If we condone bullying behaviour, what does that make us? Matt Storey, partner at The White Storey, talks honourable behaviour and integrity.

 

How many times in your working life have you wanted to tell someone to go f*** themselves? We’ve all been there – experiencing every sinew and neurone screaming at us to take a stand. And yet we’ve stopped ourselves. Just in time.

For seemingly sound reasons: a continuing pay-check; an uninterrupted client contract; the prospect of promotion. Repeatedly, we grit our teeth.

But after years of taking as gospel the advice not to burn my bridges, I’ve come to believe the price of prudence isn’t always worth paying. Sometimes speaking out is the healthiest thing you can do. There are people trapped in fear all over the place, while unscrupulous bullies take what they want. Because they believe they can.

This occurs at all levels of corporate hierarchy. Years ago, working as a supplier to a £100,000 pa client, it became clear that the owners were preparing to sell the business. A hatchet man was employed to cut costs and maximise income.

Predictably, suppliers were being squeezed to the bone, but that was just the start. Thumbscrews were being applied throughout the business that included ousting some of the original senior executives. I always remember one little Hitler publicly belittling a director, who happened to be a good friend as well as one of our original client contacts.

When our own chairman heard about this, he unleashed some choice invective and told me to email everyone I knew in the client company (in order to avoid any spin) telling them we’d service all the existing business on our system but would not be accepting any future work from them.

The image of my finger hovering above the mouse and the subsequent wince as I pressed “send” has stayed with me to this day. The response was swift and explosive. And, needless to say, we never worked for them again. But we didn’t regret it. Other companies congratulated us for taking a stand and we did, in later years, work again for our client contact.

So yes, the consequences of speaking our truth are that we may one day face the choice of having to grovel or lose a contract. Or miss out on a new job, when we discover the gatekeeper is someone we insulted in the past.

It’s probably a by-product of getting older, but I’ve reached the point in life where I’ve seen it all before and I’m not prepared to sacrifice my own integrity to fuel someone else’s greed or ego.

Once I fired someone and refused to give them a reference. Why would I say their time with us had been a positive experience, when they’d been a cheating scumbag?  I’ve also left companies where I believed that wrong was being done. Whether it’s to individuals or to businesses, we should all behave honourably.

You get more satisfaction from telling the truth because you simply don’t care about those people walking around on the planet who don’t like you. Frankly, you wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

Which is not to say it’s a decision to take lightly. The events industry is a village. Stay in it long enough and you’ll have crossed paths with, worked with or sat on a committee with an awful lot of its inhabitants. And your reputation may well reach the few you haven’t directly touched, so think about what you want to be known for.

But if we condone cheating or bullying corporate behaviours, what does that make us?

Go on: Burn a bridge – I dare you!