Nigeria’s payroll management startup Bento
was publicly humiliated this week for the abusive treatment of its employees.
Nigeria’s tech ecosystem faced a reckoning this week following TechCabal’s exposé
on Bento’s culture. Bento claims to “reimagine work and life balance” – well, they weren’t wrong.
Employees revealed verbal and psychological abuse, fat-shaming, spontaneous dismissals (someone call HR!) and your run-of-the-mill tyranny at the hand of Bento’s CEO.
An ex-sales executive said:
Bento took everything from me—my sense of humanity, sanity, confidence, and trust,” “We worked around the clock. Ebun would send you messages by 2 AM and expect a response asap. No rest. We went to bed every night praying our jobs would still be there when we woke up the next morning.
The captain at the helm of the move fast, break people culture is CEO Ebun Okubanjo
, who referred to his employees as “pussies and fuckers” for requiring breaks. He described employees who took week-long vacations as “weak and not needed in the organisation.” Mad.
Why they stayed: It’s easy to say the employees should have quit the company. However, Nigeria currently has a 33% unemployment rate – up from 32.5% in 2021. So there’s never been a more accurate description of being lodged between a rock and a hard place for Bento’s employees.
Before releasing a repentant statement
, Okubanjo defiantly stated that Bento’s work culture might not have been for everyone but admits he might have driven people too far. Ex-employees claimed he modelled his leadership style after the late Steve Jobs. Well, Steve Jobs was a demanding boss, but not a despicable one. There is no excuse for Okubanjo’s behaviour.
Final thoughts: Okubanjo is taking some time off while the board investigates employee accusations. Hopefully, he has a come to Jesus moment and seeks professional help for his issues. There’s an extensive conversation about the responsibility of investors in ensuring respect in the workplace as part of the funding clause – but the buck doesn’t stop there.
Startups need better systems to protect employees and to hold horrible bosses accountable. This is the beginning of an important conversation, but hopefully not its end.