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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Prepare For Change …

So as you read this, I’ll be on a plane to NY.

Which means there’ll be no blog posts for a whole week.

Better yet, when I’m back, there’ll only be some rubbish for a few days because I’ll be going back to America for 10 days.

Seriously, I don’t know why I moved given I’m spending so much time there.

Oh hang on, yes I do …

Anyway, while I’m gone I hope to set up my response to the post I wrote regarding the systematic destruction of employee confidence and optimism by bad managers.

As I mentioned a while back, when I wrote that post, someone wrote to me asking if it was about them.

I told them that if they feel guilt, then maybe they need to take a look at how they conduct themselves because I mentioned no names or places in my post.

Which led to the idea of setting up a blog of corporate gaslighting.

I would love to fill it with anonymous stories of systematic corporate abuse so that anyone who goes there and thinks a story is specifically about their actions, they will be forced to look at their attitude and behaviours and hopefully change them.

As much as I was tempted to name names and destroy careers, the reality is that would just make me as bad as them.

I know that sometimes good people do bad things – often influenced by issues going on in their life we have no knowledge of – which is why my hope is that if they go to this site and recognize some of the behaviors that are being described, it might help jolt them back into the right frame of mind and actively work on changing their approach to their role.

And if it doesn’t?

Well then they’re not a good person and they deserve all they get … which, I hope, will happen more because this site will give the people subjected to this abuse the confidence and reassurance they’re not alone and can take a stand against it, with our backing.

Ultimately, I just want to try and change a situation that is happening much more than people seem to think. Part of this is because the people who subject others to this abuse, make them feel so worthless, they believe it’s all their fault and so reporting it would ultimiately be like advertising their own inadequacies.

Being told you’re wrong is fine when it’s done by people that you feel genuinely care about your improvement. But being told you’re wrong by people who are doing it to protect or further themselves – especially at the expense of someone elses self belief – is abuse, pure and simple.

I recently registered the domain for the website …TheyTriedToKillMeButI.Live

I hope people will help me populate the site and spread the word.

See you in a week.



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.



Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You …

So this post is about Queen.

The band, not her royal highness.

Do I need to call the Samaritans for you now?

Anyway, as many of you know I’m doing a weird, long-term, creative project with a famous Rock band.

As part of that, their management connect me to all manner of weird and wonderful people and recently, they arranged for me to talk to someone who knew Freddie Mercury.

I should point out, him knowing Freddie was not the reason they connected us up, but it soon became the reason for me.

I couldn’t let such an opportunity pass and so after our chat about the task in hand, I told him I was a huge Queen fan and that I’d heard he was a long-time friend of Mr Mercury.

I was over-the-moon when he started telling me some personal anecdotes about Freddie, but there was one thing he mentioned that particularly grabbed my attention.

According to him, part of Freddie’s brilliance was that he was a ‘high class problem’.

He used those exact words.

What he meant by that was Freddie would never allow his issues or ideas to be ignored or fobbed off – by band, management or record company – because they knew if he had a problem, he would not let it pass until it was discussed or dealt with.

The reason I found this fascinating is that we now live in a time where more and more companies value ‘colleague complicity’ above all else. Where anyone who has a different opinion – especially a different opinion to management – is seen as the enemy, even tough in many cases, the motivation behind the challenge is simply a desire to have a better understanding of the viewpoint or wish to help the company achieve at a higher level.

With that in mind, I think it should be the goal of everyone to be a high class problem. It might be hard, it might be met with resistance – but if you are doing it for the right reasons, it’s the right thing to do however, as Mr Mercury’s friend told me, you better have earned the right to be that way or you end up simply being a “dickhead diva“.



When Meetings End Up Feeling Like This …

We have all had bad pitch meetings.

When things don’t just go wrong, but go terribly.

Politics.

Bad attitudes.

Going on too long.

Terrible work.

Great work they think is terrible.

Stand-up rows.

Professional fails.

Arrogance and abuse.

Lack of response.

Stupidity.

But the next time it happens – however angry, sad, pissed off it may makes you feel – look at this video and remember, it could have been so much worse. It could be Kylie bad.

You’re welcome.



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.



We Are All The Same Even If We Are Different …

I have written a lot about how we are bringing up Otis.

What we want for him, what we want him to value.

I have also written about the education we want for him.

A none-religious, state school that celebrates creativity as much as the more traditional academic pursuits.

Sadly I know there are many people out there who think we are mad for the choices we make, but as I have also written, my advice to them is to look after their own kids upbringing and leave ours to us.

That said, following these ideals is not easy.

Apart from the simple issue of access, the reality is most schools and kids companies focus on structure, stereotypes and grades because that is what most parents – and Governments – seem to value most of all, so for us to go outside of that takes effort and commitment.

None of this means we don’t want Otis to have a quality education – of course we do – it’s just that when it comes to what we think ‘education’ means, we see it going beyond the importance of reading, writing and maths.

We want his school to help him develop a love of learning.

Give him the ability to practice critical thinking.

An openness and comfort to express himself openly and creatively.

But there’s something more – something we feel very strongly about – which in part is one of the reasons we’re against religious and private schools.

You see we want him to learn that stereotypes limit, control and create prejudice.

That just because you’re a different gender or come from a different heritage or have a different sexual preference doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to – or achieve the same level as – anyone else.

And while it’s a small thing in the big scheme of things, it is the reason why I love that Otis’ school had a black Santa visit them last Christmas.

Of course Otis didn’t care, comment or even probably notice … but for the other little kids who come from different backgrounds, they saw a face that could give them comfort, confidence and courage about who they are, where they come from and what they can achieve and who wouldn’t want a school that teaches kids – all kids – that.

Education is so much more than just grades and while this is not all of the schools responsibility, it is part of their responsibility.