Naomi Osaka has been trending all through this week. If you are a social hermit and don’t yet know what the hullabaloo was about, here’s a brief load down. Naomi Osaka, as many know, is a Tennis Champion. She refused to do press interviews which tennis players do at the end of every game because it affects her mental health. (I think she struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, especially when she has to address large crowds.) Anyway, in response to her refusal to do the press conference, the tournament organizers fined her $15,000 and threatened to expel her. Before they could expel her, though, Naomi pulled out of the tournament by herself. Omo! See flex.
So basically, her decision sparked debates over mental health care, and the rights people have to take a break when they need to. While some people were against her decision, many others applauded her for advocating for herself in what appears to be a toxic work culture. Now, it’s this toxic work culture I want to talk about.
If we are honest, most Nigerian workspaces are TOXIC. We have bosses who act as if they are doing us a favor, bosses who verbally abuse us, withhold payment, threaten us, and more. To make matters worse, we don’t have a functioning workers union. Employees are basically powerless against employers. So how do you pull a Naomi Osaka in such a repressive environment? How do you advocate for yourself in such an environment?
First things first, know your rights. Companies often have manuals and codes of conduct. There’s also your employment contract and your Job Description. Read these carefully and know what is within your right and that of your manager or supervisor. Know your work hours and your leave days. I didn’t know I was entitled to sick leave days and annual leave days at my last job! I went on not using my sick leave days for almost one year before one of my colleagues told me. Read those documents and be aware of your rights.
After arming yourself with information, use your leave days. There is no trophy for over-worked staff. You can do your job excellently and still take days off to rest. You don’t have to wait until you have bouts of malaria and typhoid before you rest. When I have painful menstrual cramps, I use my sick days. One of the biggest triggers of physical and mental health issues is stress.
Unmarried young women in Nigeria are often overworked and underpaid because “you are not married; you don’t have a family.” Please do not stand for this. If they want you to work overtime, demand to be paid for those extra hours. If the company values you as a staff, trust me, they will pay for it.
Your fellow employees could also be problematic. Don’t excuse bad behaviors because you are eager to make friends with them. Speak out. If it is beyond you, report to HR. If nothing is done, then escalate to top management. Always speak out. There’s no prize for enduring suffering.
Finally, we all don’t have the privilege of walking away from jobs like Naomi. If you’ve advocated for yourself and there’s no change, maybe it is time to leave. Apply to other companies. Get advice from trusted friends and family members. You’ll never know what’s out there if you are too afraid to move.