave Oga the samples. He was pleased, but he noticed I was not smiling at all.

Him: What’s the matter?

Me: Your acknowledgement. So all I was in the entire project is an Editor?

Him: (Shouting. He does it a lot anyway, being a very quick-tempered person).  What is wrong with you? I told you from the start that I’m doing a lot of things for marketing purposes. You that is there now, can I market you? Are you marketable? And even if you didn’t like the acknowledgement, why didn’t you change it to what you want? The book has been in your hands. You’re the one who went to print it…..

I’m not exaggerating. This Oga’s voice could be heard all the way downstairs. And we were on the second floor. 

After that shout, that was when I started mapping out my exit from that place.  It’s not like I was gaining anything from the place. 

1. I couldn’t run my blog or take on other writing jobs while I was in that place, as it was time-consuming.

2. The little money I had saved up from writing jobs was spent transporting me to that place and my upkeep

3. I was not paid any money, not for working with the NGO or for writing the book. All I ever got was N1000 and N1,500 for transportation on two occasions, respectively. And then he bought us lunch 2wice only.

4. I was constantly reminded that I was not marketable, not good enough to be shown to prospective clients.

5. I received enough shout and disrespect. They picked on me like I was the bad person, all because I mostly had a different opinion, or dared to disagree with certain things even before Oga could finish trying to enforce them; unlike his friend who said yes to anything he said, and at his back would present a different argument to me. Nonsense!

6. The level of deception in that office was bad. You will be promised “A” today and tomorrow, “Z” is what you get, if you’re lucky. If you’re not, you get nothing. Almost everybody there was being used for one gain or the other, without their knowledge. I knew this too late. 

This was why I embraced working with Ofili, OkadaBooks founder. After seeing what it was like working with deceptive people, it was fresh air to work with someone who was plain and open about what he was doing.

In fact, Ofili gave me my first N5000 after I left that place because I told him what I was going through. He then invited me to come work for OkadaBooks part-time. He had not seen me face to face then but he valued my work more than people who saw me every day.

7. I had a lot of flesh on my body when I started that job. I had weight. By the time I decided to leave, (4 months after), I was so skinny. My friends were asking if I was sick. That office drained me physically and emotionally.

The day I finally left, I celebrated. And I knew I was not coming back. Ever. But I didn’t tell them that, for fear that they would persuade me to stay.

A month later, Oga calls me, saying we need to meet. I tell Oga I’m busy, and that if I have some free time, I’ll let him know. I never called back.

 A few months later, he called to talk about how they couldn’t launch the book in time before the governor left office, and what they’re trying to do to ensure that they still sell the book somehow. 

It was then he admitted that he should have listened to some of the suggestions I made especially on the fact that we face the book and leave the school program first. He went on to say he had spent over 2 million naira on the project without realizing any profit. Even the capital, he had not been able to recover all of it.

I went to the office once to return a document that was with me. I saw he had hired extra hands and expanded the office. I commended him for it. Then he showed me his website and told me what they were doing.  

I was frank enough to tell him how bad the website was. And how no reasonable person will see that site and partner with whoever runs it. 

He then asked that I help improve on it by getting in touch with the web designer and working with him. He promised to pay something to me monthly.

Well, I never contacted the designer or cared about what was going on in that office. I only got to discover that he tells them about the unmarketable stubborn girl who mostly had a different opinion; opinion he wishes he had put to heart. He understood the value of some of the things I said after I left.

 

The Aim of This Write-Up?

  1. Never let anyone’s opinion of you make you lose your own opinion of yourself.
  2. You are what you are, not what anybody says you are.
  3. Sign agreements before you do anything with anybody.
  4. Don’t go into partnership with people whose history you don’t know. Instead, say your price, get paid for the job, deliver, and be gone.
  5. If you find they lie to others just to get them to do some free work, be sure enough that they are lying to you too.
  6. If the people in your workplace belittle you and make you feel like you’re not good enough, raise your head up and walk away; no need to prove anything to them. They will be the ones begging you to come back.

What has been your experience in a hostile working environment? Feel free to drop it in the comments section, or message me.

 

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About Karo Oforofuo

Karo Oforofuo is an experienced freelance writer, an author of several fiction books, and a blogger at pelleura.top, where she entertains readers with mouth-watering stories, and business tips for writers. She also specializes in helping authors who want to start and grow their reader base, through consulting sessions. When she’s not working, she’s busy reading the next best paranormal romance novel or writing one.

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