Women and communication: a salutary personal tale

Wanted for White Collar Fraud

Dorothy and the suspect search consultant
On average, women use twice the number of words per day than men. Women maintain eye contact while speaking for twelve seconds vs. a man maintaining eye contact for three seconds. Women supply detail to build rapport , men speak directly in short sentences going straight for the bottom line, supplying detail as a necessary illustration to their focal points. Women need to deliver their story (as I am doing now , otherwise this post would be one sentence and how much fun would that be?) in order to get to their bottom line. We build relationships. Generally we don’t need solutions ( although perhaps exceptionally I like that) and we also need to be heard! A lot!

Communicating like a female: the story!
I was recently contracted to support an executive search consultant on a global  project. He had worked for one of my major clients and had now set up his own business. In my female brain he was already someone I knew,  so  I didn’t make even rudimentary background enquiries before starting on the assignment.  I know…I know ..big mistake.

The sting
Even the most basic research, which is something I carry out on a daily basis for other people and would certainly advise any coaching client  to pursue, would have revealed a sub-text of  erratic professional performance. This should have raised a number of  brightly coloured red flags, complete with their  poles.  After some extremely inconsistent and suspect behaviour during the course of our collaboration, leaving me feeling profoundly uncomfortable, I realised that now he ran his own company, we actually had divergent business models and professional standards.  

How did this even come about because as you know I’m not a shrinking violet ?  After much reflection I finally wondered that it was possibly because he had always communicated with me in a female way! I was going to say like a woman, but was strongly reprimanded by Marion Chapsal. This is not a derogatory comment, but just a different style that we women seem to connect with.

The detail
My ex – associate ,   I suspect not unintentionally either, successfully focused on building a rapport with me over a long period, until I perceived him as a trusted contact and foolishly believed that we were in an ongoing business relationship –  when actually this wasn’t the case at all!  The relationship was with his previous company, so nothing concrete had been done to put him personally into that category.  With 20/20 hindsight (what a gift!) I could see that in many of our networking chats over the years,  initiated on the pretext of staying in touch,  I had essentially provided a free consulting service.  When in typical John Gray  style my generosity wave came crashing down with the force of a tsunami ( I even coached him on Twitter!) I finally supplied a fee schedule.

No communication
Where are we now?  He is MIA owing me a reasonably large some of money! Emails are bouncing, business addresses no longer exist, telephone numbers have been discontinued. He has even blocked me on Twitter (go figure… is there NO shame in this world? ) Lawyers and debt collectors have been consulted and a police report filed. But no doubt …  I have been conned! It would appear that it’s illegal to smoke in a public place, put makeup on in the car while in a traffic jam (true… I was fined for such an act! ) – but it’s not illegal not to pay your bills.

Moral
The moral of the story is that all business relationships have to be scrutinised and thorough due diligence carried out, regrettably even with people you think you might know. My instincts are now sadly blurred. Today I’m going through a phase of viewing everyone with suspicion and caution. An acquaintance emailed me to ask me how I was doing and my first instinct was to wonder why they wanted to know. I even asked someone I normally work with on a basis of trust, to confirm a proposition in writing. Last week his word would have been sufficient. I know I will get over this reticence and revert to openness and trust, but perhaps not on the same level. It’s been an unpleasant lesson, but one I intend to learn from.

Is this all as much fun? No sadly it isn’t .

What do you think?

28 responses to “Women and communication: a salutary personal tale

  1. Ouch, Dorothy, this is a painful story. I experienced a similar trust bust when I went out of my way to help a colleague enter my company as an MBA intern – and instead of working with me, she worked around me. I think the slowly dawning realization that she was deliberately acting against me, in spite of everything I’d done for her, was actually more painful than my divorce. And it took so long for me (my female mind?) to acknowledge that yes, that was indeed what was happening – it was too late to salvage my job.

    Losing faith in the instinct about whom to trust is hard, hard, hard. Like you, I’m now a lot more guarded with my generosity.

    In the meantime, while your trust sensors heal, have you considered publishing this wanker’s name?

    • Thanks Mickey – well it’s the only time in a long career so trying to be philosophical. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that someone you believed you had a long term business relationship with lacks integrity.

      Hope you recover from your own experience! I’m sure I will eventually stop being deeply suspicious of everyone who asks me how I am!

  2. How painful to be so betrayed… by our own naivety if nothing else!

    Your present state, Dorothy, reminds me of feelings after breaking up with a lover I’ve trusted and then found cheating. And such ‘lovers’ are usually adept at rapport, affable and charming to hide their duplicity.

    Courage, superb woman! Your period of mistrust is only licking your wounds and, as with all things, will pass when you will, with integrity, trust again.

  3. Hi Dorothy – sorry you were conned. But it happens to men too – they are let down by any number of fraudsters and taken for a ride. That’s why lawyers make so much money! Don’t lose your faith in people – you will get back to being who you were – just older and wiser!

    And no I didn’t know putting makeup on in the car in traffic jam was illegal – will be more careful next time!

    • Thanks Jim – I know people get conned all the time and that’s not a gender issue. In the overall scheme of things this isn’t even a drop in a corporate ocean, just a ripple in my own personal puddle. It was the pattern of communication that struck me after the event when I looked back. I’m still at the stage where I am reflecting! Will keep you posted!

      Yes the make-up thing is real so pay attention 🙂

  4. Hello Dorothy – I’m sorry you had this experience and you are possibly right that most men would have lost patience with what sounds like blatant free loading earlier in the process. But possibly some women would too.

    Disappointment in relationships built up over time is not solely the domain of women – men deceive other men too, and I’m sure women dupe other women. Whether this is a particularly female way of going about business I can’t say.

    The most important point you made that regardless of gender, regrettably due dilligence in all all business relationships has to be thoroughly carried out.

    • Thanks Tom – you’re right of course. Dishonesty comes in all sorts of guises. For me I felt that he didn’t communicate in what I have become accustomed to perceive (perhaps incorrectly!) as the male style – brief, direct and focused! Lessons have now been learned!

  5. Dorothy – I have done some research on the topic of white collar fraud and 3 general requirements need to be in place : motivation (usually shame based financial stress) opportunity and trust. Most of these operators can be halted by firm internal controls.

    Although it is just as easy to be taken in by someone you know , business relationships can now be global. Many of us deal commercially with people we’ve never met other than via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype etc. The possibilities to falsify business backgrounds and career histories are enormous.

    Bottom line – be careful!

    • Gita thank you – lesson well learned. Strange for you to call my experience white collar fraud, which is what is was now the more I think about it. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. The indivdual was offered a payment plan but refused to respond or arbitrate, so I guess he never intended to pay me which is indeed fraud.

      My brother Mike Dalton has also issued many a warning about the need for caution on any dealings on the internet whether social or business. It never hurts to exercise care.

  6. Hi D, what a tale and I do love the underlying humorous way you have dealt with this betrayal, it confirms to me you will/have got over it and will move on regardless; which of course is important to do. This person has taken away enough from your kind open personality and willingness to see the best in others with out letting him take away this gift of yours to others. I do hope you continue to trust people and give people the benefit of the doubt and there for access to your considerable insight and intellect, the world needs you to pass on what you have got to future generations before you go to visit your ancestors.

    Incidently I too have been betrayed in the business community (a few bad debtors off line ; a very incompetant business on line). The thing that hurt me the most was the realisation that I have lapses in concentration and can suffer from bad judgement too. The incompetant online business was run by a women and like you I had done business with a major company she was part of some ten years ago and had overlaid the professional detailed work of that company on to her now she had left and set up on her own. Wrong!!! But it was a lesson because this little hiccough did not detract from the fact that I still have turkey at Christmas, the Sun still rises from east to west, I’m surrounded by my beautiful family and have a few good friends. Long after this numbskull name has been lost of forgotten these are the things which will remain and bring you Joy!!

    Remain a Blessing Darling Dorothy the world needs you just the way you are

    Kriss xx

    • Kriss – thanks for great motivating words! Finding the balance between openness, trust and a willingness to share and good business acumen is a fine line. It’s my current project! I’m sure I will get over my own particular “numbskull” in the way that you got over yours!

  7. Dorothy – Thank you for making your mistakes available so that we can all take a moment to reflect on our own version of this tale. You, me, others who have commented – we have all been fooled.

    I’ve learned by way of too many lessons – I’m a a bit slow – the exact location of my own particular achilles heel. When I am enamored with someone quickly, when the “connection” is fast and “apparently” deep, I’m often about to be duped on my own petards. My next move is to be overly generous in sharing business ideas, research, etc. Next thing I know they are off and running – without me. I’ve been there many times. It’s actually a pretty solid touch of narcissism I suspect. My suggestion to others – learn the exact location, width, and depth of your achilles heel. Then hoist the warning signs in large red bold font on the inside of your brain.

    I’ve learned to trust another tool as well, my instantaneous visceral reaction and to listen but not to be swayed by what others think, especially if a crowd of thinkers agree.

    Recently a highly regarded figure on social media was discovered to be a fraud. Many people held this person in very high esteem. From the beginning I felt very un-moved by him/her. No alarms, no hair standing up on the back of my neck. I simply found myself not interested. In hindsight perhaps it was because there was noting original being said. Then I heard said person on the radio. Without thought I turned the show off within seconds. I just didn’t like – couldn’t stand – the sound if his/her voice. Squeaky, weak, unattractive were my thoughts after the fact. People I respected were listening. They “loved” this person. But I’ve learned to be extremely sensitive to the quiet sounds of my own personal cootie detector. My suggestion to others is sensitize yourself to your personal and sometimes very quiet warning signs. The more you attend the easier they are to hear.

    Thanks D for your continued substantive contributions.

    • Thanks Anne for sharing your comments – where I started going with this ( and maybe will change as the discussion deepens) was that the person who defrauded me was process oriented ( a very female style), rather than solution driven ( male style) and created a sense of trust. Gita said this was one of the primary necessary prerequisites of white collar fraud. I would love someone who is a white collar fraud profiler to comment! I know nothing about this – I was simply recounting my experience and doing some basic ,albeit public, reflection.

      Susan Mazza wrote great piece on the breach of trust and we chatted about it last week and decided there is a differece between a breakdown of workplace trust ( mismanaged expectations?) and a lack of integrity

      I don’t know if that was your experience? Were the communication styles of the individuals who duped you female?

  8. Dorothy – My focus is less on identifying the types who will breach the other’s trust and more so on what allows me or others to be fooled/seduced into doing things that are ultimately against our own integrity or best interest. There are many varieties of seducers at large. They share a talent for seeing others’ desires and vulnerabilities and then appearing to meet them – for example Bernie Madoff with your money, your client, etc. Bernie Made Off with your Money appealed to people’s desire for wealth and the need to be special, a member of a select elite club. He also played to our inclination to trust members of the same group – in this case being Jewish. Those who did not have these desires or propensity to trust were not taken because they didn’t want to be in that particular club badly enough. I think it’s best to be aware of our own vulnerabilities, which are typically related to some need or desire we are hoping and turn to others to fulfill.

    • Interesting point Anne. I would hasten to add that my particular transaction was a straight every day business arrangement with no promises of elite club membership or great investment return! Just biz basics: project,services provided, results, invoice! That means of course that anyone in business is vulnerable , bringing us back to Chita’s point that motivation, opportunity and trust are the key ingredients (all 3 existing in Bernie Made Offs set up) and due diligence and internal controls are vital. As someone else said – that’s why lawyers make so much money because it’s not as uncomplicated as it appears.

  9. Hi – Writing off and dealing with unpaid invoices is a significant part of the management of any business and debt recovery is an industry in itself – as you have found out Dorothy! Regrettably the world is full of people who never intend to pay for any goods and services they commit to purchasing – rather than people who find they unexpectedly can’t pay. Many good business people have gone bankrupt in the last 2 years through no fault of their own.

    Taking steps to protect yourself as best as you can in a practical financial and legal way is the best option – but knowing well that regrettably no arrangement will ever be completely water tight. That’s why lawyers are rich!

  10. Dorothy
    Thanks for a heartfelt moral tale.
    It is so natural to trust someone responsive and attentive. The betrayal goes so deep when the other uses these qualities to deceive rather than to connect.
    Beware of the power of a single negative event to trump a series of positive experiences. Caution, indeed, but your capacity for trust adds such depth to working relationships.
    All the best,
    Michael

  11. Thanks for sharing your tale and insight with us from this painful and eye-opening experience Dorothy. I would not, however, discount the fact that in a long successful career this is this first time you have had this kind of experience. That reality may not help heal the wound from this encounter, but I hope as time passes you can reclaim full trust in yourself and your instincts. Of course due diligence is a wise precaution to add to your business practices as well!

  12. Dorothy, I am so sorry you had to experience this. Reading all of the comments has been very thought-provoking as well. I relate to what Anne said above. When I feel a “connection” and “good ju-ju” with a colleague, I am one to jump in and offer support, freely sharing ideas, resources, and encouragement. And I actually like this about me.

    Yet, what your “personal tale” has taught me is to make sure that when it moves to a more formal business relationship, I need to use as much “head” as “heart”, do my due diligence, and proceed that way, rather than blindly jumping in with both feet (which is in no way meant to imply that that’s what you did, Dorothy, but is more to describe what I am likely to do).

    My hope, Dorothy, is that this one incident does not cause you to become distrustful, but that you learn what you can, and move forward with an open heart. And I feel sure that you will.

    • Hi Ava – thanks for your input. You’re right I didn’t jump in with 2 feet. Because of that trust building communication style I believed that he was trustworthy. I think I’ve also learned to examine actions very closely and still do due dilligence! No matter how well you’ve worked with someone in one set of circumstances, the first time in a new set merits a trial!

  13. Dorothy – I work in executive search frequently with external consultants. Many of the old school types have no idea how to run searches and rely on those with up to date sourcing skills plus extensive connections and data bases such as yourself to support them. There is a huge element of trust and integrity. This person would know that, especially as he has worked with your major clients. Why did he leave you have to ask?

    As he is likely to re-surface, this type always do, you should alert your professional network so that everyone can be wary of him. Regardless of how he communicated, he sounds like a complete crook who should be reported to the police.

    • Thanks Anya – apparently it is well known, I found after the fact, that this person has a dubious history. My lawyer has advised me not to publish the name – otherwise I would happily!

  14. That’s interesting (and frustrating), Dorothy – this man owes you money for services rendered via a contract, and is therefore a debtor and legally in the wrong, yet your lawyer counsels against identifying him? It’s not exactly defamation of character, when the facts support the statement. Of course I understand why you should follow your lawyer’s advice – I just don’t quite understand the advice. What about the next person this guy rips off, using your name as a reference? (Maybe there ought to be a category to review his “services” on Angie’s List!

  15. Pingback: Been Duped? Don’t Want to Be Duped Again? Read This. | Germane Insights

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