Leading with Integrity
When a want-to-be company’s primary strategy to establish itself seems to be all about targeting and raiding another company, they surely won’t succeed. But a poacher is as a poacher does, so they are likely to still cause damage, and leave a trail of heartbreak behind.
Dealing with poaching within our own company is tough…and personal, so we don’t want to become suspicious or jaded. But since we are involved in “relationship marketing,” it seems impossible not to be affected emotionally. So let’s try to think critically for a minute. I’ve observed a few things going on in other organizations, and I’ve even seen some of it play out in my own team over the years.
So I’m wondering…have you seen some of the same recent pattern I’ve seen? I mean, there are definitely signs. It seems like maybe this sort of company trains their members according to some sort of script or play book. Even their members’ exit announcements sound strikingly similar… the details are tweaked a bit to personalize the content, but it all has the same vibe:
- Tears, Trauma, Disillusionment, Exhaustion
- Leaving toxic environment
- Peace, Rest, Healing!
- Intrigue: “Something Big is Coming,”
Wait for it…
- “I found the magic sauce! Feel free to contact me!’”
It’s clear that each new batch leaving for perceived greener grasses is paying attention to what worked or didn’t work during the previous generation’s exit. The result is that they are getting far more clandestine, and staying under the radar as long as possible, so that they can take as many people as they can. The general poaching pattern seems to be this:
- They stay as quiet as possible about leaving, while carefully choosing who they want to take with them. One leader described it as “grooming.”
- When someone expresses a hint of discontent, they sympathetically feed the fire and carefully share their discontent and perceived offenses.
- Once they’ve secretly joined the new company, they start talking about it only to those they know may be easy, “safe” targets. This is when the planning starts to happen behind the scenes, but they’re still probably months away from actually leaving.
- They begin to back off on promoting the current company on social media. Graphics and links begin to disappear from their different platforms, and they start creating a marketing “need” for the future (maybe mentioning depression, weight loss, stress, and/or gut health).
- Finally, they announce their emotionally charged exit and tell a dramatic story about feeling “free” and excited about this “new chapter” of their life. It’s literally the same story every time.
- Then the sob stories start—dramatic tales drenched in crocodile tears. Using ominous language that invokes images of deceit, abuse, cover-ups, and other nefarious wrongdoings, they clamor for attention on social media. No facts necessary. No provable content.
- Posts start rolling out about being on an exciting journey of healing with attempts to pique interest with teasers about the future and how they “can’t wait” to share all “the answers” they’ve found in their new venture.
Enter Fink Drink. Pudding Pops. Snappy Juice. Whatever new thing.
The point is that a few months ago they were “in love,” gushing about how their company’s products had literally changed their life, but now that they’re with a new company, the old company is suddenly Satan.
Junk oils are now peachy keen (check out the new referral link) and the shiny magic beans they bought this week “really do reach the sky!”
The sudden lack of concern over quality makes the slanderous attacks against our company, and our Seed to Seal standard, even more vile and audacious. I mean…were they too busy doing tik tok dances while Gary was giving tours of the farm or teaching about the distillation and testing processes? Sometimes I wonder if some of these people ever even used our oils!
Keep in mind that the more a person has ruminated over some unresolved conflict or offense, the more likely they are to give others a highly biased account of the story. And some of the wild stories I’ve heard are outright lies. One woman took a quote completely out of context and twisted the words of a public speech I personally witnessed. It was a gross misrepresentation of the truth
In another case, a former leader is telling an emotionally charged version of a story that is muddied by uncharitable assumptions and inflated suspicion, rather than any actual facts. I know the story behind the story, and she’s not telling all of it.
Her “angst” has more to do with not getting her way in a situation than it does any factual evidence or genuine offense. But, like so many other personal conflicts, when bitterness is fed, people justify all sorts of wrong and destructive behavior—behavior that hurts people.
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17
Bitterness and negative thinking distort our perception of the truth, facts get ignored in favor of anger and self-pity, and poison is spread to others. The bitter heart can’t find satisfaction because it’s been feeding on the wrong thing.
“One cannot satisfy thirst by drinking seawater…” – Galadriel (Rings of Power)
While some people are grossly obvious with their “Hey girl” poaching approach, most are now being more subtle. Whether or not they realize what they’re doing, if you see this pattern playing out, be careful and pay attention. You might see some of these red flags:
- Playing up drama and suspicion about their current company or upline
- Spreading discontent and amplifying everything that “goes wrong”
- Vilifying current company and linking arms with other “virtuous victims”
- Making a coy announcement to downline, inviting people to contact them
- Being mysterious (inquiring minds want to know!)
- Piquing interest through manipulative language
- Hinting about “bad things” in their current company
- Implying their new company has magic answers to all the alleged trauma from the “bad things” (from old company)
- “Make them beg for it” – so they can feign innocence (they think they’re safe from liability if you reach out first)
There is nothing wrong with stepping back or leaving a company. But when organizations and friendships are intertwined the way they are in network marketing, it’s a little like trying to dig up a 100-year-old tree without damaging the rest of the landscaping. You’ll wind up pulling up some of the plants and shrubs in the process, and some tender plants will just die. In fact, in some cases, your recklessness may kill the whole tree.
There is nothing virtuous or kind about harming your downline, upline, and/or colleagues–friends who loved, trusted, and edified you–friends (and a company) who blessed you and gave you a platform to grow and succeed.
And consider this…it’s an abuse of trust (and power) when you, especially if you have rank influence, take advantage of lower ranking members (and those under them) who may be struggling. Subtle, passive poaching is still poaching.
If someone wants to leave their current company, they should just go. Most of us would totally wish them well–we would hope that they would be wildly successful. But we would ask that they do it the right way…with grace and integrity. No social media announcements. No drama. No innuendo. No cloak and dagger. No secret phone calls. No emails.
Can’t they just use their manners instead of tearing down the curtains on their way out? Seriously. Just stop it.
And if they think it won’t be “ their fault” if that person enrolls with them (because, after all, they aren’t actually pursuing anyone from their current company, right?), here’s a question to ask them:
“After posting ambiguous intrigue on social media for weeks/months, what happens when your former downline/crossline calls you with questions about your new venture? Are you going to do the right thing and let them know you can’t enroll them? Are you going to keep your word? Just wondering.”
As for the rest of us, consider this a heads-up. If you need to block someone to protect your own mental space and/or your team, just do it. No need to feel guilty–you are responsible for you. Tell someone what’s going on. Don’t hesitate. And don’t believe every story you hear. If something sounds off, it probably is.
For more on poaching tactics, read:
Subtle Poaching in Network Marketing: How to Win Downlines and Influence Perceptions