Today I feel compelled to write about narcissistic, bullying and predatory behaviour, in light of the recent allegations regarding Harvey Weinstein.
The stories from many famous faces have brought back so many memories that I had all but buried in my past, locked away and repressed with hopes of never opening again. And yet here we are. With these once forgotten thoughts at the forefront of my mind I feel compelled to share. I like many have been the victim of bullying and predatory advances.
Experiences that made me question my own actions, my own self-worth and made me freeze with fear wanting to escape.
Bullying and predatory behaviour are never okay, in any situation and perpetrated against any victim. Whether it’s children, women or men. It is never okay and the victims are not always the ones we imagine.
This behaviour is not limited to Film and Television. The malignancy of bullying and predatory behaviour spans across all industries.
It is systemic in nature and unless we address the real reasons behind it, nothing will change. Harvey Weinstein is not the exception; he is the tip of the iceberg and 2017’s unwilling poster child of a cultural issue that we need to face together.
In the case of Harvey Weinstein, the bandwagon is full, with a few of the passengers condemning him in the hope it deflects from their own behaviour. Or their ability to be complicit as a bystander, who remained silent until now.
The bystanders share the same fear that the victims felt in coming forward “If I say something I might never work again” this thinking is almost a reflective response in our culture of getting ahead, but if you stand silently and say nothing, does this not make you as bad as the perpetrator?
”Those who do nothing while witnessing injustice and wrong-doing do worse than those who commit acts of injustice. The privileged have a responsibility to do what they know is right.” –Martin Luther King Jr
I sit here contemplating if this teaches us something about human nature, about courage and who possess it and who does not. The truth is we can all muster up the courage. Fight or Flight is our natural response. Biological, sociological, psychological or environmental, we have ingrained ways of responding. We need to fight for justice and sometimes that means fighting against our own natural instincts or risking our careers or reputations.
You see bullies, predators, narcissists; psychopaths Etc.; all look for people who are weaker than them, children, young men and women just starting out in life are easy prey.
At my first job with a major bank I encountered an unsolicited advance from a senior manager in his early thirties who had the reputation of cornering young women. Using his stature he stood over me arms on the walls so I had nowhere to go other than duck under and run, which I did. When I mentioned this to my colleagues they said just stay away from him. Sometime after this experience, I heard he was caught in the bank vault in a compromising position with a female staff member, she was sacked on the spot and he kept his job.
When I was leaving the bank HR wanted to know why I was going, so I sent them an email providing the examples of what had happened. It was only when they read the email that they followed up and said they could have helped me. I was very young and it was my first job, the fear I felt was immeasurable, but I was so incensed by everyone openly knowing this and doing nothing about it that I got another job.
Many years after, I encountered one of the most narcissistic male bosses I have ever had. He started harassing me the minute he joined the company. When I was on an incentive work trip, he emailed the VP who was also on the trip, to say he was concerned I wasn’t focussed on the business as I was not responding to emails; even though we were all together undertaking activities. In any case it caused doubt in the VP’s mind. The VP approached me about my bosses “concerns” on the bus while we were on our way to a group activity, this caused such anxiety that I could barely focus on my trip.
On the outside everything looked fine but on the inside I was in turmoil. On another occasion he called me at midnight to berate me about me not being respectful at a company dinner, with which I responded to by asking for an example as I had no clue what he was talking about. He started shouting at me on the phone. He insisted that I not attend a meeting that I was scheduled to fly out for in six hours.
It was always behind closed doors that his true colours came out, where he was safe to be his true self and I was anything but.
He would close the office door and start to berate me when no one could hear, his eyes would change colour he would say things like “I bet you have a great sex life because you are blonde and fair”. The list goes on, he used every tactic of manipulation in the book to make me feel small and powerless, to push me out the door of a job that I was excelling in, the worst part of it is that I did tell a colleague but he distanced himself from me and said he wanted nothing to do with it as he needed his job and didn’t want to risk it. He needed his job like the rest of us; to get ahead.
I felt alone, anxious and thought that somehow that I had brought this upon myself.
His manipulation, harassment and bullying became too much, it was affecting my mental health. I cried at the thought of going to work and a job that I had once loved became my worst nightmare, because he was there. The trauma came out physically and emotionally, the anxiety led to panic attacks and tingles to the point where I couldn’t feel my hands and my relationships suffered as I grappled with this very real demon.
I left; I left the job that showed promise of climbing the corporate ladder. I left for many reasons, I was tired of feeling alone and unsupported, I was tired of feeling afraid and anxious, simply, I was tired.
Because bullies, predators, narcissists; psychopaths wear you down and isolate you until they get what they want from you. In this case it was me leaving so he was another step closer to getting ahead or getting a new plaything to manipulate and bully.
On reflection I know that it was not my fault. It was unfortunate that we had such a small team, after I resigned a few female colleagues from our team started to reach out and say they had felt uncomfortable with him. Of course it was too late by then, the damage was done.
The only way to deal with a narcissistic boss is to leave, which is exactly what I did. I reported him to HR and they were very kind towards me, but ultimately as in so many cases like this it’s the victim who goes and not the perpetrator.
Many years have passed and I have learned so much from these experiences which is why I say stand up and be counted, muster the courage. We can’t all get caught up in our careers and desire to get ahead, because in that we leave each other behind.
We can all do better and be better. For those who are too young, incapacitated or fearful we have an obligation to protect them and stand up on their behalf. If you see something report it, if you feel uncomfortable about bad behaviour say something. Use your voice, speak up and ask for help. It is when we collectively stand up for ourselves and each other that we can address these insidious behaviours and create a culture where we are safe in our workplaces and feel supported to stand up for what is right.
#USEYOURVOICE #SPEAKUP #ASKFORHELP #METOO