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Episode 071 – Let’s tackle corporate bullying, how it shows up, manipulative techniques used on you, compromising your values, standing firm in what you believe and more

In this episode, Dr Ro and Harminder talk about a heavy subject – corporate bullying. Which takes place at various levels of extremity, in organisations everywhere. Unfortunately, companies advertise a healthy vision and culture. But the polar opposite is true behind closed doors. This shows up through corporate pressure, emotional blackmail, manipulative techniques – used to get you to do something you are uncomfortable with.

That feeling of uncomfortableness can be attributed to you being asked to do something which is in misalignment with your core values. Your core values are the internal compass for how you show up in the world.

In this episode Dr Ro and Harminder explore:

  • How does corporate bullying show up
  • Techniques used to get people to do things they are not comfortable with
  • Becoming aware of your internal value system
  • Being in a position where you have to compromise your values
  • What do you do if you are in a corporate bullying situation

And more in-between. 

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Episode Transcribe

Harms: Hello it’s Harms here and welcome to another episode of the Seekardo show and today I want to talk about something which may make many people feel uncomfortable. 

Partly because you may feel like there’s just been a realisation that actually what we’re about to discuss exactly happened to me. I did not realise it was happening, or you may feel uncomfortable because you are going through this right now and you know you’re going through it but you don’t know how to get out of the scenario. 

This can be hard to define but let me put a label on it and then we will discuss the space of corporate pressure and corporate bullying and how this plays out in someone’s life and what you can do about it.

Dr Ro: We can talk about global bullying, i.e. countries that are bullying other countries, we’re seeing this whole rising awareness of what’s going on a global level. 

People might argue it is not bullying, we’re talking about a situation where you might be in a work environment or you might be in a business where somebody is manipulating, using emotional blackmail possibly emotional leverage, repositioning you to feel guilty about something because you haven’t performed, acted or taking a position maybe on the side of another member of your staff and you’re taking a position to such a point where it conflicts or it is not in alignment with management or the leadership of that company.

So this creates a divide. 

It creates a feeling of pressure and the bullying comes in when the people at leadership start to use techniques to manipulate you to make decisions or say things behind your back that offend you, but you only find out about it because you heard it through somebody else and actually you weren’t there to defend yourself and it put you in a bad light. 

We see bullying in schools amongst adults physically but we’re talking more about here, positioning verbal bullying and making people feel belittled because someone at a senior level is saying things manipulating another member of staff or somebody within the team. It is very broad, but at the same time goes on all the time in companies across the globe.


Harms: Another way to think about this is has anybody asked you to do something at work has your manager asked you to do something which makes you feel uncomfortable. 

You don’t quite know why you feel uncomfortable but you get this feeling inside you, which is like that doesn’t feel quite right. Your initial reaction. 

I think that’s another way in terms of how your personal radar will alert you that something happening right now isn’t right.

Dr Ro: That is your values, your core values and your body saying this does not feel right and initially it’s a little bit of tweak, discomfort. It’s a feeling of you don’t want to be in the same space as that person.

I’ve even had occasions in the last year where certain people are trying to get hold of me, but they are going to have a conversation with me I know completely misaligns with my values and I’m not in the head space to have a conversation because if I do I might kick off. Here’s a classic example, let’s say a board of directors of the company and a subject that actually needs to be discussed amongst the whole board, but a member of that board decides they’d like to talk to you. 

Maybe you’re somebody at management level and you want to bring this up, its headed off at the pass. You bring it into the room because the person that you are dealing with wants to talk to you privately and by having a private conversation they can quash that conversation. 

They can stop it from coming up at a higher level, so you never get to express your concerns and that goes against your core values of integrity and honesty of transparency. If you start to feel that you’ll get this sick feeling in the stomach, the more it happens and this is just one example, but the more it happens in a work environment or a business environment the more you start to feel conflicted. I think you raise a good point Harms, this is really actually about core basic human values. 

The point being that if you’ve got a set of core values and you find more and more at work you’re feeling uncomfortable chances are that you’re having to step back and almost compromise those values whilst you’re in that corporate space because someone else is controlling or dominating you and it will fuck you up, it will affect your psychic, it will bring home into your family to your relationships and at some point you will have a meltdown.

Harms: One of the things that’s just jumped out there is one example is feeling like you’re silent. 

Imagine going to work, you’re muted, you are not allowed to speak as there may be kickbacks.

Dr Ro: Cancelled is another culture.

Harms: Being cancelled is the word on people’s lips at the moment, which is if you say what you feel what you believe you will feel like you’re cancelled. 

This can happen in the corporate or workspace in the sense that you will be belittled or that doesn’t matter. These little phrases that show up in conversation, that’s not important or we’re too busy to think about that idea. 

All these small phrases show up in that dialogue and it continues to make you feel cancelled, muted in that particular scenario. 

By painting a picture for someone who maybe feels like they’re in the scenario and they’ve got a conflict of values with their boss or their workplace, how does this show up? In your workplace, you could say the reason I work here and I’m connected to this workplace is they align with value one, value two and three. 

The employer may have those written statements, their values written on walls.

Dr Ro: There are some corporations that have vision statements but hide behind the statements, but that’s not how they operate. What it says on the tin is not what’s in the tin.

Harms: Another example is you’ve got the tin. 

It’s really fantastic, marketed and branded and you open the tin and the food has gone off. 

This is interesting because when somebody goes into the workplace what they’re seeing are these slogans, vision statements but now they’re noticing the actions taking place and they’re feeling more and more and more comfortable. 

What does somebody do when they notice that now they’ve got a clash of values and bear in mind there could be a group of values. 

Not everything is driven by one value.

Dr Ro: It’s a difficult decision to make for any human being because there may be one value you really believe in and it happens to be a value the company operates off at an operational level. 

Serving the customers, producing an amazing product that’s healthy and you love it, you take it yourself. 

You are almost part of that product so you are consumed by that and on an operational day-to-day basis you love it. You could be in a bubble like that, but the problem is if you have any link with a higher level in the company and you start to see cracks or you start to get concerned that maybe they’re not completely aligned with what you thought and that’s the challenge.

Harms: I’ve experienced this myself and there’s a point where you’ve got to ask yourself the question, is it enough to stay here for this set of values knowing that there is another set of values by which the company is operating that overarching is actually not better.

Sometimes what happens we will be aligned with some values but not others, and we can live for a while like that, but there’s a point when you have to decide what you’re prepared to stand up for. 

Dr Ro:It could last for a long time where somebody feels like their basic values are being met, but the rot cancer is growing and there’s a turning point where enough is enough.

Harms: When I was in the workplace as part of my role I had to renegotiate the working roster of about 45 staff members. I had been a staff member, so I know when it comes to working certain rosters what they wanted to do was convert a 12 hour roster into an eight hour roster. 

What that means is on a 12 hour roster you work four days on and you get four days off. 

You’ve got this kind of intense work and then you get some good rest bearing in mind night shift workers and what the company wanted to do was have more people at work more often and remove this four-day break right and for those listening if you’re on the worker side, you can immediately start to see the problem. 

But if you’re stuck in the middle here and your values are aligned with reality, I want my guys to have good rest and for mental health for human spirit and their way to get some rest and time with the family because I’ve seen divorces on the railway.

I’ve seen people not see their kids because of the way they work and get overtime et cetera . They wanted us to shift to a roster where they work every single day and maybe get a day here off and that’s known as an eight hour roster.

 After like five weeks you get three or four days off as a batch so you feel as a worker you’re constantly at work, there is no real break and that’s an example of I’m in the middle here.

I’m thinking I’ve been in that scenario. How does that really give them proper rest? Whereas financially it’s better for the business to have them on an eight hour roster.

Dr Ro: It kind of goes in stages, you get the feeling first I’m kind of uncomfortable and you can sit on that for a while then you go, I’m hearing more people on one side getting uncomfortable and now it’s magnifying my feeling of the value that I’ve got that’s out of alignment. 

So then you move to the other side in this case yours and you have a conversation with senior management or the board of directors and they’re going to voice their opinion, which is a polar opposite to what’s happening with the workforce and this is what’s happening on social media in the last couple of years. 

The challenge you’ve got now is the more polar those two conversations happen, the more challenging it is for your values because now you are being torn between these two extremes and that’s when the person in the middle gets really conflicted and they can have their own mental health issues. 

You have to decide which side of that fence you fall. I don’t know if you had to go that way Harms, but sitting in the middle is the hardest thing to do.

Harms: It never got resolved in the time I was there. 

Some of you might know my journey. There was a point where I actually left the company and I created financial independence through property, and online businesses, so I don’t know what happened as a resolution. 

What I do know is this went on for like two years, this conversation and part of that if anybody was actually observing the values they could have seen that me and a couple others were in the middle here and we weren’t aligned with what was the outcome

So here I am having both conversations constantly negotiating but actually I’m not in alignment with the workers principles and not 100% in alignment with the employer.

In the scenario if I had been somebody in the middle who was one way or the other we would’ve got to a resolution. 

That’s an example of where I am being everybody in the scenario going through emotional turmoil for two years thinking they’re working and their lifestyle will completely change and it just doesn’t get resolved.

Dr Ro: The concept of bullying in my mind is where the people on one side and I’m going  to the side of the senior management, senior leadership where they start to manipulate you. 

An individual who they know has influence has connection with other people within the organisation, who has a strong set of core values and they start to bring to bring to bear on you maybe deadlines, pressure, if you don’t do this, then this will happen and they’ll put the consequences of the company’s profit possibly they’ll say to you, the customers are going to suffer if you make these decisions and I’m sorry but in my mind the decisions aren’t down to you as an individual it’s a company and the way they’re operating ultimately affects the customer. 

The bullying comes in when certain people who have got their own agendas will use their own values to manipulate you by using your own personal set of values and saying if you don’t do this, and the consequences are always a conflict to your values. 

So you stay doing what you’re doing and I know that as I’ve experienced it myself.

Harms: What you just described there all of those things happened, so in those two years all of that happened right down to Harms you’ve got to get this person on side and tell them this. 

They would never personally have that conversation.

Dr Ro: There are certain people I bet that never showed up at a senior level. 

Directors of a company do not have their camera on in a board meeting they’re not even prepared to face the conversation and have a true, open, honest, transparent conversation because they’re afraid. 

They know there’s a conflict and they don’t want to have the honest conversation they want to avoid it.

Harms: Or they’re more than happy for someone else to have the conversation. 

Let’s say for example Ro and I take a health product that can be a protein shake that could be greens, it can be a certain supplement. Let’s say the company advertises we are the best in the market and we use the best ingredients.

Here’s another conflict which I think a lot of employees are facing where companies are having to cut costs. Say for example, the company starts to tweak that ingredient in our product as it’s going to make a small profit. 

Okay, we let one pass.

Six months down the line we want more profit we’re going to let another ingredient pass and here I am as an employee thinking I’m representing the best product in the market but yet what they’re doing is they’re swapping out the best ingredients for something cheaper. 

But what the company will do is they will use a scenario like we’ve got issues because of Covid so they mask it with a falsehood or something which is kind of twisting the truth in order to get the outcome they want. You’re thinking, can I really as a person say don’t use Covid as an excuse? 

How will that make me look in the workplace? 

But when really the scenario is somebody wants more profit at the sacrifice of a good quality product.

Dr Ro: You’re at that point where it’s really starting to go from I don’t like this to it’s really uncomfortable and you don’t bring it up and at the same time that happens they say you’ll get a pay rise next month. 

Suddenly you’ve got a value of security and protecting family on one side, you’ve got a product over here being compromised and the conversations around the meetings are making you feel more comfortable because it’s moving away from what you originally planned, but right now you’re not in an environment where you can get another job because maybe for whatever reason, it’s not possible and this is ongoing for so many people. 

They are not living completely in alignment with their values. 

The message is first of all be aware of it. Don’t beat yourself up, be really clear on what it is and start to look around and look for the signs, look for the signs of people’s conversations being misaligned with you. 

People not being prepared to either compromise or take your perspective and see if they’re prepared to maybe adjust what they’re doing to make sure that they’re still aligned with the original intention of all those things. 

A classic example of this would be Dave Chappelle he walked away from a $50 million contract, the Chappelle show had got so successful that they were offering a huge amount of money to him and if you listen to recent years of interviews with him where he’s more candid about it he talked about the fact he had more meetings and they were trying to control or limit his style of presentation, you can’t do this. 

You can’t say that and by the way with this money it’s going to be more corporate, taking out the whole day Chappelle-type theme and he felt like he lost his creativity, but also didn’t like the corporate manipulation that was going on. 

He walked away from a $50 million contract. 

It was just like a complete shock to the whole industry, that is a classic example of somebody reaching a point where their values are so misaligned they go I’m going to stand up for what I believe in. 

That’s the hardest thing to do if you’re in that space is to actually stand for what you believe in and say this is not right. By doing it you choose a side.

Harms: This is the challenge when you start to have an open dialogue and say hey guys, I feel like something’s not right here, there is a misalignment.

Dr Ro: Lots of values being put aside for the purpose of another agenda, potentially,

Harms: When you get to that conversation and you have that open dialogue, one of the challenges everybody’s going to have to face and make their own personal decision about, is they will offer you some form of incentive to stay quiet and carry on.

Dr Ro: It doesn’t have to be a financial incentive, it could be something else like you’re going to be promoted. It happened to me years ago when I was employed and I wanted to leave the company as I was feeling frustrated, there were things I didn’t align with and the first thing two directors pulled me in for an exit interview saying, we want you to be a director of this company you should really just stop for a minute and review what you’re doing. 

I was absolutely adamant that it was not what I wanted and for some reason people think that you will back down and if it is a core value you can’t afford to do that because the minute you back down you compromise your values. 

You also send a message to other people around you. 

If you’re feeling frustrated then ask yourself the question at the moment, what am I feeling most disconnected from? Is it to do with the people I’m working with? 

Is it to do with the money they’re making and how far can I carry on doing this before enough is enough? You’ve then got to decide maybe you need to nip it in the bud now as it just creates a rot in your stomach on a daily basis.

Harms: This happens very much on a professional level which is work the extra hours, you’ll get that promotion. 

But by working the extra hours you’re at conflict with your values because you’re not spending time with your family.

Dr Ro: But part of the argument at home is I’m doing these hours to get a better pay rise and then we can go on holiday and I can spend more time with you. 

We then start to tell a story to the people we care about who we want to spend time with on the basis that when we go back to work we’re convincing ourselves that is the answer. 

So we are actually so far down the rabbit hole we haven’t come back out the whole way to look around the landscape and the world and say actually have I gone down the right whole here?

Harms: The second stage is to have that conversation. 

Once you’ve realised the dialogue as there could be a to-and-fro and you can get the other person’s perspective and understand there’s a true intention as to why they’ve had to shift or bend or alter some of the values and then you can make a newer or fresher decision.

Dr Ro: Also a sense check is to find people around you that you trust enough to say, have you noticed this? 

Just a general, middle conversation to get a sense of how people are feeling. And then you speak to somebody else and this happened to me where I discovered so many people were feeling the same thing. It’s just that everyone was doing the same thing, just muting it. 

People play safe and particular at times financially when things aren’t easy it’s better, sometimes just to keep your head down and hope quote on quote that it will go away.

Harms: Here’s an example of how a sense check has worked on a mass scale, I don’t know the name but the gentleman who championed the documentary social dilemma, so he was working in one of the big social media tech companies and he noticed that the boundary of ethics was pushed right to the limit. 

What the products were doing was triggering an addiction in people, this kind of need to stay hooked on your phone and keep scrolling.

Dr Ro: So articulate, courageous classic example.

Harms: What he did was he put out a presentation on ethics and said we’ve got a problem and a load of people resonated with it but the challenge he had was he got to the executive level and they basically said yes, this is a nice project there was no actual change. 

So he had to make a decision. 

Lip service so that’s a classic example of somebody we will help you with that set of values, let’s keep them quiet is nut nothing is physically done. You’ve got to dig deep and decide what is the decision you’re going to make? 

In Triston Harrison’s case he said I’m stepping out and I’m going to take this message global because that’s the way I can make change based on how I’m feeling. 

Another good example is Naomi Osaka, who quit at one of the highest levels four-time grand Slam tournament winner, she suffered mental health challenges because of the pressure around the sport so she’s stepping down.

In your time were you seeing these people or examples like this play out to inspire people who are in the regular work job?

Dr Ro: I think one of the reasons is that information travels so quickly today and it’s presented in an instant and the moment it happens, it just goes big.

We’ve got the likes of Joe Rogan who we actually follow him and in recent months as you know, there’s been conversations about he should step down because he is interviewing certain people but he is actually just asking questions and he’s following a set of values and he’s prepared to express himself in a certain way and bring people in and he is standing up for what he believes in. 

When I grew up when that happened, typically it was suppressed because you didn’t have instant information like that. 

It might find its way to the newspapers, but depending on how the media wanted that information to get across to us was what I noticed when I was younger it would never be frontline it would be like page X. 

Whereas now you’ve got polarity coming through social media you’ve got both extremes talking about the same subject.

Harms: The reason we’re not talking about big names such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King is because this is the corporate space.

Dr Ro: Nelson Mandela was when I was at university in the 80s that was a big one, the Berlin Wall coming down, big statements made by groups of people, but actually it’s true to say from my experience that going back down to a corporate level, it didn’t find its way to the surface. 

The Facebook conversation where suddenly the Senate are doing interviews with Zuckerberg that stuff just never seemed to surface, not in the same way that we see today. 

You’ve got to go back to your core values and ask yourself what you stand for. 

What I found in being in the space a few times over the years is that when you do stand up for something it’s quite amazing how many people align with you that you haven’t really realised and that’s because often we are in a space doing things and by default we tend to create our own universe of little planets around us and they’re people. 

The reason they’re floating around us and we’re floating around them is because they have a centre of gravity which is a set of values that we are pulled to a and we have a centre of gravity which is our values and they’re pulled to, and you might not see them very often but actually when it comes to pressure, that centre of gravity becomes one huge concentrated energy because everyone has pulled together to say this is what we believe in. 

That gravity magnifies sometimes it’s unspoken words, it’s just who you spend time around that are aligned with you. 

It shows under pressure when you stand up and go. This is my centre of gravity. This is what I believe in. 

Awareness is the first step to change.

Harms: That’s myself and Ro signing off. We shall see you on the next episode.

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