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Ex-Staffers at Bono’s charity foundation Tweets unveil Bullying and Intimidations at ONE

by Milicent Atieno
bono's one foundation

Social media is a double-edged sword; it can just as easily cut the one wielding it as it can cut the target. While it can be used as a platform to reach the masses easily for an organization, it can also be used to air out the dirty linen within an organization and quickly taint its image. Especially if it goes viral. The Irish rock star Bono become the latest famous personality to taste both double edges of the social media sword.

Bono founded the charity organization ONE, which has offices in Johannesburg. ONE aims at alleviating poverty and raise the people’s standards of living. Like any organization, ONE has a structure with managers, middle-level managers, and the regular staffers. The management of its running affairs follows a chain of command.

Last November, ex-staffer took to Twitter and aired out some of the managerial malpractices happening at the organization. Some of the staffers threatened to take legal action against the ONE for consistently failing to take disciplinary actions against some of its managers whom they accuse of bullying and sexual harassment.

The list of accusation leveled against ONE managers are many, but the highlights include the manager demoting a female worker after she turned down sexual advances from a foreign government official, a manager commanding a subordinate to do domestic chores at their homes.

In a nutshell, the ex-staffers tweets paint a picture of ONE as a charity organization where managers abuse their power into bullying subordinates into doing things not part of their job descriptions. Failure to oblige comes with threats of demotion and being fired.

It appears those tweets, though tweeted back in November last year, have finally got to the founder of ONE, the Irish rock star Bono. Bono came out publicly condemning the actions of managers at ONE, and expressed his fury at their actions. Bono further wants to meet the victims to apologize to them personally.

We are deeply sorry. I hate bullying, can’t stand it,” said the U2 singer Bono in a press statement sent to Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The poorest people in the poorest places being bullied by their circumstances is the reason we set up ONE.

So to discover last November that there were serious and multiple allegations of bullying in our office in Johannesburg left me and the ONE Board reeling and furious.”

Gayle Smith, the CEO at ONE said they did some investigations into the allegations and have since established that there were some serious “unprofessional conduct” and “bullying and belittling” of the organization’s staff in Johannesburg between 2011 and 2015.

Staff were called names, and some said their manager put them to work on domestic tasks in her home,” said Smith in a press statement.

One former employee described how her manager made sexist and suggestive comments about her to a government official from another country.”

Although Smith did not say she has corroborated the claims, she is however not discounting them. She further says ONE is working on innovative ways to allow staffs and other stakeholder make their complaints anonymously.

The November tweets complaining about professional misconduct at ONE foundation came hot on the heels of a damning report to the charity organizations fraternity as a whole. The charity fraternity is grappling with multiple allegations of sexual abuse and claims of harassment at the workplace. The biggest scandals being that of Oxfam whose staff are accused of using prostitutes in Haiti and the former Save the Children executive accused of harassing female staff.

Social media continues to be a key platform is addressing these evils. Although it has become popular as the go-to-platform for organizations for massive outreach. It can also work against the organization when negative news goes viral.

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