A Mecca employee is calling the company’s response to widespread allegations of bullying and discrimination nothing more than “window dressing”.

The beauty brand has been publicly accused of bullying, with more than 35 current and former employees making written complaints.

In response, senior staff at Mecca’s head office – guided by founder Jo Horgan – made a number of immediate changes, including going on a ‘listening tour’ of stores, which it says is for employees to provide feedback. The company also introduced a new feedback channel called STOPLINE, which is available to all staff, and brought forward its scheduled ‘Respect in the Workplace’ training. Majority of employees will complete the training this year and the remainder early next year, Mecca said in a statement on its website.

However, some staff aren’t impressed with the steps the company is taking.

Tegan* has worked at Mecca as a colour and skin specialist for four and a half years. She alleges numerous instances of bullying and manipulation by senior colleagues.

She believes Mecca is only taking action because of the “bad publicity”.

“I think it’s so laughable,” Tegan told PEDESTRIAN.TV of the listening tours. “I don’t think the process is a completely objective one. To me, the response is nothing short of disappointing. It’s not good enough. To be completely blunt, it’s window dressing.”

The listening tour, according to Mecca, invites all team members to give feedback in group sessions or one-on-one about their experiences at the brand.

But Tegan claims Mecca rejected her attempts to provide feedback.

“According to them anyway, it depends on whether or not you’re going to be working that day or if [an HR consultant] is going to be in-store that day so they could easily not give you a shift that day and you won’t go.

“I put my hand up to say that I do want to participate in [the listening tour] and they said, ‘We’re so sorry, the session is at capacity.'”

Tegan believes Mecca “would see me as a problem” because of previous incidences of alleged bullying she had reported to management.

Lisa* has worked at Mecca since 2016 in numerous roles including assistant manager. She told P.TV that she was surprised when the allegations came to light because she thought she was the “only one” who experienced bullying.

“We were told not to talk about it because they always say we don’t want to create confusion,” she said, adding that teams were also discouraged from speaking about the allegations in online work group chats by senior staff.

“Since the allegations happened [October 2019], we had a Christmas party and nobody was talking about it,” Lisa continued. “I don’t think they really care about it.”

Lisa was interested in attending a listening tour but eventually decided against it out of concern of retaliation.

“I feel like it’s a trap – you can’t keep your identity private,” she said.

“If you really want opinions and experiences, shouldn’t it be anonymous?”

Like Lisa, Tegan said she was surprised when the allegations came to light. However, her shock wasn’t due to the comments of other Mecca employees, but because the claims “leaked” from what she calls a “hush hush culture”.

She believes the alleged issues “stem from top down”, and worsened as the company began to expand (Mecca has over 100 stores, both Mecca Cosmetica and Mecca Maxima, in Australia and New Zealand).

“The focus has really shifted from support centres to how many stores we open this year,” she said.

“You’d only need to look at their website to see how many stores they’ve opened in the last two or three years. And to be frank, I really think it is at the expense of their culture.”

Despite Tegan’s claims, Mecca said in a statement to P.TV that “all of our team members have been offered the opportunity to engage with our independent culture specialist as part of this review, be it through the listening tour, over the phone, via email, and in person”.

The review, originally expected to take two months, has been extended to January to ensure everyone has the opportunity to express their views, Mecca said.

“Our focus is on our team members as we work through this review, and we remain committed to treating any issues raised seriously and taking actions as required.”

Despite the company’s efforts, both Tegan and Lisa don’t think Mecca’s culture can change.

“The listening tour will end, [CEO] Jo Horgan will send out an email saying, ‘This is what we got from the listening tour’ and that will be it,'” Tegan shared.

“People come and go,” Lisa said. “Young girls will always want to come and work at Mecca. And if you don’t like it there, they push you to resign. They say you don’t fit in – you’re not a ‘team player’, they love using that term.”

Tegan has thought about quitting many times, but said she will only leave on her own terms.

“I don’t want to be bullied or pushed out of it,” she said.

“For what it’s worth, I really do love the job. I can’t fault it – it really is truly one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. But in terms of the culture and the environment, it’s one of the worst.”

*Not their real names.

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