I had always been told by my mom growing up that you're just a number to your company. Just get the job done. You're replaceable. If you want to stir up drama they'll have you replaced before you're even fired.
I was shocked. I couldn't believe people got away with being bullies or stealing ideas in the workforce. I never understood why she always stood back and allowed certain things in the workplace to go unreported but would come home and vent for hours about. Someone has to care right!?
It boggled my mind. How could adults be so obtuse? In my defense, I wasn't the average kid who just went with the status quo... I punched a boy square in the nose for pushing down my little sister and not apologizing. I beat the snot out of a boy who had been bullying me and others mercilessly in the first grade after the teachers did nothing to stop it. In high school, I stood up for the smaller kids and challenged bullies to fight me instead.
I never allowed physical fear of harm to rule my life as long as I knew in my heart I was doing the right thing.
My integrity and morals mean more to me than any amount of money and I stand by what is right even at the risk of losing my own job and being labeled "difficult."
The start of my first real job and professional career ended very abruptly and nastily while employed at a Yoga Studio. We had strict rules not to allow clients to join classes after being more than 20 minutes late, a rule requested by instructors who were sick of the interruptions and the danger it posed for people not properly warmed up.
I tried to enforce this rule with a client, resulting in her screaming profanities at me and asking, "Do you know who I am!" Then threatening to call the owner of the studio and have me fired. I laughed and dared her to do so as it was the owner who made a big stink to us at the front desk for not being stricter with clients.
Much to my surprise, the owner took her side, even defending her berating me, and slinging profanities. The owner said I was being difficult and irrational and attempted to make the comparison that the client reminded me of my mother, which at the time had been estranged for years and was a very painful topic. I was disgusted at her audacity to try and turn this on me. I immediately cut her off, stood my ground, defending my stance, and quit on the spot stating I could not work for someone who was willing to not only make exceptions for but defend clients who treat employees this way. If she wanted difficult, I would give her difficult.
Panic ensued as I was working a major weekend event being hosted at the studio in a few days. They tried everything to coax me back but little did they know I had already been hired at a law firm less than 48 hours after I quit with double the pay, better hours, and amazing bosses.
I started the job a week later and was blown away. My bosses were caring, kind, understanding, and funny but also firm, tough as nails, and the most badass men and women I had ever met. Best of all, they were so genuinely happy to work with one another, the vibe was infectious. The work flowed and as I learned more about law firm life, I became inspired to take on more. I was nervous at first as I was only a part-time receptionist at the time but as soon as I expressed the interest in taking on more work, they jumped on it.
They immediately started training me on billing, e-filing, document prep, court filing, data storage, gave me massive projects overhauling the entire firm filing system, paid for my schooling to become a paralegal, and got me certified as a Notary. They showed me my worth, gave me confidence, continually trusted my judgment, and respected my opinion even if it differed from the founder of the firm. After four years I outgrew the firm and we left on amazing terms (I am still in touch with them almost 6 years later!)
I continued to grow in my career taking on higher caliber positions, one being at a top 10 global firm. It was incredible but I always felt I was chasing the high I felt while at my first firm, where we all respected one another and the right thing was always done even if it meant pissing off the wrong people.
I realized very quickly that money, power, and titles held more power than integrity, morals, and skill.
I thought that I could stand up and fight against these injustices I stumbled upon like corruption, embezzlement, bullying, harassment, and downright bad business. I had co-workers support me en masse, but when the time came to speak up with the people who could make a difference, I was left alone to fight these battles.
I lost. I lost every single one. Superiors knew of it all and it wasn't the first time these complaints had been made, but because I chose to fight so publicly, with documented proof and chose to involve CEOs, Partners, and heavy-hitting decision-makers, I became public enemy number one. I was ostracized, bullied, harassed, and even physically assaulted by a co-worker.
I reported the bullying and assault to HR, and when I told her who it was her entire demeanor changed. She got very quiet and looked extremely uncomfortable. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "You're not going to win this battle. Just drop it. She's too important to this company." When I tried to protest, she said to stop making this difficult, keep my head down, and do my job.
Word spread like wildfire that I outed “Her” and my treatment by my co-workers got so bad I considered suicide every morning driving into work. Even the ones who suffered chose to stand by her in the hopes they would no longer be a target.
I broke down in tears one morning while at my desk. I looked around in disgust. I was ashamed and embarrassed I allowed people like this to push me so far as to think I wasn't worthy of even being alive. I packed my stuff that minute and walked out. I was better than that and I knew I had done the right thing by fighting back.
About a month later I was hired by a startup company. It was the high I had been looking for. For the first time in years, I felt like this was a safe haven. A bunch of dreamers coming together ready to change the world. We vibed immediately and I was given the job of creating and enacting policies, procedures, systems, and by the end of it I ran the show. There wasn't a single project in that company that I didn't have an integral hand in. And then it changed.
We got some money and some notoriety and then the remoras came slithering in, trying to take a piece of the pie. I immediately sensed danger. The founding team changed, behaviors became more alarming, money started going missing, we were hiring very volatile employees with big titles and even bigger egos; One hire leading to several very aggressive and terrifying altercations.
I began reporting these situations to the only person higher up than myself in the company and it fell on deaf ears. I was promised change and I got change... just not in the way I had hoped.
My credibility was now being challenged, I was being mocked, I was pushed out of my very job in favor of these very volatile hires. My safe place turned into my very own personal hell. I stuck it out trying to fight back to save my employees but when push came to shove they all fell back and I was left taking nukes alone.
They attempted to gaslight us all individually making us all believe that we were crazy, that we were the problem, not the volatile hires, and they adamantly denied sketchy business practices. Not one of us knew that the others were all making the same complaints. I fought tooth and nail, getting into verbal boxing matches with my CEO about all of this. But I was once again labeled a threat and a difficult person to work with. The suicidal ideations came back stronger than ever. I hated myself, I hated who I was and everything I stood for.
Why couldn't I just fall in line with the rest of the world and take the abuse, harassment, and illicit actions just to collect my damn paycheck!? What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I have to fight back every time I see injustice?
I cried for weeks. But I knew deep in my soul I was fighting for the life of every employee in that company. I knew I was fighting for every other woman who has had to endure the ridicule of more powerful figures for trying to change the corrupt, money, and power-hungry systems.
I quit on the spot in a blaze of anger and glory. They were a lost cause but my mission wasn't. I was going to be the most difficult woman they had ever gone to battle with. My abrupt departure left them in shambles. Everything fell to pieces as I was the only person who not only ran the entire operation but actually knew how to run the operation.
To this day I do not regret my decisions. May they rest in pieces, each and every one.
At each of these jobs, I had several employees reach out privately to express their gratitude for all I did and for speaking up against the sketchy business practices, bullying, and harassment. Funnily enough, after I was thrown to the wolves and survived, the exact employees or illicit practices I outed ended up getting fired, heavily reprimanded, and caught.
These were hard pills to swallow for a very long time, how could you sacrifice good employees in favor of awful ones and good judgment for bad? I don't blame the awful employees, I blame awful leadership for not leading by example and valuing integrity, morals, kindness, and hard work over egos, money, titles, and bad judgment.
As miserable as I was going through each of these experiences I am so grateful for them.
Now as a business owner I know exactly what I will not do as a leader and I know exactly how I want to run my business. I’m making over 6 figures now, running the show, calling the shots, and best of all, doing it my way.
I am so proud to be the strong and forceful woman that I am today and if standing up for the right thing in a world that values all of the wrong, then I am damn proud to be a difficult woman.