Sarah Shade, COO & Co-Owner of The Empire Method.
Sarah is a life-long copywriter and marketer passionate about ethics, business building, customer experiences, and so much more! She’s co-inventor of Empire Websites with her business partner Sam Duncan.
Grandstanding & The Herd
A piece about the ramifications of grandstanding when things don’t go your way, and why we MUST do better!
(ALERT: I’m fully aware I’m about to grandstand on grandstanding LOL) 😂
Have you ever witnessed a bully surrounded by a crowd of kids following blindly into the chaos? I have. Last Thursday was that day. The only difference was, it wasn’t a kid, it was a popular business woman using her influence to grandstand against another business owner. Now I believe it’s important to call out the frauds of this world, but the problem with this “save the day” mentality is that the lines between con’s and reality can be easily blurred based on the size of one’s ego and their willingness to review facts from a place of insight rather than emotion. A more sinister problem arises when you have more influence than your target because the damage doesn’t end at the end of the FB post (or whatever forum you use), it can quite literally destroy someone’s reputation, and that SHOULD matter…if it doesn’t, try imagining yourself as the target – it should help!
I decided instead of letting this be mostly one sided, I’d do some deeper investigation and write a piece about it in case those who witnessed/joined in wanted to hear both sides. What I discovered might actually surprise you! Plus, I’ll be digging into the psychology of grandstanding, the herd mentality, and why it’s so harmful if used irresponsibly. I’ll also be providing some great tips on how service providers and those who hire service providers can protect themselves! If you’ve ever had your business drug through the mud, or fear that happening to you, this might be a good read, so grab a cup of joe…it’s a long read! Also, if this has happened to you, please feel free to leave a comment here or under the blog – we’ve created a safe container for you to tell your story without fear, and be sure to share it with your fellow entrepreneurial sisters, we’re all in this together after all!
To be clear, I’m fully aware there will be people who won’t agree with this, no matter what’s written here, and that’s ok. But I do want to make clear that my decision to write this was due to the lack of insight I witnessed by dozens of people. I have no personal vendetta or anything to prove, I’ve also never had this situation happen in my business, all my clients are happy and whole. The fact that I was able to spot BS simply means I’m open-minded enough to see the bigger picture. It’s a lot like bird watching, I can spot a bird but I’ve never been one before.
With that said, let me set the stage with a few facts before I move on because unless you know the main points of this situation, you’ll have a very hard time understanding what this situation is about and why it’s wrong. I’m not about naming names unless there’s a real fraud occurring, but what I will do is assign fake names for this scenario. In this instance I’ll be using Beth and Abby as my example. Beth is the bully, Abby is the target.
(Disclaimer: I do not personally know “Abby”, up until this issue came up online I had no association with her. If any allegiance was to be had in the following scenario, logically speaking, it would have been to Beth because we were friends. I mention this because the following info might appear one sided – It’s not, I’m simply laying out a situation between two business owners that wasn’t properly represented, nothing more.)
Take note, this all transpired over a 34-month time span (2.8 years), and I’ve gathered as much information as I could based on what transpired online and by reaching out to the other party (Abby) for additional details.
• Beth hires Abby March 15th 2016 for 2 sales pages and a 5-page website for $2691.
• Beth pays Abby, disappears for 4 months, reappearing June 8th 2016 to provides project specs for sales page #1.
• Abby completes and delivers sales page #1 July 8th 2016. The deliverable is accepted.
• Beth disappears again for 3 months reappearing on Oct. 3rd 2016 to provide project specs for sales page #2.
• Abby completes and delivers sales page #2 10 days late on December 1st 2016 (Note: The project was 10 days late but Abby’s day for day extension clause grants Abby 1 additional day to complete a project for each day a client does not deliver project specs, which technically allows for up to a 7-month extension which was clearly not abused as the project was delivered in a reasonable timeframe.) The deliverable is accepted.
• With each deliverable accepted, Beth gives remarks about how she “Loves it”, and never mentions poor quality or discontentment about anything, other than the 10-day delay on sales page #2 which is well-within the 7-month allotted extension.
• Mid-way through sales page #2, Beth hires Abby for two additional sales pages on October 28th 2016 for $1,098 but never provides the project specs.
• Six months later, Beth upgrades these two additional sales pages as well as the initial 5-page website to a more robust package on April 26th 2017 for $1305.
• Beth disappears again for 7 months until November 2017 when she resurfaces to ask about turnaround time. Because no specs have been delivered, Abby requests them again and notifies her it can be completed in 8-10 weeks once the materials are delivered.
• Beth does not provide specs and disappears again, but this time for 14 months, and upon resurfacing on January 17th 2019 immediately demands her money back claiming Abby is “inexperienced” (based on a difference of opinion on a single Facebook post) and wants her money back.
• Abby is blindsided but has a clear purchase policy which states no refunds and informs Beth a refund isn’t possible. Beth says it’s a shitty policy and will be taking this online.
• Beth promptly goes online, attaches a screenshot of the private conversation with Abby’s name/image telling her audience how terrible this is.
• The HERD rally’s behind Beth and initiates a quick and ruthless attack against Abby.
Some of you might be thinking, well the policy isn’t right, she shouldn’t just get to keep the money and not give her anything in return – but what you don’t know is that Abby has offered to fulfill her contract by finishing what they started. In this instance, this policy is completely acceptable and would only take a bit of 1 on 1 adult conversation to establish a new set of quality expectations and standards to resolve. However, based on her reaction to a FB post by Abby we believe it never had anything to do with quality, but rather a FB post on branding that Beth didn’t “agree” with that initiated this refund request in the first place. Certainly, not a reason to back out of a business contract especially since Beth has no formal design background, if she had, I’m assuming she would have never hired Abby. Overall, it’s a simple business matter that could have been resolved with a conversation.
However, Beth’s ego pushed her to do something we hope no one ever does to us, she used her influence to perpetuate her stance on what she says is a “shitty policy” to drag Abby through the mud. It may be shitty to her, but this is Abby’s policy and Beth had every opportunity to not hire her (multiple times) based on that policy. Feeling and emotion about someone’s business practices aren’t a justifiable cause for slander.
The worst part about this, is on Beth’s own website she states the exact same policy “we do not offer refunds of any kind” which means she’s aware of why policies exist, she herself uses them for reasons that make sense to her and her business, yet they seem to only be reasonable for her business and not others. To say the hypocrisy is thick in this situation is an understatement considering Beth’s vehement and excessive posts about how this policy is unethical. If Abby’s policy is unethical, this means that Beth’s is also unethical.
Here’s a quote from Abby explaining WHY she has the policy she does, which I think will help others understand that her policy isn’t meant to deceive or rip people off – but used as a way to protect her business: “After serving 500 clients we know that people change their minds and their business and we can’t be responsible for that as we have a business to run” Seems reasonable enough!
I’m a people watcher so I sat back and read all the comments flooding in about how horrible Abby is, how it’s morally unconscionable, making vast and horrible assumptions about her policies and decision to enforce them. There were even a few people who had a bad experience with Abby that came out to join the fight. Of course, the few do not negate the nearly 500 happy clients she has served in her years of business. I’m not suggesting their experience don’t matter, what I’m saying is, we can’t be willing to outcast someone based on a few accounts in history, those handful of unhappy people don’t define a person entirely, and it shouldn’t. The moment we outcast someone for a few bad situations and cast aside all the good things they’ve done, we’re in big trouble as a society because we’ve all had mistakes in our life. I’m sure each account has it’s own unique details, and I’m more than positive that each scenario tried to be resolved before it went south. Nothing is ever cut and dry.
Beth relished in this as she repeatedly claimed half-truths and used her personal battles with health as a reason for ghosting. While I’m empathetic to the fact she had some health issues, in the business world it’s not Abby’s problem. It’s not really the issue here anyway – the claim of tragic health was never the issue, it’s simply a weapon to yield against Abby because the truth makes Beth look bad and she needed the ammo. I’ve also personally engaged with Beth and she’s been perfectly active in travel and events in her business for over a year. In my personal opinion, this was just another tactic to direct her audience’s attention where she wanted it.
Aside from that, she claimed she paid Abby and Abby delivered nothing. While this is in fact partially true, what she failed to tell her herd is that Abby or one of her team members is still willing to do her project – the credit remains. Upon being questioned about her stance by myself and a few other brave women, she then claimed that there’s a flood of unhappy customers reaching out to her, (not sure how many constitute a flood), which only solidified her stance, and at one point she took a grandiose approach by saying she was “saving” people. This is actually a narcissistic characteristic hidden behind a Robin Hood mask! I, as well as a few others could see right through it.
Overall, the facts are the facts – Beth broke the contract, threw a tantrum, and now Abby’s reputation is at stake. To be clear I believe that both parties could have handled this situation much better. Abby should have required tighter timelines with Beth, and Beth should have never hired her again if she didn’t like the policy, quality, or small delay she experienced. Both of these women can learn a lot from this scenario, and I hope they do!
The Problem with Grandstanding
We are all guilty of doing this, myself included, however I usually grandstand against a theory or belief that’s harming one’s mindset (usually my own lol). If I was to ever call out an individual online, I’d be sure my side of the street was clean, that my facts were concise, true, and complete. I’d also be sure they were based not on emotion but if any laws were broken civilly or otherwise. When you grandstand against someone you need to weigh the facts and decide if your “feelings” justify the ramifications you’d perpetuate on the other by taking it online. In this instance, Abby is a mother of 4, trying to do the right thing. She’s probably worked countless years to get where she is and is just trying to protect herself, her team, and put food on the table. Stringing up someone’s reputation on your pinata of hurt feelings isn’t ok, and if you think it is, I have some amazing friends I’d be happy to point you to who do incredible healing work.
Looking at the facts, weighing the situation, finding a resolution- this should always be your first priority. Unless someone has broken the law or perpetuated a real fraud, you should not be eager to destroy the reputation of another! The fact is, grandstanding – in just situations – is a VERY powerful act! It can be used for great change, and many changes have already come to fruition because of it. But as human beings we need to be careful we’re standing up for causes that are truly unjust and criminal, not for perpetuating harm onto others just because we can!
In a position of influence, you have a great duty to lead your pack responsibly. This act against Abby showed Beth’s pack that it’s perfectly acceptable to not take any personal accountability and that putting someone on blast because you don’t like something (even if you agreed to it), is totally ok. As a person looking in, this shows me one thing. The pack leader enjoys the attention and isn’t concerned with integrity, but rather validation.
For those who jumped in, it’s your duty to weed through to get to the facts before you agree with everything someone is saying. If you don’t, you risk becoming the bully too which is never good for business or your character. You can also gear up for conflict just like this in your own business because you’re lacking a significant trait that helps mitigates conflicts such as this – that trait is insight. Insight simply means you have the ability to review situations from many perspectives without distortion or influence. If you’re unable to see any wrong in this situation, you lack insight, and that will show up in way of conflicts with others. If you have many conflicts out there it might be time to review this with a professional.
Grandstanding should be a tool for responsible change – not destruction because you don’t enjoy something and aren’t able to regulate your emotions.
What Is The Herd Mentality?
The herd mentality is a phenomenon that happens in group settings. For instance, the leader says something and the rest of the people in that group are influenced by it and act out in stance against it. The problem is, our culture has turned what used to be useful and productive about working together as a group into something very ugly. For instance, when you’re in a group of people who are all saying yes to something and you say no, you’re outcasted and shamed for your point of view.
Our culture is quick to judge, cast blame, make excuses, and shun others… so if you want to be accepted you must agree with the majority to protect yourself. There are many great examples online you can look at such as the new Gillette commercial going viral right now. For decades men have made it acceptable to degrade women, there’s an ideology there that boys will be boys, and any man who speaks against it (up until now) has been cast aside as not “man” enough.
This is the herd mentality. You agree, or you become outcasted, or worse… an actual target. Someone only needs a tiny situation or misunderstanding to turn it into a campaign against you, in fact they don’t even need the other persons account to do it. It happened to me the moment I stood up for Abby. Thankfully I have thick skin and know that trying to justify a situation I was involved in a year and a half ago with someone totally unrelated to the discussion to a herd of people who don’t know me, or the facts, is a losing and preposterous battle I’m not willing to engage in. Especially when I know it’s the go-to weapon narcissists use to deflect attention off of them and on to a new target.
Thankfully I’m smart enough to read a room and bow out when logic is no longer the main source of reason, not out of fear but to preserve my integrity. Sadly, there’s a LOT of people out there who would have taken that attack to heart and would keep them from standing up the next time a situation like this presented itself. This isn’t ok, and if you’re the target or become one for sticking up for the good of someone else – you need to walk away and pat yourself on the back, do not be ashamed or scared into inaction. In fact, this is the moment to show the world who you really are – take it, like I am, and make some fucking noise!
The Problem With Herd Mentality
The problem with the herd mentality is our society is becoming more and more emotionally and ethically bankrupt because of it. When you allow fear or deep allegiance to dictate your decision to stand up or down for something you feel deeply disturbed by, you let people down, including yourself. This perpetuates a numbness each time you don’t act/think for yourself which means you lose the ability to have insight. Insight makes us effective members of society – without it, we’re looking at herd of blind human beings walking around with no real capacity or fortitude to impact the changes we actually need to see happen. It’s a scary world when the blind are leading the blind.
We cannot, MUST not allow ourselves to do this. Standing in integrity even if you stand alone is better than standing down. Morally, as a society, and personally – we must be willing to act responsibly and stand up for just causes! However, no matter how passionate you are about something, you should always investigate all facts first. If you’re willing to follow a blind belief without proper information you’re still a part of the herd no matter how obvious the cause may seem! It’s our duty to stand up responsibly if the call comes in. Do not be afraid of anyone no matter their status in the community! Money and influence do NOT equal morality.
Overall, we need to do better. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be swept up in the heat of the moment and instead act out of a place of facts, intelligence, personal responsibility, and only then, our power. When you act first you risk becoming the bully or falling into the herd and becoming part of a bigger problem! For those who witnessed this altercation online, it should be a reminder of why it’s so important to protect yourself, and your business from people who willingly throw others under the bus. The truth is, anyone who’s so willing to do this to someone else will have no problem doing it to you the moment they can’t regulate their emotions. If you’re in business for yourself you know how absolutely devastating this can be, you must be diligent about who you work with and who you keep in your circle.
I don’t know what will become of Abby’s business. I do hope she employs tighter client timelines. I also hope she takes an active role in resolving the few unhappy clients who came out to join the fight – but as a service provider for most of my life, I can say that if a client is unwilling to communicate, there’s only so much one can do. I do not agree entirely of no refunds, but I do agree by making her or someone else on her team available to fulfil her part of the contract, she hasn’t violated any laws and she was within her rights to tell Beth no.
I don’t know what will happen with Beth, but I do think her actions will cause many service providers, marketers, and even clients to avoid her completely or be extremely cautious when doing any business with her, and I hope they do – they need to because she’s unable to see her part in any of this which means no matter how hard you try to protect yourself, you may end up in this exact situation. Overall, this issue could have, and should have been avoided!
I’d like to end this with something helpful, so here’s a few simple tips for service providers and for those who hire service providers to help you avoid similar situations like the story above.
Tips for Service Providers:
- Set very clear timeframe standards and make that clear in all communication prior to purchase. If a client cannot agree to the timeline, simply invite them back when they are more prepared.
- Go over the important parts of your contract WITH your client. Discuss your refund policy, expectations, the information you require, deliverables, etc. This may seem scary because you don’t’ want to scare away clients, but it’s your duty to protect the client first. Help them make an informed decision even if it means you’ll lose the sale. Trust me, an informed client is a happy client!
- Ask for feedback after a project is delivered. You need to know what they think of your work, not only for proof of an approved project, but because any feedback (especially negative) can help you improve any weak areas you have which creates a better experience with each new client.
- Create boundaries. As a service provider you’ve probably had client’s message you in the middle of the night, weekends, holidays etc, this is not appropriate, and you need to clearly state your working hours/days in your welcome email to them along with a reasonable response time aka 24-48 hours.
- Setting reasonable expectations is crucial when you’re in the service industry. You need to make it clear that “emergency” projects are not possible and that projects will be processed in the order in which they were received. Make clear to your client that if they have a request that you will need a minimum amount of time to do it and that you will not rush to their aid due to their poor planning. If you don’t, it will create a ripple amongst your other clients causing delays across the board. Any timeframes you present to your client should have ample time added to ensure that no matter what comes up, you can handle their project with care and without sacrificing quality.
Tips for hiring a service provider:
- Be ready! The biggest issue I see is that clients will rush to find a service provider, pay, and then disappear because they aren’t ready. This is unnecessary and only holds up the service provider. Additionally, they typically have to prepare their team or move things around to accommodate you, so be sensitive to that fact and be ready to rock before you reach out. If you need time communicate it, but upon returning allow yourself the original timeframe plus 2-4 additional weeks in case your service provider happens to be working on other client projects to get to yours done.
- Before reaching out to hire a service provider, write down exactly what you need and any specifications you require. For instance, create a brand guide with your typography, colors, and vibe. Do some research and provide 2-3 links to examples of what you’d like to see done. List out exactly what you want and how you want it done. Include a description of your products/services and those you serve and how you serve them. Basically, play an active in your role of educating your service provider on your brand and business so they can jump in with all the information they need to do a great job quickly!
- Read the service providers policy in its entirety and ask questions if something is unclear. If you do not agree to anything in the policy walk away! It’s not only your right, but your duty to do your due diligence. You should never enter any working relationship without a written agreement either. Whether it’s through an email, or an actual contract, a clear meeting of the minds needs to be presented somewhere. At a minimum a clear breakdown of services, expectations, cost, and turnaround should be written down with both parties in agreement.
- Be realistic. It’s important to understand that tech, marketing, building, content etc takes time, at least if you want quality. Do not wait until the last minute to ask a service provider to build a sales funnel for you 2 weeks before a launch. It’s unrealistic. In fact, you should only prepare a launch AFTER a system and all work is completed, it has been tested, and is in total and complete working order. Give your service provider adequate time to prepare your project the right way.
- Be respectful. Being a service provider is a demanding, exhausting, and very difficult job, but it’s the job of heroes! These are the people that facilitate how you make money. Respect that fact by not putting unrealistic expectations on them. Rushing them, telling them that everything is an emergency, or demanding all their attention is disrespectful. Before you speak to them, be sure to ask yourself if you’d enjoy someone speaking to you in that way – if not, don’t say it! Communication is key, be sure your communicating openly and respectfully.
I hope these simple tips help, and if you have any tips that you think our audience might benefit from please feel free to comment below! Of course, if you have friends who might find this blog helpful, click the share button below!
In closing, let’s be kinder to one another! Let’s use the mind we’ve been given to be informed, accountable, and active in creating richer experiences! When something goes wrong, remember 9 out of 10 times it can be resolved provided both parties are willing to address the situation with an air of compromise!
Has this ever happened to you? We’d love to give you a safe space to talk about this topic! What thoughts can you share with us about grandstanding and the herd mentality?
(Please note: Any comments made attacking others in the comments section will not be approved).