Dealing With Bullies In The Wedding and Event Industry
Most people don't know this about me, but I was bullied pretty much my entire life. Growing up in school I wasn't the 'typical' kid who had a lot of friends and the "popular crowd" would pick on me ... looking back now, I am thankful for those times because it made me who I am today ... it made me stronger, more self aware, and it makes me put tremendous value on the relationships I choose to have today. I realize that being bullied isn't a joke, it's not something I would wish on anyone, and that not everyone has the same thoughts on their experiences with being bullied as I do ... what I want to talk about today is:
HANDLING BULLIES IN THE WEDDING AND EVENT INDUSTRY
Unless you are in the wedding and event industry, it's incredibly hard to explain to someone what it feels like ... this industry is made up almost entirely of self-made businesses ... it's people who have created something and they are running it themselves. We don't have 'bosses' (for the most part) and it's up to us to network, create relationships, own our craft, and make sh*t happen. We are a lot of 'type A' personalities and with that comes a side dish of controlling and opinionated 'flair' ...
Most 'articles' about dealing with bullies in the workplace will tell you a handful of ideas that mostly include the 'tiers' of managers in your office ... writing letters, putting it on record, making sure your bosses are aware of the issue ... creating a history so that the bully can be held accountable later if it should become super hazardous.
Well, Thanks Internet ... But That Doesn't Apply To Us
When I hear of my clients being bullied it's typically in the situation of the 'team' of vendors who are working either on a real wedding / event OR they are producing a styled / editorial shoot together. The different ways a business owner on a team can be bullied are:
- not being correctly credited for their work
- being made to feel that their work is poor
- being made to feel that they need to do more than their share of the work
- being talked about in a negative way to the client
- being talked about in a negative way to other vendors
- being made to feel that they are threatened for loss of future referrals
- told they need to 'do this or else' in a situation that isn't their responsibility
- general attitude of 'your work sucks' using facial expressions or intimidating tones
- are there more?? Of course.
Type A personalities come in a variety of different people ... there are the Type A who know when to take control to better the team and there are the Type A who just want to boss people around because they have insecurities of their own and they want to take the attention off themselves. As a person who doesn't like to be told what to do and how to do it, I generally will butt heads with the latter and I'm sure there are a lot of people reading this who feel the same way. When we butt heads with the Type A who is insecure it can many times bring out a LOUDER version of that person ... we may get yelled at, threatened, talked about behind our backs ... we may be made to feel that showing we won't be told what to do is not acceptable so that next time, hopefully, we'll back down and just 'do the thing' so that we can avoid the 'punishment' of what comes next.
IN OTHER WORDS, WE ARE BEING BULLIED WITH FEAR
As business owners, our reputation, relationships, referrals, etc are GOLD ... they are what keeps our business ticking ... often times it feels as though we can't risk ANYONE hating us ... because if just one person hates us it could throw off the entire balance of everything leading customers to our door.
It has taken me YEARS to understand that the 'hate' from a person or group of people only affects me for a short time ... and while it feels as though everything will be destroyed, it isn't. It's simply a short period and if I use it for reflection and growth - I come out STRONGER once it's over. Moving on from certain relationships or finding new ones is super scary and can feel like you are starting completely over ... but this is why I wrote a blog post about not joining cliques as a business owner ... if you aren't dependent on a single group of people or businesses for your success and growth, then these circumstances with 'bullies' will only feel like small bumps on the road instead of major upheavals.
So what should you do if you are dealing with a bully in this industry? STEER CLEAR. We are creatives and our success is attached to us feeling amazing, clear headed, and capable. If there is someone out there who is muddying that up and dulling your 'creative light' and it's happened multiple times, then I'd back off.
SHOULD YOU COMPLETELY SEVER THE RELATIONSHIP?
Depends ... if it happens just between you and this other person and it doesn't affect other relationships within the 'team' and you feel like you can avoid additional backlash by keeping your other relationships strong, maybe just seeing that person from time to time won't be as huge of an issue ... BUT if it's keeping you from feeling like you can approach the rest of the 'team' and you start getting panicked about your future referrals from all of them, I'd walk away, refocus on what makes you awesome, and reach out to new vendors and create new relationships << which is something we should all be doing all the time anyway to avoid being dependent on one group of people ;)
AM I SAYING GIVING UP AND AVOIDING PROBLEMS IS THE ANSWER?
No, I'm not. I believe there is a huge difference between having small disagreements within a team of people and walking away feeling a little bit annoyed, but growing and learning from it - AND feeling fearful for the future of the company you built or are building. Now, I do believe in self awareness and accountability ... if you consistently find yourself in situations where people don't like you, your work, or make you feel insecure - it's vital to your future and survival in this industry to self-reflect and see if there is something you are doing that should be worked on.
All in all? Our industry isn't like other industries ... this industry is very emotion driven ... based on 'looks' and how things are styled ... it's filled with type A personalities and opinionated individuals who are all trying to be the BEST in their local groups. It's not meant for the weak at heart and the strongest will survive ... so it's important to weigh your decisions carefully ... not talk a lot of (if any) sh*t ... and learn who you can trust and who you can't. If there is a problem individual who you keep having run-ins with and the stress creates feelings that are more than what you can personally handle, then limit your exposure and focus on the things you can control.