Viewpoint: Toxicity in recruitment

The culture of bullying, especially in big agencies, needs to stop.

The bullying and generally the toxic cultures in recruitment agencies aren’t being discussed enough – partly because of the stigma around speaking up.

Ironically, some of the biggest bullies appear to be the ‘heads of’ who appear very charismatic on LinkedIn by regularly posting about good leadership and the pseudo-good they’ve been doing along with giving some brownie points all round. Most targets appear to be women and people of other ethnicities. Some have experienced microaggression in addition to passive-aggressiveness or having their culture disrespected. People are expected to ‘act British’ (and more specifically South English) and women are not allowed to be assertive.

Sales are put on a pedestal while less respect is paid to people in non-billing roles, which by the way have been most affected by redundancies. In weekly sales incentives presentations, top senior leaders talk only about sales and ignore the compliance part. This leads to the message that compliance isn’t important and the consultants ignoring compliance (and placing non-compliant candidates behind leaders’ backs). Some compliance team members get labelled 'difficult' when trying to safeguard the company from disasters or simply trying to do their jobs properly.

Organisations seem to have revolving doors, relying on fresh, less experienced/inexperienced blood to keep the salaries low. With the constant coming of newbies/less experienced staff and going of the more experienced ones, this means the more experienced ones are constantly overly busy from having to train people while doing their day-to-day [work]. It feels like a constant state of understaffing.

Non-billers say they are not even on the living wage. Redundancies happen every year just to hire for the same positions months later – unless enough inconvenient people leave voluntarily. Most of the long-serving staff appear to be the toxic ones. Makes sense why so many of the alumni leave with depression, anxiety and PTSD-related symptoms.

Even manager-level alumni claim that their offboarding has been humiliating. A lot of abruptly letting people go. After not having a salary raise for a long time and being paid under the market value, some have been made to compete with each other to keep their job. A presentation headlined ‘[Initials] Pillars of Retention’ was seen in the group CEO’s office while redundancy was ongoing. People going through redundancy had been told not to mention that they were being let go. Handovers were rushed with some as if the top management couldn’t wait to get rid of them. In every redundancy meeting, the people being made redundant were asked to confirm why they were going through redundancy, as if they were being gaslit and someone was trying to convince them that the official reason they had been given was the real reason.

The lack of communication and accountability is the issue. Senior management claim to have ‘open door’ policies and are always open to feedback on how they can improve. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. If something hasn’t happened to them, it’s not real, it hasn’t happened at all. Mainly people who are other than British White Males have been treated this way. People have been reduced to tears.

This culture needs to stop, especially among the big agencies. At the very least, mandatory training and coaching should be offered on trauma awareness, clear communication, listening, empathy, etc. A lot of this is down to lack of empathy.

Image Credit | Shutterstock

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