A lot is said about toxic relationships. We now need to bring this to the corporate world.
   Unfortunately, it's really common to find professionals wrapped in toxic corporate environment. Let’s use a real example, which happened to me.
   I am usually considered a strong-willed person, who speaks up (a personality trait that I’m glad I inherited from both my parents). If I believe in something, I’ll speak up and it doesn’t matter if my bosses, clients, peers or employees will like it or not - always being respectful, though. For these reasons, I never imagined that I would find myself in a toxic corporate situation.
   Some time ago, I received an offer that sounded too good to be true. I was approached via LinkedIn, had the first interview, a second interview, and got an offer. All on the same day. In a matter of hours. I thought it was strange and my husband immediately said that it was most likely a “scam”.
   I was suspicious, but decided to wait a bit and see how the next few days and interactions with the company would unfold. First mistake! Trust your intuition. If you feel something is wrong, it’s because it probably is.
   I waited a few days and decided to accept the proposal, although still a bit hesitant. I confess that I was attracted not only by the salary, but also by the company's flexibility. I requested some changes that were promptly answered. Today I realize that this flexibility, was synonymous with disorganization, and the fact that I admired the company's flexibility, in fact, was just me trying to find a justification for something that, deep down, I knew wasn't right.
   Truth be told, the (consulting) company is huge in Asia and was just starting its operations in North America, so again, part of me thought “they are just starting here” or “ when they grow up here, it will change”.
   On my first day, the feeling that something wasn't right continued. I had my onboarding meeting at 7AM and by 8AM I was already in a meeting with a client. I soon realized that the position I was hired for (which was in my offer letter) and the position I was being introduced with were different. I was hired for a Director position and I was introduced internally and externally as Senior Director. One more sign. How does a company mix up or forget the position someone was hired for? However, I was willing to make it work and once again I let go and started to do my best.
   Another important point, as much as I had always worked in giant multinational companies, my biggest role had been senior buyer. It would make sense for my next role to be a manager. Although many would not agree, the fact that I was hired as Director was part of the “too good to be true” package. Of course I don't take away my credit and merit. I am humble enough to understand that I am not better than anyone else, however, I am realistic enough to know my worth, my experience and all the years and money invested in my career.
   In a very short time, the abuse began. Many of them disguised as urgency. I started to receive emails, messages and calls at all times, including on weekends, to deal with matters that were not really urgent, but again, as I had only been with the company for a short time, I decided to try and do my best.
   It is worth mentioning that this company is a Procurement consultancy. You have to be very careful when hiring a Procurement consultancy. It is relatively easy for a professional with years of experience to reduce costs. But forgive me the pun, what is the cost of this cost reduction? I have always worked in companies where the Strategic Sourcing methodology has always been very strong and I am proud to say that I am a Strategic Purchasing professional. I will never ever jeopardize a client’s Supply Chain for a not sustainable cost decrease or for a short term solution.
   Anyways, gradually, I started to notice a huge disconnection between what I believed, what I preached daily in my professional publications (Sustainability, KPIs, Scorecards, strategy, alternative suppliers, “win-win” relationship, etc.) and the way I was acting. My day-to-day was alway in a rush, no time to analyze and evaluate carefully all the figures involved in a situation and if I had to break a contract with a supplier with years of relationship with the company, to bring in a new supplier, whose cost was $0.01 lower, I had to do it, because in the end of the day, cost reduction is all that matters.
It was then when a client hired the Category Manager service at my company and I was assigned to this task. I have always worked as a Direct Buyer - specific focus on Raw Materials (Chemicals) and Packaging. The problem was that the category to be managed would be Indirects, a category in which my experience was almost nil. I always believed that a good buyer can buy any category. Obviously, the greater the experience, the easier the transition and the faster the positive impacts will be seen. However, some kind of synergy is necessary. In this case, I had not been hired for this role, there was no synergy with the industry, with the company or with the category, that was a recipe for disaster and in a few weeks I was ready to leave. Once again, if my boss was worried with anything else but the revenue, he would have known I was not a good fit for that position.
I requested a conversation with my boss and put all cards on the table. I said I was concerned about the culture - as I clearly hadn't integrated into the company and that I was also unhappy with the client I was working for. It was a little before my 1st month anniversary and way too early for me to feel this unhappy!
   One of the characteristics of a toxic relationship, whether on a personal or professional level, is that when confronted, both the person and the company always show a desire to improve along with a little ignorance (the famous “I had no idea how you were feeling” ) and as expected, the company gave me the opportunity to resolve the lack of synergy with the customer, however the lack of integration with the company's culture was not addressed and I again gave them a confidence vote.
   The next few months were a little easier as I adapted to the toxic environment. Lack of communication and/or poor communication, lack of transparency, lack of respect (with leaders swearing in meetings and badmouthing one employee to another), disorganization and lack of structure were constant.
   With the company in expansion, I had the opportunity to indicate some talents from my circle of contacts and I was truthful to everybody, I explained what I thought of the company, including the negative points and when some of these contacts started to join the company I imagined this to be an opportunity to adapt the originally oriental company culture to the West. However, I had the chance to participate in some salary discussions and I realized one more of the company's toxic traits: They weren't willing to compensate professionals appropriately. They wanted the best professionals, paying the lowest salaries. Again a characteristic of toxic relationships, I had “half the resources” (my team was composed of junior professionals, who were “sold” as senior, professionals whose level of knowledge, experience and excellence were not high) while I was pressured to delivery 150% of the results.
   The final straw was when the company decided to take some employees to a meeting at its headquarters in Asia, which caused a lot of drama. Some of the employees were not invited to participate and those who didn’t, received the feedback “You are not yet good enough to participate”. As if that wasn't enough, the Asian meeting took place during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic and the company provided fake COVID tests to all employees - and when questioning top leadership, I received the response that "there was no time for the tests to be done”. I felt personally hurt. The whole world was fighting a pandemic and the company I worked for was providing false documents? As simple as it sounds, it attacked my principles and values.
   And I had a breakdown. Despite having decided that this job was no longer for me, I liked my clients, I particularly liked the work I was doing with some of them (Strategic Sourcing!) and for better or worse, I was still getting paid. However, I had lost my shine, my desire to perform and especially to perform with excellence. I lost the will to study, dedicate myself and share knowledge and experience with other people.
   And not! That wasn't me! Again, I requested a conversation with the company's CEO and explained the reasons why I wasn't happy. To try to keep me in the company, he offered me another position, quite attractive and one that made me want to stay (hello, toxic relationship!). And I stayed. For 2 weeks. That's how long it took me to really understand that I was in a toxic relationship and that the new position was still within the same company - which wasn't what I want for my career.
   I had my resignation letter signed, but I still didn't have the courage to deliver it.
   I had a meeting again with the CEO of the company to discuss my new position, this time also with my direct manager, another characteristic of toxic relationships (intimidation). And for some reason, the conversation turned into a feedback session for me. They both said that a customer was about to break a contact because I hadn't returned a call the day before. And at one point, the CEO threatened me saying, “Are you sure you're ready to work at this company?” And the strength that I was missing came like magic! My answer was clear “No, I'm not ready and that's why I'm resigning, I’m putting up my notice and my last day will be in 2 weeks”.
   Silence. The meeting was over. And what followed in the days before was worse than I imagined. My manager excluded me from all meetings, message groups and announcements, even though it was agreed that I would still work at the company for another 2 weeks. I also received information that my team was instructed not to contact me directly.
   Believe it or not, this happened in the 21st century. I'm not talking about the 1970s. And I'm not talking about a small company. I'm talking about a Global company, with more than 100 employees, with bold goals, which I highly question whether they will be reached or not, simply because of the lack of empathy and care for the human being.
Today, managers need to be extra careful with our team, with our talents. If they are not (we are not!) satisfied, they leave. The world is getting smaller. I can be physically in Brazil, working for an American company based in London. I can be in the United States and work for a company in Argentina. Today there are other factors that are much more important than geographic location.
   Gradually, my enthusiasm returned. As well as my desire to learn, study, write and share my experiences. My husband and friends said that I was glowing again and my eyes returned to reflect my passion for Purchasing. Simply because I stayed true to myself.
I continue to provide services to other consultancies and I even have my own consultancy and I choose the clients I want to work with. Those with whom I can share my supply chain vision. Those who hire me so that I can share experiences with them. Those who are willing to hear my point of view and the ones who are also willing to share their point of view with me.
   There is always a way out of a toxic relationship or work environment. The important thing is that you learn how to identify it and that you know that you are not alone. Thousands of people go through this daily, however, not all of them have the courage to open up and speak up about what is happening.
   As for the company I worked for, I can't say it's a bad company, but it was certainly a company I didn't identify with and didn't adapt to. Again, my mistake. I knew right away it was not a good fit, but I wanted to try.
   They say we learn from mistakes and I hope you can learn from mine and don't have to make mistakes yourself. When something doesn't feel right or seems too good to be true, be suspicious, ask questions, use LinkedIn to contact a current employee from the company, add more details on your contract, request several interviews with HR, until you feel comfortable and until you feel it’s right.
   No money or position in the world worth to dim the bright of your eyes or the passion for what you believe it’s true and right!