Really People?

By Nancy Mendelson

A few short years ago I would have attributed my plummeting BTI (Bullshit Tolerance Index) to fluctuating hormones, carbo overload, or that pesky Mercury going in and out of retrograde. It got to a point where I was living in a perpetual state of gobsmackery…a place where some peoples’ – especially smart peoples’ – profound lack of awareness and integrity became so exasperating that it made me question my own sanity.

Smart people do stupid things all the time…I get this. It’s that “is it me??!!??” moment I’m talking about… the one that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room who is aware that something seriously heinous is happening. In this city of outspoken, no nonsense people, you’d expect more support; and you often get it, but usually it comes from complete strangers who stick their necks out for you when they see an injustice being done. Inside the boardrooms of New York more often than not, the cheese stands alone!

Take the time a client who, by the way was a universally acknowledged douchebag, unjustly attacked one of my direct reports. He did it via an email sent at 1am—copied anyone and everyone he could think of. It was evident he had way too many cocktails, but my boss and colleagues freaked out and bombarded me with accusatory missiles in response. “What did she do to upset him?” “This is inexcusable….you need to fix this,” and on and on and on. I fired back, “it is indeed inexcusable that you are blindly supporting this bloviating asshole”…etc, etc. So they called a meeting to “address this serious issue.”

Early the next morning, I attended the corporate witch hunt alone, and brought reams of back up that proved the accused was innocent of any wrong-doing. If anything, she had done everything right. And yet, they continued to support the client which pissed me off to the point where I lost it. Those in the meeting who actually did speak talked to me like I had recently been released from a nut house. The condescension and tongue-clicking-spinsterism was mind-boggling.

At times like these, you so desperately seek confirmation that you’re not a total whackjob . You pray that a champion will rise to defend your honor. When that doesn’t happen, you pleadingly search the room for some simple sign of humanity—a comforting eyebrow raise acknowledging that it’s them—not you. Then when that doesn’t happen either, you accept the fact that you’ve been thrown under the bus and focus on the gigantic martini you’re going to have when you get home and plot your exit from the corporate world.

If you’ve ever seen the Twilight Zone episode called “Eye of the Beholder”– or as I like to call it — The Pig-Faced People– then you know exactly what I mean (actually, if you work for a corporation, you probably know what I mean.)

Throughout most of the 30-minute episode we see the main character, Janet Taylor, lying in a hospital bed with her face completely bandaged, while the faces of the doctors and nurses remain hidden from the viewers. We learn from the narrator that Janet has undergone countless plastic surgeries in a desperate attempt to look “normal” and that this latest procedure is her final shot. After Janet begs the doctors to remove her bandages, we hear telling gasps of disappointment. But when the camera pulls back, we realize that Janet Taylor would qualify as gorgeous by most standards. It is the doctors and nurses surrounding her who have ugly swine-like faces. Perspective is everything.

The Pig-Faced People is my lodestone—just thinking about it comforts me. After spending most of my working life feeling like I was dropped off in Roswell and abandoned by the mother ship, I have finally reached the age and stage in life where experience, years of therapy, and an impressive track record of I-told-you-so’s have earned me the right to my “really people…are you freakin’ kidding me????” point of view.

That incident was one of the final nails in the coffin of my so called corporate life. Today, I am the CEO of New York Natives, surrounded by free thinkers who are valued for their unique perspectives. I am finally in good company!

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