• Corporate Gaslighting

Passed Around But Never Helped

When I was 3 weeks back from maternity leave I had to fly out for 4 days of focus groups.


As someone who was promised 4-day work weeks when I got back, I let the group know that I would be unable to come into the office on the Friday we returned, mostly because I would have no childcare as my husband worked, but I offered to work from home.


During Friday day, I did as much as I could, but no one would answer any emails or texts or slack messages. The deck, due Monday, looked incomplete, but somebody texted me saying that they were all done and sent to client. I was upset because I felt like I was taken out of the process and that they took work offline. On Sunday night, I get a text from someone else saying that nothing was done and that we had to work all night to get it done for the next day.


I had a nearly perfect 1 year review without the raise to match. When I asked my boss, they said they agreed with me, and would try to get more money for me. They used an impending client as a reason to ask for more money. Over the next two months they would periodically come to me and assure me that they were in talks, that they were working on it. Two months passed and nothing changes and they eventually move onto the new client. I decide to take it into my own hands, go to management (their boss), who tells me that not only has my boss never once mentioned this to them, but that I was given the green light to move onto the new client team weeks ago. I found out over a month later that my boss got a 20% raise for moving onto the new client. I know because they told me themselves.


Over the entire summer, multiple people including his colleagues mentioned that he had personally told them that he gave me a big raise for moving onto the new client.


As a team, we were all going over a creative presentation, trying to nail the right language for an insight. I suggested something, my boss said it wasn’t right, which was fine. Minutes later he said the exact same thing. I stood up for myself and said “I just said that” to which he replied, “well no one cared when you said it, it didn’t resonate with anyone.” I kept quiet, he then said “how about you explain it then, go”. As I start to explain it, he says “ok, ok ok “ interrupting me. I said, “you can say it, it’s fine.” He replies “no, I want to hear it from you, go on, come on, say it.” I finally say “I don’t like feeling pressured.” Over the next few weeks he had meetings with his boss and the managing director to discuss my “attitude” problem. This was three weeks into the new project.


A managing director did a review of my boss for the head of our department. In the review, he took the time to let the head know that my boss had been coming to him periodically to discuss my “attitude problem.” I was shocked. When I confronted my boss about it, about how damaging it was, he denied it. He said that the managing director said it and was trying to get him to cosign. I addressed it with the managing director, who said that it came from the female president of our company who I had minimal interactions with. I never got to the bottom of who said it, but every time I questioned, I was assured how incredible and excellent I am.


My boss and I both took a stab at a brief. The client and creatives ultimately liked my version better. I overheard my boss talking to one of my colleagues saying that he was the author of my brief.


When my boss went away for a week, he put me in charge. We had a presentation for the president and I was asked to put together a huge number of slides. I did a lot of work and at the last minute the managing director took all my work out saying that he didn’t feel comfortable putting it in with my boss out. After we showed the president, the only thing they had wanted to see was the work I put together. The work never saw the light of day ever again.


We had department meetings about the importance of comms planning. My boss was one of the vocal advocates for the practice. When it was time to put together a comms plan, I did so, to which he said it was unnecessary. The reality is he has never made one before, had no idea how to evaluate one and couldn’t stand the idea of not being something he made. We had a very heated conversation between us and the managing director who ultimately said “we don’t have this capability, we have a strategy team incapable of making a comms plan.”

I finally mustered up the courage to talk to my new, female boss about all the sexism I had encountered on a team of all male leadership, including lying and manipulation by my boss. She said, “I can see he has broken you.”


The next two months she put me on a new team, but never corrected my salary issue and never took up the issue with him. She had previously referred to him as lazy, a “youtube strategist” and mentioned his incredible lack of awareness. Three months later, we lost the client I was moved on to. The person who replaced me on my old team, another man, got a raise and a promotion along with much praise. When I told my boss how I was frustrated, she essentially told me to focus on myself, to stop complaining and that “it’s a boys club”. Two weeks later I was laid off.


I was told on a Monday that there was a possibility of me losing my job. It was a hard, emotional week - I was the only parent in my department and a breadwinner at that. On Friday afternoon. I was visibly and rightfully upset in the face. I went home early. I found out that there was a meeting I hadn’t been invited to on Friday morning (before anyone saw how upset I was), when I confronted my boss, they said “well, you looked like you were about to have a meltdown on Friday.” and “_________” said you feel like you are being mentally abused, which I did. She tried to gaslight me, making me feel like I was being irrational, and then laid me off the next day.

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