S1 E01 – How we met! Our Toxic workplace Story


We have been debating this podcast for MONTHS! And finally when we met in Las Vegas in December, we decided it would be a good opportunity to get onto it! Here is a photo of us in LV! We had dinner at Benihana – it was soooo much fun! Ok Enough about us – let get into our podcast!

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Oh yeah.Speaker 2: 53:32

All these different shirts. No, that was the other Brian. That was T-shirt Brian Oh.Speaker 1: 53:37

T-shirt Brian. Oh my God, yeah, brian with the insurgents was very funny.Speaker 2: 53:41

Yeah, um, we had the lady with four million jobs. Do you remember that one Mm? hmm, i know Where she had like what was it Like? 47.Speaker 1: 53:54

Like her first. Like her first line out of the box was like I’ve had 46 jobs in the past 30 years and we’re like what.Speaker 2: 54:05

We’ve got Amy, who talks to us about toxic positivity, which is pretty cool, and then we had Stu, who was our most recent recording, yeah, talking about leadership, which I’m pretty bloody excited about.Speaker 1: 54:20

And now so we’ll be doing some more interviews, but also sprinkling in some of the research episodes.Speaker 2: 54:25

Yeah, and then we’ll be doing some research episodes is going to like is our next kind of step right? That’s our evolution.Speaker 1: 54:33

And we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what you guys like more And if you have any comments, thoughts, reactions, just reach out to us.Speaker 2: 54:39

Yeah, We really appreciate everybody’s comments. Yeah, We’ve had. I just, I just get so excited when someone comments, So if you could comment like like subscribe, share follow all those good things. Come join us on LinkedIn. Come join us on.Speaker 3: 54:55

Instagram, yeah, yeah Find us a good place.Speaker 4: 54:57

We’d be happy to have you.Speaker 2: 54:59

And we’ll see you in season two. Couple weeks, yeah, yeah, a couple weeks. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.Speaker 1: 55:10

Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there’s an interest in this topic.Speaker 2: 55:16

For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed caption available on YouTube.Speaker 1: 55:20

See you next week, same time and same place.

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The Transcript!

Introduction 0:00
Honestly, every time I’ve tried to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. Is it okay if I kick your bosses that will affect your workplace? One man’s toxic sludge is another man’s pull breed. All right, who did this? I’m not mad. I just want to know who did it so I can punish them. When I get to the workplace. I like to fuck Shut up.

Nicola 0:25
Welcome to Let’s break up toxic workplace stories where weekly we interview people from around the world reflecting on their experiences in toxic workplaces,

Unknown Speaker 0:35
sharing lessons learned and providing a safe, supportive environment to share your stories with us and everyone else that may also be experiencing a similar situation.

Unknown Speaker 0:46
Hosted by me, Nicola, and me, Gina, both with many years of experience in the corporate world, and now deep diving into the toxic workplace culture.

Unknown Speaker 0:59
Each week, we will provide tips and ways to identify and overcome some of the challenges associated with toxic workplaces. So settle in and relax

Unknown Speaker 1:10
as you join us in today’s episode,

Unknown Speaker 1:13
let’s jump straight in and see where this journey takes us.

Unknown Speaker 1:22
Hi, Nicola, Gina. Are you so excited that this is our very first episode?

Nicola 1:30
If you had told me a year ago, that we were going to be doing a podcast together? I would have absolutely said that wouldn’t have even happened.

Gina 1:41
I think I would agree with you. And we’ll get into I guess. Yeah, we’ll get into and just for anyone, like the three people who might actually listen to our first episode, my voice is like, I know I’m that would be awesome. But my voice is not normally like this. I have like a weird, laryngitis kind of thing. And I think on the intro that Nikola recorded I probably sound like I died. Died and was like resuscitated. Yeah. All right. Well, Nicola, why don’t you tell us who you are? Well, okay,

Unknown Speaker 2:15
so I am Nicola. I have got a history in OSHA. I’ve only ever done OSHA, or occupational health and safety. I’ve got an MBA and a Diploma of creativity, and over 15 years of OSHA experience, I’m also currently studying because you’re

Unknown Speaker 2:36
crazy. You’re a crazy person. Okay. Yes, go ahead.

Unknown Speaker 2:40
I’m currently doing a Master of Laws. So I’m not quite sure what I’m doing with my life, really, because I’m focusing on OSHA and employment relations. So this makes it very pertinent to the stuff we talked about. I’m, I’m originally from South Africa, and I live in New Zealand. I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced a number of toxic workplaces for all different reasons. And, you know, I’m sure we’ll cover a lot of those as we kind of move through the process. I’m also a single mum. And I like to be super creative. I don’t know I’m here.

Unknown Speaker 3:21
Or I’m Gina and I am creative in sort of a more non traditional way. I have love for product development, I’ve been doing that for I think 18 years could be a little bit longer. And currently, I’m working in executive and C suite roles. And I have for the past, I don’t know, like 10 years or something. I’m also 43. So that’s why don’t let my chin acne fool you. So I’m currently a CEO of a bit a company that we work with big companies like, you know, huge, huge companies, international brands, and we help them navigate custom private label items. My first job out of college was on Wall Street, was there for about five years. I am an native New Yorker. And I wear that badge with pride. I was born in the Bronx, I grew up in the Bronx, um, and I’m Italian so you guys can do the math. And for me, I had men in toxic workplaces previous to the one that you and I met at. I just I always thought it was like a term for someone who is weak, like, oh, they can’t stand it. You know, but as I grown older, I’ve been able to spot things quicker. And I also realised that I was in a lot of toxic workplaces. Just stuff that was inappropriate and partially because I think I might have been the day and age like the late 90s or something. But I’m also a single mom by choice. I have a view Just a little daughter, and Nicola and I have a lot in common. So, yeah. So tell us Nicola, why did we decide to start this podcast?

Unknown Speaker 5:09
You know, when we started, it’s really funny because when we started talking about it, I think it was just going to be the natural progression of what we were talking about. And I think a lot of it was around solidarity as well. Because you know, toxic workplaces are just becoming so increasingly more a thing,

Unknown Speaker 5:31
common, I think everyone’s like experiencing it, like an even if, like myself, like you didn’t realise you or anyone, but then it’s becoming more of a commonplace word right now, and you’re hearing it more and people are willing, I think the willingness to talk about it is really important, because what we’re trying to do here is share our stories, and then have other people share theirs, so that we can create like a safe place, like we’re not going to judge you, you’re gonna hear our stories, and you’re we did a lot of things, right, a lot of things wrong, probably wrong, probably more wrong than right. But we, you know, you don’t learn or grow unless you make mistakes. So we want to, like, have this safe platform so that we can bear witness to your stories, and hopefully give people a place to just let it all hang out.

Unknown Speaker 6:21
I know. And, you know, I think that safe platform as well, because the minute we started talking about it, and we started talking about it with other people, the amount of stories that have come through just phenomenal, you know, everybody needs to have a story.

Unknown Speaker 6:36
Everybody does, whether they realise it right now, or not everybody has a story. And nothing is worse or better than the others. They’re all equally traumatic, you know,

Unknown Speaker 6:47
and I think it’s kind of recovering in from that trauma as well is, you know, we’re going to talk a lot about how to overcome toxic workplaces how to identify toxic workplaces, is it you that’s the toxic person in your time?

Unknown Speaker 7:00
That could actually be because sometimes I’m like, I’m the common denominator. Did I eff this up? Like what you know, I mean, that’s a very valid point. So. And I think for me, personally, I’m willing to point the finger at myself and take full responsibility. Like if I messed up, I don’t mind being like, yep, you’re right. That was like brain fart. I get it. I messed up. You’re right. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 7:27
And that’s why we’re quite similar as well, where it’s like, we can take criticism, like tell us, yes, you and we can grow and change and, you know, do something different. Because that’s the way you’re going to develop as a person as if you take that criticism on and you reflect on it. And every so often, maybe the criticism isn’t quite correct, as we will probably find out in today’s episode.

Unknown Speaker 7:50
Sure. So you and I met via a toxic workplace, which we both I, I have to say, I realised it was toxic sooner than you, but I don’t know. I don’t know, though. I think you are so embedded in the way everything was. And we’ll get into that and how you can kind of wind up in a toxic workplace without even realising you’re there. And then, you know, long story short, we were both fired in due time. So we’ll get into it. We’ll get into our breakup stories. And I ended up reaching out to Nikola after I was fired, and I was like, hey, so guess what? I was fired too. And we just kind of started talking. And then we actually met recently in Vegas. That was cool. It was a lot

Unknown Speaker 8:42
a year ago that we were gonna meet in Vegas, I would have

Unknown Speaker 8:45
said that out of everyone at our toxic workplace that it would be you and me who met in person? I would have been like, how? Why? No way. I know. I know.

Unknown Speaker 8:55
Wow. So right, because at least now we’re free. So

Unknown Speaker 8:59
Well, yeah. Um, of course,

Unknown Speaker 9:03
let’s kind of get into it. Right. So before you started at our toxic workplace, and I thought, you know, let’s just maybe caveat this as well with, we do swear a lot. And we’re not going to hold back just because we’re having a party. It is hilarious. If you’ve got to wear your pearls, I suggest you take those off bags,

Unknown Speaker 9:23
clutch them a lot, because that’s like very southern and I like it.

Unknown Speaker 9:28
So catchy. And I think the other thing as well is, you know, for anonymity, you know, we’re not going to say people’s names. That’s ridiculous. We’re not going to say what business it is. We’re not going to talk about things like that. We’re going to talk about, you know, the culture and the environment and particular situations that we observed. It’s not that we’re going you don’t want to pitch in it’s

Unknown Speaker 9:50
not to shame anyone. I think that’s important to say and it’s not to point fingers. It’s just we want people to listen, heard and you Learn from the stories we provide to you. So, you know, let’s, let’s get into it, though.

Unknown Speaker 10:06
So you before you started, you were talking about weeks before you started, how amazing you would be and you’ve come from these other organisations, but I

Unknown Speaker 10:15
kind of was,

Unknown Speaker 10:16
Are you? Well, we know that. But then you get things done. But for me, you know, looking back now a pink flag was that someone was actually being demoted for you to come into your role. And I raised the issue early on, and I said, this is an issue of psychological safety. Do you think this is going to damage the trust within the team? And how might this impact their mental health and it was just glossed over, nobody really gave a shit. There was zero change management process in place, transparency, and there was zero thought for the person’s mental health with you coming in.

Unknown Speaker 10:55
Right. So and I didn’t know any of that. And I think, looking back now, that should have been a pretty big red flag, because I didn’t, I had, I assumed probably stupidly, that they were a company and their revenue was whatever amount of dollars, it was a decent amount, it was a healthy revenue doesn’t mean it was the profit though. I assume that they had change management management, you know, procedures in place, and it would have been announced and the people who needed you know, whatever, long story short, that did not happen. And things were not communicated. And I think at the heart of this toxic workplace, so I was you were doing the marketing, I was doing the product development and supply chain, which means importing and all of that. And I think, why don’t you tell everyone how you’re you got, you know, initiated into the company or hired.

Unknown Speaker 11:53
So I’d actually started out as a customer back many, many years ago, probably in 2018. So I had really strong brand loyalty. I ended up later, because I run a blog as well. And late, I ended up promoting the project products, which at the time, I did believe were the best. In 2020, I reached out to kind of improve the promotion process, because it wasn’t great. Like we weren’t getting as promoters for the product. We weren’t given the products until like months after they were released. So I said, you know, there’s ways we can improve this. Can I help? So I started in a contract role back then. And yeah, kind of at the height of COVID, right? remote working super easy. And it kind of grew from there. When I left, I was here to have an entire department much like you were and, you know, the pink flags that I’d identified throughout my time there really only became clear red flags once I left. And I think only once we connected was I really kind of shocked as to how I was oblivious to those red flags. What about you tell tell us about your joy.

Unknown Speaker 13:12
So I was formally hired, I interviewed for the position. And I think some of the red flags for me would have been the amount of is it wasn’t a big company. The amount of interviews they made me do and discussions before they even said we’re going to be offering you this job was kind of extensive. So because I had a call with the CEO first, from the call, it was a zoom interview with I guess most of the like bigger team players like executives, and from there, it was several other zoom meetings with the CEO and the CEO. Just kind of talking about certain things, the potential like change and organisational chart. And they actually had me import something for them using my own importers, because I was like, let me show you how easy it should be. So I didn’t mind doing that. And like that shipment came in totally smooth. So it was not until after all that was done that I was offered the position. And I was yeah I was to do a taste rotten. It was like I was like you know, I don’t know I mean looking back on it. I probably should have been like they’re using me. You know, they’re using me like I don’t know I think for some positions that’s like that’s something that you should do. Like for instance like if you’re a creative like designer in the graphics space, like come up with something or have like your know your portfolio ready to see or if you’re In marketing, maybe you have like, you know, a full marketing launch. Like, I think that’s fine. But in a position like mine, like, Why do I have to do all of that? To begin with, but anyway?

Unknown Speaker 15:13
And it’s weird that you say that because I didn’t realise that you were doing things before you even hired. I was, that would have been awful for the change management of the person who was being demoted.

Unknown Speaker 15:26
Well, that, but that was part of the problem. They had nobody who is dedicated to doing imports. And it was like a whole bunch of random people like the CEO, CEO, who’d had no idea how to import, you know, shit from shit was getting involved. There was too many cooks in the kitchen, because nobody had the real experience to like, do something smooth. So anyway, so I needed the job at the time, because COVID had really affected the current position I was at, and my hours are being cut, and so on and so forth. So I needed something. And I knew I wasn’t going to leave the company I was with, but I was like, maybe, you know, to me, it was a consultancy. I always knew I was going to leave. I thought I’ll stay here a year. And then four months, I would not be able to handle a year. Anyway. All right. So you want to talk about a couple of specific stories?

Unknown Speaker 16:21
Oh, for sure. So, you know, I’ve been there for quite a while. Right. And, you know, one of the things that really irked me, wasn’t even a red flag at the time, but just really irked me because I was like This shouldn’t be held things up. It’s fireable offences were just glossed over. And it was because the CEO doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And I’m like, because that’s not how business works. This is a fireable offence, like we have to let this person go. And then we’re like it was

Unknown Speaker 16:50
basically stealing. Okay. It was basically stealing. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 16:56
the the person that said fireable offence was stealing? And yeah, just glossed over it. There was a not let go, and not let go. I also worked massive hours, absolutely massive hours. And I was always told the strapline was always, there is no expectation for you to always be available. But if I wasn’t always available, something would happen that needed to be fixed. And I would end up having to work extra hard to fix it. And coupled with shit, like you’d wake up to a plethora of messages saying, I know it’s your day off. But hey, I know you’re sleeping bad. And like that was just consistent. You wake up to like, tonne, I don’t know about you, but tonnes of messages on

Unknown Speaker 17:43
Slack was overly used. Oh, it’s a great tool. But it was relied on so much when and there was like, important files being shared on Slack. And why just send it via email. It’s much like safer that way. In my opinion, maybe I’m old school. But yeah,

Unknown Speaker 18:05
I know, when you tell people though, that there’s no expectation for you to do these long hours. And then there’s just this constant barrage of messaging about, oh, you know, this needs to get done, or has this been looked into? It’s like, nice calm now.

Unknown Speaker 18:19
Yeah. And there was, but I think part of that was they were always on the offence, because they didn’t have a knowledgeable pool of employees. So we’ll get into that later. But, and it’s not really the employees fault on a lot of in a lot of ways because they were hired thinking they can do XY and Z. And the fact is, they lacked any qualifications. So we’ll get into that further. But yeah, but yeah, in terms of like, your amount of hours, it was like you never slept. And you know, knowing you now and having known you during that time, you were like a completely different person. You’re like lighter. You don’t look so like, drained all the time. Yeah, it was terrible. But I identify with that, because I also changed, like, I changed, like, I think for like a month it was okay. And then my partner and my daughter’s nanny started saying like, like, what’s going on with you like, and then after I ended up leaving, my partner was like, I was almost gonna leave you because you were like a miserable bitch. And I was like, yep, what and like, I would see him at the gym in the mornings. And I’m getting up like, super early to get that in before the barrage of messages come. And I would see him at the gym and I and he’d like, look at me and say, like, Hey, what’s up or whatever. And I would just be like, I’m miserable. And I just have to turn around and walk away from him because I would start crying. I know. And then my daughter’s nanny was like, you’re just not present. Like, I would be talking to you and it would be like a blank wall because I was like a mile a minute like thinking like, oh my god, is there an issue that I forgot to talk to someone about am I gonna get in trouble for saying this? Like, there was just so much like, it was like a fear culture. For me. I don’t do well with micromanaging. And I think micromanaging, breeds micromanaging. And that’s exactly what happened. You know, because I, I’m now the CEO of a company, and I’m just like, if you’re doing it, and you’re getting the work done, and I see the results, I don’t, we don’t even need to talk. Yeah, like, you know, so good. Yeah. Like, just let me know when it’s done. Do you want to talk about how you were broken up with with? Yeah, oh, my god break up? Did they call you and say let’s break up? We know, we’re a toxic workplace.

Unknown Speaker 20:42
Pretty much. It was, it was really bizarre. It was really, really bizarre. And like, we’ll kind of come into a bit more of the reason a little bit later. But essentially, how it unfolded was, there had always been delivery issues around delivering product. And you know, that just nobody was sorting that out. And I was really grateful that you were there. Because, you know, our teams were really working far better together, because it was just easier to deal with. And so we had planned for months. Well, I had planned for months, and my team had planned for months to deliver a suite of digital project products, projects, products to support the delivery of a really cool, fun tool. And because of the delivery issues, it was late, and we only ended up getting the product photos, just like days before the launch. So I was working. It was a long weekend, I think was Easter weekend, maybe I can’t remember. But I was working about 18 hours a day for like three days, probably more. And the launch was meant to be on Monday. And I was let go on my birthday, which was the Saturday which is also ironic, because looking back now I like it was so toxic. I can’t even describe it to you like it was insanity. I was supposed to be having the day off on my birthday. I don’t know what it was. But I had this ominous feeling and woke up at like 3am my time to a barrage of messages. And I logged in thinking okay, well, I can just get some of these things done. I’m up anyway, right? Let me just get things done. And I suddenly couldn’t access anything. literally couldn’t access it couldn’t access my emails, couldn’t access, like our chat group. I couldn’t access anything. And so I sent a text saying, Hey, I’m really struggling to log on what’s the issue here? And I was told there was a security issue.

Unknown Speaker 22:44
That’s what they told everyone else as well. Within the company or any issue. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 22:50
Security issue. Like what have we leaked information and someone hacked us like I was like, this is

Unknown Speaker 22:55
not at all so there’s like nothing like, patented. We’re not doing like Hi. Like, if like if there was a legitimate security breach, it would be like not the big the biggest deal in the world. Like it wouldn’t matter.

Unknown Speaker 23:08
I’m CEO and I’m like, what’s going on? Is everything okay? Like everything is fixable, right. Everything is fixed. I’m like, it’s fixable, don’t stress. She’s like, I’m gonna have to bring you sued. And I’m like, okay, cool. We can it’s fixed false. pretences is fixable. So I was like, it’s cool. Everything’s manageable. Don’t worry about it. Because that was my thing, where I just, I could fix anything. And so I got the call from the CEO. And I’m honestly, I’m not kidding you. She spent the first 10 minutes of the call crying,

Unknown Speaker 23:40
which I feel like is very emotionally manipulative. Oh, for

Unknown Speaker 23:44
sure. And I’m like, I thought they had been some sort of hack. I thought someone had died. I thought the business was being sold. Like I literally had no idea what was going on. So I’m sitting down, I’m like, you’ve got to, you’ve got to take a deep breath. Let’s debrief together. Everything is fixable. Like we can let’s break it down into chunks. Like let’s work out what the issue is and break it down into chunks. And then through the gobbled sobs, she’s like, we have to let you go. And I’m like, what? Like I’m sorry. I’m like, what, why, what, what, why? She couldn’t articulate what it was like So through this model got like really gobbled sobbing. It came out. And we’ll come into why this why this happened. But I had made a recording of someone we were talking on Zoom, and I’d made a recording of it. But it was an issue that there was it was something you couldn’t do in a particular state in the USA, that the CEO then claimed that I’d never told them about it where I had I’d made it prophetically clear that I had we knew that the CEO knew but wasn’t a I’m being forthcoming with the fact that they did. So it was just horrible. Again, I said it was something that was fixable, like, let’s deal with it, we can work it through. They then claimed that and to this day I, I legitimately have no idea or understand what actually transpired. Because one of my first thing, the first question I asked was, how do I hand over stuff to my team? Like, I can’t access anything? So how do I hand stuff over to make sure that

Unknown Speaker 25:30
that they don’t, they did the same thing to me. They don’t give a shit. They think they got it all under control. Without you.

Unknown Speaker 25:35
I know. But I’m like, I haven’t stolen information. I haven’t done anything that has damaged the business. I haven’t done anything that damages other people, essentially. And you’re telling me I can’t hand things over to my team to make it easier for them? Like, why is this then they then they went down this rabbit hole of any other managers look up to you, and you’ll still be my best friend. And we’ll still be friends long term. And estate outs. As I say it confused as and hurt. So hurt because I genuinely thought that this group of people were my friends. And I had a friend at my house at the time who listened in on the conversation because I’d taken the conversation in my office. And when I was done, when I put the phone out because I was so shocked, like, literally this was left field, right like this had come out of no way and put the phone down and I just burst into tears. And they came in and they said they’ve never heard such an unprofessional way of breaking up with someone in their lives. And they come from a notoriously toxic working environments. And they said that never dealt seen something dealt with so badly. And that the entire conversation I was measured thoughtful with my responses. I didn’t get angry. I wasn’t upset. I was confused for sure. But I was really measured about my responses. And they said your professionalism over Shawn, the unprofessionalism that came from the CEO, and that it was actually the most disgusting thing that ever heard. And I was like, Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 27:25
but there was actually a lot of disgusting things that I heard from the CEOs mouth. Just over the four months I was there, like not in relation to letting someone go, but just in general. And I think, also, like, the general nature of the business was extremely exploitative. Sure, we can give a demographic that is already vulnerable. And it started really bothering me towards like, two months, because I was like, Wait, I don’t feel good about this. Like, I don’t think that this is cool, but it’s happier

Unknown Speaker 28:01
to be in this and we’ll talk about it later as well as toxic positivity, right? Like we’re doing what you have to

Unknown Speaker 28:07
have, or else you’re a horrible human being and no redeeming qualities.

Unknown Speaker 28:13
You know, for me with my breakup, I think the things that hurt the most was I genuinely believed that these people were my friends. But no, their alliance was actually to the business and I was just collateral damage. And I didn’t

Unknown Speaker 28:29
collapse. We’ll get into more why that people are. I don’t mean, I’m sorry, I cut you off. But it’s like, it just I just wanted to point this out like that. The real I think because it ended up being so cultish. Yeah, that people didn’t. people cared about the business only and the CEO. Yeah. And that’s not healthy, because they put the CEO on the pedal on a pedestal. And, you know, that person was so amazing for what they’re doing. But meanwhile, it was actually an exploitation of an early vulnerable demographic, in my opinion. Sure, targeting that.

Unknown Speaker 29:09
Like my marketing repertoire with the organisation, they were, you know, we had some really amazing milestones because of the work that myself and my team did. You know, we hit like, if you had a problem and you wanted to have extra revenue or extra sales, we made it happen and we made just make it happen. We kicked the ball out of the park,

Unknown Speaker 29:27
you know, most of the actual products were not done well. Nor, like some of they were very very subpar, especially for a retail company that is trying to get to a more luxurious place. Yeah. But anyway, I mean, I know a little bit of the backstory of how you were broken up with because it was actually my team that made it happen.

Unknown Speaker 29:55
We’ll get into a bit more of the details behind that as well because that was toxic to me.

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