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Employment hardships. Harassment, violence and employees with “extra functions”

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This girl agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity. Let’s call her Alexandra. She is a make-up artist, and six months ago she was led to a nervous breakdown because of her colleague harassing her.

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Alexandra: “We met at work, while filming, and he almost immediately fell in love with me. He stalked me and it was becoming incredibly hard for me. At some point he said he has something which he could use against me and that I should obide by everything he asks for. That he has a porno tape with me on it”.

A previously friendly colleague didn’t let her work, made threats to publish intimate pictures from her phone. Alexandra described the situation on the social media and then called the police. Russian legislation does not entail punishment for such actions, but the harassment stopped.

  • You cannot be afraid and cannot close yourself off. As for social media, I felt immense support, many people wrote to me.

The term “harassment” came from the US, where even film stars lose multi-million contracts because of sexual offences, like Kevin Spacey. Or producers like Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from the company he had created.

There’s no punishment for harassment in Russia. Millions of people are forced to go through harassment from their management or colleagues. From journalists accusing their high-profile interviewees to ordinary managers, who are told to dress sexier to boost sales, according to lawyer Kristina Lapkina. 70 percent of her clients suffer from harassment at work.

Kristina Lapkina, lawyer: “Managers say that they don’t deserve this position. One woman was so frightened and tired that she was contemplating suicide”

Natalya Ivanova once moved from St. Petersburg to the US and knows how rigorously the US law protects from any type of harassment at work. But she also sees the massive drawbacks of that system

– Many people are being accused without proof of their guilt. It’s a very thin line. And, to a certain extent, there’s a witch hunt there.

This is how the war on harassment was described by the authors of the famous “letter by 100 women”. French actresses believe Victorian morality may return, turning women again into victims with no rights. Nevertheless, Russian politicians are seriously considering including harassment into legislation. St. Petersburg’s entrepreneurs have found their own way of stopping this practice – putting it into contracts. Vladimir Denisenko, founder of headhunting agency with intimate services.

Vladimir Denisenko, head of recruitment agency: “There have been many cases. Girls quit. Why? Because of harassment. I didn’t know this would happen. But here – everyone knows. There are many search queries – a secretary able to get intimate”

Hundreds of businessmen in St. Petersburg are looking for employees with “extra functions”. The compensation for loyalty is above the average salary. There were no bonuses for these things back in the Soviet days. And workers had to endure their managements temperament – just like in a classic Soviet comedy.

Evgeniya Altfeld, reporter: “Not only harassment or bossing, that is psychological pressure from the management, but you can also encounter mobbing at any work – when colleagues are mocking you. And its also a frequent occurrence. The term has come from biology – describing a situation when several herbivores attack a carnivore”

We decided to install a hidden camera in our TV center and then show the footage to a psychologist, to determine what kind of atmosphere we have here

Business trainer Lyubov Belyaeva teaches managers how to prevent mobbing among staff - and among the means is organizing the work space.

Lyubov Belyaeva, business trainer, psychologist: “Here we have an open space. The space always influence relations. One of the reasons for mobbing is tension among the staff. And the easiest thing is to find one man which this could be directed at. This is stress caused by confined spaces and overpopulation”

Psychologists and lawyers say – its time to protect people from psychological violence at work, whether with sexual overtones or not. Although, it’s a big question on how you distinguish between acceptable flirting from violation of personal space in court. Even modern directors think about survival at work. A new play about workplace hardships – “the Office” – was sold out in St. Petersburg.

Not so long ago, harassment at work was a forbidden topic. But Russian media picked up the Hollywood story of Harvey Weinstein and let the genie out of the bottle. As political events of late show, the term harassment is becoming part of our language, turning into a dangerous weapon. For both defense and offence.

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