80% of People Working in Fashion Have Been Bullied by a Coworker

Discussion in 'Fashion... In Depth' started by Benn98, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. Benn98

    Benn98 Well-Known Member

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    FASHIONISTA'S NEW SURVEY SUGGESTS THAT BULLYING IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY

    We share the (sometimes dark) results of our reader survey on work-life balance, bullying and stress.
    WHITNEY BAUCK
    18 HOURS AGO

    We share the (sometimes dark) results of our reader survey on work-life balance, bullying and stress.


    Have you ever had a coworker exclude you from a party or meeting in a way that reminded you distinctly of high school? What about a boss who used public humiliation as a way to punish employees? Ever work a job so demanding that it took over your entire life, leaving little time to do things like eat lunch or go to the bathroom, while barely paying you enough to live on?

    If you've worked in fashion for awhile, there's a decent chance you could answer yes to at least one of the above. These kinds of stories are so common that to many fashion people, they hardly seem worth batting an eye at. Instead, these injustices are accumulated by NYFW veterans and PR pros like badges of honor that prove just how dedicated we all are to our jobs.

    But what if it didn't have to be that way? This fall, Fashionista partnered with A Fashionable Pause, an investigative project on the state of the industry spearheaded by PR pro Ken Loo, to see just how commonplace these kinds of experiences are within the fashion industry, with the hopes of spurring change. We anonymously surveyed 640 people working in PR, editorial, retail, design and more to hear their stories.


    "The reality is there are toxic work environments in every industry, but because of our proximity to luxury and glamour, we're expected to 'deal with it' a little bit more because of the perks. Still, you can't pay your rent on perks," wrote one anonymous survey respondent.

    Our hope is that gathering data about bullying, stress and a lack of work-life balance in fashion might help us recognize the problems that are unique to our industry — and begin to see a path towards addressing those issues. Read on for a summary, then download the full PDF of results below.

    BULLYING

    The fact that the original survey had the word "bullying" in the title means it probably attracted people who have experienced those kinds of behaviors, so it's unsurprising that many respondents said they've experienced workplace bullying in fashion. For the purposes of the survey, bullying was defined as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment... that involves threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done; or verbal abuse," as per the Workplace Bullying Institute.

    What's most revealing is where the reported bullying stemmed from and how frequently it occurred: More than two-thirds of people said that bullying is the norm in their work environment, with 81 percent stating that they'd been bullied by a supervisor and 61 percent saying they were bullied by coworkers. As for the forms that bullying can take, 72 percent claim they've had bosses who use public humiliation as a form of punishment, 60 percent said their supervisors have used job security as a threat (saying things like "there are dozens of people waiting to snatch your job if you don't want it") and 77 percent revealed they've been yelled at in the workplace.

    The most sobering anecdotes came in the form of write-in responses, which described coworker cyberbullying via anonymous Twitter handles, deliberate exclusion from office-wide parties or meetings, verbal abuse and more.

    "It's an incredible shame to be in a woman-dominated industry as a young woman with the hopes that such a community would be uplifting, encouraging and inspiring," wrote one survey-taker. "I wish I could say that my experience was an anomaly, but I have yet to hear a positive career story from the fashion/retail merchant industry."

    UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

    For some respondents, the biggest problems arose from a set of unrealistic expectations in their workplace. Work-life balance — or the lack thereof — presented a particular sticking point. About a third of respondents said they work more than 10 uncompensated hours per week, and 83 percent of people said they're expected to be available to their bosses via text or email even when they're not on the clock. And while they are on the clock, more than half of our sample said that it's not uncommon to feel like "there isn't time to do basic things like eat or go to the bathroom." It's perhaps no surprise, then, that 58 percent of people reported being at least somewhat dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

    "Other industries get paid for the bullshit they're put through, while we're underpaid, overworked and with no benefits," one respondent wrote.

    But it's not just expectations about time commitments that are out of wack. It's also expectations about how one "should" look to work in fashion. Almost half of the survey respondents said they'd received negative feedback at work based on what they wore or how they looked; more than half said there was an expectation that they should dress beyond their means. One respondent recalled being forced to wear heels and forego a needed ankle brace and crutches when around clients.

    Other stories crossed the line into flat-out discrimination based on religion (i.e. when a Muslim or Jehovah's Witness wanted to dress in accordance with their beliefs about modesty or take time off for a religious holiday), race and size ("my boss quickly got rid of people who didn't meet her 'look' requirements... now everyone who works there is thin and 99 percent white"), the glamorization of eating disorders and more.

    "I was told by a major Condé Nast EIC that although I was brilliant, I looked 'too scrappy' to work on a print publication, so I could either essentially get a makeover or work in digital, where I was allowed to look 'more creative.' That same EIC refused to promote a colleague because she 'didn't look like the magazine,' i.e. she wasn't beautiful/thin," one anonymous person wrote.

    OUTCOMES

    While all of the above is problematic in and of itself, the fact that there's often little recourse for those who fall victim to toxic workplace dynamics is what can leave many feeling helpless. More than half of the people who took the survey said there is no human resources department or responsible person trained to handle issues in their workplace, and 87 percent said that employees don't feel safe addressing issues with their supervisors.

    The fact that 88 percent reported having cried after a workplace encounter and 84 percent said their work environment has made them consider leaving the fashion industry entirely seems to follow naturally from that. This is a real loss for fashion as a whole, because if the industry can't hold onto people who expect basic levels of human decency to be a part of their jobs, then the people who rise to the top and set the culture are more likely to be those who think that bullying, constant overtime and discrimination are normal.

    "I would love to go back in time and tell my 17-year-old self not to pursue fashion design," wrote one respondent, while another described her job as a buyer for a big-name department store as "the most abusive workplace I've ever been in, including working at [a] prison." Still others described feeling gaslit, wrestling with what feels like PTSD from cruel bosses and even becoming suicidal as a result of harrowing fashion job experiences.

    All of this paints a bleak picture that should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone outside the industry who's unduly seduced by the allure of free clothes, hanging out with celebrities and attending fancy fashion week parties. But for those of the us already in the trenches, it makes one thing clear: We've got to do better, and hold each other — as well as the most powerful players in our industry — accountable.


    Fashionista.com
     
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  2. dior_couture1245

    dior_couture1245 Fat Karl

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    I think people need to grow a backbone.
     
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  3. lelaid

    lelaid Well-Known Member

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    Or people could stop being abusive a**holes at work and act like professionals.
     
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  4. dior_couture1245

    dior_couture1245 Fat Karl

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    You can’t control people’s behavior. It’s a tough industry with lots of pressure. Always has been, always will. Anyone going into it thinking otherwise is being delusional and naive. Plus, creative industries are always going to be more complicated because there is no hard, scientific, tested solution for any given problem - creatively or financially. Everyone is working blindly - from the CEO, to the designer, to the sales team, to the merchandisers, etc etc. There is no formula for success. For that reason egos run high, and insecurities run deep. Plus, you throw in the additional element of this being a glamour industry in which looks and style matter...of course you’re going to get intense working environments that aren’t always the friendliest.

    Furthermore, people are always complaining that industry workers aren’t paid enough...well that’s also no surprise. If you accepted a job at the going salary rate, that’s on you. Go work in tech if you want to make $200k+.

    So, like I said...none of that should be a surprise to anyone looking to work in this industry. Those who are moaning in this article that they “cried at work”....well ok! And? Buck up, solve the problem, or quit! But whining and wishing that this industry would be a place were we all sat around sharing our feelings and hugging each other and we all worked 6 hour days with a 2-hour lunch break is just the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard.
     
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  5. Benn98

    Benn98 Well-Known Member

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    Lol, ok, I don't think the idea is to sit around and share feelings all day, and 2-hour breaks. I imagine the point of the survey is for the entire system to just do better. Sure 'you can't control people's behaviour', but you can explain to them what kind of behaviour is acceptable in a professional framework which affects others, what's not. If you want to be a bully, go and do that at home with your family.
    I don't think it's that easy to just say 'buckle up, solve the problem, or quit' 'Buckle up' just mean productivity will take a nosedive because your team is not happy. This is a creative industry. It's not like they're meat packers in an abattoir. Maybe that's why print media is in such a crisis. 'Solve the problem' is easier said than done when there's no recourse you happen to find yourself in a 'culture of fear' environment, like the one which Raf and his squad apparently encouraged at Calvin Klein. And just because you don't like the working conditions of your job doesn't mean that you hate your job perse, and therefore it shouldn't mean you have to 'quit.'
    The entire industry is too entrenched in a hierarchical system. It's probably like that in other industries too, but I always get the feeling it's way more pronounced in fashion. The only ones speaking out about misconduct beyond sexual abuse are interns, and it's easier for them because they're just passing through.

    This is the reason why I work on flexible hours, of which most are from home. It's easier in my situation though, but when your job would entail location work in a team, I can understand why you'd feel trapped and helpless.

    I am hopeful that this cycle will eventually fade out because fashion thrives on the new and the young. To be attuned to that must mean a new and youth-oriented staff should be assembled as well. And we are in an era where job satisfaction trumps remuneration or prestige. So I think surveys like the above are way overdue and much needed. I'm all for it.
     
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