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How To Address Workplace Bullying With Megan Carle

In Episode 125, Megan Carle, Author and Consultant at Carle Consulting, joins Melinda in an insightful conversation on ways to address workplace bullying. They draw from Megan’s book, WALK AWAY TO WIN: A Playbook to Combat Workplace Bullying (McGraw Hill), to discuss various forms of workplace bullying and how to recognize and respond to these harmful behaviors. They share their own workplace experiences and dive into opportunities for leaders and allies to advocate for individuals who have experienced mistreatment and foster a safe workplace culture for everyone’s overall well-being.

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If you’re seeing someone being consistently mistreated, health-harming mistreatment…, there’s no one in a better position than you as an ally to help that situation and ring the bell…. [Allies] are also in the best position to go to Human Resources because they are not the target: “Hey, I’m witnessing something that I don’t know what to do with. But what I do know, it ain’t good. I’m watching this, and I’ve let the bully know they’re on notice, and I’m now coming to you, and I’m documenting. How do you want to proceed? Because I know, HR, that you’ll want to proceed. I know that actually, it’s your duty to proceed.”
Guest Speaker

Megan Carle

Author and Consultant at Carle Consulting

Megan Carle spent 30 years rising steadily through the ranks at Nike, finishing her career there as Vice President/General Manager of Basketball for North America, where she drove businesses featuring superstars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. She was elevated multiple times to roles no woman had ever held, including stints leading international teams in London and Amsterdam. She founded Carle Consulting LLC, where she gives workshops on handling workplace bullying and creating an inclusive culture of connection and trust. She is the author of the book WALK AWAY TO WIN: A Playbook to Combat Workplace Bullying (McGraw Hill).

Learn more about the host and creator of Leading With Empathy & Allyship, Melinda Briana Epler.


MELINDA: Welcome to Leading With Empathy & AllyShip. I’m Melinda Briana Epler, Founder and CEO of Empovia, formally Change Catalyst. I’m also the author of How to Be an Ally, and your host for this show. 


What is allyship? Allyship is empathy in action. We learn what people are uniquely experiencing, we show empathy for their experience, and we take action. As a part of that process, we learn and unlearn and relearn. We work to avoid unintentionally harming people with our words and actions. We advocate for people, and we lead the change on our teams, in our organizations, and across our communities. 


In this episode, you’ll learn tangible actionable steps that you can take to lead the change to be a more inclusive leader, no matter what your role is. Want to learn more? Visit Empovia.co to check out more of my work. 


All right, let’s get started. 


Hello, everyone. Today, our guest is Megan Carle. She’s the Author and Consultant at Carle Consulting. She is also a fellow McGraw Hill author of Walk Away to Win: A Playbook to Combat Workplace Bullying. Today we will be talking about workplace bullying, how we learn to recognize bullying when you see or experience it, what you can do if it’s either happening to you or you recognize it happening to someone else. So welcome, Megan.


MEGAN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


MELINDA: Yeah, I’m excited to talk about this conversation. I think it’s really important.


Excellent. Well, let’s dive in. The first thing I want to do is ask you to share your own story, starting from where you grew up, and eventually how you got to do the work that you do now.


MEGAN: Sure, mine is a story of sport. I was raised by a basketball coach. So my stepfather was a high school basketball coach, and then my mom was a high school teacher. So winning early on was a big part of our family culture. It wasn’t winning at all costs. It wasn’t sort of cage match, let me trick you. It was winning with muscling through doing the work, all-out effort. So I had kind of this idyllic upbringing. Although I was from what was whispered about back in the mid-60s as a broken home, with the divorce having taken place. So we were this combined family when Big Dave, my stepdad, the coach came into our lives. He brought with him four sons. I already had one older brother. So I suddenly, at about age three, had five older brothers, and learned a lot about family. Big Dave brought a lot of stability and integrity and country music and a bit of a twang and a whole lot of basketball. So early on, that connection of sport, winning, that’s what puts food on our table, that was a clear connection for me. That really boded well for me through life. That idea of head down, bust your butt, do good work, and success will come, whatever that may mean. That might mean the next job. It might mean a relationship. It might mean friendships, whatever that’s going to mean. So that was really my wiring. 


I started at Nike right out of college. One of those brothers said to me, I think it’d be really cool if you work for Nike, and I responded to an ad in the newspaper, because that’s what we used to do way back then. This was 1988. I started as a customer service rep in the distribution center in Wilsonville, Oregon. It was incredible. Nothing was automated, everything was by hand. If you wanted your orders to be allocated, to then shipped to your customer, so for example, I managed Nordstrom, I would walk my paperwork down the hall and put it in front of someone, and sometimes maybe bring some homemade chocolate chip cookies or something to make sure my orders made it to the top. That kind of kicked off what turned out to be a nearly 30-year career at one of the biggest brands in the world. Wow.


MELINDA: Wow, amazing! Do you mind also sharing a bit about your experience and what led you to write the book on bullying?


MEGAN: Absolutely. I left in 2016, and I had experienced something. It really wasn’t the first time I had experienced this sort of feeling of confusion, mistreatment, misunderstanding. Really, to be honest, I started writing almost immediately upon my exit, because I really didn’t understand what had happened. A friend of mine, while I was making my decision to leave, sent me a TEDx talk, with this note that said, is this what you’re experiencing? It was about workplace bullying. I just couldn’t believe that there was this name to this. I realized, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I’m experiencing.” So I made a very difficult decision to leave the place I had been at almost 30 years, been more than half of my life. I did that after much interaction, a lot of conversations, both at work and with my husband. 


And I started writing, essentially, to learn and to process what I had gone through, and where I started was the ending. I started with sort of this dramatic ending that was sad and upsetting and confusing, and all of these emotions that I was in at that time, and then I put it away. Then I pulled that out almost a year and a half, even two years later, and I decided, I think I have something here, I think there’s more to this. So I started to really study, even more so than I had already been doing, workplace bullying, organizational health, workplace culture. I had studied leadership quite a bit just having grown up at Nike and risen in the ranks and whatnot. But organizational health and how that can shift into toxicity, hostility, and workplace bullying, that was a bit of a newer element for me to dive so deeply into. And what I realized is I was not alone, and that was an incredible feeling! So what I then did is I started to interview people, and I heard about our shared story.


MELINDA: I will say that, 10 years ago or so, I was an executive. It was my dream job in many ways, and it was one of the worst professional experiences of my life. Most of what I talk about now, because I left my job as an executive to start Change Catalyst, to really address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in organizations and across industries. And what I talked about mostly now, when I tell my story, is the biases and microaggressions and the little things, and I sort of have a little caveat that says: “While there were bigger issues, most of what happened were the little biases and microaggressions that ate away at my confidence and ability to do my work well.” But those bigger issues were harassment and bullying. It took me much, much later to realize the bullying piece. Harassment is pretty clear. But the bullying piece, it took me until actually a couple of years ago where I really realized “Oh, wait a minute. That’s what that was. That’s what it was.” I think that recognition, and when other people shared similar experiences, especially in that workplace, can be really powerful. It was for me, I know. I know you talk in your book about a conversation you had with somebody that was there as well, and I suspect that that recognition was probably really helpful.


MEGAN: Yeah, amazing what you’ve been doing. I really enjoyed reading about what you have been doing, and I felt like we were kindred spirits on the same path. I’m newer to this. I’ve sort of been at it for a few years from a writing standpoint. But it’s wonderful for me to get to engage with you in this way. It is interesting. The bullying itself, I kind of simplified it for myself, and because I was interviewing people, I just started to hear about bullying in such a way that it kind of fit in these four compartments. And what I came up with was, it’s either public or private, and it’s either overt or covert. So a public overt bully is kind of an in-your-face bully that you just mentioned, and that’s the easy stuff. I remember, when I finally raised my hand and I went to someone on the executive team and said, “Hey, we’re going to need to make a change,” I did not make it about anybody else. In fact, when I said we’re going to need to make a change, I’m going to need a new role, that individual immediately stated the bully’s name. He said, this is about so and so. I said, “No, it’s not. It’s about Megan Carle, and making Megan Carle whole. Let’s do that, let’s take care of that.” Because I knew if I made it about me versus, it wasn’t going to go well. It’s interesting, I pushed back on it with this manager and I said no, it’s about me. He said, I heard him yelling at you. And I finally said, yelling at me is the least of my problems. I say, because yelling, you can see and hear coming at you. It’s everything that you just described that really keeps you on your heels and just unsteady, and as you said, your confidence starts to take a hit. 


Years later after I have left, a colleague I think is what you’re referring to, a former colleague of mine invited me out for tea and she said, I knew something was happening to you. And we really didn’t work together closely at all. But I said, what do you mean? She said, I knew something was going on. I said, how? She said, because you were always this big personality. When you entered a room, you always interacted, and this sort of extroverted energy bringing everyone together. She said, then I just saw you get smaller and smaller. And it really broke my heart, and it broke her heart. Because she said, I wonder if I had said something to you, if that would have helped you. I just so appreciated her saying something then. I remember just feeling so seen, even though it was after the fact. I said, the dye had been cast, but I so appreciate that you saw me. 


It plays right into the work that you’ve been doing with allyship, that there was that opportunity. I love talking about allyship, and I love studying it, and I love hearing about it and learning about it. Because I think we can make it into these big systemic changing sort of things, which are incredible, and then we can also talk about these smaller in-between moments, that is so helpful in terms of moving equity forward.


MELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. Well, there’s a lot in what you said, and maybe we can start to unpack it a little bit. So your book has several different parts in it, and the first one is Recognized. The Recognized, I think, is a really key piece of this. So maybe we can talk a little bit about what are those different types of bullying, and how do we differentiate when we see, how do we recognize bullying?


MEGAN: Yeah. I think it’s like anything. If we can put some language to it, we’re at least in the game; we’ve at least got some moves we can make. So that’s what became clear to me, was this kind of, “Okay, it’s overt, it’s covert. It’s public, it’s private.” So if we just ground ourselves in that, then we can start to say: “Okay, I’ve got a public overt bully that has just come at me. The way that I know that is, there are witnesses, and the bully is yelling, and aggressive, and maybe banging the table, all those kinds of very overt bullying or behaviors.” The other one then is, let’s go to public covert, and that’s a little tougher. Because that bully wants witnesses, and they want people to know that they’re in power, they’re in control, and they’re just going to mess with you a little bit. Maybe the order of your slides is not quite right, not to their liking. So just going to mess with you. Or maybe they changed a meeting location and didn’t tell you. It’s public, everybody knows it. Why are you late? Well, because I thought it was that. Oh, nobody told you? No, nobody told me. So it’s just that kind of sneaky, sly. So that’s public, public. 


Then private overt is, they are first team all you in public. “Oh my God, you are the best. I am so glad to just even be invited to present with you today.” Then we get private, just one-on-one. “What are you doing? Get back in your box. Why do you think your opinion matters?” So that’s your private overt. Then private covert is that passive aggressive. “I think we could do it this way. I don’t know, it’s your call.” It’s that whole passive aggressiveness. That’s private covert. That can come in the form of even work sabotage, exclusion. 


Then the last one, there’s a fifth type, which is the ultimate gnarly type, which is gaslighting. That is, the bully just really wants you to absolutely, not even just be on your heels, but down. The idea of gaslighting, I actually had to watch Gaslight, the movie with Ingrid Bergman, the 1940s movie. I remember watching it and thinking, “Oh, this is exactly what I experienced.” In terms of just the audible assault, one of the bullies that I experienced at work, I might be presenting, and his phone would, I don’t know if it was an alarm he set or if it was a ringer, but it would always ring, and it was a barking dog. So if you think about, as you’re presenting, business results or some pretty intense, interesting high-powered stuff, and then woof, woof! That is gaslighting. That is like, okay. And what’s interesting is, bullies really like to hop around, they don’t want to get too comfortable in any quadrant. So it’s hard. It’s really hard to know what is coming at you. But I think what I hoped for with the book, and with talking about the book, is just giving those who may be experiencing some of this, just some grounding. Because if you notice that pattern, then you can start to document it, and you can then see, well, this is indeed a pattern.


MELINDA: Yeah, that knowledge. When I was in it, it wasn’t the bullying that I was looking at but the microaggressions, but similar. There’s a fine line, then microaggressions can turn into bullying if they’re executed over time, or deliberate versus not. So once I had that term microaggressions and I started to see it, and now when I talk about it, so many people, mostly women come up to me after I do a keynote or something, and they say, “I didn’t know what that was, now I know what it is.” That is a very powerful thing.


So let’s talk about it. So as somebody experiencing bullying, once you notice that, what are some things that you can do? You started to talk about it a bit.


MEGAN: Yeah. I think as you say, those microaggressions, what happens is, this is all additive. So it’s just you’re taking hits, and often we just don’t even know it, especially those nuanced hits. 


MELINDA: Yeah. Part of that, I think, is because it can be very lonely. You feel like you’re alone, you start to question yourself. If you’re being gaslighted, and people are questioning your experience, that’s even worse, because it gives you fodder for your own potential gaslighting as well. 


MEGAN: That’s right. Well, when you think about sexism and scarcity, so those are two of the most potent ingredients to an unhealthy workplace. Then with that, you mix those up in the blender, and it really spits out shame. Because you do feel alone, you don’t see anyone else having a problem. Frankly, in those kinds of environments, you don’t see anybody else that really looks that much like you anyhow, so you just know you better keep your head down and keep working. 


So the next step, so you’ve recognized, then you asked about what can you do? I think one of the things you can do is try to understand the cultural context in which the bullying is happening. So then you’ve got this idea where you’re going from sort of this transactional bullying relationship to, “Okay, strategically, what is this? What is this company I’ve joined? What are their rules? Are there referees? What are the values? Do the values align to mine? Maybe they did at one point, maybe they no longer do.” So then you start to really learn about that bigger what’s going on at 30,000 feet versus just in your day-to-day. 


Some of the things I think that are really interesting in this zone are evaluating, trying to take a step out of your own experience, which is really hard when you are targeting bullying. Because you are so in it, it is all you are feeling every day. Every day you go, you’re sort of like, “Okay, which way is it going to come at me?” But if you can get outside yourself for a minute, and just take note of your surroundings, Is it one of joy? Is it one of interaction and inclusion and collaboration? Or is it one of fear? Is it autocratic? Is it top-down? Is it my lead presidents or the executives word is the word and we better just sort of regurgitate? Or is it fully vested in employees having ideas and feeling safe to share those ideas? So some of those things. How am I valued as an employee? How am I recognized? Is it once a year in a review? Or are there ways that I am valued and rewarded along the way? I think those are all kinds of ways to get out, as I said, outside of that transactional, and into more of a strategic. Because then you’re going to really know, do you have the support that you’re going to need? 


As far as then, if I may, I’ll just shift gears into, so what does all that mean? If the bully is coming at you, I actually borrowed from equine therapy on this one. It was just this fortuitous out for a run with a neighbor, and she happens to be an equine therapist, and she started talking about it. It’s something I didn’t know anything about. It was with a horse, the horse is either going to: ignore, resist, comply, or enlist. I started to really think about that as I was writing the book, and I thought: God, that’s just so great for those who are targeted by bullies! We can ignore it. So the bully is screaming at you during the presentation, you can ignore it. It’s tough, because that’s what’s happening. You can resist it, you can stand your ground, and you can exert the same sort of pressure back. You can comply, which was my go-to. “Yeah, got it. Whoops. So sorry. Sorry!” Or you can enlist, and you can get some help, and talk to some people maybe who were at the meeting if it’s a public over or public covert. “Hey, I noticed this at the meeting, did you? How did that make you feel?” So you start to enlist people. So part of that is just trying to provide those who are going through this with some of their own plays, their own moves, their own responses.


MELINDA: Yeah. So that was kind of the bigger picture of evaluating where you are in the workplace. Is this even a place perhaps? Is this even a place I want to work on, and do I have the support, could I find the support? Then, taking those four pieces and evaluating which one of those you want to work with.


MEGAN: Yeah, exactly. As I said, I was all in on compliance. It’s the only move I knew. Compliance begets compliance, and that can be one of the most dangerous choices for your team. Because if your team sees their leader always complying to the bully, they will automatically think “Well, what shot do I have if she is always complying?” So I felt like Drew Barrymore in that movie 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler, where I just always expected the best. Even though I’ve ran into more than one bully in my day, but I just always thought it was going to turn out differently, and therefore, I never was prepared. So even if you can get yourself into the mindset of, “All right, I am holding my space, I am managing my breath, because we know that’s going to help me think through and it’s going to help my brain make decisions, if this comes at me in this way today. I grew up in basketball. Some of it is, if you go down the court and every time you’re going to go the right, they’re going to shut down the right. You’ve got to try to go to a little left. You’ve got to try to spin move. You’ve got to try crossover. You’ve got to do something different, and see how that works.


MELINDA: Yeah, I’m thinking about we’ve talked about the amygdala response a little bit. But when you are experiencing trauma, this is trauma, then your brain in that moment can have an amygdala hijack, where you’re in a fight, freeze, or flight mode. Actually, the ignoring, the resisting, and complying is all I think a piece of that. I think it’s important that if you are complying, if you are ignoring, if you are resisting, to forgive yourself for that. Because there is that brain response that’s happening, and you can still enlist afterwards; you can still get out of that situation afterwards.


MEGAN: Yeah, I didn’t know anything about any of that during that time. I love that you brought that up. I mean, it was World Health Day on April 7th, and just some of the conversations that I was a part of on that day, or this month, around the connection between your workplace health, your organizational health, and your personal health, I had no idea that there was a physical and psychological effect happening as I was experiencing this. It was profound, and it was not until I went. I mean, by the grace of God, honestly, I had an annual physical during this time, and my doctor was so alarmed by my blood pressure. Thankfully, I had a doctor who saw some signs based upon data, and then asked some questions. I was in a position where I was finally ready to try to articulate what was going on, and I still, to this day, remember the look on her face. She was so alarmed. I remember thinking: Oh, I have really put myself at risk. Rock bottom, which preceded the physical was, I was checking into a hotel room in Dallas. I was in Dallas for some meetings, and I had flown in really late, so it was after midnight. I’m at my door with the key card, and I got the bags hanging off me, I’ve got an apple shoved in my mouth from the front desk, that’s dinner. I started to get in, and down the hall, I see this movement, and it’s a hotel employee. I can tell because they’re wearing a uniform. And the employee gives me the head nod, which is just sort of a universal greeting. 


That night, and where I was physically and psychologically, I was convinced that that hotel employee was going to break into my room and hurt me and probably kill me. I was in such a state. I got in the room, locked it, chained it, etc. Hotels anymore, you really can’t move anything. But there was a desk across the room that I was able, and I remember feeling almost like I trespassed this huge desk into the door, just to give a barricade. Then what I realized is, I had to crawl under the door to get to the bathroom. So I decided I’ll take my pillow and my Pringles from the minibar and my bottle of water, and I went in, and fully clothed, I laid in the bathtub with a blanket and my pillow, and I stayed there all night, double-stacking Pringles, watching the door, didn’t sleep. It took me years to realize that I needed to see the bully. I had so gotten myself into, based upon what I was experienced, I was so paranoid. I was so outside of my body. My alarm went off the next morning, and I popped right up. I ran the meeting with our largest customer, and nobody was the wiser. But I shared that with my physician, and that’s when things changed. She gave me this incredible gift, which were the words, you know you need to make the change. 


MELINDA: Wow! So there are some acts of allyship that you’re sharing along the way; some people reflecting back at you, you need to make a change, the people sharing I saw what you experienced. So can we talk a little bit about what that looks like to be an ally for somebody? When you see bullying happening, what can you do as an ally?


MEGAN: I think it’s such a great question, and it’s so hard. It’s so hard. It’s hard to be that see something, say something, do something. I think there’s this kind of soft allyship, and then there’s action. I think that’s really, people like you with the work that you’re doing, what we’re getting into is, allyship is active, and that’s difficult. But if you think about, if you’re seeing someone being consistently mistreated, health harming mistreatment, you’re seeing that, and microaggressions would be classified as that, as an ally, there’s no one in a better position than you as an ally to help that situation and ring the bell. 


I’ll take a real life example. When I was being confronted or bullied in public by that public overt bully, there were a lot of people in the room, and there were several who were my same level. If one of them had said to that bully afterwards, one-on-one, “Hey, you know what you’re doing, that’s bullying behavior. I am seeing you do that, and I’m putting you on notice, and I need you to know that I’m seeing it and I’m documenting it. We can’t do that here. That’s not cool.” However you want to say it, so it’s not attacking the bully. Then what if that ally had said something to me? “Hey, I saw what happened there. I feel like a total failure for not jumping in. Because I could have, and I should have, but I didn’t. But I’m coming to you now, and I want you to know, I’ve documented and I’ve approached the bully. So let’s just see how this goes. I just need you to know I got you, I’m with you. Are you okay?” Like, are you okay? I can’t even tell you what that would have meant? I mean, it almost makes me a little emotional thinking about it now. But those people, they’re in the best position, because they are not the target. They’re also in the best position to go to Human Resources, because they are not the target. “Hey, I’m witnessing something that I don’t know what to do with. But what I do know, it ain’t good. I’m watching this, and I’ve let the bully know they’re on notice, and I’m now coming to you, and I’m documenting. How do you want to proceed? Because I know, HR, that you’ll want to proceed. I know that actually, it’s your duty to proceed.” So putting it in some of that language that says, “Now I’m putting you on notice, and there’s a record of this.” So I think for me, and again, this is all with the benefit of hindsight, of course.


MELINDA: Of course. But that’s how we learn, that’s how we teach each other, and we stop those cycles from continuing to happen.


MEGAN: Yes. Then, the other thing, if you are experiencing this, it’s incumbent upon you to seek help then. Because as we said earlier, there’s so much shame in being targeted. Because targets believe, “Well, what am I doing wrong? If I did it differently, said it differently, showed it differently, I bet. I’m somehow allowing this to happen to me.” You’re just not, because it’s just not about you. So targets have to be willing to say, “Hey, you know what, this isn’t going to fly. So I’m going to, not only will I talk to the bully afterwards one-on-one.” Which I kind of go into in the book, that depending upon where you are in your journey and your experience, meeting one-on-one with your bully will no longer happen. Then you also need to put HR on notice, in the language that really impresses upon them, the need for them to be involved. 


MELINDA: Yeah. I think the reasons for doing this are, of course your safety or that person’s safety if you’re an ally, but also knowing that often it’s not one person that’s experiencing this.


MEGAN: It never is. I interviewed one person. I was so grateful to interview so many people for the book, and one of them was telling me a story about sharing with a co-worker, her experience with this individual at work who was bullying her. Her co-worker said, “I don’t believe it. That person is a nice person, I’m fine with it.” Immediately, didn’t see, didn’t hear, didn’t validate. Couple months later, that person experienced the bullying and had to reach out to the initial target to say, “I am so sorry, I had no idea. I had no idea that you were experiencing it, and now I am.” So if allies can step up, stand up, and report before they are targeted. Because most likely, the bully will target whoever it wants to target, they’re just in a better position to seek help.


MELINDA: Also, thinking about it, there’s a lot of leaders, a lot of managers, a lot of directors listening to us or watching us. As you are a manager, and you may receive this, somebody comes to you and says I’m experiencing this situation, it can be really easy to say, “Well, that person is not, I’m not seeing that. That person is not doing that thing, because they’re so nice to me.” But it’s really important in that moment to listen, to deeply listen, and to take that person’s experience in its truth.


MEGAN: That’s right, and to validate that. Then also, when that person says, because most likely they will say, and I don’t want you to do anything about it, it is your responsibility to do something, and that is also very hard. But now you are culpable in the situation. So what are you going to do? Another person I interviewed had that situation, and it was, but I don’t want you to do anything. Well, I have to. In this role, what you’ve shared with me, I’m required to do something. So let’s talk about what that looks like. Have you gone to HR yet? No, because I don’t trust them, I don’t think they’re going to help. Okay, we need to allow them to do their jobs, and we need a record of this. So I think mapping out what this can look like is so important. 


MELINDA: Absolutely. So as a manager, or as somebody who is leading culture across the organization, what can people be thinking about? Because I know that you have some pieces you address this in your book, that what can people be thinking out about in terms of creating a workplace culture or recreating a workplace culture where you’re addressing, and then ultimately, eliminating bullying?


MEGAN: Yeah, I think it goes back to just even what we talked about at the beginning. As leaders, executives of companies, first of all, recognize you have a problem. So that’s job number one, figure that out. That’s going to be external, that’s an external audit. That’s evaluation, that’s assessment. Where is the health of your organization? There’s some great things that managers and executives can start to talk about with outside help. I don’t see this happening with the same faces and the same experiences around the table. This is that dig deep underbelly stuff that nobody wants to talk about. So if you’re not associated with it, it’s much easier to ask those questions. “On a scale of one to 10, how valued do employees feel here?” Well, I think they feel great, I think it’s probably 12. Okay, well, we did a survey, and it’s about a two. Then what we did is we, we didn’t just do a survey, we had conversations, and we dug and we listened, and what we learned is, some of these things that have been elevated to you that you’ve been ignoring, those have taken root, and now you’ve got a real problem on your hands. So I think just recognize that you most likely have a problem. Workplace bullying affects 80 million people in the United States, it’s half of the US workforce. So It’s happening. I mean, it just is. So recognize, this is happening on your watch, and let’s start to put some plans in place that will really start to elevate and improve the health of your organization. I get pretty passionate about it. It’s not an easy subject, and it’s not an easy fix. But recognizing that where we want to be as a brand, and where we currently are, there’s a big gap in the middle, and we need to shore that gap. Let’s figure out how we’re going to do that.


MELINDA: Yeah. I would say also, a key piece often that happens in workplaces is people don’t even know where to go, if they experience that. So part of that work is communicating, where do you go if you are experiencing this, what does this look like, and give people some tangible things that they can do, a place that they can go, a safe space for them to share their experiences.


MEGAN: Yeah, that’s such a great point. Because when you are experiencing it, and maybe you have gone to HR and that hasn’t led to anything, you’re really lost. Maybe you’ve even gone to your manager, maybe your manager is the bully. Because a lot of times, 65% of the time, the manager is the bully. So you’re really lost. So I love these ideas that I’m reading about now, with Chief Ethics Officers and Chief Cultural Officers, you’re making a separation between those who humanly resource an organization, and those who come in every day, and their number one priority is the health and wellness of the organization, and separating those. I wish there had been a hotline, that I could have picked up a phone and said, “I’m experiencing this. I don’t know what it is exactly. But it’s consistent, and it’s demeaning, and it’s disrespecting, and I’m diminished, and I don’t know what to do.” Wow, that would have been great. But that pipe lead straight to HR, who, in a lot of cases, their one role really, or their reason for being is the protection of the organization. So some of that just status quo, “Oh my God, is she going to be a problem,” that starts to come into play. 


So I think leaders, one of the things that hits me as I’ve listened to so many people, is just get to know your employees. Actually, what are they motivated by, who are they? They’re different; none of them are the same. So you have to tailor your style to meet their needs, not the other way around. So that might be just step one, get to know your team on a level that you are not if you’re in a hostile or toxic or unhealthy workplace.


MELINDA: Yeah, and then I would say, create a safe space to have a real conversation.


MEGAN: That’s right. Yeah, because you don’t feel safe. “Okay, I’m now marked as the problem. She’s not all that. She can’t hack it. We offered her something else.” That’s a narrative that is really hard to shake. So that’s when you get into defining your win. I talked about my upbringing, it’s scoreboard. It’s super clear, W-L. And when that gets shaken up and turned upside down, that’s a whole thing. Because when we’re staying, in a system that perhaps wasn’t built to support us, then is that the win? When we’re staying in a situation in which our values no longer are aligned, is that a win? When we’re being mistreated on the daily, diminished, disrespected, disappeared, is that a win? So it’s this idea of define your win. Because quitting, leaving, walking away, doesn’t mean you’re a quitter, or you’re a failure, or you’re a loser. In fact, it could mean that’s your win. That took me a long time to get my head around that there’s different definitions of winning here. Because if there are no refs and no rules, then I’ve got to find my way.


MELINDA: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for sharing your story and for sharing, and for doing this work to share your knowledge and raising awareness. I appreciate this conversation.


MEGAN: Oh, thank you. I appreciate what you’re doing, and thank you for making me smarter.


MELINDA: Thank you. Well, I have two quick questions. The first is, this show is about action. So I wanted to ask you, what action would you like people to take coming away from our conversation?


MEGAN: Well, if you’re experiencing workplace bullying, if any of this resonates like it did when my friends sent me that TEDx and I went, “Oh my God, that’s exactly,” then understand a few things. One is that you’re not doing anything, you’re not allowing something. It is not your fault that a bully has found you and decided you are going to be that bully’s target. So know that. So this whole idea of I can do it differently, save it. That’s not how this works, unfortunately. So that’s one. Two is, know that you’re not alone. There’s millions and millions and millions of people who are experiencing workplace bullying. Please, don’t suffer in silence. It’s a lousy place to be. So reach out, talk to people, find your allies, find your people, enlist. Then finally, I would say, redefine winning for yourself.


MELINDA: Excellent. Where can people learn more about you and your book?


MEGAN: Well, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. So you’ll find me Megan Carle on LinkedIn. I have a newsletter that’s called The Corporate Survival Guide that you can sign up for on my website, MeganMCarl. And I’m on Instagram, MeganMCarl. I’m pretty easy to find. If you sign up for the newsletter, I get a little notice, and we are then connected. So that’s always a good way to do that. Then the book, Walk Away to Win is coming out May 16th, and that will be a really fun and interesting way to connect as well. Excellent.


MELINDA: Thank you again, Megan. Appreciate you.


MEGAN: Thank you. I appreciate being here, Melinda, and thank you for what you’re doing.


MELINDA: Absolutely. Thank you, everyone, for listening and watching. Do, again, take action. Don’t suffer in silence to find your win. And we’ll see you next week. 


Thank you for being part of our community. You’ll find the show notes and a transcript of this episode at ally.cc. There you can also sign up for our weekly newsletter with additional tips. This show is produced by Empovia, a trusted learning and development partner, offering training, coaching, and a new e-learning platform, with on-demand courses focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. You can learn more at Empovia.com. 


Allyship is empathy in action. So what action will you take today?