Written by -Mubina Afreen
I parked my car in my workplace parking lot and took a deep breath looking through my updated schedule on my phone. It would be an overwhelming day, and I was trying my best to prepare myself mentally. I told myself I wasn’t the only one. People work to keep a roof over their heads, not because it’s entertaining. I had even talked about this with my friends who told me, “Jobs aren’t supposed to be enjoyable. Favoritism and discrimination happen in every workplace. Suck it up.” That is definitely what I did for some time. One can take legal action for being discriminated not for being a victim of favoritism.
A few months ago, I started working at this ABA therapy center and had already seen enough favoritism and sexism. It’s not like it was my first time witnessing individuals being biased at work. I was disappointed because I earned my undergraduate degree in Psychology and chose to be in this profession, constantly desiring to help others. But felt like this job put my mental health on the line. I had registered for my RBT exam in a week and was on the verge of quitting.
I asked my coworker, hired one week after me, about his schedule and his paired clients. He was paired with a different client for the week, many of them with mild autism that didn’t show much problematic behavior. In comparison, I had the same two individuals with ASD and severe complex behavior for four months every day. Yet, I never complained and was attentive throughout all my therapy sessions. I came to work each day with a positive attitude and even asked my employer for feedback on my sessions. But, I knew I was putting all my energy into something that wasn’t helping me grow. Whenever a monthly therapist competency assessment was scheduled, I was paired with a child I had never worked with before—consistently scoring no more than an 80 because I didn’t know the client’s program well.
I remember calling out sick for a day, and the RBT that took care of my client complained the next day because the client scratched and bit her. So it was decided by the BCBA not to pair her with him again. I went through the very thing but was told to “reposition myself” so I wouldn’t get hurt. A few other BT were going for their RBT exam, but I sensed that I was the only one being treated unjustly. Whenever I talked about an idea, it was ignored. If it was a work-related issue, I was given a “puppy face” and told to “hang in there.” I was good, just not good enough to take up a new task.
I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Was it because I wasn’t gifting my schedule coordinator fancy gifts?! or complementing or kissing up to the BCBA? Maybe it was not staying late and gossiping about the client’s parents with other coworkers?. So I googled to see if others in the same occupation were having the same difficulty. I was startled at the number of people commenting on a Reddit post about this very problem, some much worse. I scanned through the post, looking for a solution. I did find a few. I did talk to my employer regarding what I was facing. It somewhat got better, and I didn’t feel so burned out. I passed my RBT exam and still work at the same center part-time. Not because I NEED a job but because I like working with my clients and positively impacting their lives. Even if there are hundreds of reasons to quit, find one reason that makes you stay. And my clients and appreciating parents were my reason. I am still searching for better opportunities that will help me improve too. However, I realized that no job would be perfect, but we need to be to maintain professionalism and integrity.
Let’s face it favoritism has taken place in at least one workplace you have been employed, or it might be every. You work your behind off day and night only for Dena, who gives your boss ‘surprise’ gifts to receive the next project. Favoritism in the workplace is toxic and illegal, yet it is still taking place. In a survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland and Georgetown University researchers, about 75 percent of the survey respondents say they have witnessed favoritism, while 23 percent admit they practice favoritism. In addition, 83% agreed that unfairness leads to worse decisions in promoting people.
Either you can ignore it or talk to your manager about it (I highly doubt they will do anything). Or you can start pointing it out. Let others know how you feel. But if there comes, a time work stress starts to affect your mental health. So then, take some time off for yourself. Maintain your sense of self.