Singapore — A French woman who worked at the Singapore chapter of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) claims to have been bullied by her superior when she was employed at the non-governmental organisation from July 2015 to February 2017.
After she moved to Australia for another job, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), reported South China Morning Post on Sunday (Oct 24).
SCMP added that three other WWF employees say their experiences were similar to those of Coralie Ponsinet, 31. However, they have chosen to remain anonymous.
Ms Ponsinet’s former manager, whom she described to SCMP as “well-connected” and “influential” is no longer with the NGO, having been dismissed due to misconduct in Jan 2020. The manager was investigated after another employee filed a complaint.
The French woman, who suffered insomnia, depression, loss of self-esteem, headaches and digestive issues after her stint with the NGO, has chosen to speak out against WWF.
In a medical report from Oct 2017 seen by SCMP, a doctor in Melbourne had diagnosed the French woman with PTSD and said that her condition was due to a “persistent pattern of mistreatment by her former boss, which caused her undue emotional harm.”
She did not work for a year after having been diagnosed, and she spent that time getting medical treatment. At present, Ms Ponsinet works part-time in Melbourne.
She claims to have sought assistance from WWF by way of a request for compensation for her sufferings, but the organisation turned her down.
SCMP reports that WWF wrote Ms Ponsinet an email that the behaviour of her former manager “cannot be equated with WWF.”
As a result of this, the NGO “does not accept any suggestion that it is liable”.
Ms Ponsinet claims to have spoken up in her exit interview about the emotional abuse she suffered. She also wrote to the head office of WWF in Switzerland to inform them.
And while she does not have the financial capability to bring a civil suit against her former manager, she has chosen to make her story public.
SCMP quotes her as saying, “I may be naive, but I don’t think people donate money to NGOs for people to be badly treated. I am a serious advocate for change and justice and believe I was wronged by WWF.”
She also said, “It took me seven long months after I left WWF and Singapore to understand how much I had been personally and professionally destroyed by bullying,” telling SCMP that she had been continuously undermined, belittled, and blamed, and that she had been the subject of verbal abuse including inappropriate personal remarks about her race and personal life.
Ms Ponsinet also said she lived in “constant fear” for one and half years.
“I was constantly told that I was not worth anything. All I could see of myself was a failure.”
Some months after she had been diagnosed, she lodged a complaint at the headquarters of the NGO concerning the toxic management practices of its Singapore branch, which led to an investigation.
Ms Ponsinet added that at least seven people on the same team she was in at WWF left in under three years while the team was under the former manager’s purview. There was also a group chat on Telegram wherein former employees swapped alleged bullying stories.
One person SCMP spoke to was a former workmate of Ms Ponsinet, who said WWF Singapore “toxic culture of bullying” when the French woman worked there.
“People were going into work scared. People were fearful of opening emails,” the former colleague said.
Yet another ex-employee is quoted as saying, “I left that job feeling so belittled… what is worse than the people who do the bullying is the people who allow it to happen by inaction. I think many people in the office were just glad it wasn’t them.” /TISG
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