The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Together We Can Make It Better …

I know I said there’d be no posts while I’m away, but this is important.

As many of you know, a few weeks ago I wrote about a management style where the goal appears to be to systematically destroy the confidence and self-worth of their employees.

While I suggested a few possible reasons for their approach, the reality is – intentional or not – what they’re doing is abuse, pure and simple.

I am well placed to say this because – as I also wrote in the post – I had once been a victim of it.

Well that post hit a big nerve because within 72 hours, it had been shared thousands of times on Twitter and I received over 250 stories of abuse from people who previously thought they were alone in facing this cruel and debilitating experience.

I must admit I was initially shocked how many people had been affected until I remembered the reason this topic is so rarely talked about is because one of the ways the abusers get away with it is they make the victim feel so worthless, they believe it’s all their fault and so keep quiet out of shame for their supposed inadequacies.

Reading so many stories of pain made me both very sad and very angry and I knew right them that I wanted to do something about it, but the reality is I didn’t know what I could do.

Then I got an email from someone I used to work with …

Rather than tell me they had gone through a similar situation at work – or even their thoughts on my post – they asked if what I’d written was about them.

After telling them that if they feel guilt, then maybe they needed to take a look at how they conducted themselves [because at no point had I mentioned any names or places in my post] I then realised there was a way I could try and help stop this situation happening to others.

Let me introduce you to a site I’ve set up called Corporate Gaslighting.

Corporate Gaslighting [available at TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live] is my attempt to try and stop this slow, systematic abuse from bad management while also hoping to help those who have been victims of it.

The goal is simple, but hard.

Simple because all I want to do is fill it with people’s [anonymous] stories of their abuse.

Hard because I know how damaging these experiences are and how survival often means burying them deep down inside and kidding yourself they don’t exist … even though you know very well they do and they’re eating you alive.

But the benefits will hopefully be worth it for two key reasons.

For management … my hope is they come and read the stories to be reminded of the responsibility they have for the people they manage. And if they end up reading something they think is specifically about them … then maybe it will force them to look at their actions and behaviours and – for their sake – start to change them.

For victims … my hope is that by either writing their story or reading others, they’ll not only realise they’re not alone in this slow, viscous destruction of self-confidence, but the reasons for it happening have absolutely nothing to do with them and all to do with their managers. If I achieve this, my hope is it helps removes the stigma of guilt and failure we are all made to feel we brought on ourselves … because then it will remove the power abusive managers have over us … allowing us start to valuing ourselves again and [hopefully] giving us the strength to take action rather than only take the abuse

But none of this can happen without stories which is why this post is directing people to the site where they can learn how they can get involved to help themselves and help others.

Corporate Gaslighting isn’t about revenge. It’s about change, help and encouragement.

With that in mind, it has been designed to be a safe place to be vulnerable.

No names. No comments. No judgement.

What happens next is up to you.

I am just here to help.

Thank you.

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Einstein Was Smart In More Ways Than We Know …

In the 20 years before Einstein died, he almost never accepted invitations to speak at universities.

In 1946 he broke his self-imposed rule to give an address – and accept an honorary degree – from a small, traditionally African American, university in Pennsylvania.

There he declared:

“The separation of the races is not a disease of coloured people*, but a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

Now on one hand, the fact I hadn’t heard him say this before means that maybe he left it too late to not be quiet about it … but that aside, that is advice we should all be adhering to.

As I wrote about a while ago, I used to think it was enough to simply not think that way.

It’s not.

We have to act.

We have to stand up.

We have to make sure the actions and behaviours of those who wish to define and undermine others are met with resistance.

Words are – sadly – not enough.

Sure. they’re a start, but we need more than that.

People from other heritages and backgrounds have consistently shown their support for rights and freedoms we enjoy every day – and yet we think it’s enough to just ‘say’ we support them back.

It’s not.

It’s embarrassing we think it would be.

But if anyone needs more reasons to help make the change that should have happened and needs to happen, then how about the fact we would all end up benefiting if this happens.

Of course that shouldn’t be the reason we do it, but as I wrote about giving equal opportunities for female leadership, the benefit of letting hundreds of millions of smart people, with different experiences and ways of looking at the World means they can see ways to push us forward in ways we may never have considered.

And I say ‘all’ because unlike [many] white males, they’re generous with their ambitions and aspirations so actively bring others on the journey with them rather than leave them behind.

We have a lot to benefit from fighting for equality.

But we have to fight.

As Einstein worked out years ago.

______________________________________________________________________

* The term ‘coloured people’ is obviously wrong, but in 1946, I imagine that was the acknowledged universal term … which shows how little we have progressed in that time.



When Work Tries To Destroy You …

So as I said on Monday, this is my last post for a couple of weeks.

Given the extra-low quality of rubbish I’ve written over the past few days, that is probably of huge relief to you.

However I want to leave you with a post that – for me – is deadly serious, as the title of this post hopefully suggests.

It’s quite dramatic isn’t it?!

Well, sadly it’s not a joke and it is really happening.

Worse, it’s seemingly happening more and more.

What am I talking about?

The systematic destruction of employees confidence and experience to either leave them questioning their ability, their future or forcing them to be a complicit robot to the whims of management.

Now I should point out I am not in any way suggesting this is something companies are actively trying to do – however, many of their managers actions and behavior are doing just that.

Maybe it’s down to the pressures they face from the people above them.

Maybe it’s down to a sense of insecurity about their ability or their job security.

Maybe it’s the competitive environment and so it’s about ensuring clients are always happy.

Or maybe it’s simply their inability to deal with people who have different opinions to them.

Whatever the reason, it’s destroying talent, standards, creativity, agencies and client relationships.

I don’t care that some people will say that’s the ad business and everyone needs to toughen up … because the reality is it’s NOT the ad business and it’s not a case of toughening up.

Sure we will continually face disappointment and judgement, but that is very different to undermining individuals confidence, especially when it’s from the very people who should be giving you protection and encouragement.

Adland is at its best when it harvests diversity of opinion, backgrounds, experiences … when they have people who look at the World differently … but nowadays, everyone is trying to look and act like the clients they represent or – worse – punishing those who don’t fall into line with the company narrative.

The very existence of our job is to help companies have a role and position in culture.

To connect … entice … seduce … play with …

You don’t do that with people who look and act like their clients, you do that with people who can translate what clients need and express it in interesting and intriguing ways that culture will actually give a shit about.

Once upon a time I had a job that did this to me.

Of course, at the beginning everything was fine.

While there were the odd difference of opinion, I just put it down to that thing where every new job starts off with this balancing act between expressing who you are and learning how everyone else is. But quickly – and I mean within a few weeks – I started to sense this was something more than just teething problems, because it felt certain individuals were going out of their way to either stop me expressing any different point of view or just openly devaluing it to others.

What made it more confusing was generally, these people were being nice and smiley – possibly because they didn’t see or think what they were doing was causing any harm – but it was and I started reacting to it.

At first it was just asking them if there was anything wrong and if there was a better way for me to communicate my views. But after they said all was fine but their attitude towards me continued – I started to get a bit dogmatic.

No one wins when this happens … but then no one wins when someone feels this way because of others actions.

I should point out clients and colleagues seemed to be happy with my work, but certain bosses – regardless what I did – seemed to immediately sideline me and then position me as ‘the problem’, without ever telling me what the problem was.

The worst bit to all this was that I only mildly understood how damaging this was starting to have on my mental health over time.

I knew I was miserable – truly miserable – but the full impact of their subtle destruction only became clear much later when I realized I wasn’t the only person this was happening to and a few of us started to chat about it openly.

It was then that I knew I had to take action.

Again, I must say I am sure none of this was intentional – they too were going through personal and professional bad times – however it doesn’t lessen the fact it happened and while I could have made life much easier for myself if I just agreed with them 100% of the time, the reality was I was just trying to make things better and genuinely thought my experience or viewpoint was worth at least discussing rather than dismissing out of hand.

And while I tried to find ways to work better with them, their attitude towards me – and countless others – didn’t change and the effect it was having on me was getting much worse.

I questioned myself.

My abilities.

My hopes and dreams.

And what’s even more criminal is how it affected me outside of work.

I felt isolated and abused.

I became very argumentative.

I let people who cared for me feel left aside or behind.

I hate what these people did to me … because unintentional or not, they caused it.

While I’ll never know the real reasons for their attitude towards me, I have my thoughts …

Survival being one of them.

Survival in terms of salary. In terms of role. In terms of ego.

Where their insecurities – personal and professional – were able to be managed by undermining the confidence of those around them … the very people they were paid to nourish, grow and trust.

It’s almost the ultimate betrayal.

While this all happened a while ago, I still believe that if I’d stayed I would have suffered from clinical depression.

A depression that could have ended up breaking the things that I love.

Which is why I am so grateful I was able to get out and move on, while appreciating I was in a situation that meant I could do it relatively easily because I didn’t have to worry too much about family responsibilities, financial commitments or simply not having any other options available to me.

I still remember the shock I felt when – in my new job – I showed some work to my boss and they said it was great.

I asked them what they wanted me to change and they looked at me like I was a lunatic before saying, “you’re hired for your opinion not to repeat mine”.

It was at that moment I knew just how far those bastards had hurt me.

But now I am seeing many of my friends in a very similar situation.

Where they feel they are also being destroyed by managers who want to control them by undermining them.

Letting them feel they are failing so their bosses can appear strong. In charge. In control.

Going home crying … wondering who they are, what they do, what their worth is.

A sense of being trapped because they’re too worthless for someone else to want them.

It’s psychological abuse, pure and simple.

Thankfully not every company and not every manager is like this. In fact there are probably more good than bad – however given how many of my friends are going through a situation like this, I also know it’s not isolated incidents and I know it’s getting bigger.

Given how all these company mission statements say their staff are their most important asset, I find it disgraceful more and more people feel their employers are actively hurting them … where the only way to survive is to follow leaderships orders, whether they are in their best interests or not.

Of course the great irony is our industry in particular is built on those people who see the World differently.

Who challenge, provoke, explore and experiment … but as adland chases money – having sold the commercial value of creativity down the river long ago – we are increasingly regarding anyone or anything that gets in the way, as our enemy, ultimately speeding the pace of our demise.

Which says the leaders of the companies who are allowing this to happen, are basically only focused on their own future.

Where any member of staff left behind is simply regarded as collateral damage.

Labeled as not good enough.

Not strong enough.

Not adding enough value.

It’s wrong.

Worse than that, it’s an act of viciousness.

I know money is important.

I know business needs it to survive and it’s getting harder to get.

[And not just because there’s more options for clients than ever before]

But when many talented people are feeling broken and worthless by their bosses, maybe it’s time we all take a good look at how we’re operating and what we’re asking our people to do, because if our future is dependent on showing how we can do amazing things with creativity and smarts … we’re doing a great job of making sure that stops happening.

If anyone recognises themselves – or someone they care about – in this post and wants someone to talk to, please reach out. I can’t fix it for you but I can listen and I can encourage.



How America Changed Me For The Better …

While I wasn’t in America for long, 4 female, people of colour changed my life forever.

Given how old I am, that’s a pretty big statement and yet it is entirely true.

Mind you, it’s my age – or more specifically, the fact I’m at a level where I have some sort of influence in the industry – that is driving real change in terms of what I hold up as goals I want to hit in the time I have left in adland.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a ridiculous level of enthusiasm and excitement for helping make great creative work … and I still want to help my team create one of the most interesting planning departments in the industry [based on what we create and how we did it] but I also want to make time for what I passionately believe will help the industry be better … of which one of those things is driving diversity in leadership.

Look, I know I don’t take too many things seriously, but this podcast interview with an HR organisation [I know, HR, but it is part of Niko’s brilliant Gap Jumpers group!!!] is one of the proudest things I’ve ever done.

Not for what I say, but because who helped me think this way.

Of which those 4 female, people of colour in America that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, are some of the most important ones.

Which is why I hope all the women I refer to in the podcast feel I honour the generosity, compassion, friendship and trust they showed towards me, because I am forever grateful to them for who they helped me become.

You can listen to it here.



Why Facebook Are Acting More Like A Dictator Than A Friend …

Recently my wife found the following picture on her Facebook stream …

Because she’s hardass, she wanted to know what the hell the picture could be, so she clicked on it to discover it was this …

That’s right, a woman breastfeeding.

A woman giving life to a new life.

Literally one of the most wonderful things a mother can do for her child.

And Facebook thought it was potentially offensive.

I’ll tell you what I find offensive Facebook … you allowing a company to steal our data and then act slowly to stop it. Or how about allowing fake accounts to try and influence public opinion. Or then there’s letting groups who openly promote hate use your site to ‘rally members’.

I tell you what I don’t find offensive.

A picture of a woman feeding her child.

For all the talk you give about wanting to help society connect to each other and encourage a better life, I have to say you absolutely suck at it.

This was a chance for you to show what you stand for.

Take a stand for what is absolutely, unquestionably right.

But instead you bottled it – fearful of offending people who make a career out of being offended.

How you can be OK with issues of privacy but not about feeding a child is beyond me … which is why you might need to get out of your Silicon Valley bubble because your values are more in tune with Wall Street than the average High Street.



Majority Cruelty …

Given we’re are in throws of Christmas parties, I think this post is possibly very relevant.

A few weeks ago, I was at Liverpool Street Station when I saw this woman …

People were sniggering at her and I could tell she was getting upset so I went to her and said …

“Excuse me, I just want to say you look fantastic”.

Fortunately for me she didn’t call the police for breaking the cardinal London commuter rule of ‘DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS’, instead she said thank you and then explained she felt a bit silly dressed up for a Halloween party among all these business people.

I told her to ignore them because they were all dressed as depressing sheep to which she turned around, looked at a bunch of the people who had been looking at her and said – very loudly – “fucking sheep”.

While this may be one of the proudest moments of my life, it quickly turned into feeling slightly unnerved given I then got on the same train as the people she insulted whereas she went somewhere else.

But the thing is the way people were looking and acting towards her was horrific.

These weren’t drunken, young idiots, they were sober, middle and elderly business people … and yet they ganged up on her for their own amusement because she was dressed differently to them.

For someone to do that – even if they’re going to a party – is a big deal.

It is an act that makes them very vulnerable … they’re literally letting their day-to-day guard down and exposing themselves to the mercy of the mainstream so the last thing they need are a bunch of the majority showing no respect – or worse – downright distain at them.

We talk about wanting to encourage creativity and openness in the World, but we suck at it.

Whether it’s being part of at a creative review or watching someone dressed for Halloween … we need to start by accepting what they’re bringing to the table is very personal and showing it to others for their judgement makes them very vulnerable so whether we like what they’ve done or not, we should never just dismiss it just because it doesn’t suit our tastes.

Openness means being open to possibilities, not negatively judging with a smile on your face … so I hope Ms Colourfuljoyness went on to have an amazing night and may she wear whatever the fuck she likes going forwards.



The Law Might Be An Ass, But It’s Better Than Being An Asshole …

I grew up in a family of lawyers.

Ethics.

Criminal law.

From defending Ozzy Osbourne to prosecuting members of the mafia, my childhood was surrounded by legal cases.

As the years passed, my father got a bit despondent about law.

He always felt it was about a quest for truth and justice – regardless of personal situation or circumstance – but saw how it was quickly becoming about cash.

Instead of solving issues, law firms seemed to be focused on keeping the problems alive as that ensured their high fees kept flowing in.

This might explain why there are now more lawyers than Police officers in NYC.

It’s a highly profitable business.

That said, I always loved the law and considered a career in it … until I realised I didn’t have the patience – or brains – to succeed.

Getting 2% in a maths exam pretty much confirmed that to me.

However, my upbringing had a huge effect on me in terms of right and wrong and that’s why the situation I’m seeing happening in adland in conflicting me.

On one hand I’m incredibly happy the predators are being identified, outed and held to task.

But I’m also conscious the way some companies/people/organisations are approaching the situation seems to be with one eye on how they look to the broader audience than being caring and compassionate to the victims who have been subjected to the abuse for so long.

It also bothers me when responsibility seems to stop at the abuser, not the people who enabled that abuse to continue.

Sure, sometimes the senior figures may have been in the dark, but it appears that is more the exception than the rule.

Look, if a company tells someone to leave, there’s obviously a reason for it.

But I must admit I’m finding it rather strange to see how some companies are publicly announcing they’ve let someone go – and specifically naming the individual – but using some ambiguous wording as to the reason why.

Maybe they are trying to offer some final professional respect to the person they’ve just let go, but if that’s the case, why name them at all given they must know the industry will automatically assume it was for some sort of sexual misconduct.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we should feel sorry for anyone that has been dismissed for proven, serious wrong-doing, but I do think we need to ensure this situation is handled openly and transparently rather than trying to get some sort of popularity out of it.

And that’s why I’m conflicted, because criminal law is based on 2 principals.

The accuser is presumed to be telling the truth.

The accused is presumed to be innocent.

That’s why it’s so important to not taint the evidence – to ensure each element is given their own space and time to be explored – and while that fragile balance can, and has, been susceptible to manipulation and wrong-doing, it’s important it’s maintained so the victims can be helped and the wrongdoers can be held-to-task accordingly and appropriately.

As I said, I’m so happy to see the wave of change that is sweeping through society and giving a voice to those who have previously been silenced, but I do worry about some of the tactics being embraced by certain organisations because, ironically, they could give the guilty more ability to claim unfair treatment than they ever deserve and potentially get them out of properly paying for their misdeeds.

It’s why I love the #TimesUp movement as it’s designed to give financial and legal equality in the quest for truth.

By removing the advantage many have used to hide their crimes, we have a chance for lasting change. It’s not perfect but it’s better than throwing stones, even if you believe they are justified.

I think my Dad – and family – would be happy to see this.

Hell, they’d probably be passionately behind it.

I know I am.