Eke Eleanya, CEO of Nigerian investment startup, Risevest has apologised to a former employee, Efe Uduigwomen regarding his wrong approach in handling the circumstances which led to her resignation from the company.
Eke made this known in a medium post.
The Risevest CEO admitted that he mishandled the situation which culminated in Efe’s departure from the company, stating that “in retrospect, this was a terrible call.”
I’m well aware that there were many ways I could’ve handled this better and I’ve taken many lessons from this situation. I didn’t think we had to burn bridges and I always left the possibility open that we would work together again.Eleanya Eke, Risevest CEO
“I want to apologize to Efe for mishandling this,” he said.
Prior to this, Efe had published a post on her Medium page alleging that Eke had tried to coerce her into being physically present at the office despite her employment contract stipulating that she would work fully remote.
According to Efe, she had also contracted COVID-19 in 2020 and was trying to stay safe. She accused the Risevest CEO of forcing her resignation after she rejected his demands for her to work from the office “everyday”.
In response to Efe’s claims, Eke says he mandated that she worked physically following a review of the company’s marketing strategy. He said Efe was part of a team of five employees who had to show up at the office 2 to 3 days a week, with all COVID-19 precautions duly taken.
While this contrasts Efe’s claim that she had to be present at work everyday, it does not justify Eke’s decision to force her to quit her role.
In his statement, the Risevest CEO did not address the core issue of the dispute – the terms of Efe’s employment. If Efe’s contract had specified fully remote work, then Eke committed a breach of contract by not honoring that binding agreement. But according to TechCabal, Eke says Efe’s contractual terms required her to work at the office when needed.
Efe could take legal action if that were not the case, and that wouldn’t bode well for Eke or for Risevest.
Since being founded in 2019, the dollar-based assets investment startup has managed over $1 million in assets and gained more than 40,000 users. With just about 2 years in operation, Risevest definitely does not want to get embroiled in a court case that could have easily been prevented through effective workplace communication.
Is a Toxic Work Culture Developing in the Tech Ecosystem?
The Risevest situation draws attention to the state of work ambience at tech companies in Nigeria, and globally. Are we getting to the point where employees cannot disagree with their bosses, or will face the axe once they do? Are tech leaders starting to show an abuse of power? Hopefully not.
Last year, Nigerian software developers accused WeJapa CEO Favour Ori of exploitation, eventually leading to him stepping down as a later investigation declared him guilty of high-handedness. Apart from being a low point for the tech talent-recruiting startup, it proved that similar incidents could yet be happening across Nigeria’s tech space.
Beyond the shores of Nigeria, Google’s AI ethics Researcher, Timnit Gebru was abruptly fired last year for sending an email which criticised the company’s draconian treatment of minority staff. According to Gebru, she was “constantly dehumanised”.
The tech space seems to now be dotted with cases arising from toxic work environments where employers and employees are one discussion away from starting a full-blown crisis.
In a world where there is increasing advocacy for equality and freedom of expression in the workplace, the tech ecosystem certainly isn’t leading the way. Going forward, tech leaders must do better to develop a work culture forged on mutual respect, where constructive criticism and differing opinions by co-workers or employees are welcome and duly addressed.
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