The fake ally. We’ve all known them, and we’ve all experienced them. The tricky part is identifying them before you’re in too deep. This was one of my biggest lessons learned. I think it’s natural that we want to see and believe the best in people, and it’s funny because where I’m from, we typically don’t. We walk in fully understanding that most people are out to get you, or at least that’s what we believed. So how do you spot this, Ally? Well, I’m going to share a story. This is story time after all and let me know if you see the end incoming.
A few years ago, I was working with a woman I admired a lot. She was classy, she was sophisticated, and she was a huge advocate of supporting women-owned businesses. As our relationship grew, I began to question things about her, but not hard enough. She’d lose her temper and accuse people of things that made no sense. She rarely, if ever, took responsibility for her actions, and on one occasion, I witnessed her lose her temper in the most unprofessional manner I’ve ever seen.
The story unfolds. We were attending a partnership meeting with a retailer. Although she had not been delivering on her portion of the agreement, she had the full expectation that they would provide on theirs. The contact was trying to explain how the payments worked. As a new vendor, she was being set up and paid by a third-party. Any of us that have done business know this can be a very frustrating process, but a process nonetheless. This woman didn’t believe that she would be paid and accused the contact of withholding payment.
The contact remained calm and continued to explain the situation. In the middle of it, my colleague turned beet red and began screaming at the top of her lungs. “Give me my money now! I want my money now!” Banging her hands on the table and yelling. I was mortified. I attempted to defuse the situation but to no avail. The partnership was ruined. Our relationship fractured. And the image of her was forever destroyed.
After she calmed down, I expressed my concerns over her reactions. I told her that’s not how I do business. She Couldn’t understand where I was coming from and instead felt betrayed. Again I tried to defuse the situation by changing the tone of our relationship back to a purely professional one. I was having a hard time accepting that she genuinely believed in supporting women in business if she could conduct herself that way over a misunderstanding.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in a very similar situation with her. She attempted to manipulate her interpretation of our agreement to suit her needs. I laid out what we agreed upon and had her confirm that that is what I had been delivering upon. We worked on a project and were very proud. I even gave her several hours' gratis in support of her project. I told her I would be working according to our contract only as soon as the project was completed. She had a fit, yelling, screaming. It was the vendor meeting all over again. I told her I would not accept being spoken to in that manner or accept blame for her shortcomings.
Her response? She went behind my back and had all traces of my involvement removed from the project. Does that sound like someone who supports women? No. This is someone who supports getting what she wants, and when she doesn’t, she turns. But as long as she does get what she wants, she’ll help you ( in her way). That’s a fake ally, plain and simple. Now I take ownership of my role - there were plenty of warning signs I ignored because I liked being a part of her project and could see her vision.
Now let’s examine what my first sign that this woman was not a trustworthy ally was? Well, it could’ve been when she badmouthed the designer who simply didn’t agree with one of her ideas. Her response was to call her lazy and remind her how much she did for her in her career and that she owed her.
Or when she spoke negatively about her business partner’s wife because she was overweight, she felt that meant she didn’t deserve to have a wealthy husband. She said that he disgusted her, knowing that he could be with someone that looked like that. Perhaps she expected her attorney to spend the day with her for free, advising her on business matters for free. When she received the bill, she responded with “after all I’ve done for her.”
The challenge with this personality type is that they say all the right things in the beginning. Slowly, start showing you some things about themselves. Still, you’re so interested in what they initially showed you that you ignore the little things, and before you know it, you’ve been duped. It happens all the time.
What lesson that I learned from all this? It’s a classic one when someone shows you who they are - believe them. Actions will always speak louder than words. Pay attention.
We all deserve better from the people we gave our time to, the people we trust. We get to pick the people we believe in, so don’t ignore warning signs. Most importantly, don’t be a fake ally.